Barber pedals get high-end tone freaks excited but theyre affordable, too. Huw Price puts the Trifecta Fuzz under the microscope.
First, let’s just list the specs. This Barber effects pedals contain precision-matched components to ensure symmetrical clipping and reduced intermodulation distortion; it has true bypass switching with a nice, bright LED indicator; it’s wired with solid 20 gauge copper hookup wire, has full-size potentiometers, sturdy cast aluminium enclosures, military-spec double-sided PC boards with plate-through holes and posh parts such as carbon resistors and metalised polyester/silver mica caps. It all sounds pretty impressive, and each Barber pedal is handmade in the US.
No pedalboard can be complete without a fuzz, perhaps, and the Barber Trifecta claims to ‘seamlessly navigate three classic vintage fuzz circuits.’ There’s the usual Volume, Tone and Fuzz controls, plus a Sludge knob that adjusts the bass content of the signal passing through the fuzz circuitry. This high-pass filter can tighten the low end if your guitar is fitted with humbuckers, or you can thin everything out for a raspy tone. The dual function Tone control works just like the LTD SR‘s, and the pot is push/pull for flat response/mid scoop switching.
This is an out-and-out fuzz rather than an overcooked distortion. There’s something about the Trifecta that’s clarinet-like, woody, fizzy and full of sonic potential… as long as you like vintage fuzztone effects. Obviously the term ‘vintage fuzztone’ will evoke different things for different people, but the Trifecta makes a genuine stab at covering all bases, which is great if you’d prefer to have one do-it-all fuzz rather than a vintage collection.
A big factor in this pedal’s versatility is the scope and responsiveness of the EQ controls. You can clearly discern the changes as you sweep Tone and Sludge, so honing in on the various sweet spots for your setup will be a breeze.
Then there’s that three-way toggle switch. The left setting promises a ‘triangle pi’ style sound, which obviously refers to the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff with its ultra-fat tone, drenched harmonics and seemingly endless sustain. I had a Little Big Muff on hand for comparison and the Trifecta gets very close, especially with the flat response Tone setting.
To our ears the E-H gets even more saturated, but at these gain levels it’s all pretty academic. The E-H also sounded a little fatter and more velvety, but the Trifecta had better definition and the less hyped mids might make it more usable.
The middle ‘jumbo bender’ notch is recommended for lower gain settings. Despite remaining fuzzy, the note definition is outstanding. Even with insanely long sustain settings you can still play a 6th or 9th chord and hear every note ring out. I loved the singing raspiness with Sludge rolled fully back, or you can roll the Tone back too for cool band pass filter effects.
The ‘suppa bender‘ setting is designed for higher-fuzz droning chords and squishy attack when soloing, and it doesn’t disappoint. The sonic differences between these settings aren’t very dramatic because all three share parts of the circuit in the same way that many classic fuzz boxes were based on similar designs, but tweak carefully and you’ll be amazed at the range of tones on offer.
The Trifecta is an unusually versatile fuzzbox, but it's not quite like having three distinct pedals in one enclosure. I was able to dial up a huge range of effects that pretty much covered my fuzzy fantasies. The only sounds I couldn't get were the gated voltage starvation' effect, and the Trifecta, like the Big Muff, showed a disinclination to clean up from my guitar volume control, so I couldn't get the Jimi Hendrix-style glassy clean fuzz sounds that I can on my old Roger Mayer pedal. Overall, though, Barber pedals are fantastically well constructed with chassis-mounted pots and jacks plus high quality components - and we were just as impressed with the sounds.