Analog Man's first new pedal of 2010 is the ASTRO TONE fuzz. This pedal is based on the 1960's SAM ASH FUZZZ BOXX and ASTROTONE FUZZ made in New York City in 1966-68 by the Astro Amp company. It was one of the best fuzz pedals. Analog Mike had a NOS Astro Tone fuzz back in the 90s, here is a copy of the manual that he saved from it.
Here is the old ASTROTONE, a dark grey pedal.
Here is a link to this old ASTROTONE FUZZ pedal that Mike repaired for a customer, showing the insides of the pedals.
This was the first pedal that Analogmike cloned, way back in about 1994. Mine was really a clone, down to the artwork on the board and the board mounted pots. Still works very well! I met Gene Cornish from The Rascals at at the Long Island, NY Classic American Guitar show in the mid 90's where I brought this prototype pedal. Gene told me that he was using one in the 60s and Leslie West saw him use it. The next time they met, he saw that Leslie was using TWO of them in line! Ira Stone, who played with and knew Leslie back then (and came to my shop to check out some pedals recently) confirmed this, saying "Leslie used two Sam Ash fuzz tones in line many times with the Vagrants".
Analogmike finally got an engineer, John Foege, from Georgia Tech, to help with some of the time-consuming design work (board layout, testing, etc) so this was a great first project. He used some nice software to design the board, and it came out great.
The picture at the left is computer generated simulation, not a real picture of our board.
Here is the actual inside of the pedal.
The Analog Man ASTRO TONE is not quite the same as the old pedals. I took our first prototype, made to 100% original specs, to play with my power trio. At the shop we compared it to an original and the sound was exactly the same. But I did not like it, I could not hear it well with the band, it was not thick enough. The problem with the original design was that there was very little low end, the sound was quite thin. You REALLY had to crank up the volume on it to get a good sound. But this would make the ON sound too much louder than the OFF sound for live use. And the tone knob was really limited in the useful range. So we took the circuit and with some modern software analyzed it and found out how we could retain the low end, and make the tone control somewhat more useful. But we made sure that we could still get the EXACT sounds of the original pedal if that was desired. By turning the tone knob up higher, you can still get the original sounds which are good into a large, cranked amp. But we made it so that it now sounds awesome even into a little amp like a Fender Deluxe Reverb, at near unity gain on the pedal.
I found several hundred original Astrotone transistors about ten years ago, and have been saving them. Some even have the same 1966 date codes on them as my original pedals! You can see "641" in the picture which means the 41st week of 1966. They are little plastic, flat, pill shaped Fairchild transistors. They have gold plated leads - they were made back in the days when gold was cheap and transistors were expensive! These transistors are pretty consistent, and usually well behaved, but we have do discard some that are too noisy for a fuzz pedal. We should be able to make hundreds of these pedals with these original, excellent transistors. When we run out, we will no longer make a pedal called the ASTRO TONE. We used up the 1966 transistors, but found some slightly later transistors. These were still made by Fairchild but in the '70s in their Singapore plant, they look and sound identical. 748 date code on these should be 48th week of 1978.
Many people have problems using a Fuzz Face type pedal, like our Sunface, live with a band. I had the same problem which is one reason we are making these pedals, itís something I need to get the sounds I want. I play Fender amps with a Les Paul, which is not too favorable to fuzz face pedals. But this pedal works great with that setup.
The sound is not as compressed as a Fuzz Face, not SUPER thick and saturated, something between a fuzz and distortion. Itís fuzzier into a smaller amp (Fender Deluxe), and more of a BOOSTER into a large distorted amp (Marshall 1970s Super Lead). It can also be stacked with other pedals, for example running a fuzz face into it can get a sound like Spirit in the Sky, which buzzes and cuts out. Or run the Astro Tone into an OD pedal like a TS808 or KoT to make it fatter.
Some people on The Gear Page wanted a black version with gold graphics like the original, so we made a batch in late summer 2011. We have the black/gold available as an option.
Elton's Saturday Night AnalogMike's 59 reissue Les Paul into Astrotone into ARDX20 delay into a Deluxe Reverb reissue. Fuzz is up about 3:00 and tone about 12:00.
Cinnamon Girl AnalogMike's 58 reissue Les Paul into Astrotone into ARDX20 delay into a Deluxe Reverb reissue. Fuzz is up about 4:00 and tone about 1:00.
Tele into Astrotone into clean amp, courtesy Bob H.
AnalogMan Astro Tone Fuzz from Doppler Demos on Vimeo.
Here are the above video clips in a longer audio format from Doug Doppler which will be on his GET KILLER TONE dvd series. First is a Les Paul into our ASTRO TONE into our Boss DD3 mod, into a 1963 Fender Vibrasonic. The first one shows the cleanup of the pedal with your volume knob, Hendrix-esque Neck Position : Astroman.
Here is another one, same setup, Classic Rock Bridge Position...
Analog Man Astro Tone fuzz demo by Scott Metzger from mike piera on Vimeo.
Analog Man Astro Tone fuzz demo #2 by Scott Metzger from mike piera on Vimeo.
Here is a review I got from a bass player:
DO NOT BUY THIS Analogman Astro Tone!!! That is, donít buy it if you want to keep playing out of that crappy sounding fuzz box that you have already. Now that I have your attention, think of a bass guitar... now think of a bass guitar with fuzz.
I guess youíd normally think of a bass being played through a big muff. To me, itís a horrible sound thatís basically a one trick pony. Itís just a buzzy mess with no clarity, definition, openness or touch sensitivity. I spent countless months trying to do research on ďbass friendlyĒ fuzz pedals. I mean, even most distortion pedals donít work well with bass because of the way they are voiced. Now Iím not talking bedroom rockstar type stuff... Iím talking real world usage of an effect pedal. That involves you having to play through different amplifiers in different size venues or studios. For instance, I have 6 different bass rigs. They all serve a different purpose. Some are for home use, some are for the studio and some are for playing live. Try having one distortion/fuzz pedal and expect it to sound great with that many different amps in that many playing environments. Chances are that it would sound great through one and not another.
Iíve tried the classic fuzz pedals that are round... some red, some blue... All the research made me mental when it came to comparing an NKT with a BC or an AC type transistor. Then I stumbled upon a couple videos of the Analogman Astro Tone. Believe it or not, one of the videos was a guy playing bass through it. Even over my computer speakers this thing sounded great! I said to myself that I had to try one out. So I contacted Mike and made an appointment to come to the shop and check it out. The whole staff was really helpful in answering my questions. I raced back home, plugged the pedal directly into my bass amp and spent some time with it dialing in many different tones.
The first bass amp I used it with is my 1965 ampeg B-15n. A straight up, volume, treble and bass control type amp. That amp is not very forgiving when it comes to gear... if you have a crappy sounding bass, it amplifies it and makes it a really loud, crappy sounding bass. Same goes with effect pedals. I was so impressed with how great the Astro tone worked with it. With the fuzz knob barely up, I was able to dial in a slightly overdriven sound. With the knob about halfway up, I got into a really nice and clear distortion. Turning the knob all the way up got me into the sweetest sounding fuzz Iíve ever heard! Now, all I had to do was turn the volume knob on my bass from 10 to 9 and it started to clean up right away. Another slight turn down to 8 and it was completely clean sounding. Thatís something I couldnít get from all the other fuzz pedals Iíve tried. As a matter of fact, the other fuzz pedals made it sound like there was literally a wool blanket in front of my amp. Very dark and muffled.
The next chance I got to use the Astro tone was at band practice. There I have a new production Ampeg V-4B, a 100 watt 6L6 head with (2) 2x12 cabs. Now I was able to see how the pedal sounded in a working environment. There, it had to sit well in the mix with the rest of the band. I have to say that it wasnít muffled or glassy sounding. It sat perfectly in the mix, and again, I was able to dial in anywhere from a distortion sound, to a well defined fuzz. Clean, clear and crisp. I also have a 400 watt HIWATT bass amp that yielded the same results with the Astro Tone. Like it says in the description for the Astro tone, it will work and sound slightly different when used with different amps, but the results are the same... it just sounds perfect.
I could go on and on about how well it works for me with bass guitar, but you six stringers out there will be just as easily pleased with how it sounds with you guitar rig. Check out gearmandude on YouTube... he does a great demo of the Astro Tone. And if thatís not enough to convince you, take it from the man himself... Mike Piera, the mastermind behind Analogman. He himself says that itís the reason why he created it in the first place. He needed a fuzz pedal to work well in a live situation... because sometimes, depending on your gear, a fuzz face type pedal just doesnít work well. I urge everyone to try out the Astro Tone if youíre looking for a Fuzz type pedal... especially all you bass players out there. Trust me, you wonít be disappointed. It just works. Period
Here is a Premier Guitar magazine review
I brought one to Luther Dickinson when The Black Crowes were back in CT in fall 2010.
He didn't seem too interested but when he plugged it in his eyes lit up and his tech
put it right on his board. He used it on the first song for an awesome solo and
it sounded amazing through his loud Fuchs amp. His smile and thumbs up made me very proud. After
using it for a few weeks, Luther wrote :
The Astro Tone is the best, most usable Fuzz I have ever used and caused me to take the Sunface off my pedal board!
The KoT is still onboard for cleaner boosts, of course.
You are the best! In 2016 he emailed me back and said he's still loving it on stage, and using the Sunface on his new album with Nma.
In June, 2012 I finally got to hear Gary Clark Jr when he came to Connecticut.
Gary has been using our ARDX20 for quite some time, and our Astro Tone and KOT pedals also.
Gary is a FUZZ MEISTER and one of the hottest guitarists to come out in years!!!
He used the Astro Tone for his basic fuzz sound, often in combination with the KOT,
and sounded AMAZING. Here's his simple yet effective pedalboard:
This pedal seems to need some time to really sound best. Many people have reported that their pedal was a bit weak when they got it, but after using it for a while it got stronger with better tone. So feel free to leave it hooked up to a 9V power supply overnight to form the capacitors and blow the cobwebs out of the 40 year old silicon in the transistors.
Here is an article on the Astro Tone Fuzz from
Tone Quest Report.
Page1 and Page2.
Review: Analogman Astro Tone Fuzz www.delicious-audio.com
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