Sano's first encounter with the legendary "TONE BENDER MkI" pedal

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TONE BENDER MkI has arrived at TC Musical Instruments!

 When I first heard about this project, I was so dismayed that I thought, "No way, this is just a dream..." I could not hide my dismay. This was my first encounter with an effector, even though I have been involved with more than 2,000 effectors a year for more than 10 years.
It was the first time I had ever met a TONE BENDER MkI, a pedal so rare that it is often referred to as a "phantom pedal".

The previous owner (Mr. A) is mainly involved in the music industry, and was first interested in the TONE BENDER after being impressed by the guitar sound of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page. He was impressed by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page's guitar sound and was intrigued by the TONE BENDER. How can I create the same sound?" As he continued his search, he went further back in the history of the MkII and started looking for a MkI, the pinnacle of the MkII, because he loved the Beatles and had been present at the site of George Martin's performance due to his work. After three years of searching, he finally acquired a MkI!

You can't even find one in England."

The road to MkI was not easy, as one person said, "You can hardly find it in the UK. To top it all off, I was told, "I've never seen it. Finally, after a series of introductions from acquaintances in the U.K., I found a friend of Gary Hurst's who lives in London!
Around 2010, that person gave him two pieces at the same time, a wooden MkI and a metal case MkI! It sounded so good, he said, that he still remembers how impressed he was when he played it for the first time. He especially likes the wooden version of the MkI and has not been able to part with it until now.
He has a strong desire to pass this pedal on to the next generation rather than keep it, and he is glad that Mr. Sano, who knows how good and valuable this pedal is, has decided to sell it to him.

About Gary Hurst

 Gary Hurst is the creator of the Tone Bender and is said to be "the man who created the roots of today's effects pedals" due to his abundant ideas and exceptional talent, but his detailed profile is shrouded in mystery.
He learned from his father and started out making radios, but was always very interested in music, making valve tape echoes around 1963, and then in 1965 he started working on tone benders.
In 1968 he left England for Italy, where he designed the Crumar and Elka keyboards, and in the mid-1970s he founded his own company, Electronic Sounds, producing keyboards and guitar pedals. This brand continued until the early 1980s.
In 1968 he left England for Italy, where he designed keyboards for Croomer and Elka. In the mid-1970s, he founded Electronic Sounds, a company that produced keyboards and guitar effects pedals. The company disappeared in the early 80s when digital instruments became more popular and affordable.



The Tone Bender is a pedal consisting of a three-transistor circuit based on the Gibson Maestro Fuzz-Tone. Today, replicas of the Tone Bender are still being made by the stars, and it has had a profound influence on later generations of fuzz pedals and other pedals.
Gary Hurst, the engineer, started making/selling these in the summer of 1965.
Early units were housed in a wooden case said to have been made by his brother. Production of the MkI is said to have lasted until December 1965. The Mk2 and Mk3 (Mk4), famous for being used by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, were followed by the Mk1.5, with two transistors in between.
In this issue, we would like to focus on the MkI, which is said to be the most valuable of them all.

In 1965, in the back room of Macari's Musical Exchange, a music store at 22 Denmark Street in London, guitarists were trying to give their amps a new sound, one with "more distortion and sustain. They wanted "more distortion and sustain. Vick Flick of the John Barry Seven, an instrumental rock and roll group, had an original Maestro Fuzz-Tone, and he asked for a pedal with more sustain. So Gary Hurst built him a new fuzz box.
He named it the "Tone Bender. The very first few "Tone Benders" were housed in wooden boxes and cost 14 guineas. Jeff Beck was one of his first customers, and the Tone Bender was used on many singles, including the Yardbirds' classic "Heart Full Of Soul. Gary Hurst recalls.

Gary Hurst first made 10 wooden prototypes before starting work on steel individuals. He made them privately and sold them under the name SOLA SOUND, and put a small "SOLA SOUND" logo on the enclosures.
We know that the instant lettering (no small "SOLASOUND" logo on the shoulder / "TONE BENDER" typeface is thin, thick, or slightly squashed horizontally) is not the same as the "SOLA SOUND" typeface, and the output is not the same as the "SOLA SOUND" typeface. (without a small "SOLASOUND" logo on the shoulder/"TONE BENDER" typeface is thin, thick, or slightly squashed horizontally) tend to have smaller output, while those with silk screened typeface (with a small "SOLASOUND" logo on the shoulder/"TONE BENDER" typeface is thicker and slightly vertical) tend to have larger output. It is thought that the former was used by Jeff Beck and the latter by Mick Ronson.
However, since there are variations in appearance and sound from individual to individual, we cannot say that all of these are true.

Gary Hurst TONE BENDER MkI Wooden Case

Size 20 x 15 x 5(cm)
Weight approx. 275g (very lightweight for a pedal)
Material The wood is unknown, but the grain of the wood shows well, it is very light, and the quality is not flattering to the sense of luxury that one gets from the wood. However, the presence is outstanding!

First of all, I was surprised that each dimension of the chassis is strangely just right at 20/15/5(cm).
It is unpainted and has no particular logo, giving it the warmth characteristic of wood. The chassis is assembled with so-called wooden nails, and the top surface where the parts are assembled is almost impossible to see the detailed interior unless it is completely disassembled. Therefore, it was quite difficult to take pictures of the inside.
The battery cover, including the foot switch, is held in place by four wood screws. There is an iron plate on the back side of the battery cover for reinforcement, but it loosens a little when the switch is turned on and off, so I was worried that it might break.
I have seen a picture of a silver knob, but this model is equipped with a black plastic knob.
The surface is smooth and polished to the touch. Since it is simply assembled from thin wood, it is so delicate that it looks as if it could break at any moment, forcing us to be very careful when handling it.

First of all, what do you think wooden tone benders sound like? Here is what I honestly felt when I played the actual instrument.
The level is quite loud, and the ATTACK (right side) control is set at about 9 o'clock. When turned up higher than that, there is not much difference in the amount of distortion. When turned to full, a shocking fuzz sound that pierces your brain will pop out. The sound, especially on the front pickup, is sweet and mild, with real organic nuances that transport the player back to the music scene of the 1960s.
The sound was very impressive, with ample gain and sustain, and a very smooth, gated, zesty, and flavorful sound. I have touched many MkI replica models in the past, but this sound is clearly distinct from them. The response to the guitar volume is excellent, and the bell-ringing clean to crunchy sound when the volume is turned down is superb. I personally have never experienced anything better! (Note that being a germanium transistor, we have confirmed that the gate feeling becomes stronger when the temperature is quite low.)

About the internals
Three transistors are confirmed. There is nothing that looks like a substrate, and they are almost wired in the air. Since it cannot be disassembled due to structural problems, the model number cannot be confirmed, but a germanium transistor with a black cap is used. The battery snap is not the original one and has been replaced. Other than that, some modifications have been made to the solder.

The foot switch is fixed with 4 flat head screws.

The photo from the front. You can see the OUTPUT jack and the germanium transistor (black cap) on the left side. The back of the jack is not visible due to its special design!

This is about all that can be seen when turned upside down.' Each part typical of the 60's is mounted. It is exciting!

Since it is made of wood, it is structurally impossible to ground it, so it is inevitable that some noise will be generated.

The lid for replacing the battery uses a wooden screw, so if you open and close it many times, the screw hole will widen and it will not be tightened. If you keep opening and closing it over and over again, the screw holes will widen and stop tightening. →Image name: Wooden screw holes

The control knobs are arranged in what is called a "leaning" configuration. This is the prototype of the tone bender!


Size 20.5 x 10.5 x 6 (including protruding part on the bottom/cm)
Weight 970g It seems very heavy.Material Steel →There are two types of logos: instant lettering and silkscreen. This model is of the silk-screened type.

Folded steel specification. Gold finish with a sense of luxury, silkscreen specification logo. The gold feeling is not solidly painted, but when you change the angle, it shimmers and reflects the light. This is the kind of image you have seen on Les Paul gold tops and the like.
The letters "TONE BENDER" are long and slightly narrow. SOLA SOUNDS LTD" is written in small letters on the left shoulder. It can be removed by removing the four small screws on the side. There are no rubber feet on the bottom, and the chassis itself protrudes roundly in four places. It is very solid and heavy, so no matter how hard you step on it, it is stable and sturdy enough that it will not break even if you roll it.

About the sound
It is already distorted at the "ATTACK" control 0. As with the wooden case, there is a sharp distortion from the 9 o'clock position, and after that, there is not much difference in the amount of distortion. The overall sound is a mild, gated, rounded high-gain fuzz sound, and when the guitar volume is turned down, it sounds more like a mild overdrive than a bell-ringing clean.
The distortion is different from the wooden case version, and the sound is wildly different from the replica.

About the inside
One OC75 (Mullard) and two 2G381 (Texas Instruments) transistors are installed. Other pots are 500KΩ(LEVEL)/50KΩ(ATTACK), CLIFF IN/OUT jacks, HUNTS burly black A337, WIMA 25/15, 0.01/400- capacitors, and Allen Bradley resistors are used. The battery snap has been replaced. Other solderings show some modifications.

Here are some other points of interest.
On the left side of the angled shoulder of the chassis is the word "SOLASOUND". This is a special piece made by Gary Hurst for the "SOLASOUND" sale. It is not so different from the wooden case version in terms of its gated mild fuzz sound, but it is clearly a more advanced tone bender than the wooden case version that was made as a prototype.

First of all, if you remove the back cover, you will see that the jack is a type that is fixed to the case.

The parts are impressive and remind us of the era. If you like pedals, you could eat three bowls of rice with just this one!

There is no concept of rubber feet, but rather four raised points on the back side of the chassis, which act as feet.

The following are the main artists who use this pedal
John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Steve Winwood, Mick Ronson, Pete Townsend, etc.

Four great songs where you can hear the sound of Tone Bender MkI!

Jeff Beck - Yardbirds/Heart Full Of Soul(1965)
This is played by Jeff Beck, one of Gary Hurst's first customers. The memorable intro refrain has not faded away.

Steve Winwood - The Spencer Davis Group/Keep on Running(1965)
Steve Winwood's playing from the Spencer Davis Group era. You can hear the destructive fuzz sound of the riff, the middle part, and the ending of the song.

Paul McCartney(Bass) - Beatles/Think for Yourself(1965)
Paul McCartney of the Beatles also used this bass guitar. Everyone must have heard this song.

Mick Ronson - David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust(1972)
Mick Ronson, David Bowie's one hand man, is famous for continuing to use MKI in the '70s. He used MKI more like an overdrive.

"TONE BENDER MkI", there was the ultimate sound that made all pedal enthusiasts happy.
I have come in contact with many replicas (re-releases), and I can clearly say that no matter how many replicas you make exactly the same as the original, they will never sound exactly the same. It may be obvious, but the original has its own sound, and unfortunately, it is impossible to reproduce everything in the same way.

I was very fortunate to be able to touch this fantastic pedal, which was produced within a period of at least four months, from the summer of 1965 to December, and it was a valuable experience that I will be able to use in the future as an effects pedal designer for TC instruments.

I would like to dedicate this column to Mr. Jeff Beck, who passed away suddenly on 2023.1 and was one of the first users of the Tone Bender.