Updated: Sep 26
The Analogman Sun Face is based on the old Fuzz Faces that players such as Hendrix and Clapton used. As this is the first review of a Sun Face on this site, I’m going to go into the different transistors a little here as there are a few on offer.
The most important thing to mention is the difference between silicon and germanium as these change the feel and sound dramatically.
Transistors are used in fuzz faces and other pedals to distort the signal and create the distinctive sounds that we all know and love. However, germanium has a number of drawbacks, not the least being the fact that these are sensitive to changes in temperature, which can result in the pedal sounding great one day and not the next – quite an issue when gigging!
Also, germanium transistors are not particularly consistent, making mass production also pretty tricky and also leading to some pedals of exactly the same specification sounding different to each other. If you were lucky, this could mean you’d end up with an amazing one-in-a-hundred sounding pedal, but could also mean the opposite.
Silicon proved to be the answer to these issues: it was more reliable, consistent and actually cheaper. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that it sounds and feels different. Germanium is rounder, softer, just a bit politer, and is more sensitive to input levels, which means it also cleans up better with the guitar volume.
This doesn’t make it ‘better’, but different for sure.
I’d definitely give this a read if you want more information on these differences:
A Sunface can come with either a germanium or silicon transistor, and actually, more than one type, although not in the same pedal.
The NK275 is the germanium that many people love and most worth talking about here. These fall into the ‘white dot’ and ‘red dot’ categories. Out of these two, the white dot now have an almost a mythical status akin to Klons, and often sell for over £400 on the used market. This is partly due to the fact they are meant to have almost no signal leakage and have better high-end definition, but mainly because these original transistors are basically impossible to come by with Analogman running out of them in 2011 according to their website.
The silicon are mainly the BC108 and the BC109 transistors. These, as you’d expect from silicon, are higher gain and brighter than the germanium. Both are metal transistors and perform similarly, not cleaning up quite as well as their germanium siblings and with the 109s being a little brighter again.
As already mentioned though, these differences are not a bad thing – it just depends what sound and feel you’re after from your fuzz. Ideally, you’d probably want a good germanium and a good silicon one, but it may well depend on the style of music you play, and these pedals aren’t cheap!
The Sunfaces with a BC109 in have the clock dial decals in homage to Gilmour and his solo in ‘Time’, who apparently used these transistors, whereas the BC108 pedals have the standard sun decals.
The pedal I have for this demo is the silicon BC108 version, and here it’s worth delving a little deeper as it’s actually the BC108C, which is the higher gain version (you can also get them with the BC108B which is slightly lower in gain).
The pedal also has a trim dial inside, not adjusted at all for this demo; no power jack and no other frills, not even an LED to show the pedal’s engaged. It’s as basic as a pedal can get with just two dials – Volume and Fuzz.
I don’t think I need to go into what these two controls do as it’s self-explanatory, but I do really like the fact that with the Fuzz control fully counter-clockwise, the pedal is off, which means it doesn’t drain battery if left on a pedal board with instrument cables plugged in – a lovely touch.
For guitars, I used a Suhr T-Style for the single coil sounds, and a Frank Hartung Embrace, which is a Les Paul style guitar, for the humbucker sounds.
I also used my Two Rock Studio Pro 35 for amplification set to just about break-up.
You can check out the demo here so you can hear the pedal for yourself at different gain levels and how it behaves with the guitar volume control.
I started the demo trying to produce something with as little talking as possible, as I know that many people find this frustrating. Personally, I’m not sure why, as I like it when people talk throughout demos as I can get a good idea of how they feel about the pedal in question and I also learn more. There’s only so much you can get from a compressed YouTube clip!
Anyway, you’ll notice when watching that I found it very hard to keep quiet – the pedal is just fantastic, and every time I played something, it was hard not to gush.
The best way to approach the pedal for me was with the Fuzz control cranked, volume set to just push the amp a little, and then use the guitar volume to get the amount of gain you want.
Even though the Analogman site states that the silicon version is not as sensitive as the germanium when used in this way, don’t be fooled. It still cleans up very well and has a great tone, going from very useable blues tones up to searing, almost spitty fuzz. Add another overdrive to this and you could get some really nasty tones!
My final thoughts on this pedal are all positive. I loved it, I’ve got to say.
A very, very cool fuzz face style pedal in a great looking, small enclosure made from the best quality parts there are, by a wonderful company.
What’s not to like about that??
Now to get my hands on the germanium version. I’d love to play these side by side!