How, exactly, the original Tone Bender pedal acquired its name is a mystery to me, but I know one thing: Formula B’s new Mini Bender Pro II, a compact fuzz in the style of Sola Sound’s original Tone Bender Professional MkII, is an excellent pedal. Formula B’s fuzz is compact, musical, and powerful. It is, in other words, everything a fuzz ought to be.
Unfortunately, I can’t provide an honest comparison to an original Tone Bender because, let’s face it, those pedals sell for big bucks. Yet this reporter can say with confidence that the Mini Bender is a delight to play. Its fuzz can be thick as a prehistoric tar pit, sharp as a cactus’s spine, bright as a newly-bloomed tulip, dark as a volcanic cave, or heavy as an oak tree’s stump.
To really get the most of the Mini Bender, I had to play with my guitar’s volume knob. Even at low Attack settings, the Mini Bender did not play around; its fuzz was fierce. I was pleased to discover that even at the lowest setting, the fuzz is thick enough for the Mini Bender to venture into digital synth-like territory—and that was with single-coil pickups. Some judicious finger tapping on the low E-string brought out this fun, retro tone.
Rolling back the volume on my guitar altered the tone in a few ways. First, the highs dropped out, so the tone darkened somewhat. The signal was also quieter, so I compensated by boosting the Level knob just a bit. Although the low-volume-input fuzz was darker in comparison to the high-input volume fuzz, the result still seemed balanced and totally useful. It didn’t drop into a cave of obscurity or require significant post-pedal EQing. In fact, it needed no EQing whatsoever.
As I increased the Attack, the fuzz thickened subtly, slowly, and surely. Noon brought out more brightness and a definite edge. The signal sounded more compressed. Sustain increased. The higher the Attack went, the better the sustain, and the richer the tone became.
Then came the time for some chord-work. I played the best, darkest, and most brooding melody I could imagine, then added a tone a fifth above each note to make some power chords. Once again, the Mini Bender impressed. I felt as if my guitar were producing a wall of sound and fuzz so thick, powerful and smooth that the pedal ought to come with some sort of warning, or be classified as a potential weapon of sonic destruction. I wondered if the first person to use or control a fire felt the same way: thrilled, but uncertain just how far this discovery would take him.
But sound isn’t everything in a pedal. One must also consider appearances. I appreciated the no-nonsense (minimalist) design: Black decals on a reflective grey housing, which itself felt like it would withstand the hardest of stomps. The controls were equally straightforward. Two knobs, one for Level and one for Action, control the tone, while the footswitch took care of the usual bypass functionality.
The Tone Bender is a classic pedal, and Formula B builds on that legacy with its Mini Bender Pro II. Not only is the pedal easy to use and of a straightforward construction, its tone will likely please the pickiest of tone hounds. And even if the Mini Bender might seem like one pedal too many for the pedal collector, its diminutive size ought to make it fit right in to even the most crowded pedalboard.
What We Like: Small size with big tone; enough fuzz for single-coil pickups; good compression and sustain even at low levels of Attack.