Sunday, May 21, 2017

Homebrew Electronics UFO Ultimate Fuzz Octave

This post features a nifty little hand-built stomp box from the US of A, namely the Homebrew Electronics (H.B.E) UFO Ultimate Fuzz Octave. I put the UFO through its paces using a PRS 25th Anniversary Santana guitar through the clean channel of a humble Laney LX35, and boy; was I in for a pleasant surprise! This is one snarky little fuzz box, no doubt about it. The metal enclosure is fire engine red interspersed with tiny specks of gold, very attractive indeed. On the right side of the UFO is a single stereo input jack (In) and center-negative battery eliminator (9V AC Adapter) jack socket; while on the left side is the lone mono output jack (Out). The black plastic control knobs have a cool retro look and are secured to the pot shafts by small set screws that you can adjust with a flathead screwdriver.

Let's look at the controls and switches now. The Level control adjusts the overall output of the unit, while the Fuzz control varies the depth/amount of fuzz in the effected signal. In between the Level and Fuzz controls is a mini toggle switch labeled "Vin/Mod," where "Vin" refers to "Vintage" and "Mod," Modern. Flicking this switch to the left (Vintage) results in a warm old-school fuzz flavor, as one might expect. However, when flicked to the right (Modern), watch out! There's a dramatic boost in output, fuzz and mids; resulting in an "in-your-face" aggressive tone. For some reason, I prefer the sweeter-sounding Vintage setting to the harsher Modern, but that's just one man's opinion; right?

Below the Level control is an ON/OFF footswitch which turns the effect on or off; and a corresponding yellow LED that lights when the UFO is engaged. I tested the UFO without a power source (no 9V battery or adapter), and with the effect off, the clean guitar signal rang loud and clear through the amp. Yes, folks; we have true bypass. In between the Level and Fuzz controls, and directly below the Vin/Mod switch, is the Tone control; which varies the sharpness (treble content) of the effected signal. I found that the warmest fuzz tones were to be had with the Tone control at 12 o'clock or less. Below the Fuzz control is a footswitch labeled "8VA." Stomping on this lights up the corresponding yellow LED and transposes the effected signal an octave, hence the "8VA" label. With the mini toggle switch at its Modern setting and the Tone control dialed past noon; engaging the 8VA footswitch results in a searing lead tone that has to be heard to be believed.

To access the innards of the UFO, one has to unscrew four Phillips-head screws; which in turn releases the metal bottom cover. The bottom cover of this particular unit was covered in velcro and glue residue, so I cannot confirm nor deny the presence of any label or markings beneath the gunk. Anyhow, on the inside of the bottom cover is a metal Keystone Electronics 9V battery holder that's riveted in place. The battery clip is the sturdiest I've ever encountered so far, and it sure took a lot of effort to get a 9V Energizer in there. The (+) and (-) battery contacts are wired directly to the stereo input jack through rather short red and black cables, so you have to be extra careful not to stretch them when working on the UFO.

If you'd like to take a closer look at the pots and Vin/Mod toggle switch, you have to unscrew the two small hex screws above the Level and Fuzz controls. These two screws and corresponding hex nuts fasten the circuit board to the chassis. Removing them frees the circuit board somewhat, revealing Alpha mini pots for the Level, Fuzz and Tone controls. The Vin/Mod toggle switch appears to be a generic SPDT switch, no surprises here. Meanwhile, the ON/OFF and 8VA latching footswitches are Cliff 9 pole 3PDTs -- quality all the way.

Looking at the innards of the UFO,it is obvious that this pedal was lovingly put together by hand. Soldering is top notch and cable lengths kept to the minimum. All said and done, this is one well-built awesome-sounding stomp box that is worth every buck you're going to fork out -- if you can find one; that is. After the pics section are four links to YouTube videos featuring the UFO. Enjoy!

Further Reading
Homebrew Electronics UFO Review
Home Brew Electronics UFO Ultimate Fuzz Octave
Homebrew Electronics UFO Ultimate Fuzz Octave

YouTube Videos




Gearwire Labs

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