Anything retro, vintage, hard to find or rare tends to get a good deal of interest, particularly by bassists. So imagine my delight when I stumbled across a pedal based on one of the greatest bass fuzzes of all time, packed full of retro appeal, still in production and readily available. A Big Muff circuit, tweaked for better bass response by the man responsible for the Vox AC30 and produced by one of the biggest names in the fuzzbox world? I’m listening.
From its earliest Mk I prototype to the modern boutique reissues, the Tonebender sound has been revered by guitar and bass players for its rich, bass-retaining fuzz. The story goes that in 1965, deep in a back room of a Denmark Street guitar shop, technician Gary Hurst was asked to build a fuzzbox with more sustain. The result was the Mk I Tonebender and it quickly gained a following with many high-profile guitarists of the time. In 1973, Sola Sound in London redesigned the now long established Tonebender Fuzz, basing the circuit on the Big Muff but omitting the first set of clipping diodes. This produced a fuzz much more akin to the Tonebender family, and it was named the Supa-Tonebender. The Bass Fuzz takes the ramped up Muff sound of the Supa-Tonebender and with a few tweaks, tunes it for bass. The result was a massive creamy fuzz, ideal for monster rock riffs.
First off, this pedal is huge. It is in fact slightly wider than the traditional Tonebender and with today’s emphasis on making things smaller and lighter, the Bass Fuzz feels like something from a bygone age. The three knobs for volume, tone and fuzz will be familiar to anyone who has used a Big Muff-type fuzz before. I began by setting the pedal up with 50% of each of these three controls. The frankly primitive looks and overweight proportions are in fact useful indicators to the Bass Fuzz pedal’s tone. When clicking the pedal on, a wall of rich saturated fuzz confronts you, quite different from the classic 60s fuzz of the original Tonebender, and much closer to a maxed-out Big Muff.
The sheer weight of meaty fuzz produced by the BF was epic. There is no low-end loss: if anything the bass frequencies feel enhanced. The tone knob has a broad range, from mushy and fat in the lower regions to shrill and biting at the most extreme: all the while you are pounded by bass frequencies. It is almost impossible to get anything subtle out of the BF. Even with everything set as tentatively as possible, you are still very much in fuzz territory. Thrill-seekers wishing to add balls-to-the-wall, ear-melting fur to their bass will be in a new tonal nirvana. I did try the BF in a band setting, and in drop sections with just bass and drums it sounds great. But as soon as you add a hint of distorted guitar into the mix a lot of the definition was gone due to the scooped mids and inherent compression which such an extreme fuzz produces. But I also tried recording with it, and here it really shines. You can add smooth, synth-style fuzz with no glitching or unwanted artefacts very easily, and despite its brutish tone it is practically hum-free, with a good bypass too. The BF effortlessly turns stock rock riffs into monumental hooks, it really is great fun and I defy you to try one and not smile.
Having tried the BF I have fallen for its vintage charm and ability to provide fantastic bass-retaining fuzz tones with any setting. If fear-inducing amounts of fuzz are what you need, then look no further. Just make sure you have plenty of floor space in front of you and a few 9V batteries.
The Colorsound Bass Fuzz is available for £189.