So I took delivery of both the TB-2W and HM-2W this last Friday - and have been getting to grips with each of them over the weekend. I will tackle the Heavy Metal a little later - while the big question of course is whether Boss’s Tone Bender is worth the hype - and the somewhat extended wait?
I explained in earlier articles how parts supply issues had significantly slowed down the production of the TB-2W - while it had nothing to do with the Germanium transistors - which had already been sourced - it was some of the more mundane parts that took three months or so to arrive. Added to that, the task of individually calibrating each pedal to the #500 Sola Sound Reference MKII Tone Bender - took slightly longer than estimated - so instead of dropping Early May - these started to land mid-to-late June.
I’ve noted several times before how I prefer all my fuzzes, germanium in particular, to have some sort of third / bias or EQ control - to tweak tone and texture. In the case of the TB-2W we have a 3-way voltage switch which rather acts as a Voltage Bias and suitably shapes the output of the fuzz. You need to use the Attack / Gain knob in conjunction with the ’Battery’ switch to shape your output. As you crank the Attack the tone gets more compressed and dense - leading to self-oscillation at its peak. I prefer the texture of the fuzz with the Attack knocked back a little - same goes for the volume.
One thing that is immediately evident is just how much texture and attack there is in this pedal - meaning that it cuts through the mix particularly well. And strangely - even though the stock 9V Batter position delivers the perfect Jimmy Page tones - I rather prefer the pedal at the other two extremes - or 7V and 12V.
3-Way Battery / Voltage Bias
I currently like the 7V mode best - it just does something really cool with the ebb and flow of the breakup tones - something about that output texture just makes it all a little more appealing for me. I like the pedal best with both dials at 3 o’clock - on the 7V setting and with Output set to THRU for the most fidelity.
I have circa 15 MKII Tone Benders in my collection - all with slightly different output. A number of them a little warmer sounding than than this - which really has the germanium breakup texture down - but has a slightly cooler and sharper output than many of my others. It’s definitely right up there amongst my favourites - and I will continue to do benchmarking with it to establish where each of mine line up in the preferred pecking order. The TB-2W is definitely a prime contender - it has a fantastically complex and rich breakup tone - and in every way delivers authentic MKII Tone Bender flavours. The Battery / Volts switch gives it that much more extended versatility and flexibility - to make it really worth its asking price.
Its combination of form and form-factor makes it every bit worth all the hype that is out there - and if any doubts remain - you need simply listen to the Ant Macari demo below - that is the only convincer you need. This is my perfect kind of Tone Bender - with the 3 types of controls I look for - as well as that exact and legendary complex breakup tone. There are other varieties which render slightly warmer - while there will be few that cut though the mix as well as this does. Turning out these many pristine high fidelity pedals to exactingly equal specification and calibration is one hell of a technical achievement and should be lauded.
I am very grateful to land one of these and I’m sure it will be in healthy rotation in the chain over the forthcoming months and years. I will do a follow-up article to this where I list out equally appealing quality MKII examples that should satisfy the needs of those who missed out on one of these.
Note that this article unofficially and a little prematurely starts off ’Boss Month’ on Guitar Pedal X - where the month of July will largely be dedicated to articles on Boss pedals. Do let me know if you want me to cover something off in that area - there will be all manner of mockups and likely next direction explorations too - including trying to predict what the next 200 series and Waza Craft pedals will be. Do drop us a line if you want anything Boss-wise clarified or discussed! I will rope in my good friend Matt Knight to assist with answering your queries - obviously within reason!