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Review: Amptweaker Bass TightFuzz

Matt O’Donnell
Managing Editor

I think that if you plug into a product that has the word “tweaker” in the name, you’re going to be looking at either having complete control over the sound or saying “I have no idea how to get a sound I want out of this.”

The Bass Tight Fuzz is the much-requested bass version of Amptweaker’s guitar fuzz box. Amptweaker is the current, and most personal venture of amp wizard James Brown, formerly of Peavey and Kustom. Brown is quick to give up that in most all of his main contributions to his previous projects was getting deep into the circuitry and tweaking how the distortion was set. Anyone who has used a lot of distortion boxes will know that, especially for us bass guys, getting just the right feel of crunch is incredibly important. So, let’s be honest, if you want to rain distorted thunder from on high, you probably want to see what the guy who essentially fathered Eddie Van Halen’s 5150 amp has to say about it.

75652Before you even plug into the Bass Tight Fuzz, you get the immediate impression that it’s a serious pedal. First of all, the entire box weighs in at 1.7 lbs, which is pretty heavy for a relatively compact item like this. You also notice the custom steel enclosure, which I’m always happy to see, having fallen in love with the durable style of the 3Leaf pedals I’m crazy about. In that enclosure, the battery compartment (should you need one) is accessible as a drawer off the right side; a really neat addition. The Bass Tight Fuzz sports 5 knobs; Volume, Tone, Fuzz, Tight, and a Dry Low injector. It also features 3 tone switches; Tone, Transistor, and Edge, as well as 2 utility switches for the battery and choosing whether the effects loop is pre or post bypass switch. An optional mod (which our review unit has) boosts the front end signal 10db, which is found inside the battery drawer. You can also get even more headroom operating the unit with an 18v adapter instead of just 9v.

A lot of my gigs begin at 6pm, so I often do this sadistic thing where the mail comes by my office at around 4pm, and I whisk a pedal right off to my gig with me. A trial by fire, I suppose. Usually, this method ends either really well, or relatively well. The Tight Fuzz did me no such favor. There is most definitely a learning curve. That’s not a downside, though. In the end, it’s probably best that if you’re going to use a pedal with 8 variable controls, that you sit down and figure out some of the permutations. There are a lot of them.

The first thing I really wanted to wrap my head around was the Dry Low knob. The most common complaint with bassists and distortions of lots of kinds is that you lose the really fat end. Lots of companies have begun keeping this in mind, but I was really impressed with Amptweaker’s idea of putting a dedicated low control on the unit. The interesting thing to consider with this is that it’’s a DRY knob. For me, that meant that when I dialed it in, I really got the sense (especially when using in-ear monitors) like I was getting two independent signals, in a biamping kind of way. That way, you’re REALLY not losing that low end. Very helpful.

After I got into the Dry Low, I focused on the three switches. These are where you get to sort of pick “which version” of the Bass Tight Fuzz you’re going to use. The first one I looked into was the Transistor switch. It will alternate the output stage of the pedal to be either Germanium or Silicon. At the end of the day, what you get with those is a much warmer sound on the Germanium side and a brighter, more in your face sound from the Silicon. The next I wanted to get into was the Tone switch which is labeled as 60’s or 70’s. When playing back and forth with this switch, I had mixed feelings. Playing in the upper register of the bass, I found the 60’s side to be really bright and with lots of cut. It reminded me a lot of heavy distortion Beatles tracks, which are definitely 60’s. When I shifted down the neck, I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of it. When set to the 70’s side, I found tons of useful tones all over the neck. Honestly, this is the one control on the box that I felt held over from the guitar Tight Fuzz that probably sounds amazing that way, and not a lot of use for bass. The last switch is the Edge switch, which you can either set to “smooth” or off. When turned on, the Edge control gave me less jagged breakup, literally smoothing out the fuzz.

Once you pick, like I said, “which version” of the pedal you’re playing with, the knobs help you tweak into that sound. Now it starts to feel overwhelming at first, or at least it did for me. Luckily, I found that the functionality of the knobs isn’t really affected much by whichever switch settings you use. The Volume knob has a ton of headroom to boost your signal. I was using a relatively high output bass, and still didn’t have to go very far into the knob to find my unity level. The Tone knob really focuses on the high end, which I found to be really necessary when using a bunch of the Dry Low knob. The Fuzz knob is pretty self-explanatory, though Amptweaker points out that it also adjusts bias automatically to work with the clean tones. Finally, the Tight knob really seemed to me to help out with the front end of each note I played. The higher up I used this knob, the more I could hear my attack right at the outset of the notes. The one place I found this to be way too much at higher settings was when playing with a pick.

In addition to the basic functions of the Bass Tight Fuzz, there’s a built in Effects Loop. What? This is, obviously, where the pedal gets to be an endless supply of tones. You can put basically anything you want into the loop and see what it does. I didn’t get much time to try a ton of things, but I definitely got into some basics and was pleased with the results. The overall feel of the fuzz was greatly affected when putting a Darkglass Super Symmetry compressor into the loop. This made it feel much more focused and sleek on the backend. Octave pedals were an interesting addition to the loop, as an Aguilar Octamizer gave the whole thing a distorted thunder tone, while a 3Leaf Audio Octabvre changed the sound of the fuzz completely to a harmonic oscillator. That was really pleasing. I threw an MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe in the chain and had Pink Floyd and Phish tones going on with great success. I usually love the way an overdrive sounds coupled with a fuzz, but this is where, honestly, the one place where the combinations got far too vast, at least for a live setting. If you were tracking a heavy rock record, I would absolutely recommend dialing in exactly what you want. I guarantee that tone would likely be unique to your own playing. Not done yet…the back of the pedal has a switch that runs the loop in pre or post.

Not only does the Bass Tight Fuzz have endless functionality, but there are a number of bells and whistles that just make it fun and easy. One of the most utilitarian things I’ve ever seen on a pedal is a switch to enable or disable the battery if you’re not using an adapter. Why didn’t we have THAT sooner? If you’re running it with an adapter, though, you get LED lights that shine onto the knobs. Why would you want to have lights onto the knobs, you may ask? Because since the knob section sits at an angle sloping down towards the top of the pedal, there are tiny silver studs in the knobs that show how high each is set by progressively moving up the knob from bottom to top. Again, where has that been all my life? You’ll find that the loop turns on and off with the master switch for the pedal, so if you pair it with an octave or delay or even an additional EQ, you only need to hit the Tight Fuzz’s switch to turn your entire custom contraption on. Again…”tweaker”.

The bottom line on the Amptweaker Bass Tight fuzz is that you’re getting an amazing vintage-styled fuzz box that you can tweak just about endlessly. The best part is, just about every position of the controls mixes to be something great. If you’re using it on stage, though, I feel like you have to know exactly what setting you need to go from and get to should you need to change it between songs.

I’m not sure what the future holds for bass boxes from Amptweaker (apart from their Tight Drive overdrive), but I’d say that anything else that might come along will be skillfully thought out and will give bassists a multitude options to explore the sound they want. Bravo!

The Bass Tight Fuzz is available for $220 USD, with the optional mod being an extra $30.

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