Engineering the Sound is always on the hunt for the world’s best fuzz pedals: this week, they discovered the incredible Super Unpleasant Companion from Fredric Effects.
Until fairly recent times some of the most obscure, rare and legendary fuzz pedal sounds were completely out of reach of any guitarist who wasn’t an obsessive collector, junk shop digger, or deep forum schematic nerd. Fortunately, over the last decade or so, society has turned, changing for the better in at least one aspect; that boutique effects pedal manufacturing is widespread and accessible to all. Nearly any overpriced, scarce, or unusual vintage unit has been remade and or/reimagined, in many cases studier and more reliably built or powered than the original. Today’s case in point is the Fredric Effects Super Unpleasant Companion.
This is a unit that combines the late ‘60s Shin-ei Companion FY-2 fuzz (famously used by, amongst many others, Joy Division and New Order), and the Shin-ei FY-6 Companion, a pedal design licensed to Shin-ei by the Honey brand in the late ’60s. This pedal initially appearing in a multi-effects unit amazingly branded as the Honey Psychedelic Machine and soon after in a standalone box christened the Baby Crying unit. The fuzz design was later imported to the USA and rebranded as the Univox Super-Fuzz, and further rebranded in other regions under at least 10 (and counting) different names. Some of the many famous users of this unit include The Cramps, The Who, Nirvana, and Mudhoney.
Initially, Fredric released their own version of the FY-2, titled the Unpleasant Companion. This two-transistor fuzz rings true to the original schematic with an additional boost circuit after the effect to combat its notorious loss of level when engaged, coupled with a scooping tone control switch for added versatility. The Super Unpleasant Companion ingeniously adds the FY-6 circuit (the ‘Super’ from ‘Super-Fuzz’) to the unit, giving the user two rare, fantastically nasty fuzz units in one box.
The dual unit adjustment knobs allow true-to-original control, with the ‘Expander’ acting as the incredibly subtle (some might say useless) fuzz control from the FY-2. But on the FY-6 it is a much more excitingly varied beast. The ‘Tone’ switch also gives the FY-6 a mid-range scoop, and the ‘Balance’ is your overall volume. Simple, straightforward, and beautiful, the Super Unpleasant Companion is housed in a close-to-original style wedge enclosure.
Let me digress briefly for a moment — there is a lot of internet (of course) discussion and confusion about the exact model of the Jesus and Mary Chain fuzz box models used on the Psychocandy. Let’s clear this up right here! Tim Webster, the proprietor of Fredric Effects, has posted a video of the Jesus and Mary Chain fuzz pedals that he repaired. They are indeed ‘70s Shin-ei TR8 Fuzz Wah pedals — essentially the FY-6 fuzz with a wah pedal attached. For the trainspotters, the TR8 contains 8 silicon transistors (as the title suggests) however, two of these are used by the wah circuit, hence an FY-6 with a wah included. Mystery solved!
Speaking of the Jesus and Mary Chain, if that’s the tone your chasing you’ve come to the right manufacturer — if you browse the Fredric effects website you’ll find a video of the original Psychocandy fuzz pedals being demonstrated against the FY-6 setting on the Super Unpleasant Companion — they sound near identical!
Aside from all its historical significance, the Fredric Effects Super Unpleasant Companion is a brilliant take on this old school effect and definitely well worth a try if you’re into a wide range of fuzzed-out tones. Pick up your one at Turramurra Music.