I love it when I find a rather obscure guitar pedal that turns out to be pure magic. This is the case when I discovered the MXR Classic 108 Fuzz Mini pedal just recently.
MXR isn’t exactly obscure. However, given all the hype that new pedals from both mainstream and boutique builders get, an MXR pedal can often get buried over the “latest and greatest” hype. The MXR Classic 108 Fuzz was released in early 2018 as the larger M173 version. A few months later in June 2018, the mini pedal version, officially numbered the MXR M296, was released.
What is the MXR Classic 108 Fuzz Mini based on?
The MXR Classic 108 fuzz is based on the BC-108 Fuzz Face, but in a more pedalboard-friendly rectangular enclosure – In this case, a mini pedal. Arguably, the large M173 version is still more pedalboard-friendly than a round mini FuzzFace. The BC-108 is a silicon transistor. These transistors are known to react very well to the use of the guitar’s volume pot.
More importantly, this new version includes a buffer switch. The main thing I found about the buffer switch is that it makes the pedal brighter. It’s great for brightening up a darker guitar. This is pretty useful since the fuzz doesn’t include a tone control. The buffer switch is also a great addition to help match the pedal up with a wah pedal.
Even with the buffer switch I still preferred the MXR Classic 108 Fuzz first in the chain. It does clean up well with the volume control on your guitar. The reason I love this pedal so much is because it has a classic voicing and classic fuzz sound, but it can do high-gain modern sounding fuzz tones really well as well when cranked. It just depends on what guitar you play through it. I really enjoyed playing my Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster with stock pickups through this fuzz. This is a guitar that normally sounds great with various different fuzz pedals.
I also enjoy playing my Fender American Professional II Stratocaster with the MXR Classic 108 Fuzz first in chain. That said, a Gibson Les Paul Classic with hot 60s Burstbuckers sounds great through it as well. I feel that for a classic style fuzz, it’s more versatile than expected. It’s a great fuzz to complement a pedalboard that has a Big Muff, or Big Muff variant already on it. The Big Muff variant would be later in the chain. I’d actually recommend putting the MXR fuzz first in chain, then a light overdrive like a Tubescreamer or a Boss SD-1, then a Big Muff. A rig like this would cover tons of sonic ground.
Classic 108 Fuzz vs Fuzz Face
Let me point out that the MXR Classic 108’s turquoise green enclosure suggests it’s like the Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face. Because of this I went ahead an bought a Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Mini Distortion. The plan is to put a battery in it and put it on the floor in front of different pedalboard builds. On thing I found is that it doesn’t sound exactly like the Classic 108 Mini, even when the mini has the buffer switch off. I know there are tolerances and variances between pedals, even within the same model sometimes. I can’t call a verdict yet as I really need more time on the new one, and I need to play them back to back more with different guitars. But so far, I like the Classic 108 Mini Fuzz more than the Mini Fuzz Face. Take this with a grain of salt though. I do need more time on the Fuzz Face. I’m fairly confident that the buffer switch means the Classic 108 will still be more versatile regardless.
Should you add the MXR Classic 108 Fuzz Mini to your fuzz collection?
At just over a hundred bucks, the MXR M296 Classic 108 Fuzz Mini truly is a welcome addition to any fuzz collection. It might not be the pedal for the guitarist that’s just looking for THE ONE perfect fuzz. I mean, that doesn’t exist. But I do understand that some guitarists want to pick a single fuzz sound and stick with. But for guitarists like me that like to have various flavors of fuzz on the shelf to keep things fresh and interesting, this one is great option that doesn’t cost too much. I’m putting the Classic 108 fuzz on a small live pedalboard, since mini pedals work best when attached to a board. The larger M173, Jimi Hendrix Mini Fuzz Face or Original Fuzz Face would probably be better options for the shelf to cycle them in occasionally.
I see that MXR has an Amazon store under the name Geartree, I’m going to go ahead an offer an affiliate link to that if you’re interested in one and want to send a kickback that doesn’t cost you anything more. Thank you.