First Impressions: Fender’s The Trapper Fuzz Pedal

I’m really not a fuzz kind of person. They pickup and amplify all of the noise on the dirty electricity we have here. I don’t enjoy playing through spitty, broken tones. And about the only time I use the bridge pickup on my Strat is to make sure it’s still there.

So what am I doing with one? And what do I think of Fender’s latest fuzz pedal?

Fender’s Current Pedal Line Is Fantastic

I’m a huge fan of all the drive pedals from Fender’s current pedal lineup. (The non-drive pedals … not so much.)

Fender could have easily made a lineup of pedals that just worked for Strats and Teles into Fender’s own amp range. They didn’t. They could have marketed them as complementary pieces to an all-Fender rig. They haven’t. For that alone, Fender deserves a lot of credit.

You could take the drive circuits, put them in no-name clone enclosures, and they’d still be a fantastic hit. Stan Cotey and his team have put together a range of drive pedals that work great with just about any rig.

Especially a Les Paul into a Marshall, which is where I live a lot of the time.

With The Trapper, I’ve added all of them to my collection. Well, almost all. We’re still waiting for the Smoulder Acoustic Drive pedal to start shipping. It’s been stuck on back-order at my local Fender dealer since they were first added to the ordering system, and (at the time of writing) is out of stock across major dealers both here in the UK and Europe.

I spent last night running The Trapper through my rig for the first time. Here’s how I got on with it.

What’s My Setup?

For guitars, I used a Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Standard, and my PRS Custom 24. Both the Strat and Les Paul have had their pickups upgraded, while the PRS is 100% stock.

My amp of choice was my Synergy rig. (I’ll try it with the Marshall Origin another time.) I used the T-DLX module, so that I could switch between the Twin mode (the green channel) and the Deluxe mode (the red channel). I spent most of the time on the Twin channel. Both channels are set completely clean. That ran into my SYN-5050 power amp.

I used my Two Notes Torpedo CAB M to provide speaker emulation, running a variety of Celestion impulse responses. That ran into a Captor to act as a load box (so that I didn’t need a real guitar cab), and also into my audio interface (Universal Audio Apollo) to get the sound into my DAW.

What Is The Trapper?

The Trapper is a dual-fuzz pedal from Fender. What character of fuzz, I can’t tell you. I don’t know my Big Muff from my Fuzz Face, and anyways … Fender insists that these are new fuzz circuits that they’ve designed.

As far as I can see, you only get direct control over one of the two fuzz circuits. The second circuit is set at a fixed amount, and all you can do is fiddle with the Tone and Contour controls to try and shape the overall sound of the pedal. This second fuzz circuit is sat behind a noise gate. If your playing technique is quite dynamic, that’s going to be your best bet for controlling this second circuit.

In some ways, this dual circuit is similar to what Lovepedal has been doing for years. The Tchula – one of my favourite pedals of all time – features a second circuit that you can’t adjust with a control knob. Well, technically, it’s the other way around. It’s the first circuit that’s fixed. The second circuit (which isn’t always on) has a level knob.

Crucially, though, the two circuits in the Tchula are stacked. You don’t switch between them. Although it’s not clear from Fender’s (minimalistic!) website write-up, it looks like only one fuzz circuit in The Trapper is on at a time. It’s not like their Santa Ana Overdrive, where you can blend the two together.

I spent the entire evening exploring the first fuzz circuit, mostly because I had no idea that the pedal contained a second fuzz at all at the time. I didn’t miss out.

(I’ve just tried the second circuit while I was writing this article. It’s really not for me.)

Creamy Lead Tones …

I’m sure I’ll end up repeating myself a lot here. Fuzz just isn’t my thing. It sounds glorious when Mick Taylor’s playing it on That Pedal Show. It’s nails-on-a-blackboard when I’m playing it.

There’s a bit of a border line, a crossover point where some fuzzes can sound like a really great, overdriven amp. Whenever I’m exploring a fuzz, that’s the territory I’m searching for.

I found it by dialling the Fuzz 1 control down to just above 9 o’clock. (There isn’t a Fuzz 2 control.)

Then it was a case of juggling the Tone and Contour controls until I liked what I heard. The Contour control seemed to have the bigger impact, because it changes the character of the fuzz substantially.

… In The Right Mix …

I feel that this is an important point. For me, The Trapper occupies a specific sweet spot. I can’t see me using it as an all-rounder kind of pedal.

In the room, I prefer The Trapper with the Contour control before the 12 o’clock position. Turn it up past 12 o’clock, and it takes on a gnarly character that isn’t for me. Not when noodling unaccompanied, at any rate.

Playing over a simple piece (predominantly a clean Strat), the situation is immediately reversed. Now, with the Contour control down at 12 o’clock or lower, The Trapper does the fuzz thing of effortlessly disappearing into the mix. Turn the Contour up to 1 o’clock and a bit, and it starts to sit in the same mix really nicely.

If I solo the part played with The Trapper, it’s not a tone I’d choose for my kind of rhythm playing. Not saying it won’t work for you, it’s just not my thing. I prefer The Pelt – Fender’s other fuzz pedal – for rhythm duties.

… With The Right Speakers …

I found it helped even more to experiment with different impulse responses (IRs for short). Speaker and cab choice make a huge difference to anyone’s sound anyways. With The Trapper, different IRs gave me quite a few options.

Normally, my cab combo of choice is a 1×12 open-back fitted with a Celestion Blue, complimented by a 1×12 open-back fitted with a Celestion A-Type. I use the real thing in the room most of the time, and that’s the IR preset that I always start with in the Two Notes Torpedo CAB M.

It’s a combination that suits most pedals that I put through my rig. With The Trapper, though, it paid to experiment.

I ended up preferring it with a V30 as the primary speaker. That was a shock. I never like my V30 speaker in the room. It just sat in the mix better, with better clarity and a really nice top-end.

This mix doesn’t have any drums on it; it’s just a clean Strat playing rhythm. In a full mix, the V30’s extended range might clash with cymbals and a high-hat, and another speaker might work better. I don’t know.

… And With The Right Guitar

No pedal works with everything, except for Wampler’s Pantheon. That pedal is a freak of genius. The Trapper, though, was much more hit-and-miss than I normally find.

The hit – the glorious, smash-it-out-the-park hit – was with the Les Paul Standard. At one point, I think I lost a whole hour just with the Les Paul. Creamy lead tones, all the sustain that the Les Paul is famous for, it was all there. The Trapper is a keeper for this guitar alone.

The miss was the one guitar I really hoped The Trapper would suit: the Custom 24. I’m not quite sure how to explain what I heard. I love this guitar because it’s got a strong, forward sound with a strongly-perceived fundamental – even more than your average Custom 24 has. It just felt like The Trapper was over-emphasising the fundamental, like an EQ boosting too much with too-narrow a Q (if that makes any sense).

I’ll come back and try that combination again, soon. Fresh ears (and an amp that doesn’t pump out fan noise into the room!) might be all that’s needed.

In the middle sat the Strat. On the bridge pickup, it was a perfectly usable lead tone; something that I can’t often say. I have even better options though. I found it too muddy on the neck pickup. I didn’t spend much time on that, or try and dial that in at all. I was having far too much fun with the Les Paul to care, to be honest 🙂

Final Thoughts

Fender keep making drive pedals that sound fantastic with Gibson Les Pauls. Long may it continue!

It also sounds fantastic with the noisy, dirty electricity we have here.

Vintage fuzz circuits are incredibly simple, and one side-effect of that is that they are notorious for picking up and amplifying any kind of noise on your power source. Combine them with single-coil guitars, and it’s my idea of hell.

If The Trapper is adding any noise to my rig, I can’t hear it. And that’ll do for me.

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