If you’ve seen the 2008 Davis Guggenheim documentary It Might Get Loud, then you probably recall the scene where rock icon Jimmy Page straps on a Les Paul and deftly launches into the riff from “Whole Lotta Love.”
The Edge immediately closes his distance from Page, soaking in the magic that’s happening a few feet in front of him. Meanwhile, Jack White sets down his guitar and beams with the quirky grin of a bridegroom watching his wife-to-be coming up the aisle.
It’s an incredible moment, but it sets up the story of how Page discovered the Tone Bender fuzz circuit. After a few sustained notes, he calls the sound “pretty rude.”
Seems about right to me.
In many ways, the Tone Bender is the sound of early rock and roll. Guitar heroes like Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend all used it—so as far as fuzz goes, it’s about is about as hallowed as you can get. But with originals becoming increasingly difficult to find (and outlandishly expensive as a result), modern players haven’t had many affordable alternatives. Until now.
The Ramble FX Twin Bender packs two of the best (and most popular) Tone Bender variants into one pedal and rounds them out with a killer aesthetic, a few modern upgrades and loads of great tone.
Tone Bender MKII
This is early-Zeppelin Jimmy Page in-a-box. Creamy fuzz with endless sustain and plenty of snarl and bite. Just like an original MKII, the sound is delivered by three NOS (new old stock) germanium transistors. It’s thick and aggressive and works great with humbuckers. (It sounds good with single coil pickups, too, but there’s just something about ripping through my favorite licks with fuller, darker, heavier pickups that I love.)
My favorite thing though, is dialing back the external bias knob and dropping the voltage to the point where the fuzz is spitty and gated. It’s a sound that you’ll need to acquire a taste for, but one I couldn’t get enough of.
Of course, there’s lots to explore between the full-on richness on one end of the bias control and the choked-off splat on the other, so I’m sure you’ll find a sweet spot in there, too.
Tone Bender MK1.5
The MK 1.5 side of the Twin Bender uses just two of the hand-tested transistors and will likely be a favorite for players who tend to ride their volume knob, because the cleanup is pretty spectacular.
With the Fat switch engaged to bump up the bass response and my volume knob rolled back a bit, I was able to get the perfect amount of touch-sensitive grit for my rhythm tone. But with the volume all the way up—instant singing lead tone with tons of sustain. Talk about best of both worlds.
The MK1.5 side is lower in gain and considerably less saturated overall. And primarily being a single coil player these days, this mode worked great for me. Which isn’t to say it won’t work with humbuckers, but no matter what you play, the array of options on the Twin Bender is sure to please.
What we like: I like a lot of things about the Twin Bender. The pedal looks awesome, sounds great, offers more versatility than your standard Bender and—most importantly—is priced right. Two unique and flexible fuzz tones for just under $90 each? That’s a great value.
Concerns: I’m sure the team at Ramble FX had a reason for putting the Bias control where it is and making adjustments as intentional as they are, but if you’re someone who likes to tweak—both might just drive you nuts in a live setting.