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May 18, 2011

Throbak Stone Bender: A “Mark” Above the Rest

Dirt pedals. We all love them, we all use them, and one might venture to say we all NEED them. Look at most any touring guitarists' live rig and you'll see at least one overdrive, one distortion and one fuzz, and if you're looking at John Frusciante's board you'll most likely see more than one of each! So, we search high and low for the king of tone. Rarely will you find a pedal that encompasses what you need from all three gain stages and you'll most likely have different brands fulfilling these roles. Recently, I was diving into the ocean of fuzz pedals in search of “the one” that would deliver what I needed.

After some quick YouTube video reviews I decided that my fuzz would be a Tone Bender, or a Tone Bender clone rather. After some more reviews I had narrowed my search to the Skinpimp MK II, the Throbak Stone Bender and the D.A.M. MK II.

I know most players out there would say that the D.A.M. is the clear winner and that it is the most accurate clone of the Tone Bender. It may be the most accurate, but my ears don't care for accuracy, they care about tone. Not to mention that at around $500 for the D.A.M. I could just as easily purchase a vintage Tone Bender. My search quickly narrowed to the Skinpimp and the Stone Bender.

The Skinpimp MK II is a nice little beast. The custom graphics add extra flair and make every single pedal totally unique. You may find one on eBay for a bit less with custom graphics, but they are now made in a smaller casing with standard graphics and usually run around $300 on prymaxevintage.com. The tone is great, and has more gain on tap for some searing lead tone. However, my ear and attention was quickly diverted to the Stone Bender.

Throbak has been putting out some really great pedals in recent years. Most of their pedal builds are geared (no pun intended) toward a more vintage sound which is exactly what I was after. The Stone Bender is an extremely accurate clone of the Sola Sound Tone Bender MK II. Like most TB clones, the SB has the normal Level and Attack controls, but they also add in the added versatility of a pre gain switch that can turn the SB from a great overdrive pedal to a high gain fuzz pedal with TONS of sustain. I was able to go from Zeppelin growl to the searing lead tone of Gilmour with the flick of this mini switch. I was in sonic heaven as I pounded through “Whole Lotta Love” directly into the lead of “Comfortably Numb” by flipping the mini toggle!

Another added bonus is the Tone Color Switch. When activated, this switch takes a smidge of treble off the tone and takes the tone in the direction of the original 3 knob Color Sound Tonebender. The internal bias pot can further shape this monster to fit well with your current setup. I was able to score a used one on eBay, but you can find the Stone Bender at the Throbak site (as well as sound clips) for around $229.

The only problem I see with the Stone Bender is that it cannot be powered through a daisy chain. It was not a problem for me since I use a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power, but if you have a multi-power unit, make sure the power outputs are ISOLATED, or simply power the Stone Bender through a separate, dedicated wal-wart.

If you are looking for a great sounding, vintage fuzz the Throbak Stone Bender is an amazingly versatile pedal with great sounds. Also check out Throbak's other great pedals and vintage pickups!

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com

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Posted by Robert Renman on May 18, 2011

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