The fuzz pedal appeared in the mid 60s and with it the whole pedal revolution started. The recent explosion of clones and boutique pedals has given the old fuzz pedal a renaissance and while some stick to the classic designs, others are exploring new ground. Here’s my review of the Effectrode Helios.
The term fuzz is often used to describe any noisy pedal but fuzz is a specific form of distortion or clipping. The tone is unmistakable and although it can appear crude and hard to tame it’s perhaps the most musical of all gain pedals. Learning the potential and secrets of the fuzz will open up a whole new world of sweet tones.
The Helios is housed in a TRex sized chassis with a stage ready bright led, controls for volume and fuzz/gain, true bypass switching and operating on 12v for maximum headroom. On top of the pedal sits a mini-toggle for switching between normal mode and “Fire” for super saturated fuzz.
The Helios is based on a vintage, hand-selected space-grade pencil tube and N.O.S. point-contact crystal diodes. This combo produce some incredibly dynamic fuzz tones, with a clarity and warmth that I’ve never heard from any fuzz pedal before. Most fuzz pedals, both germanium and silicon models, are often a tad too harsh, bright, thin or whatever but there’s none of that here.
It’s always hard to describe a tone but the Helios is no doubt a germanium-ish fuzz characterized by its warm and dynamic overdrive tone. At lower fuzz settings the pedal provides a transparent clean boost. With the fuzz slightly above noon the pedal reminds me more about the Tube Driver than a fuzz. Maxing out the fuzz takes you right back to the late 60s, with an incredibly rich and fat tone and a sustain that rings on for ages.
Switching over to the Fire mode adds a lot more gain and compression and the pedal sounds like itâ€™s on the verge of blowing up. Itâ€™s a cool effect and it takes the pedal closer to a silicon fuzz or Muff but engaging this mode require some serious noise control so youâ€™re probably better off with pairing the pedal up with a booster in standard mode for those smooth sustained fuzz tones.
What makes fuzz so versatile and musical is its ability to clean up when you roll back the guitar volume. Depending on how hot your pickups are you can go from crystal clear cleans to full blast fuzz and anything in between. The Helios is no exception but while some fuzz pedals can lose some of its low end and mids when you roll back the guitar volume, the Helios stays perfectly balanced making it incredibly dynamic and versatile.
The Helios is not an overly aggressive fuzz but make no mistake – it can do some serious damage. Based on what guitar your employ this single pedal covers a diverse range of tones from early Stones, Hendrix, ZZ Top and Sabbath to Jack White, QotSA and The Black Keys.
So what about David Gilmour? Well, the Helios isn’t your typical Gilmour fuzz. David employed the germanium fuzz in the early days and a silicon BC108/109 on Pompeii and Dark Side. These are more vintage sounding, slightly more saturated and, the silicon in particular, closer to a Big Muff. However, the Helios easily cover most of those tones and the 1968-71 era in particular. Apparently, David also owns a couple Helios and is said to be using them for the ongoing recording sessions for a possible new solo album.
So, whatâ€™s the verdict? Like all Effectrode pedals itâ€™s a huge treat to be playing a pedal that not only sounds good but that makes your whole rig sound more dynamic and overall better. The Helios is not your average fuzz pedal and it might not be the obvious choice for your Dark Side of the Moon tones. However, if you want to invest in a pedal that’ll expand your tones, perhaps even eliminate one or two from a cluttered pedal board and that’ll work equally well on almost any guitar and amp setup then do yourself a favour and check out this beauty! See Effectrode.com for more details.