Built in July '08, this pedal is a stock build of the Build Your Own Clone "ESV 2-Knob Bender" kit. Keith Vonderhulls at BYOC really outdid himself on this vintage-style pedal kit, which is a clone of the Sola Sound Tone Bender MkII fuzz pedal made famous by Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and other guitar heroes of the late '60's. Keith designed a new PCB layout for this "Extra Special Vintage" kit, and used premium quality components throughout. The piece de resistance is a set of three NOS Philips OC75 germanium transistors, from a cache of original factory-sealed boxes that Keith was fortunate enough to obtain.
I'd had my eye on this kit since it came out in early 2008, but hadn't wanted to drop the $99 purchase price (not that it wasn't worth every penny!). My opportunity came when BYOC ran a "buy 4 kits, get 2 free" deal in June. I found three other guitarist friends to go in on the deal, and then assembled the pedals for them at no additional cost (though decaling & painting was an extra $20). In return for that free labor, I got to keep the two free kits--a Big Muff clone kit, and a ping-pong delay (both as yet unassembled, as of the time of this writing).
This is a very simple build with few components, and with the clean PCB layout and el primo (and very colorful!) components, it may well be the prettiest pedal on the inside that I've ever seen. And sound-wise, it's my favorite fuzz pedal among those I've owned. While the circuit is almost identical to the classic Fuzz Face design, the Bender adds a third germanium transistor gain stage that really keeps the fuzz tone "on the boil", so to speak. It's a warm, smooth fuzz tone with unbelievable sustain, if a little strong on the treble. However, that's easily controlled with your amp's and guitar's tone controls
One other item of note on this pedal: Like the original vintage Sola Sound TB MkII upon which it's based, this is a positive ground pedal. All that really means is that the way it's wired, current flows in the opposite direction through the circuit than it would through a negative ground pedal, which is what 99% of modern effects pedals are. This is necessitated by the Tone Bender's use of PNP germanium transistors, which require this current flow. The main implication of this is that you can't "daisy chain" the pedal with negative ground pedals on a single 9V AC power adapter, like a 1-Spot or Power-All. If you do so, at best, none of the pedals will work, and at worst, you could burn out the adapter. You can still use a standard center-negative 9V AC power adapter to run the pedal (the type used for virtually all 9V effects pedals), but it needs to be dedicated to just the Tone Bender, though you could daisy-chain other positive ground pedals on that same adapter, if you own any. You can also just power the pedal with a 9V battery, which is what is often recommended for positive ground pedals. An analog circuit like this one uses very little power, so a battery lasts quite a long time. And incidentally, you CANNOT use one of those reverse tip polarity adapters, such as the one Godlyke makes for their Power-All P/S, to plug the Bender in with negative-ground pedals on the same AC adapter. Those polarity adapters are for using negative-tip AC adapter jacks with positive-tip wired devices and visa versa, but they still require a negative ground device!
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