Fuzzaliciousness

 

First off, let me just say that I am not a fuzz-head.

Although I thoroughly appreciate a good buzzy bass fuzz sound, the band I play in usually needs a more ‘concrete’ type of distortion.

This, combined with the fact that I’m a minimalist when it comes to playing shows, means that I try to be wary of what I carry with me to gigs. Coming after a longer period of using no pedals on stage, in the last few years I’ve been using a small utilitarian pedalboard with some bare essentials –  a tuner, a great preamp/di, a distortion or two and sometimes for an added flavour either an octaver or a delay. Now that I started using a synth regularly, the octaver will no longer be gracing the board with its presence so I’d have some free space.

But why would I use a fuzz on my pedalboard if I am not much of a fan?

Well, mostly because the Freaky Stone is what I call a “Two Tone” pedal, meaning you can get 2 distinct sounds from one single pedal. Call it versatility, call it what you will, I’ve always favoured this approach.

 

Kasleder FX

is a small boutique-pedal shop from Hungary, founded and operated by Albert Kasléder, who already made a name for himself as a pedal builder while working on a pedal series for Höfner guitars. His stompboxes usually gravitate around the vintage type of sound/era, but with an updated and personal twist.

The Freaky Stone

Let’s begin with an excerpt from the Kasleder website:

“Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones, Gene Simmons, Paul Simonon, Lemmy, Steve Harris, Duff McKagan, Tim Commerford. A few names of the bass players with special playing style, but most of all a special sound timbre of the bass with a big impact on me and still do have to this day. They all have different, unique flavors, but the common point is that they used lightly or roughly cracked amps.

This special cavalcade of flavors inspired the creation of the Freaky Stone pedal. I wanted to make a versatile pedal with the basic character of germanium transistors, giving the pedal a kind of vintage feel. So the Freaky Stone is a character pedal designed specifically for bass players, which you can also use as a preamp, overdrive, or fuzz.”

The Freaky Stone is an ultra limited edition bass preamp/overdrive/fuzz box, only 50 units ever made. Hand-built, numbered and signed, using top notch components – all nifty boutique pedal traits from a small shop in Budapest, Hungary.

Packaging/Design

They say first impressions are lasting ones, Kasleder pedals shine in this category and the Freaky Stone is no exception. Snugly packed into a logo-stamped cardboard box, it comes with its own bag, a coaster, a sticker and a pick. These might seem little things to some, but they are a nice personal touch and we all know that a little goes a long way. Of course, I just had to do an unboxing in the video demo, there was no way around it!

One thing I always liked about Albert’s pedals are the wide variety of colours they are available in. The Freaky Stone comes in what I’d call Boom Bass Brown because it certainly presents itself as a prime candidate for ‘brown note’ jokes, especially while blasting it through a full PA system.

The quirky and awesome graphics are made by Albert’s partner, Eszter Budavári and they are the icing on the cake.

Buildwise

the pedal seems very road worthy, the aluminium knobs feel nice and sturdy to the touch. I am not a tech/spec nerd, you can consult the product page of the pedal to access all that type of info. What I did retain, though, is the use of New Old Stock Russian military grade Germanium transistors, which give the Freaky Stone its unique flavour.

The controls

are straightforward and offer a wide range of combinations. One interesting fact, and you can fully observe this in the demo, is how differently the pedal responds to passive vs active instruments. The affected frequencies are mostly in the higher register and they give a very interesting sizzle to the active basses. The internal DIP switch and BIAS trim pot offer additional tweaking abilities for the tweak-nerds out there. As a side note, the BIAS trimpot was fully counterclockwise for all playing examples in the demo.

The HIGH control on the Boost section might be a bit too much or noisy for my taste, I’ve found that I’ve always preferred turning it down rather than up while testing the pedal without a musical context. Of course, things are different in a band setting as you can see in the demo, especially in the amp+mic and amp/cab sim sections.

Soundwise

I hate to use cliches but given the many ‘one trick pony’ fuzz pedals out there, this one might be more ‘versatile’ than the average. You have the fuzz section that delivers organic tones from bee-like buzz to full-blown firestorm. On the other hand, you can use the ‘cleaner side’ just for some EQ-ing and some saturation, maybe a bass/treble bump for a slap sound or maybe even to throw some more kerosene on the fuzz-fire, there are tons of options.

As always, these types of pedals sound best through an appropriate rig, of course. However I did find that the Freaky Stone works great with amp/cab sims as well, as you’ll be able to tell after watching the demo. One thing I forgot to mention, though, is what kind of amp/sim I used for that certain portion of the video. It was the newly released Guitar Rig 6 from Native Instruments with the Basic Bass Invader preset.

 

All in all

this pedal will definitely find its way on to my gigging pedalboard. I am still not a fuzz-head and although the pedal is not perfect (there are no perfect pedals) – I love the tone but could live without the inherent noise of fuzzpedals – I am looking forward to blasting some fuzzalicious Freaky Stone tones through some serious PA systems.

May 2021 mark the return (albeit gradual) of live shows and more music in our lives in general!

So, without further ado, please check out the demo if you haven’t already.

 

*although I am not a fuzz-head, this is not the first bass fuzz I owned – I have a Red Fuzz devil of a pedal built for me by my old friend Lorand, the man behind LoCo pedals and the Sensei preamp pedal which will be featured in a future demo/review. Stay tuned!

**disclaimer – this is not a sponsored review/demo but I did receive the pedal for free to test it.

 

For availability, pricing and more info, check Kasleder Freaky Stone page.

 

A Happy New Year to you guys!

stay safe!

2020

was not so great, fortunately there was good music to be listened to.

Here are some of my favourite releases this year

White Walls – Grandeur
Michael Manring – Small Moments
Tigran Hamasyan – The Call Within
Ólafur Arnalds – some kind of peace
The Pineapple Thief – Versions of the Truth
Spaven X Sandunes
Plini – Impulse Voices
Puscifer – Existential Reckoning
Figueroa – The World As We Know It
Helen Mountfort – Ebb
IDLES – Ultra Mono
Jesús Rico Pérez – SCARS III
Intervals – Circadian

 

ye album lists for previous years

2019

Leprous – Pitfalls
Jakub Zytecki – Nothing Lasts, Nothing’s Lost
Tool – Fear Inoculum
The Contortionist – Our Bones EP
Bon Iver – i,i
City and Colour – A Pill for Loneliness
Cloudkicker – Unending
Mark Lettieri – Deep: The Baritone Sessions VOl1
Hildur Gudnadóttir – Joker (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Deliric x Silent Strike – II
Nick Johnston – Wide Eyes In The Dark
Dub Trio – The Shape Of Dub To Come
shey baba – Requiem
Brad Mehldau – Finding Gabriel
GoGo Penguin – Ocean In A Drop EP

2018

Lucia – Samsara
GoGo Penguin – A Humdrum Star
Richard Spaven – Real Time
Ólafur Arnalds – re:member
Childish Japes – Salamander
Between The Buried And Me – Automata II
Nik Bärtsch’s RONIN – Awase
Jacob Collier – DJESSE (vol I)
Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve
Mammal Hands – Becoming
Zoe Keating – Snowmelt

2017

Richard Spaven – The Self
Jordan Rakei – Wallflower
Leprous – Malina
Björn Meyer – Provenance
David Maxim Micic – Who Bit The Moon
Childish Japes – After You’re Born
The Contortionist – Clairvoyant
Steven Wilson – To The Bone
almadeer – Igra
Iris Lune – Lost In Chatter

A wise man once said

‘All a man will ever truly know is his own opinion. And opinions change all the time.’  Dömuddha (me)

 

Everything I say is filtered through my playing/life experience and personal preferences. As much as I try to be objective, my perspective is my own, not anyone else’s and definitely not universal.

So, read this subjective REVIEW but make up your own mind by checking out the DEMO.

Now, let’s begin.

TAN basses

are a small one-man-shop from the town of Galați, Romania. Andrei, the bass-maker, started building instruments around 2012, mostly because he couldn’t afford neck-through basses, according to his own words. Up until now he built around 15 basses, all of them custom tailored to fit his clients’ desires. I had the pleasure of demo-ing a TAN S-Type Singlecut and although I appreciated all the bells and whistles (e.g. the Mike Pope preamp) on it, I must say, I prefer the meat and potato approach of the Blue bass.

The TAN Classic Deluxe

is a new take on the well known and much appraised Jazz Bass sound. Passive, sporting two Aguilar 5J-HC pickups, it has an organic, meaty voice suited for more musical situations than you’d give it credit for. Upon holding it in my hands, my first impression was that it might be the illegitimate child of a Fender Jazz Bass and a Warwick Streamer. It certainly bears resemblance to both, the upper horn hinting at the classic lines while the curves of the body and the lower horn give it a more modern appearance.

Look wise

the Blue Sparkle finish is a bit of an eye candy. I must confess I was pleasantly surprised, I expected it to be more plastic-y but the sparkles give the paint job a bit more depth. I’d love to see how it ages and what kind of yellowish or maybe greenish hue it gets over time. The matching headstock is also a nice touch, gives it a nice retro vibe. The familiar angled tuners and the old school pearloid pickguard reinforce the feeling that this bass is the marriage of old and new.

 

Build wise

the Classic Deluxe is a well constructed instrument, featuring some high grade components. The wood choices ( all maple except the american walnut fretboard binding) line up with the classic approach, while the hardware (custom high mass bridge, Schaller tuners and LEDs) might make it more desirable for the modern player. While not everything is perfectly done (my knack for finding imperfections can be both a blessing and a curse) the attention to detail is certainly to be appreciated.

Tone and feel

I’ve only had the bass a month, played it just a couple of days on and off, due to my busy schedule but I felt at home playing the TAN. Although my experience with more ‘classic sounding’ instruments is limited to my own 1995 Japanese Fender Precision bass and the times I fiddled a couple of vintage Fender Jazz basses, I recognised the old school ‘snap and bite’ to the tone, especially with both pickups full on. Talking about the ‘snap’, the maple fretboard is definitely a large contributor.

The lows are clear and punchy, the mids are not overwhelming and the highs cut through. Maple is often associated with brighter sounds and although the TAN can be pretty sizzly at times, it doesn’t go overboard. There is a bit of a mid scoop to my ears, mostly because I am so used to my mid-heavy Warwick basses, but I didn’t feel the need to compensate with electronics. ‘The tone is in your hands’ might be an overused cliche but it’s true – you carry your sound with you but you need to invest time to get to know your instrument.

There is a certain hollowness (not lack of mids, but don’t know how else to describe it) that adds a very interesting character to the sound. The bass stays true to the Jazz Bass spirit but puts a spin of its own on it.

Ergonomics

Sometimes comfort is sacrificed in order to get that specific tone or sleek look. Heavy exotic woods, smaller bodies. I should know, my Thumb bass isn’t the most snuggliest snuggly bear when it comes to adapting to my body and being comfy to play. Thankfully the TAN has no issues in the neck dive department, it’s easily one of the most well balanced instrument I played lately. It weighs just about 4,45 kg / 9,81 lbs, making it a ‘lighter’ bass, when compared to my 5,6 kg – 4,9 kg heavy weights. Props for fighting the good fight for our backs!

I would have liked for it to have a satin finished or oil finished neck, because I’m not particularly fond of lacquered necks but it did not feel overly sticky. The neck profile is in the ‘slimmer’ category, making it easy to jump around the fretboard.

At the request of the builder I didn’t change strings or fiddle with the action, I played it with the exact setup I received it. It didn’t take too long to get used to the wider 18mm string spacing, even after 15 years or so of 16,5mm. The action was medium low, maybe a tid bit too high for my taste, but definitely easily playable.

The only issues I found with the bass were an unfortunate combination of factors that culminated in a bit of intermittent buzzing. I had a hard time pinpointing the source of the noise but it was obvious from the get go that it is a grounding issue. Turns out the coated Elixir strings are not conductive and can cause problems in certain combinations with passive electronics/pickups. Roger Sadowsky has a more extensive article on this issue, check it out if you have similar problems with coated strings. Bottom line is once you change the strings, the problem goes away.

Talking about the strings, I found that the A string has a bit more output than the rest of the strings. That might be because the exposed pole pieces of the Aguilar pickups that are a bit higher under the A string. Also, might be easily solvable with a little setup.

 

All in all

I found this bass comfortable to play, pretty versatile tone wise – should fit into most musical situations. The Blue Sparkle finish makes it stand out on stage and the extra LED blue side dots not only help you find your way in the dark but add to the premium feel of the instrument.

 

Although TAN are not yet ready to compete with the experience and fame of well established international boutique manufacturers ( Fodera, Ken Smith, F Bass etc) I certainly salute their tenacity and persistence to become one of Romania’s finest custom bass builders.

 

please check out the full DEMO if you haven’t already:

 

here are the specs of the bass:

34″ scale

24 frets

all maple bass

Blue Sparkle finish

Aguilar AG 5J-HC pickups

Passive electronics

Schaller hardware

Elixir Nanoweb light .045″ strings

4,45 kg / 9,81 lbs

 

For availability, pricing and more info, check the TAN Basses Facebook page.

 

thanks for reading through to the end!

stay safe!