x0xb0xes: made in China, Germany and USA

Ages ago i bought my first Mode Machines x0xb0x from Touched by Sound in Germany. They were the first fully assembled x0xb0xes on sale here in Europe and hence they have been reviewed a few months later on Sound on Sound. They came with those horrible looking MC303 knobs, but the idea of having a fully operational, Bassline clone with onboard sequencer was embarassingly exciting. In 2017 all this has changed, since the advent of the RE303!

From the description given to me by TBS and the sticker on mine, they indicated that they were Made in Germany.

One year later Mode Machines came up with the x0xb0x mk2, this time “guaranteed” to have been made in Germany. 

Would this second statement imply, mine was actually made somewhere else other than Germany, EU?!

Today i decided to pop my Mode Machines x0xb0x open and have a look inside.

The machine itself, sounds good but it loses more of the lower frequencies than it should as you turn the cutoff and resonance up, but it sits nicely in a mix because of this and it is quite squelchy.

Now on with the gutshots:

Dirt on the pcb, almost like corrosive traces of handling, etc

Components scattered on the board and soldered, clearly assembled as quickly as possible.

Grey looking solder joints. I dont know if rohs approved solder is supposed to look like this but it’s not shiny, they look almost like cold solder joints.

Rubycon electrolytic caps.. part of the standard kit i suppose..

More traces of handling.. dirt..
All in all, the only other example i can think of of a pcb that bears the same, corroding handling marks, grey solder joints and cowboy assembling like this, is my chinese made, battered components sporting, bog standard, cheap as hell, barely working, terrible looking digital oscilloscope. They even smell bad, the same way.


My personal feeling: my Mode Machines x0xb0x was really either made in China or made in Germany by hurried chinese workers in a very dark and unpleasant cabin.

BUT: it sports original 536 transistors, that give it a very impressive TB303 character! 

Sometime later, i got my hands on a NY made, x0xb0x from x0xs0urce: a whole different story.

Rounder sound, red leds instead of purple ones, and check these gutshots..careful assembling and soldering, etc. a work of love-mind you it costed twice the price of the mode machines..

Welcoming greenie caps as per the original tb303..

But ouch! This has 945 transistors (Roland mass production’s transistor of choice in those days)- it doesnt sound as wild as the Mode Machines!! 

Selmer Buzz-Tone

I have been building Selmer Buzz Tones for a few groupies n fans recently. 

Featuring original, near-impossible to source transistors, 2N2613 on choc brown paxoline board, on eyelets just like the original. 

One small mod is the cap tuck away under the board, to give it some juice (otherwise it wont buzz!).

Cheapo build for a friend:

Another build.. featuring the Palenque astronaut..


Expensive nos carbon comp build for a groupie:
They all sound 👍🏿.

Tone Bender Mki builds rehash and musing

As of today, if you google up stuff like:

Mki tonebender transistors hfe and leakage

There’s just no way to get all the info on one page. People in the know are keeping their mouth shut as to what the best leakage and hfe combinations should be, to get an up an running mki.

I’d just save Electric Warrior from the bunch, an extremely knowledgeable guy who is not afraid of sharing his views. He’s active on fsb and on the dam forum.

Now this pedal.. There’s no easy way to pull it off. 

You think you’ll go the easy route and buy a tested, measured set of mki trannies online? Ok, no. Dont do it. The build will sound shit. They dont even come close to the ideal values-heres my experience with tested transistor kits:

Measured set 1: “compatible subs”

Q1: 2N404 (how original) hfe 81 lkge 0.04 (yeah, right)

Q2: 2N404 hfe 136 lkge 0.12

Q3: 2N404 hfe 93 lkge 0.00

I even spent more money on a set of mki matched OC75s, I made a couple of clones some time ago, just to review them again the other day to find the bitter truth: no sustain on notes up the fretboard. Fail.

Ok so i broke one of the clones open, socketed all the transistor points with alligator clips and i plunged into my collection of germaniums.

This idea on my mind:

John Barry’s guitar player asked Gary Hurst to increase the sustain of his Maestro FZ1 pedal. He changed the transistors, power supply and resistor values to go with the mods, and the first (Mark One as we call it today) Tone Bender was born. 

How is it supposed to sound?

-the Maestro FZ1’s tone is “brassy”, and it can be also very velcro like, turning the guitar into a ratty device (the green acres tune) so it’s got a varied range of sounds on tap

-the Maestro FZ1a sports less dynamic range as units were mass produced, so bias can often be unfocussed, lets say it’s buzzy but also voiced very differently from the FZ1

-(not on topic but since it was used a lot back in the 60es i’m gonna throw this in too) the (germanium) Mosrite Fuzzrite has a “synth”-like sound, the guitar’s articulation and dynamics are greatly reduced, almost squashed.

We have very little evidence of original, still working mki pedals, and we are all accustomed to the youtube links to listen to those. Pedals age, and they do not sound as they used to, when they were new.

But keep it in mind: like a Maestro FZ1 with more sustain.

Put these people, the players, on the map. British freakbeat as we now call it-before it was just called r&b. Ok most of them used british pedals. Tone Benders. Some just diyed the Maestro, or whatever they could copy, even guys like Syd Barrett (early Pink Floyd) would tinker with building their own pedals.. These “minor” bands never toured the States, the money they had, went on clothes, and maybe a better rig, for sure not on a US made pedal-ok maybe some of them had bought a Maestro in the wake of Satisfaction. They made the european summer circuit, scaring the continent’s patrons shitless with their fuzzy sound-lol.

Also, they sound way more obnoxious than american garage bands, save maybe the texans-the cowboys i assume, switched to the more aggressive, silicon fuzzes earlier than anybody else, because of the temperature boiling their fuzzes at gigs.

American bands were looking up to Great Britain up to a certain point. But not the other way round unless you were a top player that visited the other side of the pond enough to be influenced by the vibe-or until the summer of love, but thats 2 long years later than what we’re on about here.

Americans were into the Yard-Birds big time.. The Litter sported the open tones of oc75 induced harmonics of the Tone Bender on their signature regional classic Action Woman-complete with Yardbirds style rave on (that the Yard Birds in turned had copied from people like Lonnie Mack’s) and thats 1968, a few months shy from the Zeppelin’s telecaster-and-possibly-a-Bender-into-a-modded-HiWatt debut.

Back to 1965 now.. Would you like to  listen to some Mki? Get the British Freakbeat compilations and dig.. there may be some.

Tone Bender Mki: high treble content, dark british amps, loud and with lots of sustain to cut through the mix. Think Baby I Go For You by the Blue Rondos, or Ronno. Like an half cocked wah. No velcro like the Maestro, but still based on the Maestro. Resistors to open up the sound.

I’m delving into the idea of the possible Maestro modification: putting an OC75 on q1 as a driver, and leaving 2N270 on q2, q3, on a mki build. After all, the original q2 and q3 in the mki are two 2G381, a random torrid germanium transistor never to be heard of again. Same as the 2N270.. probably the cheapest parts they could find.

Im going back to my Maestro builds, and an old geofex article.

-q1 must leak to activate q2, q3 leakage means sustain. If i remember correctly..

Here is my build:

Q1: oc75 hfe 78, lkge .32

Q2: 2N270 hfe 108, lkge .21

Q3: 2N270 hfe 401 (!!?!)*, lkge .66

*now a value like that should give you an idea of how shitty a transistor that is.

Don’t hunt for 2N270s. It’s not worth it. You’ll end up with a hole in your pocket and no satisfaction. Their specs are all over the place. And they dont sound like they measure. I went through a large batch of Fairchild 2N270, at an excellent price, and sorting them out has been hell. Thank God i have only about 20 RCAs, i keep them locked, they look nice and fat in their new old stock boxes and i will never use those. But they are the same. No quality control, folks. Or rather.. those were the times.

You can achieve the same results using other leaky transistors. Dont worry about the tone, the layout provides the tone on this one.

Dont change the layout values: leave the 470k resistor there. 

Keep q1 hfe at round 70-80, leaky, q2 hfe in the 90-120 region, with leakage, and q3 not over 100 but it should leak loads.

😉 good luck.