Solasound Tone Bender MK1 re-issue.

In April 2016 I received an email from Anthony Macari of Colorsound/Solasound/Macari's asking if I would be interested in getting involved in a new official re-issue of the 1965 Solasound Tone Bender Mk1.

I had been making Tone Bender MK1s for a few years, the first one I ever made was for person in Birmingham who had won Noel Edmonds Deal or No Deal and had a bit of cash to spend! That being said, I probably charged him about 80 from what I remember.

I had made them predominantly on tagboard, however I had also done a few builds similar to the Gary Hurst 1965 originals, point to point on phenolic board.

I had also built a few in replica wedge cases made by a friend, and also the cases made by Brook from Pigeon FX, I think these were probably what Anthony was looking at when he got in touch.

It was all very hush hush, 3 other builders would also be involved and each would have a different case design and could do their own take on the circuit.

The other 3 builders were pretty much the cream of the UK Boutique pedal scene, David Main, Steve Williams, and Stu Castledine. Each would make 50 pedals.

I made 1 prototype for Anthony to try out, he liked it so I went ahead and built 50 for him, I did them in batches of 10 over the period of a year.

I had to finalise exactly what parts to use and in the end used Tocos Cosmos potientometers, Jupiter input capacitor, Sprague Atom Electrolytic, ICEL capacitors, Allen Bradley and Takman 1W resistors, however there were some variations due to parts scarcity over a period of a year.

I was told by Anthony to cut no corners, all the parts were to be the highest quality, most of the parts I bought from a specialist Hi Fi audio company.

All of them had CV7005, and 2 x CV7007 Germanium Transistors, which are Military Spec versions of the OC71 and OC77.

I bought the Transistors in bulk, tested and picked specific gain ranges that I find useful. The transistor sets were tested in circuit one set at a time before soldering them in.

In terms of sound I was going for as little background idling noise as possible, artifacts in the decay of the notes are there with the Attack on full but not over the top, useable sounds across the sweep of the Attack control but no sizzle or fizz!

Last I heard, all 200 had sold out!

 

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On 9th June 2022 Ant Macari emailed me to ask if I wanted to be involved in the next Solasound Mk1 project. Of course I answered straight away saying I was interested.

It was a smaller run than the 2017 batch, there would be 15 gold cases plus 2 silver, I could do what I wanted but it had to be different to the last ones and also different from my own FUTURAs which are mainly CV7007 based.

This isn't too bad, the first batch was 50 so I did need quite a few transistors and CV7005 and CV7007 I could get in large numbers at the time.

I said to Ant I would look into the transistor situation but i did say from the start I would likely use some form of OC71/CV7005 for transistor 1.

I found a source for Mullard OC45 transistors from a supplier in Birmingham funnily enough, so I ordered a few to try out and they tested ok and sound great as transistor 2 and 3.

I put an OC45 in one FUTURA for transistor 2 at the same time and got great feedback from the customer. I went ahead and bought another 50 so I would have 60 to choose from to make 17 Tone Bender MK1s.

The 2017 batch I would say were voiced relatively polite with what I would call a smooth sound, I think I tried to play it relatively safe and have a consistent fuzz tone throughout the run.

I would reject transistors that were perhaps adding too many artefacts to the sound, or that were too noisy.

I'm going the opposite way with this smaller run, they will be a lot rawer with the attack on full with more artefacts in the decay that can be adjusted to a certain extent with the attack control. The 'sweet spot' might not be with the attack on full, but backed off a bit.

Attack control fades out the sound towards the bottom of its travel so most of the useful tones are when the Attack is up.

As for the passive components, I tried to get all vintage NOS resistors, any values I couldn't get I ordered either Allen Bradley or Takman. Capacitors are vintage Plessey and Ashcroft, with a brand new Jupiter Cosmos Electrolytic.

The potentiometers are Tocos Cosmos like the original run, high quality sealed pots. Jack sockets are Cliff UK, footswitch is Carling.

 

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Here's the story of why I use CV7007 transistors.

Many years ago when I was making Tone Bender MK1s I used to use all sorts of different transistors in different combinations too.

There would be no definitive combination at this point, i did some using Mullard OC77 transistors and they stood out as being pretty good and I actually did a wedge mk1 for somebody using OC77 transistors that got good feedback.

The military spec version of the OC77 is the CV7007 and I looked out for these as they were relatively modern and stable but still sounded similar to a vintage transistor.

I found somebody on ebay selling a batch of 10 I think it was at a couple of quid a pop so I snapped them up for testing really.

I paid up including postage and waited for them to arrive. A few days later I got a phone call off my friend D****, her dad had told her to deliver some transistors to somebody off ebay and it was me!

We laughed about it, he was saving a bit of postage, fair enough! The transistors were fantastic and a few years later I bought the same ones in bulk and used them in the solasound tone bender mk1 re-issues and still use them to this day.

A few more years later and D***** Dad who I bought the CV7007s from sadly passed away and his family were kind enough to gift me all his parts and equipment rather than throw it all away.

 

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