For years, the tones of Early Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck were a mystery. I’ve played through many of the same guitars and amps. It still didn’t have the same rasp though.
Eventually, due to the power of the world wide web (remember when it was called that?), I was able to find more info about the gear they were using.
This Led me (get it…) to discovering the secret tone.
Led Zeppelin I and II was the MKII Tonebender. I’ve used many different fuzz pedals over the years, but none had that distinctive attack.
I had a love/hate relationship with fuzz. Sounds I would dig in rehearsal wouldn’t cut live. They would almost disappear. Many also sounded harsh and didn’t respond to volume knob changes the way I desired.
The MKII with Germanium OC81 transistors was a revelation. Not only is it “that” sound out of the box (it’s the same model Jimmy Page uses), but it doesn’t disappear onstage or sound harsh. All of this without a tone knob too.
Two Scoops Please
Many fuzz pedals seem to scoop out a lot of mids. I like mids. It helps guitar cut live on stage.
I also believe that most modern fuzz pedals have too much gain. They go from zero to 100 without many shades in between.
A lot of the times I keep my gain knob almost all the way down. This paired with a hot amp is a joyous tone.
The BPC Tonebender is faithful to the original MKII down to jacks and enclosures. I chose the vintage style casing cause I really dig the 60’s look. For those of you that want a smaller footprint, they make a more pedal board friendly enclosure.
It’s construction is solid. When opened up you’ll notice it’s careful hand construction with clean wiring. Clearly not an assembly line pedal.
I’ve been gigging with the BPC Tonebender MKII for a couple of months now. It’s a mainstay in my rig. Even when I take a small board for fly dates, it’s with me.
It plays well with various amps which is fantastic news for dealing with touring backline. It’s hard to make this thing sound bad. If it does, I suspect the issue is not the pedal.
Some fuzz pedals can sound a little farty. The low end on the MKII is tight, not be gassy. It still allows some of that lovely fuzz looseness though. There isn’t a lot of zipper effect either which is attractive to those of us that like to use a fuzz as a base tone.
Noise is often a big concern with fuzz pedals. The BPC Tonebender is a quiet pedal. No need to gate this puppy. I’m not saying it’s completely silent. What gain pedal is? It’s noise footprint is really small though. Modern pedals aren’t this quiet.
Some fuzz pedals have a wild messy nature. They’re all over the place. There are occasions where you want a sloppy sound. Where notes loose their articulation and mush together.
The MKII Tonebender is refined and allows notes to be distinct. I think this is partly due to the fact it’s not over compressed. It breathes. It’s nice to have a clear attack. Especially in a live setting.
You’ll find MKII clones on the market. Many cheaper then the BPC Tonebender. However, I have yet to hear one that sounds like the BPC series. They have original NOS Germanium transistors. They are also gain matching them to ensure consistency. This means there is less variance between pedals. How many of you had to go through a series of Fuzz Faces to sound one that sounded good? Not an issue with BPC pedals.
Some fuzz pedals are very touchy to the volume knob. It’s either all or nothing. The MKII has a lot of range though. I love the volume rolled back. It doesn’t sound dull or anemic. It has a great punch to the tone. This has been another area I have been long disappointed by many fuzz pedals. I can leave the Tonebender on all night and ride the volume.
Let’s listen to some samples. I pulled these samples from some recent sessions.
Les Paul with Humbuckers into the BPC Tonebender into a ZVex Nano Head into a closed back cab with Greenback 25’s. Recorded with a Cascade Fat Head II Ribbon.
Bridge Pickup Rhythm
Bridge Pickup Riff
Bridge Rhythm with volume knob rolled back. Hear how the attack is accentuated. I love this about the Tonebender. I don’t find Big Muff’s or Fuzzface circuits to clean up and have as much spank.
Bridge Pickup Lead
Neck Pickup Riff
Trippy Lead with tape delay and plate reverb.
Stratocaster into the BPC Tonebender into a Victoria 35115. Recorded with a Cascade Fat Head II ribbon.
Strat with volume knob rolled back a bit. Works surprisingly well for Americana type tones.
As you can hear they’re pretty amazing sounding fuzz pedals. Many of my other fuzz pedals are collecting dust since I’ve added the MKII to my pedal family.