Category Archives: tone bender

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.


Tonezilla mkii


I just rebuilt a friends tone bender mkii i gave him almost 2 years ago. Realised component values were all over the place, my mistakes, crossing oc81d and oc75 schems it seems.. ah beer days..
Now sober as a court jury, i wrote it all down. I made some sort of magic there, the pedal is one of the most powerful mkii i ever made, most likely due to my errors.
The original had carbon comps/ carbon film resistors and dubilier, philips electros, wima caps. This has wima, roe caps and carbon film/metal film resistors but still sounds amazing.
Since he gigs a lot, i had a mission to build it like the proverbial tank.. and to shuffle the controls a bit: he wanted to have the q3 bias out in lieu of the attack pot, that he uses maxed all the time (it now sits inside as a trimmer).
I messed up the decal a bit, hope he wont mind…


yours truly

“A date with wild”


Vox Tone Bender clone, with tone cap switch and boost/cut switch.
I did some research on this one, so many different variations.
Heres some of the stuff i found out
-the famed 47k resistor across the level pot makes the sound ‘less there’, not useful AT ALL- i dumped it;
-it makes sense to have a 3n3 AND 10n on a switch, with the 10n(2) cap you go steady into classic bender territory, otherwise you have a very trebly bender here (which i prefer in this case actually!);
-biasing is a breeze. Just pick carefully the q1 tranny. I auditioned quite a few. I found comfy with a ac134, 138 hfe on q1; i picked an ancient oc76, hfe 33 for q2.
But remember, q2 here follows q1. If q1 sounds good, q2 is there just to give it some body and tails (sustain);
-1k, attack (fuzz) pot only works either full on or at the final 3/4 of its run;
-22uF is a good value for the electrolytic, giving the pedal a good sustain and range.

Fiddlin with the trannies, i stumbled upon a setting where it sounded a lot like the fuzz on Easter Everywhere by the 13th fl elevators.. im talking about the guitar at the beginning of the second song.. sitary and choking, maybe due to misbiasing,  a really haunting tone, gotta go back there somehow in the near future.


Ducati filering cap, a salvo to the original vox made in italy, 15uF of the motorcycles brand; icel and sifco nos caps, and a nos mustard cap that i believe its italian too.

yours truly

OC81D Tone Bender mk ii build


Bought these trannies more than one year ago. Finally got around to build it. Sounding GREAT. Very violin like tails, good smooth fuzz.
Thanks Dr. Nomis @ freestompboxes for keeping an open mind over these new dsi transistors.. and helping me with my build!

Audio clip (pedal engaged set at low volume, mind you..still plenty volume on tap!):

And the finished pedal, boxed

yours truly

Psychedelic Combo!!

My friend Stef of Space Pony is an avid collector of italian musical instruments and devices.. hes been waiting for a Repeat Percussion forever.. and hes been lusting after a jen tonebender as of lately.
It’s been on my mind for a while to make a psychedelic toolbox pedal, ahah, with all that a 60es loving trippy musician would need.. but i have never made multi fx boxes.. i decided to box two effects in one for Stefano.
And it was working first off!


‘A metal slice of gruviere’ as the date called it..

I only had a small 1590… goddamit my hands are so big its always a pain to work with these boxes..
To the left: vox/jen germanium tonebender, using q1, ac183 and q2, ac181 npn germanium. Very nice ♥.
To the right, the repeat percussion.
I had a cute multi colour led that flashed when youd switch the repeat percussion on but it caused all manners of noises.. replaced it with a blue led.
So..on to the artwork.


I used two nos italian decals from the 60es.

yours truly

Gary Hurst Tone Bender mki builds

First build,


Started going crazy after a while (the led zappeling in time with the q1 whizzeling until it died screaming).  Shame because it was a great build, sounded ace and COMPLETE: AC128 on q1, measured hfe of 30 (!!), some russian trannie on q2 measuring 138, another AC128, hfe 80ish.
Built from scratch again, same components, different trannies, 1n1307 on q1, hfe=136, and two AC128, 100ish, 80ish hfed.
Boxed in a rush to a recording session..
Video of my mate Alle playing his mean 1970 Ibanez thru a Laney valve amp and my mki pedal:


Still room for improvement as it was backing off sustain when Alle would play way up on the fretboard.

yours truly