GIBSON’S MAESTRO PEDAL BRAND COMES BACK TO LIFE WITH FIVE NEW STOMPBOXES

Gibson revived it’s Maestro pedals, the name under which it released the legendary Fuzz-Tone FZ-1 pedal. However, they didn’t just bring back the classic vibes. They brought five brand new guitar effects pedals with them: the Fuzz-Tone FZ-M, Invader Distortion, Ranger Overdrive, Comet Chorus, and Discoverer Delay.

Originally introduced in 1962, the Fuzz-Tone FZ-1 was a favorite to some of our all time classic guitar heroes, including Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and Pete Townshend of The Who. Maestro, rising from its to the world with a range of five pedals, including a variation on the fabled Fuzz-Tone.

“While not everyone has heard of Maestro, everyone has heard Maestro,” a statement from the company reads. “And the world is about to hear it shape an entirely new generation of sound.”

It all sounds very promising, and while we’re not expecting the forthcoming pedal to sport the same chassis as its forebear – the Instagram clip shows off some futuristic-looking light action – it’s still likely to be a refined version of the classic FZ-1.

“In 1962, the world was introduced to Maestro, and everything changed,” the announcement continued. “Suddenly, musicians didn’t merely play music; they shaped their own unique sound formed by effects and both defined and shattered genres all at once.”

And, in case you still need convincing, Maestro has prefaced the quick-fire clip with the tagline, “The legend returns.” Well, we’re sold.

It remains to be seen how faithful this new pedal will be to the original blueprint – which featured a three-germanium transistor circuit powered by two 1.5-volt batteries – or if it will bear a greater resemblance to the three follow-up Fuzz Tones that Gibson released throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s.

If it is indeed an FZ-1-style pedal, it will be the first Fuzz-Tone to hit the market since Gibson briefly reissued the unit as the FZ-1a in the 1990s.

Keep your eyes peeled on Maestro’s official website, which will share all the details on January 18.

“Writing this next chapter for Maestro means creating energy and providing tools for our fans to shape their sound. Now players all over the world will create this new sonic legacy, and we encourage everyone to plug-in, dial-up your settings, and shape your sound.”

THE ORIGINAL COLLECTION

As such, the revamped Maestro is launching with a range of five new ‘dual voice’ units, dubbed the Original Collection, which appear to bridge that gap between retro tones/ aesthetics with the features and tweakability of modern units.

You can learn about each of the individual pedals below, but they all share some things in common. First among those is a toggle switch that enables the player to pick between a choice of two voicings, true-bypass switching, top-mounted dials (as opposed to on the rear of the units, as was the case with the original FZ-1). 

There‘s also a gentler slope to the pedals‘ profile, which will make them less of a wedge/doorstop and enable them to sit at a better level on pedalboards. Finally, they all have LED indicators which, rather niftily, illuminate the three-colours of the Maestro logo when the pedal is activated.

We also have to give a special mention to the delightfully retro packaging, which is the kind of thing we’ll hang onto and use to store our most precious nicknacks…

Give it up for the box… (Image credit: Gibson / Maestro)

It’s fair to say that Gibson has thought carefully about the little things that will please players when putting these together. They’re attractively-priced, too – all set to retail $149, with the exception of the Discover Delay, which will be $159.

So that’s enough of the overview, what have we got from this initial offering?

FUZZ-TONE FZ-M

The big name of the launch, due its aforementioned ‘Keef’ associations. The Fuzz-Tone FZ-1 of the early-60s lays the strongest claim of any to the mantle of the ‘original fuzz pedal’. 

This new iteration intends to deliver those reed-y ‘Stones tones but makes clever use of the voicing switch to give players the option of a ‘thicker, more modern’ sound. 

Attack sets the amount of fuzz incorporated to the sound, while moving the tone dial from left to right will reportedly take things from “bright and raspy to warm and wooly”.

RANGER OVERDRIVE

The Ranger is an all-analogue overdrive pedal with a simple set of Gain, Tone and Level controls. It takes its tonal inspiration from tube amps and is all about responsive tones. 

The choice of voices keeps things interesting. ‘Hi’ is reportedly a “warm, expressive, amp-like overdrive”, while ‘Lo’ offers a cleaner sound. The latter is described as “exceptionally touch-sensitive” and is pitched as an ideal always-on setting for players who like to influence their tone with their hands and/or guitar settings.

INVADER DISTORTION

Another all-analogue design, the Invader is a more aggressive beast, designed to offer high-gain, harmonic-laden distortion tones. Like the Ranger, the controls are straightforward, but there’s more than meets the eye at first. The toggle switch allows you to add a noise gate to the circuit and you can adjust the threshold via an internal trim pot.

COMET CHORUS

We particularly love the look of this chorus pedal. It’s like something from a NASA documentary. Once again it’s all analogue, meaning that it uses a BBD (bucket brigade device) circuit. You’ve got the expected depth, mix and speed dials, then an intriguing choice of ‘Orbit’ and ‘Earth’ voicings. 

Keep things down to Earth and you’ll get a shimmering classic chorus, while going into Orbit adds amplitude modulation (AM) to the sound, resulting in an effect more like a rotary speaker. Again, there’s an internal trim pot which can be adjusted to vary the level of the effect.

DISCOVERER DELAY

The Discover Delay is sold as a “modern analogue delay”, which like the Comet Chorus, utilises a BBD circuit. (We should note at this point that the BBD element is being talked up in the Maestro marketing but has long been used in analog delay pedals from many manufacturers, including MXR and EHX). 

Delay time ranges from 20ms to 600m (controlled via the Delay knob). Once again, the toggle switch offers more interesting options, engaging a modulation effect alongside the delay signal. This can run the gamut from “tape-like” flutter to “heavily pitch-shifted” and uses two internal trim pot controls to set modulation Speed and Width.

Article excepts written by Matt Owen and Matt Parker

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