Univox Superfuzz (from the 70s): history (post 1/2)

People say that I worship the Univox Superfuzz a bit too much, but they are wrong. If I could, I would already have started a sect about this pedal!

It is simply my favorite pedal of all times! First because of its amazingly cool look with the huge "Super Fuzz" rubber pad, and also for its sound that is crazy loud and heavy. Seriously, best-fuzz-out-there!

After seeing Fu Manchu live in March, I could not resist buying one. After selling a kidney on the black market, I was quite lucky because I found a non-working unit on ebay that I could repair by replacing a few electrolytic capacitors.

Univox Super Fuzz

The Super Fuzz is really the ultimate fuzz for me, so I decided to honor it by writing the most complete article about it. Here is the first part!

Let's go!

History of Univox and the Super Fuzz

The story of the Univox Super Fuzz is quite complex because it went through a lot of different forms:

Univox Super Fuzz versions

Let's review them!

 Special thanks to Bob Feldman from shin-ei.com who answered several questions of mine about the history of the Shin-Ei company.

It originally came from Japan. At that time, Japan was in its "Golden Sixties" economic miracle, and manufacturing was booming. Many guitar companies like Teisco, Aria, Guyatone.. appeared at that time in Japan and exported affordable instruments, with many that were "heavily inspired" by their american counterparts.

The first Super Fuzz circuit was integrated in a multi-effects unit that looked like an amp, the Honey Psychedelic Machine. It integrated a fuzz, a tremolo and a vibe. Needless to say, this effect is crazy rare nowadays.

Honey Psychedelic Machine

The Honey company was created in 1967 by two former Teisco employees. Quickly, they realized that the Psychedelic Machine was maybe offering too much in a single package and that it would be clever to manufacture each effect separately. So they released the Honey "Baby Crying Fuzz" FY-6, the first iteration of the Super Fuzz:

Honey FY-6

They went bankrupt in 1969 and were taken on by another company Shin-Ei.

Shin-Ei designed a lot of famous effects that were sold in the 60s like the Uni-Vibe, the Companion Fuzz FY-2...etc. They also had the Companion brand and they use both brand whenever they liked (aka randomly...). They often licensed their design and sold them under many names like Apollo, Jax....etc.

The Honey Psychedelic Machine was reissued under the Companion name for instance:

Companion Psychedelic Machine

Still crazy rare as well!

The electronics genius behind all these effects is Fumio Mieda, who also created the Korg MS-20. Notably, he created the Uni-Vibe, the Super Fuzz, the Companion FY-2 Fuzz... and still have patents under his name in 2017!

Shin-Ei also sold the FY-6 under its name, but also licensed it and many, many brands just changed the label on the top of the pedal, including Companion:

Companion FY-6

Here is a list of all the brands that sold the FY-6: Apollo, Companion, Shaftesbury, Mica, JAX, Kent, Teisco, Marlboro, Memphis, Bruno, Boomer, Alex, Ace Tone, Aria, Avora, Crestwood, Crown, Diamond, Elk, Electra, Excetro, Goya, Hohner, Honey, Kimbara, LRE, Lord, Luxor, Mana, Maya, Mayfair, Mica, National, Northland, Oscar, Pax, Rands, Sekova, Selmer, Tele-Star, Tempo, Thomas, Zenta, Royal... Crazy isn't it?

They now sell cheaper than the Companion or the Shin-Ei FY-6, but under the hood, they are all the same!

Another brand that sold it was.... Univox!
Univox Super Fuzz FY-6 u-1093
This version is also called the "u-1093" version. It was painted in gray instead of black and uses the same exact circuit as the Shin-Ei.

Univox is a brand with quite a complex story as well. To make it short: Univox was the US importer of Shin-Ei.

In details, Unicord Corporation was a transformer manufacturer that acquired the Amplifier Corporation of America based in New York. In 1967, Unicord was purchased by Gulf + Western (the oil company). Around this time Unicord merged with Merson, a guitar importer that made lines like "Tempo", "Giannini" and "Hagstrom". This new company was called "Merson Musical Products, A Division of Unicord Incorporated, A Gulf + Western Systems Company". They started selling guitar, amplifiers and effects under the Univox name.

After this version, another version appeared, the Unicord U-250 Uni-Fuzz. It was AC powered to make it less noisy (thus unicord could also use their transformers). This version was housed in a grey, then black enclosure:

Univox Uni-Fuzz U250

The settings were moved on top of the pedal for better access compared to the previous model. The fuzz was delivered with a small little switch that could be connected to the "cancel" input jack and act as a kill switch.

Around 1970, the FY-6 changed look completely and became the Super Fuzz, with its amazing red/blue look.

This is the U-1095 version. It is the same circuit as the FY-6 version, except for a small thing that we will see in the circuit analysis... This version was super popular and was used by Pete Towshend live.

From what I saw online, it existed in 4 different color themes: red enclosure and blue pad (the most common one), white enclosure and blue pad (rare), black enclosure with grey pad (very rare) and grey enclosure with grey pad (less rare):

Univox Super Fuzz colors

The white and grey versions seem to have a more fragile paint because most of the examples I found online had paint wearoff.

It was sold for 39 dollars at the time, which is around 255 dollars today.

It came in this uber-cool enclosure with FUZZZ. written on it... How cool?!! 😎

Univox Super Fuzz box

A good way to buy a cheaper Super Fuzz is to find a Shin-Ei WF-8 Fuzz Wah. Shin-Ei incorporated the Super Fuzz effect together with  a wah that looked like this:

Shin Ei Fuzz Wah

Of course, they were also sold with several brands like Crown, Malboro...etc.

In 1978 Unicord stoped making the Univox line of guitars and equipment. They switched to an original line called "Westbury", which lasted until about 1982. They were merged with Korg later on.

What about know?

Did the Super Fuzz vanished from the surface of the earth? How can I get a Super Fuzz without spending all my dollars on a huge vintage thing you may ask.

Well, the story of the Univox Super Fuzz did not end with Univox disappearing. Many guitar pedals were later inspired by this fuzz monolith.

One of the most famous today is the Boss Hyper Fuzz, which integrates a bass/trebles active EQ compared to the original model. It was issued in 1993, and even if only a few were made, it became really popular in the Stoner / Doom music movement (listen to Electric Wizard).

Shin-Ei also raised from the ashes and was reborn recently in the US. They currently make a reproduction of the original Honey FY-6 Super Fuzz.

Finally, many boutique guitar builders such as me are working on reissuing the best Super Fuzz out there... At least I am! (more on this soon...)

There it is! I hope you enjoy this article. Hopefully next part will be out soon!
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3 Comment
This comment has been removed by the author. - Hapus
This comment has been removed by the author. - Hapus

very nice! looking forward to part 2! and looking forward to know if you're going to make a univox pcb!! ; )