Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sola Sound Tone Bender MKIV (1971)


Today we have a guest author to the Tone Machines blog, our good friend and fellow fuzz junkie, Nick! You may have seen some of his demo videos on the youtubes, but maybe you didn't know he had a really cool collection of vintages fuzzies too?

I had been envious of Nick's rare pedal acquisitions for a while, but when I saw this old tattered yellow box of love, I knew I had to try and talk him into a post on T.M.

So here it is! and a big THANKS to Nick for the words and pics.
---

The three knob Tone Bender you see most often is that classic silvery grey pedal where they really went all the way in the graphics department; finally no more cheap 1960s silk-screening! With the new far-out ‘Batman’ style flash logo it’s pretty clear what you’re gonna get when you step on the pedal. They seemed to stick this circuit of  in a number of different coloured boxes, including rebranded versions for companies such as Carlsbro (“Fuzz”) and Park (“Fuzz Sound”), and not to mention a whole load of Sola Sound branded (“Tone Bender Mark IV”) pedals, all in different colours (and don’t forget the earlier Vox Tone Bender Mark III).

But right here we are looking at the sexiest of the lot – the Sola Sound yellow Tone Bender.
It’s had a hard life as you can see from the photo. Rust spots and big chunks of the paint job just torn right out – the signs of a great sounding fuzzbox! 


This Tone Bender flew in all the way from Australia, and took a while for UK Customs to come to the conclusion that it was just a messed up old pedal (and not a bomb!). When I finally did get it the ‘Fuzz’ and ‘Treble and Bass’ controls were in really bad shape – the whole pedal would just cut out if you adjusted them, the volume control was totally missing with the shaft of the potentiometer snapped right off!
Even with the pedal in its broken-to-shit state, you could really hear how Sola Sound carefully refined the Tone Bender; this thing can go from a screaming banshee to sounding just like a cranked Marshall stack, depending on how you play through it (sounds even better now that it’s been repaired!).

The Sola Sound Tonebenders, despite being pretty rare, were extremely versatile, well built and fantastic sounding fuzz pedals that, to me, are worth every penny!  I have even found a way to make this one work where it does this cool half-cocked wah effect when you turn the amount of fuzz down – cuts through the mix like a swordfish!




Thanks for reading!
-Nick

Maestro Universal Synthesizer System USS-1

Let's add this to the "pedals I will own someday!" category...
This is the Maestro Universal Synthesizer System, and it is really damn cool.




Thanks for Watching!
-ed

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gemco Tonebender (1977)



So this oddity popped up on ebay today (still on there as of now) and it was so rare that I decided I need to snag the pics and post them here, for posterity. I have spread myself pretty thin lately with some recent pedal acquisitions so another $800 may not be the best idea right now!


I have a feeling this is a post I will have to update after consulting with a few fellow pedal nerds about what circuit it actually is (I'm guessing a Jumbo TB?) but until then, the one thing I noticed for sure is that it's the same exact enclosure used for the Dharma Sound pedals! Now that doesn't necessarily mean that they are related in anyway, but you never know? The knobs are the same too...

Ok, well this is going to end up being a "To Be Continued" post until I get some more info on the Gemco Tonebender, until them, please enjoy the (unfortunately small) photos.
and if you buy this pedal, please let me know what's up with it.







Thanks for Reading!
-ed

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give that Thanks!


Today is Thanksgiving, if you are from the US, so I found it fitting to post this autumn pic of my favorite phase shifter of all time; the T.C. Electronic XII B/K Programmable Phaser.


From the mid 80's, the T.C. can do it all (dare I say, better than the Mutron Bi-Phase..?) so while you enjoy your swirly stomach and your psychedelic mid-day dreams, think of this little guy.


Thanks for reading!
and happy T-Day///
-ed

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sam Ash Fuzzz Boxx vs. Astro Amp Astrotone


So recently I lucked out and scored an original Astro Amp Astrotone from 1967. I sent the pedal out to my good friend Jerms and he made a comparison video between his Sam Ash Fuzzz Boxx and my Astrotone. Both were stamped as being made in 1967, the Astro from March and the Sam Ash from May. They have identical components (except the diodes) and boards, meaning both versions were built at the same time! There is also a version of the Sam Ash that is in the same casing as the Astrotone, which for some reason was made simultaneously as the wedge-shaped ones...

I'll get super detailed on the Astro in a later post, but for now here are some comparison pictures and a sweet demo video (showing that they sound almost identical!)







Thanks for watching!
-ed

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jumbo Tone Bender - cool demo vid!


I love this demo.
even though it's kind of an ad for the new Sola Sound reissues, it's still pretty awesome at showing how great the original Jumbo Tone Bender is.

enjoy!



thanks for watching
-ed

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Royal Fuzz Box TF-1 / RF-1 (1969)



When entering into the world of vintage Japanese effectors, one can easily go insane from the amount of pedalage out there. First, you have to weed through all of the Shin Ei and re-branded Shin Ei pedals (which cuts off about 70% of everything made in Japan), once you have done that, you are left with a small number of what look like really cool effects, but there is either NO information about them, or the information out there is in Japanese! After hours of google translating, crafty net searching, and the great frustration of plain-old proximity effect, you can see how hard it is for a nerd like me to track down this Eastern gold. So imagine my surprise when I found this awesome Royal Fuzz Box in my home town of Nashville last week///


So what is this Royal Fuzz Box? you ask.
Well, it's basically a Shin-Ei FY-6 (Super Fuzz) that was a really early clone and NOT just another re-branding by the effects giant. Like I wrote earlier, it's hard to get exact and detailed accounts of how all of this went down since I am not located in Japan, but I will try and piece it together with the info I do have.

The Royal Fuzz Box was produced in the late 60's in seemingly very small numbers, and there are 2 versions. Although both have the same exact circuit and components, one is labeled as being made by the Royal Co., Ltd. and was given the code "RF-1" while the other was labeled as being made by the Thunder Electronics Co., Ltd. and was given the code "TF-1". I suspect that Thunder Electronics were the actual designers and original manufacturers of the pedal as the circuit board on both versions reads "TF-1" and not "RF-1". I would also assume that later on (or maybe for a different market/country) Royal branded their version with their label. Like I said, a lot of this is speculation, but it does make sense!


So the mini history aside, let's get into the pedal. For me, part of the lore of the Royal Fuzz Box is how cool it looks and how it functions. That all-black wide box with, an almost glowing, gold crown seems to whisper my name in the night. That big wedge-shaped enclosure and the slight crustiness of age just bumps up the cool factor even more! The other thing you may have noticed is the Tone Selection foot switch. I wish the original Super Fuzzes had this instead of just the switch on the side, as it really makes for a more useable pedal in a band setting. I know that later on the Ibanez Standard Fuzz incorporated this same foot switch style (maybe taking a cue from the Royal???), but for the time it was a cool update and mod to the original FY-6 circuit.


Wondering how it sounds?

Like was stated earlier, it is basically a Univox Super Fuzz, but it does differ in character as different components where used. There are a few demos online of original Royal's and they all show off the pedal pretty well. Compared to the grey Super Fuzz it has more splat and upper octave, and the overall GROWL is more apparent. It's like the SF's angry red headed little brother! I'm really liking it so far, and having that Tone foot switch is a cool added detail.

Well I'm not gonna go into it like crazy, but I will link you to a couple of demos:

Royal Attack!
Royal Attack!!
Royal Attack!!!

now, for your enjoyment_---_












Thanks for reading!
-ed

Thursday, November 17, 2011

oh no.


Saw this on ebay today and decided it was too awesome not to repost here.


Enjoy your day!
-ed

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Montarbo Sinfhoton


First, I just wanted to apologize for the lack of posts this week. It has been raining here and I haven't found a good setup for indoor pics yet/

So this past week I was able to score a couple amazing pedals, one being that 1967 Astro-Amps Astrotone, and the other, well if it's nice out on Friday you'll see!!!

OK, so to pass the time, let's check out this video demo again from our friend Ema.
This one is an Italian pedal called the Sinfhoton, which was made by a company called Montarbo. These first came out in 1968 I believe, but were made for a pretty long time after that (I need to do more research on that one obviously). It sounds like a Big Muff, but precedes the Muff by a year, and the circuits aren't really related to my knowledge.

so here you go, Italian awesomeness.


I don't own one yet... but I am on the lookout.



Thanks for watching!
-ed

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

fOXX Tone Machine (1972)



The fOXX Tone Machine; not only is it the namesake of this blog, but it's quite possibly the THICKEST sounding fuzz on the planet!

The Tone Machine's furry history starts with it's release in 1971 by circuit designer and builder, Steve Ridinger; he was 19 yrs old... or so the story goes. The pedal featured a funky, fuzzy coat that came in a big range of colors (green, white, & U.S.A. versions being the rarest). It was only in production for a few years but was sold under other names and companies such as the "Ibanez Tone Machine", "Turtle Tone Machine", "Nashville Fuzzer", "Paraclete Fuzz Sustain", and the "Emmons Fuzz Machine". Emmons, generally a Pedal Steel company, also put out something called the "String Machine" which was basically 3 Tone Machines in 1 box!

In the early 70s fOXX put out some really cool pedals including phasers, wahs, and even a cool plugin overdrive; but the flagship and most legendary is still the Tone Machine fuzz! With it's misspelled labels and unique look, very fitting for the 70s, it was destined for greatness.


As there are too many Tone Machines variations to explore in (hopeful) future posts, let's not go into super crazy detail just yet. Also the history of fOXX and Ridinger are posted all over the net, so instead I am just going to talk about this Tone Machine, my Tone Machine/

I love it and it's fuzzy, carpet-like exterior.


If you have never heard a Tone Machine in the flesh, it can best be described as extremely thick and warm. It turns your strings into trees and your tone into an ocean...

The Tone Machine is broken up like this; 3 knobs for Tone, Gain and Volume, and a switch that goes from "normal" fuzz to an octave-up fuzz. The Gain knob, although it covers a wide range, doesn't really change the tone, like say a Big Muff's gain knob does. The Muff can go from warm overdrive to full on fuzz, whereas the Tone Machine goes from little baby buzz to nut-kicker FUZZ! The tone control is pretty cool though. Even at its highest setting, the treble isn't biting or annoying and somehow it still retains that thick low end. I tend to keep mine set around 10 o'clock, where you still hear the sizzling crunch of the highs, but it's pretty dark overall. When you engage that Octave-up switch it sends the fuzz into some foreign Eastern land, or something. Playing chords at this setting can produce some really obnoxious ring modulation effects that seem to zap my brain! It really reminds of the fuzz on FTB's "Satori Part II" (although I am sure that was some late 60's Japanese pedal).



This particular fOXXy example hails from 1972 and as you can see, is a fOXX branded version. It's the only one I have played, and even though I have seen a ton of gut shots with different looking components from this, I can't imagine all of the other "versions" sounding that much different. But you never know?

I will say that if you are someone who LOVES fuzz, then you should own a Tone Machine. It's one of those pedals where you plug it in and start writing tunes just based on that sound. Also, get bigger speakers >>><<<

OK, nuff said on this.
have at it!












Thanks for reading!
-ed

Thursday, November 10, 2011

fOXX Tone Machine


Just a little video demo for ya while I prepare the next post...
this one comes to us again from Voodoowrench's youtube channel. (hours of greatness on there)
This time he smashes out a vintage fOXX Tone Machine with ferocious anger and might///



thanks for watching!
-ed

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pearl Chorus CH-02 (1985)


Today we check out a couple demo videos of the Pearl Chorus CH-02 from the mid '80s.

I have grown to love most of the Pearl "Sound Spice" line, but this one ranks right at the top! Supposedly inside it's almost identical to the Boss CE-2, but it doesn't really sound like that to me, at all?
The best thing about the Pearl is that you can mix OUT your clean signal and get a pure pitch vibrato that will make anyone feel seasick at the right settings /\\|//\
I personally prefer it to the Boss VB-2, but that could just be me?
(they also go for about a quarter of the price)

so here's a couple demo vids I found on the tube,
1st shows the more subtle side and comes to us from user jlr300.



the other video comes from our good friend Joey, showing the more insane side of the CH-02 and the Pearl Flanger ( the Pearl Flanger is badass, and when you run it through a Big Muff, you're in Shoegaze heaven):



thanks for watching!
-ed

Ridin' Dirty.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Goodrich String Box (1979)


While I continue to seek obscure fuzzery I, at times, find myself down odd paths. A stranger in strange lands and internet forums, hoping to uncover something I have never seen before or heard of. I figure, since fuzz circuits are part of Electronics Engineering 101 at many colleges, and since it's the 1st thing a new pedal builder decides to create, there has to be a ton of weirdo fuzzness out in the world, waiting for me to uncover!

This vision quest has brought me to exciting lands of BUZZING! SHRIEKING! and even some, SLUDGING.
but to the here and now, at this moment...

I give you, the Goodrich String Box!


Ok, so maybe I hyped that up a bit too much, but it really is a nice sounding little fuzz tone.

I was first introduced to Goodrich Sound Co. while lurking through Pedal Steel forums looking for Jordan Boss Tones. I had read that the Boss Tone was THE fuzz for Steelers, so I thought they must have a bunch for sale somewhere? As it turned out, they did! I actually purchased a few of my Boss Tones, past and present, through some online pedal steel communities. But even more awesome than that was discovering an effect called the Goodrich Steel Driver II. This seemed to be one of the holy grail fuzz tones for the Steel community. So I figured I would track one down, and luckily I did, twice! (and we will discuss them in detail at a later date), but it got me to research this "Goodrich" and find out there were a few other cool fuzzes they put out. The original Steel Driver, the Fuzz Box and there is also a Steel Driver III that is currently in production.


One thing I noticed from checking out the Steel forums is that they refer to the sound of the Boss Tone as very "violin-like". So when the Goodrich String Box popped up for sale I figured it could only be one thing... a fuzz! So I went for it completely blind, as there was absolutely NO information at all about this effect anywhere on the web? The only reference I found was a post on the Steel Guitar Forum where a dude asks if anyone knows what it is...
He received 0 replies.

So I have been trying to figure out any sort of history on this thing, and the best I could do was realize it was made when Goodrich was located in Grand Haven, MI. Unfortunately I don't know when that was (if you do, please post a comment as I would really love to know!) but I do know that they were in Ruskin, FL before this, Whitehall, MI after this and later Dublin, GA. So I can only speculate that this is from the late 70's to early 80s.

Why? Well, why not!


I know; all of this gabbing and nothing about the sound yet!

So back to what we were saying earlier about the Boss Tone and it being THE fuzz for Steel players. It seemed as though a lot of other companies wanted to jump on the fuzzy bandwagon for their own, so a lot of early Boss Tone "clones" came out of the Pedal Steel community in the 70s and 80s, this being one of them.

In an earlier post we put up a video comparing three different versions of the Boss Tone. The last one in the vid was a Nashville, Music City version. This is the version that has most likely been cloned here, but with a couple changes. For one, there is no control for either Volume or Gain. The 2nd thing that is different is there is an added Tone control, that is actually kind of a crappy Low Pass filter. So as it stands, the String Box is set at Full Gain and Full Volume, these things you can adjust with your guitar's volume knob. I can only assume that this is the main reason Goodrich didn't make many of these, as it sounds pretty squishy and heavy; and in fact, it almost seems like a prototype (or maybe an after thought) as they most likely made them out of the same casings used for their extremely popular Match Box, and even packed it with the same paper work!


But back to the tone report././
The overall sound is really rich in harmonics, squelches and belches like some of your favorite 60s fuzzes and can get nice and crunchy with the best Muff. When I A/B'd it against my Nashville Boss Tone they were almost identical. They both have that fat low end and each note seemed to birth the next out of some swampy ooze. So basically, it sounds really cool. I also think it's kind of neat that it's supposed to clip onto a stand, so it's neither a pedal nor a plugin (but I'll categorize it as one for the sake of the blog).
So that is all for today.

Now, let's bring on the goods: