BOSS TB-2W Tone Bender

Introducing the BOSS TB-2W Tone Bender. On the 1st of December 2020 we unveiled the BOSS TB-2W Tone Bender, inspired by the iconic  Sola Sound  Tone Bender MK II fuzz. This two part series details the back story to several years of hard work and determination that saw the unlikely collaboration of two iconic brands. Despite Sola Sound and BOSS walking entirely different paths through guitar effects history, we share many of the same values. The best of both brands is reflected in this unique pedal, honouring the unique tone, feel and response of the MKII using traditional components whilst bringing it in to the modern era in a compact pedal format and maintaining our incredibly high standards. The TB-2W epitomises WAZA Craftsmanship. For episode one Ant Macari explains how the project came to be, why we chose the MKII Tone Bender and his reaction to the plugging in the first prototype, after believing it might have been an impossible task

 

So origins and Macari’s, my granddad had a big touring show when the cinema came along and  all the theaters started to close. He had to do something else so he opened a little shop. His son Larry started working for Vox Amplifiers and he became the sales manager at Tom Jennings shop in Charring Cross Road. So he sold the amps to the Beatles and the Stones and the Shadows it must have been amazing. Being real family setup he always wanted a shop with my dad when a shop became available in Denmark street in London he went and opened it and started a partnership with my father. It was the first music shop in the street which is now synonymous with music shops but they opened the first shop that you would recognise sort of good musical instrument shop. The Tone Bender pedal was the first ever British fuzz pedal. It came out in 1965 as the MKI soon became the MKII. We like to think it’s one of the most important pedals ever made. It really did change how music was made. The design of a fuzz is a weird old thing because it’s always existed it’s been there on the pages of science books for years. The trick was to take it to put it in a box and sell it. In 1965 the shop was going pretty well in Denmark street they were selling their musical instruments but they really needed a bit of a shot in the arm to make them really special. Gary Hurst came to see my dad and my uncle in Denmark street. He’d been working for Vox and said look I’ve got this idea the kids are going to love it. Tom Jennings at Vox he’s not interested because you know it makes this filthy disgusting sound. My uncle looked at it and  said “yeah” and they jumped at the chance of selling it. They started making the pedals in Denmark street with Gary’s design and it just took off. The Stones had a hit with “Satisfaction” that was using an American fuzz pedal. The first big hit with tone bender MKI on it was the spencer Davis Group “Keep on Running” And when that came out and that sound hit the airwaves suddenly everyone wanted this fuzzy sound. You listen to the hit singles of 1965 and then 1966 they all had this fuzz sound on it it was a must-have item suddenly so The Tone Bender took off. So it’s 1965 the first Tone Benders being made my dad and my uncle need a company name and they decided to call the company Sola Sound. Sola Sound was set up specifically to make pedals that’s the first time that had ever happened in England. It’s a pedal company that was pretty damn cool. The first pedals they sold were these Tone Bender fuzz pedals Goes right back to day one of fuzz. The MKI which we know now as the sort of Mick Ronson pedal, the David Bowie sound soon became the MKII which we think of as the Led Zeppelin one pedal. It’s something we’re hugely proud of we take it as a compliment there’s loads of clones and copies of our pedals but if it’s an authentic Tone Bender it’s going to say Sola Sound on it. I was born in 1963 so the pedal came out in 1965 I don’t remember it but I’ve spoken to enough people to know that when they first heard fuzz. It was not just a guitar changing thing it was a life-changing thing. Suddenly people were playing the guitar this massive dirty sound was coming out of it. People were making records that made people want to pick up chairs And throw them through windows it was a rebellious nasty tone. It must have been amazing it was a culture changing thing. One of the reasons our pedals are so big is because people used one pedal and you didn’t want to kick them all over the stage you wanted something you want to be able to see it and go and stomp on it. What started happening in the 70s was people had chains of pedals big pedals started to look a bit silly. I remember the day going to my dad’s shop I was in my late teens and he’d put an order in with a company called Roland and these new products started arriving. I remember the day I first heard chorus on a Roland Jazz Chorus amplifier and standing in front of it and just going “what is that!” It was an amazing sound it blew my mind and these new little modular synthesizers that arrived and they were an incredible like being in a spaceship it was fantastic. But the next thing was a little bit shocking they sent over these amazing small compact effects pedals and they made the Colorsound pedals look very old-fashioned. Don’t get me wrong they were still a real love for them people still bought Tone Benders but the BOSS thing basically killed the big pedal. So it was probably 10 years ago when our pedals suddenly started getting incredibly popular again And I remember sitting in the shop and I was looking at one of our pedals and I was looking at a BOSS pedal I was just thinking god these things that are “so cool both of them are so cool but in very different ways.” One has this amazing history the other one is groundbreaking innovation and I just thought well how cool  would it be to do some sort of collaboration and a few years later I get a visit from Yoshi from BOSS and we also almost it’s like a joke we mentioned it as a joke be cool if our companies got together and did a pedal sometime. 2017 BOSS had their 40th anniversary event in London where they were showcasing all the compact pedals over the years. I’d actually sketched something out this time with an idea for for like three different fuzz pedals but I chat to Yoshi and he said “No if we’re going to do this we’re going to concentrate on one great pedal what should it be?” and I said “Well you know the probably the most iconic pedal the one as a two-year waiting list for is the MKII”. It’s made very slowly you know we there’s only one guy we trust and make it you know this guy Dave Mayne builds this pedal for us. He said “yeah it’s going to be a challenge”. To make a pedal really sing and really dance takes a very, very, very good engineer. They’ve got to understand music, they’ve got to understand electronics they’ve got to understand a bit of mojo as well. So we embarked on the journey to make the BOSS and Sola Sound collaboration. So the next step was to start on production And obviously the thing that needs to happen is we needed to get a pedal out to Japan. So I remember spending a good two hours going through my stash of MKII Tone Benders settling on one that I felt just was the classic MKII sound and I remember vividly which one it was. It was number 500 that we’d made because every now and again I keep one back and I kept number 500. Yoshi came over again he said “I think we might be able to do it” he wasn’t sure, I wasn’t sure he could do it but we were getting there. March this year 2020 I was on the phone to Steve and we were talking about projects because the shop was closed and what are we going to do and he said “well what’s happening with the BOSS thing” that I said you know what “I don’t I think it’s going to happen” and he said I said ah that’s a pity see I was right can’t be done And then suddenly in the post this arrives. It’s a BOSS compact pedal with level and attack written on it and it looks kind of cool. Then I plugged it in! So I suppose it was at this point I realized it was going to happen we could do it. I listened to the way the pedal reacted to the changes in gain to how I could use it with the volume on my guitar which is absolutely critical with the MKII. After a few more listens and a few more phone calls I realized it actually really was like a Sola Sound project. The reason it sounded so good is the guys got hold of this very limited quantity of great transistors to make this pedal Which made it feel even more like a Sola Sound product because you know we always work with very limited runs of of units with very limited runs of transistors and this is the first time I have ever felt like putting our name on on a pedal that isn’t made by us and teaming up with BOSS it just feels like such a cool idea. This is kind of the end of a full circle of events from the fuzz being made to Colorsound almost dying out then resurging and then BOSS coming into the picture and then us collaborating. It’s an amazing feeling really and it’s something I’m so pleased to be part of. This is the first time me and Steve have ever felt we should put our name On a product that isn’t made here in the UK. So here it is the BOSS TB-2W Tone Bender  licensed by Sola Sound London At last You gotta love that.