Pedals

Boss partners with Sola Sound to reinvent the Tone Bender with the …

3

This is so lame. Everybody and their uncle is making Tonebender clones. This offers nothing new that a million other pedals companies (large and small) aren't already doing. Boss/Roland have some great fuzzes in their history, and they chose a freakin ToneBender?! I thought "Waza" was about innovation/heritage/other buzzwords, not joining the clone wars. Who asked for this? I’m sure that pedal show and blues lawyers will go gaga over it.

The only thing that would have been more disappointing is a Wazacraft Tubescreamer.

4

Still unsure what to think of this yet but I predict if Boss keeps the price reasonable they will sell tons of those.

Edit: Since it's supposed to be limited the used prices will probably go crazy in a few years.

5

The only thing that would have been more disappointing is a Wazacraft Tubescreamer.

This would be hilarious, though. While they are at it they should release a Waza Talent Booster version, too.

6

How about a Waza Tuner...oh wait

7

Every time I see a new pedal like this come out, I'm reminded of how much money I've saved by not buying pedals.

8

Nah, I won’t get one.

I have already plenty bent tonez.

But I think I know who it’s for. There are many players who are lifelong Bossedmen, who have rarely felt the need to step outside that safe and secure mainstream. But even they will not have been able to ignore the recent rising buzz of hype and historical hagiography surrounding early “classic” fuzz circuits.

And when they’ve shopped for a way to play along, they’re confronted with bottomless rabbit holes lined with bajillionz of versions of Mk I, 1.5, 2, 3 and more Bender/ish clones and revivals and versions and new-and-improved-and-just-like-the-hallowed-original-but-betters. A REAL original costs more than their entire pedalboard and is hemmed round with warnings that each one is different because transistors and what if you get a bad one. A new reissue by Sola costs more than their last 3 pedals put together and takes up exactly the same amount of room.

They feel like they just MUST bend tonez, or how are they ever going to sound just like JP on LZ1 and [insert other classic trax by classic rockerz here]?

Into this welter of self-inflicted welts of doubt and pedalatrous despair comes the Boss, with an Official Version of The Original Real Thing, guaranteed consistent, looks like a pedal is SPOZED to look dammit, BUILT LIKE A TANK (it’s illegal to discuss Boss without including that info), thereby blessed as The Standard, which no one may doubt, and once they buy it they need never worry about Tone Bending again because Boss has homologated and homogenized it for them.

Boss has tamed and trained the unruly beast, and at long last it wears the seal of mainstream approval.

It’s the safe choice.

9

Aaaaaand soon JHS Josh will do an episode loving it, proving it sounds just like all the originals, of which he’ll have multiple versions of each lined up on his table, a compleatist collexion to which he’ll have proudly added this last testament of risen incarnate Bendiferous magnificence.

Because of course, he’ll have the box!

10

The timing is interesting to me, coming not two weeks after Chase Bliss‘s actually innovative and interesting take on the ToneBender.

Were I more cynical, I’d suggest that JHS orchestrated both releases just for his upcoming ToneBender video.

11

Chase Bliss‘s actually innovative and interesting take on the ToneBender.

What was that? The Bliss Factory? That’s an awfully roundabout Bender, having been Zachary Vexed.

And surely the Bossola (oh man, that construction works!) will have been in development for months at least. I can’t think it was cooked up in a few weeks.

While your cynical conspiracy theory is amusing, I don’t think Josh is powerful enough to orchestrate Roland.

(Since you abandoned “he’ll have the box,” I stoled it and edited it into my post. Thanks for that! HEY EVERYONE, that line was totally Otter’s.)

12

The Zvex was just a Tonebender with several resistors made adjustable via potentiometer. With the pots in a particular arrangement, it's pretty much a bone-standard Bender. His "big innovation" there was making it negative grounded, to play nice with power supplies. Now those potentiometers become digitally controlled via vactrol in the Bliss Factory.

13

Only old fuzz that matter

Lafayette Fuzz Sound Vox Tone Bender Univox Super Fuzz

14

The Zvex was just a Tonebender with several resistors made adjustable via potentiometer. With the pots in a particular arrangement, it's pretty much a bone-standard Bender.

But that's kinda the thing of that thing. You can twist the knobs on a Tone Bender to sound pretty gnarly / unruly, but not nearly to the extent the Z-Vex permits - not only permits, but practically insists. All that extremity is the point of the Fuzz Factory, I thought. It CAN sound like a Tone Bender, but it can be something of a challenge to find those settings (especially if you're not TB-experienced enough to hear it when you pass through the settings).

I think the "innovation" there was taking the chains off of the noisier and less conventionally musical possibilities of the TB circuit - which seemed like a new thing at the time of the FF's introduction. And I think the FF was instrumental in kick-starting the part of the effects community, now well established, which is not only tolerant of noise and what sounds like circuit misbehavior, but enshrines and attempts to use the results as an end in themselves.

I can see grafting Chase Bliss's implementation of parametric EQ onto the FF as innovative. It's undoubtedly useful, and opens up many possibilities (both conventionally musical and noisily cacaphonous) for the TB/FF circuit. So OK - that's more than incrementally useful, and maybe an evolutionary step.

But it's interesting to me that much of Joel's contribution to two of his last three projects (Automatone and Bliss Factory) has been that parametric circuit originally developed for the Condor - and that both the Condor and his Brothers dual-dirter have now been discontinued. Since older pedals remain in the line, I can only assume that Condor and Brothers sales have disappointed. I know I had - but no longer have - both.

To me it makes the Bliss Factory (with only an aftertaste of sour grape that I didn't get one during the mad rush after the introduction, and ainagonna pay scalper prices) less a big leap than just a convenient mashup. I'm curious to see what Joel might tackle next.


The more I think about it, the more curious facets I find in Boss doing a Waza Bender. For one, the timing is interesting (though not so much its coincidental short-term overlap with the Bliss Factory). I'm thinking timing over decades.

In connection with that, my seeming indictment in my earlier posts of Boss - suggesting they're conventional and even unimaginative - is not fair, or at least far from complete. Boss's first pedal, in 1976, was the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, a truly innovative (and category-creating) pedal version of the chorus in the Jazz Chorus amp - which was itself innovative.

The ubiquitous and now-familiar compact line emerged in 1977, becoming well established in the 80s.

What both the CE-1 and the compact pedals shared, by comparison with most others of the era, were properties that might now sound sedate and boring: they were robust and reliable, they were quiet, they were sonically and functionally both predictable and consistent from unit to unit, and they were carefully engineered to produce musical results pretty much anywhere on their dials. By contrast, manymost other available pedals were ... well, not all these things.

Boss's pedals were all powered the same way, had similar headroom and throughput behavior, were mostly built in the same package, and were guaranteed to work well and sound good, first time every time. With the line Boss took on most of the effect types then popular in the pedal market, creating refined versions which (though they were not the first) became, by virtue of their quality and wide distribution, industry standards. That codification and consolidation of the hitherto unruly effects landscape was, in itself, both innovative and creative. (And in turn, Boss influenced generations of copies, clones, and boutique takes.)

But along wih this standardization, Boss has a strong record of real and consistent innovation - not only in new effect types, but in the refinement and engineering sophistication they've brought to everything they've done. A part of that is in providing deep and wide feature sets in very usable, good-sounding devices - even when not all the features are original to Boss - to the point where the quantity of well-implemented functions adds up to a qualitative difference in the musical potential of the pedal.

Even when Boss products get boutique-expensive (and few do), the value is compelling. Their big-box 'verbs, delays, and modulators illustrate the point, as does the CP-1x all-but-artificially-intelligent dynamically-reactive multi-band compressor. Other examples include the multi-effect processors (with ridiculous bang for the buck), Katana amps, the RC Loop Stations, and the crazy-good SY series of synth pedals, up to the truly astonishing (and possibly bottomless) SY-1000.

So the company has been not only revolutionary in bringing consistency of build and behavior to the industry, but truly creative and innovative for decades. It would take an idiot to deny it, and I'm trying to be less of an idiot.

But Boss's strong suit has not been wackiness. The gear has always been tuned so that it's hard to get ugly sounds and unmusical noises out of it. Like good designers of radio and TV gear over the past century, Boss engineers have generally assumed we don't want stray white noise, self-oscillation, bleeps and squeals and squalls, static, buzzy artifacts and (unintended) distortion from our devices. Control ranges have been tweaked to preclude runaway oscillation, musically useless depth and speed of LFOs, over-biasing and gating in dirt pedals, unpleasant extremes of EQ, etc.

When Boss does try to include "far out" features (and I'm guessing the engineers always think of "far out" inside mental quotation marks, like anthropologists describing cultural phenomena they don't themselves experience - unlike, say, Mike Matthews or Zachary Vex, whose mysticism is authentic when they say far out, man) ... when Boss tries, the results are usually more funny than far out. The "Warp" functions in the DD series of delays, for example.

Boss has traditionally not "gotten" the kind of far-out that comes from circuits which sound like they're breaking, broken, or on the verge of flaming out. They're not great in that ever-widening no-mans-land between music and noise which exploratory boutique builders and their buyers have been surveying in ever more depth and detail - a domain that includes not only the kinds of tricks the digital Spin chip can do, but the noisy regions which have always surrounded pitched and playable fuzz.

And when Boss came on the market, fuzz was barely a thing - passé as only something recently become unfashionable can be. The 60s and early 70s were over, man. From the late 70s on, most players were more about distortion and overdrive. Fuzz was thus not among the effect types Boss refined and standardized. I can only think it wasn't even on their radar. Of 132 Boss pedals listed on Wikipedia (and I think there have been more), three have had Fuzz in their names - and the first one (HyperFuzz) was introduced in 1993.

If there's one thing Boss has not been known for, it's fuzz.

So, with all that tedious context, here's the timing question: why "reissue" a classic 60s fuzz circuit now? I come up with a number of possible rationales, none of which are particularly encouraging.

Is the company out of ideas? I could imagine and forgive some creative exhaustion: they've been on a roll with the Katanas, 500 series, 200 series, and SY synths, and it must perpetually feel, especially in an old-line effects company, that everything has been done. Gotta be hard to dream up something truly new. (That said, there's been a ton of creative work in the pedal industry over the past several years.)

Is it just a recognition that fuzz is enjoying a massive renaissance (at least in the pedal and player communities, if not commercially in music), and they want a little piece of that? If so, a Tone Bender seems a pretty mild - if completely safe - entry into the field. Boss has rarely (ever?) been known to directly knock off another pedal, at least not by name, unless it's their own. Seems an odd entre - unless it's going to be followed by Bossfinitive versions of, say, the Maestro, and the Fuzz Face, and the Big Muff (as in Josh Scott's Legends of Fuzz series).

Is this a cynical grab, or a desperate measure, or a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks whim?

Or has Boss looked around, seen how much of their business has been diverted by hundreds of builders in the boutique community (almost all by definition with far less experience and true engineering expertise than its staff), and now announced that they want some of that market?

Fuzz is fundamental to the boutique. It's among the simplest of circuits, where minor experimental, don't-even-know-what-I'm-doing changes in components or circuits can have huge sonic results, and lots of now-prominent companies got their start with fuzzes. Some have concentrated and specialized in variations of fuzz: a top-of-mind example (because I'm waiting on another to arrive) is Basic Audio, one guy in West Virginia whose line of 36 listed pedals (he'll build off-menu items on request) includes 31 fuzzes.

Boss has traditionally ignored that market - a sizable part of which specializes in exactly the kind of circuit misbehavior and noise that many have bought Boss pedals to avoid. I don't imagine one Bossogenized version of one iconic pedal is going to send shudders of apprehension through small boutique builders - more likely they'll chuckle. Fuzz doesn't need Boss's stamp of orthodoxy on arguably the archetype fuzz pedal to "legitimize" fuzz, or to bring it to the masses. That consideration, 45 years into Boss history and 50 years after the first heyday of fuzz, seems all but irrelevant.

And while I imagine virtually all confirmed afuzzionadoes are going to be curious about this pedal - how does it live up to its promise, and how does it compare? - I doubt they'll abandon the broad and deep boutique market over it. (Damn. Unless it's just that wonderful...but with just two knobs, how could it beat the best modern versions?)

So I'm still scratching my head. Why would Boss suddenly stop ignoring fuzz, and do it - for the first Bosstime I can think of - by making a clone of a historic circuit? Because that's just one peak in Fuzzlandia. There are so many more mountains. Spose Boss intends to climb them all?

It's all very curious, and I'm just musing.


The new "fuzz" pedal I'm anxiously awaiting is the upcoming Source Audio UltraWave, which promises to be a powerhouse all-encompassing fuzzynthesis workstation, next-level 21st century stuff. It's packed with innovation, will cost about the same as Boss's backward-digressing belated Bender, and have infinitely more musical possibilities.

15

If there's one thing Boss has not been known for, it's fuzz

Maybe not Boss, but pre-Boss Roland itself had the Bee Baa during the fuzzy heyday of 1972.

Excellent post, and many great points I'm still reading, but I couldn't finish without mentioning the Bee Baa, because how often do you get to type Bee Baa?

Edit: okay, now that I'm done, let's not minimize the Hyper Fuzz (of which many thought the upcoming Wazathing would be a reissue). Notable in Boss's history, it is both a hugely menacing noise machine capable of all the messy and far out stuff you'd never expect from the shirt-and-tie Roland engineers, and it is also a clone of the 60s Univox Superfuzz.

Indeed by adding the two-band EQ and multiple modes, I'd say the 1993 Hyper Fuzz is a truer-to-form Waza-izing of a classic fuzz circuit than this new attempt, whose only updated feature is an almost-afterthought voltage switch (and probably better build quality, as you say "like a tank").

If you've never tried the Hyper Fuzz, you owe it to yourself to at least try the Behringer Super Fuzz, a part-forpart clone by all indications.

PS I was only kidding about the coincidentality of the Chase Bliss Factory, just noting its 'Bender pedigree. No tinfoil hat here.

16

Bee Baa Bee Baa. Now I've said it too. I was familiar with its history, but hoped that since it was a Roland-branded copy of something else, you wouldn't notice I'd left it out of my Boss narrative for fear it would weaken the case. On a bit more reflection, I think it just enriches the texture of history's great weave.

I didn't realize the Hyper Fuzz's pedigree. That was both a much Bossier way of going about a fuzz (to reissue one of their own, with more tonal variety) and a precedent suggesting that every few decades, Bozz duz du fuzz, so maybe the current aberration just fits the pattern.

I think one of my 14 Basic Audio boxes is Super Fuzz enough (or surely one of the other 23 gets close), but just in case, thanks for reminding me about the Behringer Super.

OK, I'll get one.

17

You won’t regret it. I wish I never sold my Hyper Fuzz. Its price skyrocketed in the couple years I owned it, and I figured that money would be better in the shape of a camera probably. Maybe I’ll buy the Behringer too.

Ok, I’m less mad about the Boss Bender now.

18

Hah! Pretty sure this is not what Bossola were trying to accomplish, but I ordered the Super Fuzz from Adorama at 29.00.

(Head's up if you're serious: that's cheaper than any on Reverb, and Adorama was the first etailer I came to who has it in stock. Hurry!)

19

Way ahead of you

20

You guys are SUCH a bad influence. I managed to resist.....for now.

21

I like it, Boss rugged-ness, and TONEBENDER goodness!

22

Resistance is futile.

23

Resistance is futile.

– Proteus

Hahaha I agree! I mentioned last week that I carved a chunk out of one of my Zemaits guitars and slapped a OC44 Rangemaster circuit into it. I would love to hit the WAZA Craft Fuzz with the output of this guitar! Is Germanium on Germanium a sin? When do these things go on sale :)

24

Dang Daniel, that's cool.

Boss did that thing with Roland a while back (BOSS RE-20?), for me this looks just like another collaboration like that.

Enough of a mix that BOSS gets good press, along with the "huh, interesting" factor. I agree with Proteus, there's probably tons of folks who are locked into an entire BOSS pedal chain who never wanted to take the plunge to go small or boutique.

I don't think I know any of those people, but I'm sure they exist.

25

Boss did that thing with Roland

Boss is Roland, but yeah the Space Echo pedal was pretty special

They have collaborated with Fender and with JHS in the past


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