1969 Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face

Model Description:

The circular sand‑cast housing of the English Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face is possible one of the most influential and recognisable guitar effect pedals in music history and probably deserves the rarefied title of ‘iconic’. It has been claimed that Ivor Arbiter got the idea for the smiley casing shape after he saw a microphone stand with a round cast iron base. Original colours included grey, blue and red ‘hammered’ finishes. The humble Fuzz Face first appeared in late 1966 and has become famous in the hands of legendary guitarists including and many, many others. The Fuzz Face’s circuit couldn’t be much simpler comprising two transistors, three capacitors and a (small) handful of resistors, apparently based on a similar design created by competitors Sola Sound/Colorsound for their famous Tone Bender pedal. The earliest Fuzz Faces depended on Newmarket NKT 275 germanium transistors, which were highly sensitive to temperature, making for well‑reported variable performance. From 1968, the basic circuit changed to use more consistent silicon transistors, usually metal‑can BC108C transistors. Around the same time, the black on white ‘Arbiter‑England’ label became ‘Dallas‑Arbiter‑England’ and the casing was slightly revised, now with a ‘HJM 3316’ casting number on the inside. The potentiometers were small, often with no markings and with vulnerable plastic shafts. The jack sockets were black plastic sporting a seahorse design and the footswitches were regularly made by Bulgin. By 1976, however, the original Fuzz Face had disappeared. Depending on who owned the company at the time, later versions may carry the CBS/Arbiter or Dunlop Manufacturing Inc. branding. Dunlop has owned the rights to the Fuzz Face since 1993 and they continue to ‘re‑issue’ modern versions of the venerable stomp box. Despite their unreliability, early germanium transistor‑equipped Fuzz Faces are VERY highly sought after and the original silicon transistor versions are not far behind, now attracting huge – and frankly outrageous – prices on the vintage effect market.

Pedal Description:

Although difficult to date precisely, here we have a fantastic late 1960s Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face in gloriously vibrant red finish. The characteristics and features mentioned above are all present and correct, indicating that it is probably from c.1969, so I’ll go with that until someone can prove different. This example is in exceptional all‑original condition, so much so that it looks almost new with no marks or wear to suggest that it is now over 50 years’ old. This one is one of the early silicon transistor models, which makes it far more practical and consistent in use, even if it doesn’t quite sound quite as ‘warm’ as the earlier germanium transistor ones. These days, the rotund casing would take up a large amount of floorboard real estate and there are smaller re‑issues out there. With its simple circuit and no DC input or LED status light, it remains a quaint design from a bygone era. Sound‑wise, the volume control provides a healthy dose of boost and the fuzz is, well… fuzzy. I find it amusing that collectors spend thousands on vintage guitars and valve amps and then put them through the most rudimentary of low‑cost solid state circuits and claim it is ‘legendary’! Being objective in the 21st Century, the fuzz tones, as many commentators have said before, have a slight tizzyness at high gain levels, possibly as a result of the silicon transistors and there is no tone control to tame any untoward harmonics. However, if fuzzy fuzziness is your thing, the downright dirty tones of a vintage Fuzz Face are to die for and just what an analogue fuzz pedal should be like. I have to admit that I’m a big fuzz fan, the more rampant the better, so I get what all the fuzz (sic!) is all about. Whether a 1960s Fuzz Face is worth the stratospheric vintage market prices is another matter altogether. Personally, I still prefer my formidable 1970s Electro‑Harmonix Big Muff π. Still, the Fuzz Face holds a unique place in guitar history, so that’s why it is here… oh, and it sounds well fuzzy! What do you know, the beguiling smiley face and frenzied fuzziness of this vintage stomp box may just be a legendary icon after all.


  • Made by Dallas Arbiter in England in the late 1960s
  • The ‘Volume’ knob controls the output level
  • The ‘Fuzz’ knob controls the amount of distortion
  • Standard on/off footswitch controls whether the effect is on or off
  • ¼” input and output mono jack sockets
  • No LED status indicator
  • 9V battery operation only
  • No serial number


  • Duane Allman
  • David Gilmour
  • George Harrison
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Eric Johnson
  • Pete Townshend
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan

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