I’ll admit it, this pedal and this company were not on my radar at all. But the Formula B Mini Bender Mk 1.5 is the Ferarri of fuzz. This puppy is hand-built and hand-wired in Italy and the build quality and attention to detail is pretty much second to none. It’s wired up on a beautifully assembled tagboard and powered by two Mullard OC75 germanium transistors. You don’t hear a lot about guitar gear coming from Italy (aside from Jensen and Italia) but it’s worth noting that the original Vox wahs and Tone Benders were built there.
As mentioned previously, this pedal is hand-wired and hand-assembled. The enclosure is finished in the same hammertone style of a vintage Tone Bender and adorned with a chrome faceplate and chickenhead knobs. It has the sloped front, the rear-mounted jacks, the rubber feet and other appurtenances—it looks as if Rick Moranis pulled out the shrink ray and reduced a vintage Tone Bender to 50 percent size. Imagine the size difference between a Fuzz Face and one of the Fuzz Face minis—tons of tone in a tiny package.
Luckily, all of the attention to detail plays out in the tone as well. The Mini Bender Mk1.5 sounds like the very best cross between a fuzz face and a Tone Bender you've ever imagined. The fuzz tones are fatter than what you might expect given the pedal's lineage; the lows are thick and fuzzy and even tuned down a few steps the bass doesn't fart out. The attack is soft and compressed with the perfect give and take between pick attack and grit, and the highs are present without be harsh or piercing the way some Tone Benders can be. Where the pedal really shines is in the midrange. While the scooped nature of so many fuzz pedals can make your guitar fade into the background, the Mini Bender Mk 1.5has just enough midrange to sound strong and up front in the mix (especially at higher Attack settings).
Speaking of the Attack control, it has a surprisingly useable range. I'm not sure anyone will find a use for the tones that occur at the lowest settings, but I found lots of great tones from roughly 9:00 to full up. And I love the way the EQ voicing changes as you crank it up—you get mellower and darker tones in the 9:00-2:00 range, which are great for riffs and rhythm parts. As you dial it higher you get an increase in thickness, sustain, mids, and highs—all great things.
What We Like: Somehow, the Mini Bender Mk 1.5 offers serious gain with virtually no noise. Even with the gain control at the max, there is no notable hiss. And the Mini Bender offers much of the germanium clean up without any of the temperature instability.
Concerns: Getting incredibly picky, the “Formula B” on the front edge of the pedal is a nylon decal. It’s possible that it could peel off with heavy use, but that’s not really something that would worry me.