Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hohner Tri Dirty Booster (1976)


All Hail...
In the guitar effects world some pedals have grown to an almost mythical stature; consistent and great reviews by the lucky few combined with a real lack of historical details, and just plain old rarity all add to the legend...

This week we delve deep into, what I consider, THE BEST Big Muff variant/clone of all time, the Hohner Tri Dirty Booster.

In the mid-70's Hohner, longtime maker of accordions and harmonicas, decided to get into the guitar effects game with the Hohner Sound Modifier Series.  The line carried a variety of treadle effects, a plugin fuzz and the Tri Dirty Booster. The current belief is that Hohner did not make these in-house, rather they were manufactured through a third party. Who this mystery pedal maker was is unknown, but as pointed out by Kit Rae's amazing Big Muff page, there are striking similarities between the enclosure of the TDB and the rare Rogue Fuzz.  So we can at least assume the same person made these...? right?

I can't say exactly why, but of all the fuzz variations out there the Big Muff has been like my version of the "Devil's Tower" from Close Encounters, calling in the night and causing me to collect and hoard all I can. The good news is, I feel that I am at a serene place with Muffs now, where I'm content with what I have but still hungry for more; only purchasing old, rare and foreign clones when they pop up. A huge part of this satisfaction comes from finally getting hold of a Tri Dirty Booster.

Most likely copied from an original Triangle Big Muff and then slightly tweaked, the TDB is pure perfection. It combines the best parts of my favorite Muffs; the raw character of an original Triangle Muff, the singing solos of the Ram's Head and the beef and big bottom end of the Civil War. The TDB has it all!!!

To break it down further, let's discuss the magic going on here. The Tri Dirty Booster is one of those rare fuzzes that can perform really any way you would like it to. If you are the lead player in your Metal, Doom, Stoner, 90's Alt Rock, Classic Rock or even fuzzed out Blues band then you can get down with this pedal. It's hard to describe in words, but the solos from the TDB are like nothing else I have heard. The only other pedal I have that comes close is the Guyatone FS-6, which we reviewed a few months back. The notes seem to bloom out from one another, creating this very fluid and seamless tone. The harmonics are extremely apparent too, which gives you a little wobble on some note combinations. It's all extremely cool and a big part of why the TDB is so special.

Being that it's a "copy" of an original Triangle Muff, if you are familiar with that sound, the TDB lends itself really well to rhythm playing and chords too.  With a thick crunch that you can almost take a bite out of, it was like a wet dream when I first plugged it in!  It's so hard to find a Muff-based pedal that doesn't flub out or get too muddy when drop tuning, but somehow the TDB keeps that big juicy low end without losing any tonal character.

Finally, on that note, the Tri Dirty Booster also acts very much like a Civil War Muff, with its bigger-than-life low end.  What I love about the Civil War/TDB is that there seems to be this hovering round, mammoth sized bubble engulfing each note.  It really cuts back on any harshness you may have at higher Tone knob settings, and instead produces these pure milky notes.
mmm....

Compared to other 1970's Big Muff copies that I have come across, i.e. The Jordan Creator, The Sekova Big Muff, and the Maxon OD801, none of them come close to the overall BadAssity of the Tri Dirty Booster. Don't get me wrong, I actually love all of those pedals, and they are amazing for what they do. But one might be great on leads but terrible for chords, one might be amazing for chords and leads but doesn't have enough gain on tap, etc. I guess the big thing for me was searching for a Muff variant that really had all of the qualities I loved about the various models, and this is the only pedal that has ever come close, real close.

It is unknown how many of these were produced, but I can tell you that they are pretty damn rare. They come up much less often than the above mentioned pedals, but there are enough out there that other people have made a good case for them in the past. I think I can safely say that the consensus between the few known/lucky owners is that the Tri Dirty Booster sounds exceptionally good!

So,
be on the hunt for one of these if you're in any way a fan of Big Muffs.
And I promise you won't be disappointed if you grab it!

and now for your yum yums///





thanks for reading!
-ed

5 comments:

  1. I recently found one of these, myself. It's in really nice shape, and when I peered in the insides, all of the wiring seems unchanged (no obvious signs of re-soldering work, etc). Even though this is the case, I have a question about the function of some of the controls. One or two of the knobs (sustain and tone) seem to be wired backwards, in that they increase with a counter-clockwise turn. Is this the case with yours? Also, there is a somewhat prominent background noise. Could this be a sign that the caps may need replacement? Thanks!

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  2. Another interesting tidbit into the design of this pedal is that there is no adapter jack at all - way cool! The sound is so versatile, and, as you say, does offer quite a bit of the best of all fuzz worlds. I was amazed how I could go from silky leads, with that Big Muff violin-like sustain, to quite a bit of clarity in chord work, without sacrificing tone for jarring EQ!

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  3. Ebay, years back had a seller who had a ton of these NOS and also NOS Shin-ei FY-2 (forget if they were Companion or another brand). Think they were in a warehouse in New Jersey. Same as the huge cache of Walco and Crazy Faces found 20+ years back by Steve at Angela Instruments. I bought one of each when they were first for sale. Will try to find the seller.

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    1. On e-bay in 1999, macdaddy1 (no longer a registered user) had a stash of Hohner and Jax versions of the FY-2 for sale, all NOS. His e-mail was mrfxb@---.com (to keep it from being over, those guys with the 3 letter name who gave free floppies and CDs to everyone for years). $100 was the going price for the Hohners, the Jax were $112.

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  4. John at Basic Audio (.net) makes a TDB. I use one and the tone is f'n amazing! I play an EPI Casino and a Japanese Fender Strat.

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