Mas Effects Sona Fuzz Review
With a very non-traditional Queen of Hearts graphic, sunshine yellow enclosure (one of three available finishes), and gold knobs, the Mas Effects Sona Fuzz is striking. But more important to any guitarist who likes things loud, it’s a high-gain unit that goes beyond traditional buzzy sounds. The Sona Fuzz is the brainchild of pedal builder Mark A. Stratman, a former software engineer who is also the founder of We Build Planes (a community of amateur aircraft builders). Given Startman’s CV, it’s not surprising that the true bypass Sona Fuzz is exceptionally well built. So much so that it comes with a very generous “forever” lifetime warranty that applies even if you bought the pedal secondhand. As well made as it is, though, it’s the sound and its unique place among fuzzes that will find you keeping it around long term.
The Tone Queen Roars
The Sona Fuzz’s layout is straightforward. There are knobs for fuzz, volume, tone, and a “body” toggle switch for the high pass filter, which thins the output or makes it fatter with bottom end. This is particularly useful for tailoring your sound to match single-coils or humbuckers. Under the hood are two internal trimmers. One is a bias control that can be set to achieve a splatty, fractured fuzz. The other is a gain control. As shipped from the factory, it’s set just short of maximum, which Mas Effects deems optimal. This trim pot allows you to get just a little bit more gain, if desired. But as we’ll discover, that’s a little on top of a lot.
I tested the Sona Fuzz using an Ernie Ball/Music Man Axis Sport guitar and a Mesa/Boogie Tremoverb combo. Starting with the fuzz (distortion) control all the way off, the Sona Fuzz was already rumbling, and gain levels sounded equivalent to a typical distortion pedal at about 50 percent gain. Sustain is already excellent at this level, especially with the body switch on. Humbucker-driven power chords, meanwhile, often sounded leaner and sweeter with the body switch off. But even single-coil lead sounds had serious teeth this far south of maximum gain.
This trim pot allows you to get just a little bit more gain, if desired. But as we’ll discover, that’s a little on top of a lot.
Bumping the fuzz control to 11 o’clock changed the character of the pedal, making it more aggressive and generating sustain that pushed solos to screaming. There’s still more aggression to source, though. Maxing the fuzz control makes power chords a wall of doom, and single notes sustain almost endlessly, blossoming into feedback rather than decaying as they do at lower fuzz settings. Putting the body switch in the off position at these high gain settings still offers a cool alternate tonal color. I expected the extra high end to induce less-desirable feedback. But when pushed to these extremes, the Sona Fuzz was still pretty noise-free with nary a squeak or squeal to report. Although, as Mas Effects notes, if you max out the internal gain trim pot, the pedal will get noisy fast.
One of the distinguishing and unexpected features of the Sona Fuzz is that, while it can get downright filthy, the pedal also cleans up when you reduce guitar volume. Even at the maxed-out fuzz setting, when I turned my guitar’s volume down to about 40 percent of full volume the pedal was transformed. Low-register notes got smoother and individual notes in full barre chords were easy to discern. With single-coils I could even get clean enough to play folky triad figures without sounding ridiculous.
The Sona Fuzz is a versatile fuzz pedal that can cover the sonic ground between fuzz and high-gain distortion. Unusual for a fuzz, it uses a soft-touch footswitch that can be operated as a momentary switch, so you seamlessly incorporate the fuzz sound in strategically or rhythmically driven doses, inviting a lot of musical ideas that can take advantage of the ultra-potent fuzz and the major discrepancies between those sounds and clean ones. This is a gain device with a lot of potential.
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