Price paid: $ 99
Purchased from: DigiTech
Ease of Use — 9
The use of the Carcosa is straight-forward, but there are quite a few tonal change possibilities depending on where you set the dials and switches. The voicing (flip) switch allows you to choose between a lighter tone (Hali mode) or one with more bass and midrange (Demhe mode). Generally speaking, the heavier bass/mid voicing is ideal for a clean amp setting (to give a greater saturated quality), whereas reducing (keeping tight) the bass/mid is better for dirty amps/channels. However, sometimes that thinner fuzz sound in conjunction with a clean amp is spot-on, giving a nice sizzle to chords.
The top two larger knobs are BEFORE (fuzz) and OUTPUT (gain). The BEFORE knob is quite nice, as it allows for some mellow distorted hiss when low and definitely hardcore fuzz when turned high… and without sounding like a nest of bees (a problem with many ‘metal’ petals). You need to be cautious with the OUTPUT knob as it can act like a super boost – one of the most prolific I’ve heard and experienced in a pedal (I never dialed past 12-1 o’clock in my video as it became too much… plenty of headroom!).
The bottom two knobs are called AFTER and HI-CUT. The AFTER knob eliminates completely or increases spectacularly the amount of bias or breakup/sputter in your signal, so that you can get some mild grind in the tone with added sustain or even some splattering harmonics (which are very sensitive to pick dynamics) that sound like you have a tear in your speaker. This knob is what gives you those classic fuzz sounds to more exaggerated horn-like blasts. The HI-CUT reduces the high-frequency signal. Certainly this adjustment works to allow bright or dark pickups to dial into a similar sound, but exaggerating a high or low tone offers dramatic differences in fuzz production (particularly as you mix things up with the AFTER and voicing switch). As useful, by adding more treble, you get a wonderful fuzz boost to your lead.
Sound — 10
The Carcosa Fuzz (aka The Yellow King), with its true bypass, is an extremely diverse fuzz that provides a plethora of tonal options. Many fuzz pedals are one-trick ponies (in regard to how they affect sound), but the Carcosa can give qualities that are more akin to an amp on the verse of breaking up, or some minor grit or dirt, and definitely heavy classic fuzz. Below is a sample sound file I created while playing around with the knobs and switches, and yet it still doesn’t tell the entire story. While creating that YouTube file I did not alter my guitar’s volume or tone; nor did I alter amp settings (for either clean or high-gain demonstrations). I make this point because the sound cleans up incredibly well as you dial off a guitar’s volume, making the fuzz sound more like a smooth distortion (in effect, you can change sound characteristics with your volume control without any sound quality sacrifice).
What I thought was pretty cool is how a very clean sounding amp could sound a bit dirty and on low settings and then go all the way to growls and fuzz that would make Tony Iommi smile from ear to ear (a high-gain amp is even more kick-ass, obviously). As a side note, you won’t see the pedal’s ON light in the video as it affected the photos I took by creating a glare in the lens. That little blue light was incredible bright – almost laser-like, which is ideal for dark on-stage playing. Also, to understand the Carcosa name, as well as the ‘Demhe’ and ‘Hali’ mode names on the voicing switch, visit this link.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Housed in a metal chassis, the Carcosa Fuzz’s knobs are plastic, but of a quality construction. Their turning feels very solid to the touch. The small selector switch (that allows you to go from a lighter treble setting to a heavier bass/midrange) is housed between two of the knobs, preventing it from being tripped accidentally or snapped off. The ON light is embedded into the chassis, and so it will not become damaged from stomping. The stomp ON/OFF switch is super solid with a firm and sturdy click when engaged.
Overall Impression — 9
Besides the diversity of this pedal, and the number of ways you can alter your tone simply by increasing or decreasing any of the knobs, what really comes to the forefront is how incredibly well the guitar tone stands out in the mix. This is due to the bass and midrange emphasis of the pedal, as suggested by DigiTech/DOD. With many other fuzz pedals I noticed greater ‘mud’ as you increase bass and fuzz (as well as signal bias... to get that ‘breaking up’ effect). That is not the case with the Carcosa, which makes it particularly fun to really push the envelope with a bright and edgy fuzz or a dark, heavy thick fuzz that seems to punch you in the face while allowing every note to be heard. This is one heck of a pedal for its price! One caution is that you may need to have a gate/limiter in place to combat some background hum (this can be countered by the OUTPUT SWITCH, to reduce the signal, but doing so also reduces the power of the fuzz... this aspect will vary depending on your equipment and how far you want to take the signal).