The Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz is a great fuzz pedal with endless tweakability. However, beginners may want to go elsewhere.
The Way Huge Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz is a formidable fuzz pedal in a compact package. It was introduced in 1997 as Way Huge founder Jeorge Tripp’s spin on the classic Big Muff fuzz beloved by guitarists since the 70s.
It’s my first ever fuzz pedal, and I like it a lot, but it’s not for everybody. In this review, I’ll discuss the Pickle’s parameters, its strengths, and some considerations that might make you want to choose a different fuzz. I’ll also include a few audio samples – another Var Guitar first.
The Way Huge Swollen Pickle is housed in a thick metal case and feels extremely sturdy – it’s probably the heaviest-duty pedal I own.
It features an extraordinary amount of versatility. There are five knobs on top of the pedal, and two internal knobs accessible by removing the rubber feet and opening the case.
The five exterior knobs control:
- Loudness (a volume knob, which provides plenty of volume on tap);
- Sustain (controls the fuzz intensity);
- Filter (a more sophisticated tone control than a simple EQ, the manual claims there are various bandpass filters involved);
- Scoop (controls a notch filter in the mids); and
- Crunch (which I’ll go into later).
Inside the pedal are knobs for:
- Clip (adjusts between more “smooth” vs “open” clipping diodes); and
- Voice (adjusts the intensity of the “Scoop” control).
I don’t like scooped guitar tones too much, so my Scoop knob tends to be around 0. In fact, I’ll often leave the Voice knob at 0 so that the Scoop knob does almost nothing.
I prefer the more “open” (read: aggressive) clipping sound, so my Clip knob is typically at maximum. That said, a little experimentation goes a long way. It’s not unlikely that, somewhere along the Clip knob’s sweep, you’ll find a sweet spot that really resonates.
The Crunch Knob
The Crunch knob is very interesting. The manual says it “adjusts the compression intensity of the sustain”, but I don’t think that’s a very helpful explanation. I think of it as increasing the headroom before the fuzz kicks in. With the Crunch at 0, you get fuzz even if your guitar’s volume is low, but with Crunch at maximum, your guitar’s volume has to be higher in order to get fuzz. This opens up more sonic opportunities. The Crunch knob enables you to use the Swollen Pickle as an overdrive. For example: set the Crunch high, set your amplifier set to the edge of breakup, and tweak how hard you’re pushing the front of the amplifier with the Loudness control. The signal coming from the Pickle will be loud enough to induce amp distortion, the Pickle’s distinctive voice will be present, but there’ll be enough clarity not to produce a muddy mess.
All sound samples were recorded with my 2000 HSS American Stratocaster into my Marshall DSL40C combo, set to the “crunch” channel with gain around 9 o clock and volume around 12 o clock. I miked it up with a Rode M3.
In all examples, the Pickle’s Loudness is at 9 o clock and the internal Voice and Clip pots are at maximum.
First, the “clean” sound, with the effect off. This is the Strat’s neck pickup.
This is with the Pickle engaged. The settings are: Sustain and Scoop 12 o clock; Crunch at minimum; Filter at maximum. The Pickle is roaring and fuzzy.
For this next clip, the settings are as before, but I’ve backed off the Scoop to 10 o clock and maxed out the Sustain. The fuzz is more apparent, but the sound is a little thinner.
In this clip I left the settings intact from the previous clip, but I backed off the Filter to 1 o clock, for a slightly smoother lead tone.
Overdrive Crunch Fuzz
This is a fun setting. I set Sustain at 1 o clock, Scoop at 11 o clock, Filter at 1 o clock, and most importantly, Crunch at 1 o clock. Now there’s less fuzz, but more of the amp’s natural overdrive. The result is a rude, saggy tone that sounds great for dirty rhythms.
The Swollen Pickle puts a lot of endlessly tweakable fuzz power at your fingertips, which is a pro or a con depending on your perspective. With a little patience you can get a sounding ranging from a slight crunch, to a tasteful fur, to an incendiary buzzsaw, but it’s not as simple as “turn the Sustain and Filter knobs all the way to the right”.
Unlocking the Swollen Pickle’s full range of sounds requires time, patience, and a keen ear to develop an intuition of how the different parameters affect one another.
If your goal in purchasing a fuzz is “I want to plug in and sound like 90s-era Smashing Pumpkins”, this is not the fuzz for you (that’d be the Electro-Harmonix Op-Amp Big Muff reissue). That said, if you’re like me, and the journey is as important to you as the destination, then you’ll love the Swollen Pickle. Check it out!