JACQUES STOMPBOXES BLACK MAMBA
BY JORDAN WAGNER
France’s Jacques Effects enjoys the distinc- tion of being among the most highly
regarded boutique pedal makers outside of
the United States. The company’s line of
compact, handmade stompboxes are known
for their wild tones and over-the-top voicings and are favorites of adventurous players
from Reeves Gabrels to Jerry Donahue.
Even with that track record, they tout their
newest pedal—the Black Mamba Fuzz—as
their masterpiece. And its design intent,
which is to simulate Jimi Hendrix’s classic
Fuzz-Face-and-cranked-Marshall combination, takes aim at one of the holy grails
of guitar sound. It’s also likely to be the
company’s rarest pedal: With nearly unobtainable new-old-stock NPN Valvo OC141
transistors at the heart of this monster,
Jacques will only be able to build five.
The Black Mamba has a sparse control layout,
to say the least. And with little reference to
how its three knobs work and an unconven-
tional layout that deviates from the common
Volume/Fuzz/Tone array, I found myself
wishing they’d been labeled. On the Black
Mamba, two knobs control the gain levels—
one for the germanium transistors and the
other for a cranked plexi Marshall emulation.
The bottom knob sets the pedal’s output level.
However things may look inside the Mamba,
the tones within are to die for. With a 2011
you’re jonesing hard for old-school, ’60s
psychedelic fuzz that can sustain for days.
you need more range in your fuzz and
need to mind your budget.
or scan this QR code with a
mobile device to hear audio
clips of this pedal at
Fender American Stratocaster and a Fender
’ 65 Twin Reverb Reissue, the fuzz tones that
poured out of my neck pickup were thick,
juicy, and blistering with harmonics. Sustain
was incredible, allowing me to hold notes
bent above the 12th fret and have them sing
for what seemed like an eternity.
I had to explore some slightly unorthodox
settings to get these tones, however. Jacques
recommends that you max out both Gain
controls and use the guitar’s volume to sweep
through the pedal’s sonic palette. While I
found this technique truly effective—and got
some fantastic sounds ranging from razor-sharp fuzz to gritty cleans—it did leave me
wishing there was a little more nuance available from the Mamba’s onboard controls.
Still, the Black Mamba cleans up better
than most fuzzes I’ve come across. And dropping my Strat’s volume control to slightly
above halfway yielded a crisp rhythm tone
that was perfect for fast, 7th-chord vamping.
The Jacques Black Mamba packs some of
the most fluid and dynamic Hendrix-style
fuzz sounds I’ve heard in quite some time.
The build could be better, but the incredible searing, psychedelic tones on tap cannot be denied. The big question is whether
the cost is worth it, no matter what transistor is inside. But given the price of vintage
fuzz units and the potential collectability of
the Black Mamba, it could well prove to be
worth every last cent to the right player.