Guitar

Best Tone Bender Style Fuzz Pedals

Earlier this current fuzz tone quest, I was not that comfortable with the Tonebender fashion of fuzz and its 5 distinct iterations – MKI, MK1.5, MKII, MKIII and MKIV – much like the Fulltone OCD – every version sounding different to the other. This is a somewhat raw sounding fuzz – that I really like, at it’s most aggressive in the MK1 version and then sort of evolved and smoothed out somewhat as it advances in later versions. I remember seeing these big wedge-shaped pedals in guitar stores – selling for #300 and upwards – and largely still having odd power requirements – which is why you will see none of those listed here.

I have gone with modern alternatives – each of which gives you something quite special. Alas the listing does not have any MK1.5 or MKIV for sake of completeness – these are all Is, IIs and IIIs – that seem to be sort of inversely well known in terms of remakes. I pretty much like all the following for the way they sound, although I will always prefer a compact enclosure – therefore the Britbender is really a highly unlikely acquisition. The discontinued JHS Bun Runner is medium sized – but then it has 2 separate and stackable fuzzes, and because I have 2 of my fuzz pedals together in my chain – I could easily swap out those for this dual edition.

I really enjoy the look of the Bun Runner, but it is pipped by 4 preferences – the Blackout Effectors Fubar, Catalinbread Katzenkonig, Lovepedal Bonetender and Monsterpiece MKI. All the others has something to recommend it and seeing all these are various circuits and’tuned’ somewhat differently you will quite likely prefer another one of these varieties – the Fulltone Soul-Bender for example has plenty of fans.

I was always planning to acquire the miniature Lovepdal Bonetender, I only have yet another handful of Tonebender-style pedals I also really like today.

Pedals listed alphabetically with Tonebender [MK] versioning amount in parenthesis.

Blackout Effectors Fubar [MKII] – #189
The Fubar is unquestionably the most versatile in this listing, and no doubt the most’out there’. It’s terrific for dealing in all manner of strangely flavored and oscillated fuzz tones and will certainly not be one for the purists. If you are a noise-smith and enjoy making otherworldly textures and sounds then give this one a go. It’s my preferred control layout too – two banks of 3 dials and dual footswitches. Not the most’musical’ of fuzzes always but truly a great tool for more experimental gamers – I certainly want one – just not sure how I would use it.

Catalinbread Katzenkonig [MKII] – #137
I’m a huge fan of Catalinbread pedals – that almost always seem to get things mostly right. I could have recorded this pedal beneath the’Rat’ category too, as it cleverly combines the Tonebender and Rat voicing for a rich and saturated fuzztortion style pedal – which is still superbly musical throughout its range. 4 easy and self-explanatory dials and a few smart internal processing which gauges the input signal and responds accordingly – making for a very dynamic experience. This is another pedal that was little-known to me recently, but I rather like it.

EarthQuaker Devices Tone Reaper [MKIII] – discontinued – c$100 (Ebay & Reverb.com)
While the initial compact Tone Reaper bender MKIII type is no longer actively with us, it’s still actively available as part of the larger dual EQD Hoof Reaper pedal (Muff + Tonebender). This is a pretty loyal homage to the first 3 knob version – and sounds exactly as you’d expect – top quality, but no frills! I obviously prefer compact versions – the Hoof Reaper is a bit large for my liking.

Fulltone Soul-Bender [MKIII] – #185
I have included quite a clever comparison video above, which contrasts the elderly larger Soul-Bender to the newer more compact version. Sounds like they have quite different transistors, even though the internal circuits might be slightly different or set with different default bias. If you like the smoother creamier tone – seek the old version – if you would like a rougher and more aggressive tone then the new one is better. The Soul-Bender is supposed to be a MKIII-alike – but the compact pedal occasionally seems even a little MK1. So just as with original Tonebenders – it is absolutely crucial which version iteration you get – in order to get your preferred tone. I actually like both pedals as they are good for different things. It is fairly evident though that the old version is voiced smoother and more’vintage’ as such – creamy and even – while the newer pedal is a more contemporary take on fuzz – and a little rougher around the edges. Both of these are great pedals, but neither has made my wishlist.

JHS Bun Runner [MKIII] – discontinued – #150-#350 (Reverb.com)
A fairly rarely seen pedal these days, nothing currently on Reverb, but tends to go for around #150-#350 when up for sale. It combines JHS’s Astro Mess with a modified version of a Tonebender MKIII. An extremely versatile pedal with a tonne of different fuzz flavours on board. You might also try to track down the solo version JHS Tonebender – that was known as a Firefly – Reverb has a pretty decent second-hand one going for c#135 currently. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a Bun Runner, but there are additional Tonebenders in this listing that I prefer.

Lovepedal Bonetender [MKII] – #157
This is the one I most covet in this listing – neat and clean – and tiny – with only the properly representative two dials of a MKII Tonebender style circuit. These have been in short supply of late- I thought they had been discontinued, although I seen a few still available for sale at Musik Productiv – should get one before they all disappear from routine channels and we have to wait and see what turns up on Reverb.

Maxon Fuzz Elements Wind [MKII] – #139
Overlooked by a few, but Mason has a excellent set of 7 Fuzz Elements Pedals which include the 4-knob Ether Univox Superfuzz clone, and this MKII Tonebender -alike circuit. Quite similar sounding understansably into the Bonetender over (but with 2-way Hot|Classic expressing dial) – it comes in slightly less precious, and you may prefer its voicings, while the additional advantage of form-factor makes me much more likely to get the Lovepedal version – both are terrific.

MJM Britbender [MKII] – $350
This is a glorious sounding classic style Tonebender, which though sadly comes in a slightly over-sized enclosure. It’s the authentic twin dials, and a very accurate replication of the original circuit. Considering that the two pedals which precede it do roughly the same for half the money may figure into your decision procedure. There is no doubting that the Britbender sounds fantastic – and it’s numerous famous fans. Yet there are other pedals here that do a good deal more with the format in more clever ways. This suits the no-nonsense purists who really enjoy the reassurance of a substantial hunk of metal. My contemporary leanings though imply that despite superlative tones, I would need to give this one a miss – lots of you will love it though no doubt. Could not find video presentation of the above, but there’s a excellent sample soundfile on the main website – here.

Monsterpiece MKI [MKI] – $200 (http://monsterpiecefuzz.com)
Probably my favorite sounding pedal in this list, and next on the list to get after the Bonetender. You’ll need to purchase direct from Monsterpiece website – as they are currently not dispersed if at all. A beautiful sizzling sort of fuzz tone – and as I said – one which I love.

SolidGoldFX Rosie [MKII] – $175
Full and rich sounding Tonebender MKII style circuit using classic 3-dial design and tone toggle switch with’normal’ to the left, and’bass-cut’ when reversed – that type of gives you two extremes of tone. This is quite a hot sounding pedal, occasionally muff-ish even, and doesn’t have the degree of molten sizzle that the preceding MKI does – still sounds pretty great.

Throbak Stone Bender [MKII] – #239
Another terrific MKII pedal with the standard twin dials, but has a Tone Treble-cut toggle switch on the front-face to take a little edge off the top, and a Pre-Gain toggle on the side to boost up the gain. Of course this one also sounds fantastic and gives you another slightly different spin on the Tonebender – certainly worth consideration.

Tone Hungry Hunger Bender [MKIII] – c#130 (Reverb.com)
A pretty vanilla MKIII Tonebender style pedal – with the customary 3 dials and little else. It has been engineered for a little higher gain than normal and is the lowest cost option in this listing. The tone stack is slightly enhanced though to offer touch more modern overdrive tones in addition to the vintage style fuzz. It is certainly a marginally different sounding Tonebender-type that may well appeal to some gamers.

Final Thoughts
As I said in the intro – I was not particularly knowledgeable about the Tonebender fuzz family – I really only knew the Lovepedal Bonetender (II) – and knew nothing about the many iterations. It turns out that I like the Tonebender fashion of fuzz as much as the others, and I really appreciate its range.

Past the Bonetender, I have interest from the Blackout Fubar (MKII), Catalinbread Katzenkonig (MKII) and Monsterpiece MKI – so largely IIs and an I. It is very unlikely that I will get all those 4, but you don’t know.

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