Thursday, November 17, 2022

Quantum Theories

So this past week I finally nabbed a pedal I had been after for about a decade...

This is the H.W. Cano Electronics Quantum - Discrete Distortion! It's from 1983, probably based off the classic FZ-1 / MK1 circuits (this is still up for debate), and sounds like a buzzsaw tearing into a steel wall...

I've only seen one other unit before, of course on the effects database site, and that one was made on the same day and numbered 007. So as of now I don't have much (if any) information on these, like how many were made, but I do know they were from the mind of electronics wizard, Howard Cano.

To do a full posting on this I need to keep digging up any available info on Cano's history and audio electronics career (including drum synths and midi-conversion kits), so if you happen to have more details definitely reach out to me either through email or instagram.

Thanks for reading!


Morley Power Wah Fuzz Demo

The Morley Power Wah Fuzz from the mid '70s is just an okay wah, but one of the gnarliest sounding splattery 60's style fuzzes ever made! 

Unfortunately it has been misregarded as THE tone of Cliff Burton; and to the point that Morley re-released the pedal with Burton's name on it!!! The actual fact is that he used a Morley Power Wah BOOST and a Big Muff (most likely the op-amp version). And after you check out the demo below you'll clearly hear that this tone isn't anywhere near the first 3/best Metallica albums...

This is great demo that has been around for a decade now, but it's definitely worth a (re)watch as it shows just how ridiculous the fuzz portion actually is. 

Check it out [the fuzzing starts at 2:49]:

thanks for watching!

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Peace Maker

I came across this weirdo "pedal" a little while back, and because I'm me and can't resist super obscure vintage fuzzes, especially ones in plastic enclosures with woodgrain tape, I had to nab it! This is the Kelco 'Peace Maker 70' from 1972(ish). 

After doing some heavy online investigating I was able to find, well, just about zero information on it. But when I posted a few photos on my instagram the other day a friend of the blog, and unrivaled vintage Electro Harmonix collector Daniel Danger, sent me the below advertisement that he recently discovered in an old Guitar Player magazine from the early 70s!

The ad definitely cleared some things up for me. First, it was meant to be used as a portable headphone unit and the amplifier output seemed like more of an afterthought. Second, and probably more interesting, is that the "Fuzz Control" knob shifts between a low-gain gated fuzzy/overdrive to a (very loud) clean boost! Lastly, there was speculation that the Peace Maker 70 was possibly made by a Serbian brand, Kelco. But after reading through the entire ad, it's clear that Kelco Electronics were actually from the slightly less exotic land of, Florida's Panhandle.

Another cool detail that I picked up from the ad was how they described the boost section as a "linear power booster", which is obviously something that is typically reserved for Electro Harmonix and their effect of the same name (released in 1968).  I haven't dove into the circuit yet to see if it's some kind of LPB-1 that's been modded, or if it's something completely different, but either way I'm into it. :) 

The final thing you'll notice from the Kelco Electronics advertisement is that they made another unit, the Duplex Mixer-Booster. Unfortunately it looks like neither product ever really took off, despite their solid Guitar Player magazine marketing push; and combine that with the plastic/bakelite enclosure, very similar to the ones used in the original Seamoon pedals, and I can only assume that not too many of these are still around... 

But if you happen to have one yourself, or any other Kelco products, please feel free to reach out to my email. I'd love to know more!

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Deeper Phazzing

One of the reasons I love doing this blog is because every once in a while I am contacted by someone who has read an article and can give us some awesome additional info we previously didn't have... 

Way back in 2011 we featured an article on the mid '70s Ampeg Phazzer (read it here), and after a few years of being part of the online ether it caught the attention of the original designer, Donald Tillman! 

He was kind enough to add some really cool insider details on the pedal, so I'll just let you read them for yourself below:

Hi. I just discovered your excellent review of the Ampeg Phazzer. Thanks! I designed the Ampeg Phazzer. So if you have any questions about it, feel free to ask. 

This was manufactured by a company called "I W Turner", a very small music electronics company in the town I grew up in, Port Washington, New York. (That's on Long Island, just outside New York City.) This was a basement operation; literally, it was in the basement of a fabric store. It was a side project of the the local high school band director who had an inventor/entrepreneur streak. I was a nerdy kid, and I showed him some of my electronics work and he hired me part time to do some engineering there. The name is made up; the initials stand for the first names of the two partners, the Turner part was a family name that went well with it. The company sold music electronics to schools. The first product was a metronome. And since synthesizers and electronic music was getting popular then, we made a set of modules to introduce elementary school kids to the rudiments of electronic music; oscillators, filters, etc. 

At that time the phase shifter was the cool new guitar effect. (It changes the tone, but not in an obvious way.) We used an MXR Phase 90 as a model, and I reverse engineered it, and tweaked and improved the design a bit: 
 * replaced the individual FET's with a CD4069 chip, biased off so the internal FET transistors are available, it's cheaper and the FETs are matched 
 * better LFO circuit, the slow sweeps are smoother 
 * better mixing of the phased and original signals, better output drive 

At the time, Ampeg wanted to get into the stomp box business, so we made a deal to build some number of units for them. (My memory is telling me it was 1000 units, but I'm not sure that's right.) And these were branded for Ampeg (clearly). Ampeg later decided not to get into the stomp box business, and seems to have found them in a warehouse and sold them off at some point. 

"Time Labs" was a brand name of I W Turner, used on some of the products. 

There's no relationship to the Ampeg Scrambler Fuzz. Or any other Ampeg product for that matter. :-) 

And that line about the Univibe as inspiration; nope, 'never played or seen one. The Univibe is actually closer to the Magnatone. 

-- Don

On top of that, I more recently stumbled onto an old post over at freestompboxes where the original manual for the Ampeg Phazzer was posted (thanks Jimi!). It confirms everything Don had to say in his email, in regards to the manufacturer, and helps solidify a more accurate story for this small piece of phase shifting (and Ampeg) history.

 Thanks for reading! 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Knight Fuzz Box KG-389 (1967)

The mid-1960’s saw a glut of new Fuzz pedals entering the scene as the popularity of the Maestro Fuzz Tone soared. Riding this fuzzy wave, it seemed like every electronics-adjacent company was getting into the game. Some of these pedals became future classics (Sola Sound Tone Bender, Jordan Boss Tone, Univox Super Fuzz) while others were destined for obscurity (Sunn Buzz, GM Electronics Fuzz Up, Lectrolab Fuzz Buzz)...

The Knight KG-389 Fuzz Box was part of an interesting subset of this trend, the build-it-yourself kit. It was sold exclusively by Allied Radio of Chicago through their mail-order catalogs from 1967 through 1972. Knight Electronics Inc. was a subsidiary brand of Allied Radio specializing in DIY kits ranging from ham radios to tube amplifiers to synthesizers. Ordering an unbuilt kit, originally retailing for $12.95, was the only way to get your hands on the KG-389 Fuzz Box, and you had to literally solder it together component by component, guided by the detailed instructions. 

While it does sound cool as hell, one of my favorite things about this pedal is actually the borderline-ridiculous advertising slogans like, “Turn on this electronic fuzz box, and your audience too, for the wildest sound they ever heard." and “Turn on your guitar to freak out your audiences!” The copywriters at Allied Radio were clearly doing their best to capture the attention of  all the new hip young guitar freaks and geeks emerging from the 60s rock scene.

The Knight Fuzz, most interestingly, seems to be of its own design; which for a little $12 kit out of 1960’s Midwest, that’s saying a lot! Many of the fuzzes from that era were clearly Maestro rip-offs, and although the Knight is most similar in build to the Astro Amp Astrotone (1967), the two sound nothing alike. So what about it, how does this little blue wedged beastie sound?

While there are no known famous, or even obscure, recordings available of the Knight in action, there are a few decent video demos online (see this one I posted a while back). And in addition to that I also happen to have a unit right here that I can do my best to describe in ridiculous sonic detail! 

Comparing it to effects you may have heard before, the Knight Fuzz Box sits somewhere between a lower gain Mosrite Fuzzrite and a more precise Jordan Boss Tone (Alhambra, V2). 

It only has two controls, “Volume” and “Fuzz Tone”. The Fuzz Tone knob acts as the gain control, going from a nice round low-gain distortion all the way up to a squelchy splattery fuzz. It's also fairly sensitive, making it pretty useful at any setting. My favorite thing about the Knight Fuzz is that it retains a nice articulate bottom-end without ever getting too muddy; this was something its sonic sister the Jordan Boss Tone never got quite right. Another helpful feature is that it’s very responsive to guitar Tone and Volume adjustments, allowing for even more versatility and customization. One little trick I accidentally came across was using an old 9v battery that was on its way out; the result was a low rumbling, gated square wave fuzz perfect for bass!  

So while the Knight KG-389 Fuzz Box was never meant to be more than a cool low cost project kit for aspiring musicians/electricians, over 50 years later through a combination of rarity, simplicity and individuality it stands firmly on its own among the masses of overproduced 60s wedge fuzzes.  And maybe after reading this, you'll track one down for yourself and join the cool kids at the Knight club. 😎

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 19, 2022

Things I didn't know existed... Davoli Trem Dix

One of these cool late 60s Italian pedals just popped up for sale, and the nerd in me freaks out any time I see something I never have before! I did some digging and came across not only some good photos (thanks freestompboxes) but also this youtube demo of the rare Davoli Trem Dix! It's not the best sounding recording, but I think you can get the idea at least...😁

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Jennings Fuzz (original packaging for the nerds)

A few weeks back I was scrolling through one of those Facebook vintage pedal groups and came across a post from member David W. who put up these photos of his late 60's Jennings Fuzz, complete with the original box and paperwork! To give you an idea with how rare this is, I've been collecting pedals for over 20 years and this is only the second one I've seen with its original box... 

But beyond the rarity, the most interesting thing is the attention to detail they put into the box design itself, with that little cutout for the switch! It's nerdy as hell, but I find that such a cool little addition. So a big thanks to David for letting me share his photos here; and hopefully you can appreciate how awesome this is. 🙏

For more info on the Jennings pedals, definitely hit up the article here.

thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Seamoon Studio Phase Demo

This cool new demo of the rare Seamoon Studio Phase just popped up on youtube! And once you hear it you'll notice something interesting; that it oddly sounds way more like a flanger than it does a phaser. But what's even more interesting, is why... 

Before releasing the Studio Phase, Seamoon put out the very short-lived Studio Flanger. And when you peek inside the two they turn out to be almost identical! The biggest difference being the extra knob on the Flanger that selects between 3 different modes; Flange, Chorus, Phasing. From the research I've done, the official story was that because the functionality of the Flanger was much more than a singular modulation effect, they decided to modify that original design, removed the selector knob, and toned down the wilder settings. What they were left with was something they considered to be more of a phaser, which led them to change the name to the "Studio Phase". 

But the theory that makes a lot more sense (and is much more likely *to me at least) is that the people at Seamoon had just started the company A/DA (Analog/Digital Associates), and wanted something special for their introductory product, something that was unlike any other effect on the market. So they took the Studio Flanger design and continued to build on it, until they finally came up with what eventually became the legendary A/DA Flanger. This is all purely speculation, but discontinuing the Seamoon Studio Flanger, modding it to a tamer circuit, and renaming it so there would be little competition with their future product, seems to be the most believable reason for the birth of the Seamoon Studio Phase (*to me). 

And just to back up this theory, check out the A/DA labeled circuit board that's inside the Studio Phase:

Wherever the truth may lie, this is an awesome sounding pedal and is officially acknowledged as being one of the true precursors to the A/DA Flanger.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, August 19, 2022

D-B Industries / D&M Co. (Another Fuzz Mystery)...

A lot of what we do here at Tone Machines is dive headfirst into the nerdiest kind of speculation about the unknown details of otherwise unknown pedals. So get ready...

Over the last month I have been happily losing my mind digging through old photos (that go way back to 2002) of all the weird, unique, and super rare pedals I have come across on the net. This past week I made an interesting discovery when I realized that the rare D&M Co. Distorto clearly has a sister pedal, made by a company with a similar name, in the same town, and roughly at the same time; the D-B Industries Supertone!

When the Distorto came up for auction back in 2015, while I'm still pretty bummed I missed out on it, I was very pleased that it wound up in the hands of fellow pedal collector, Simon Murphy of Good Fuzzy Sounds. Which means we got some insight to it's character; he described it as, "a lot like the FZ-1... louder and slightly bassier". It's circuit is thought to be based on the Maestro FZ-1, it was probably built around 1966, and Simon even found a potential connection to the best Steppenwolf song:

Here's the text from a web chat in 2006 with guitarist Michael Monarch:

"Hey Michael, What type of fuzz box did you use on the song called "The Pusher" from the first album?" 

"Hello Robert... I had an old prototype distortion box called "Distorto" which I may have used. It was a silver homemade looking box with a big red footswitch button and the word Distorto on it. I don't know where I got it or what happened to it."

So that's super cool, and almost certainly is referencing the same "Distorto" we are discussing here. But what about the mysterious "D-B Industries Supertone", which I can't find any information on at all. anywhere. in the entirety of the internet. And the only real evidence that it even existed are these four photos I've had since the early 2000s...

The minute you start comparing these two you begin to notice the obvious similarities; the enclosure for both is a classic folded metal project box, the circuits may have different components but otherwise look pretty damn close, and the biggest similarity has to be those manufacturer stamps on the bottom plates (which while they are different fonts, follow the same pattern of company name-city-model name-serial number, all within a rectangle), oh and both were manufactured in Santa Ana, CA!

So have a look and see what you think. And please leave a comment if anything jumps out at you that could possibly tie these two together (or completely destroy my theory) even more!

Quick little Distorto Demo:

Unfortunately I don't know where the D-B Supertone now resides so there's no additional info (yet!). But I am hoping that maybe an old magazine ad pops up, or even better, another unit!

So if you happen to know any additional info about either of these please shoot me an email or message me on instagram. I would love to crack the case on this one.

And a big thanks goes out to Simon for the all the details and the video demo of the Distorto (go check out Good Fuzzy Sounds now!), and thank you for reading.


Monday, August 15, 2022

FUZZY Pep Demo

Sometimes it can be almost impossible to find legit demos of pedals that fall into that "ultra rare" category, but lucky for us our good friend Rafmax has posted some of his insane collection over on his youtube channel

The one we're going to check out today is an awesome comparison video that features the unbelievably rare FUZZY vs. the WEM Rush Pep Box vs. the Maestro FZ-1 vs. the Maestro FZ-1A

Check it out:

Not sure how you all feel about that video, but after personally owning all of those pedals myself, I feel like the FUZZY sounds far and away better than both Maestro fuzzes; and it's so different from the WEM that it's hard to make a real comparison between the two. 

A couple of years ago I lucked myself into a FUZZY, that inevitably kicked open an entirely new door of speculation about the history and origin of this pedal... Is it German? Who designed it really? How many are actually out there??? 

So as always, if you happen to be a fellow owner of another FUZZY (with Pep) Fuzz, please shoot me a message either through email or instagram.

thanks for reading!


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Other SRS Pedal...

A little over 10 years ago I lucked into finding two pedals from a brand I had never heard of before, SRS; the now legendary EQ Exciter and the VCO Disco. These were being sold in two separate auctions and I actually won the VCO Disco first! After messaging a friend, Bart who runs the Effects Database website, about the pedals, he asked if I could possibly purchase the EQ Exciter for him since this was a US only auction. Neither of us had heard of "SRS" before, and being the pedal nerds we are that's more than enough excuse to acquire them. Well a week later they arrived and I plugged them in, only to be blown away by the grossly misnamed "EQ Exciter", which turned out to be an insanely HUGE sounding fuzz with a really unique tone control that had the kind of a sweep you'd typically find on a synthesizer! I knew at that moment I had to make my case to Bart that this pedal needed to stay here with me and that maybe we could do a trade for the VCO Disco instead. 😁 (I am still very grateful to him for his reluctant, but gracious acquiescence.)

So what about this other, much lesser known sister pedal, the VCO Disco...

Well, when it came to naming this one they were spot on! It's simply a fat and juicy envelope filter from the 70s with tons of character and all the funk anyone could possibly handle. I am personally much less familiar with this type of circuit but I have been told it is a modified version of the ehx Doctor Q. What I do know is that it sounded great compared to many of the other auto-wahs I've owned over the years.

So here are a couple photos I saved from that original auction. And just like I posted in our full writeup on the EQ Exciter fuzz, if you know anything about this brand or have a pedal yourself, please hit me up with a message! Because after 10 years, these are still the only two examples that have ever surfaced from SRS... 

Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Fuzz and Feedback!

In May of 2021 I couldn't believe I was actually seeing an online auction for this pedal; one that I have been endlessly searching for, for just about 20 YEARS... This is the BM 104 Fuzz-Feedback, it is awesome, and it is finally mine. 

Long thought to be made by the other (and way more) famous B&M / Barnes and Mullins, it had otherwise been a bit of mystery as only a single photo of it existed on FXDB and no info. But now that I have it I'm not so sure who made it, what country it was made in, if the circuit is a modified version of something else, or exactly when it was made. So I have a bit of digging to do before I can write a full article.

But, I can say with a high amount of confidence that it does predate the BOSS DF-2 Super Feedbacker & Distortion by at least 5 years, and maybe more. It also functions a bit different than the BOSS, and sounds wayyyyyy better! Probably my favorite aspect of this is that the feedback is set to be triggered by that red momentary switch, so as long as you hold it down, you get feedback in the signal. But what makes this truly unique and special is that the feedback seems to not only stay in tune, but also starts off as a quiet oscillation and then builds in volume and intensity as you hold down the switch. Amazingly it somehow never gets too abrasive and stays musical even at its loudest!

So if any of you have additional info on the BM 104 Fuzz - Feedback please let me know! And if you happen to own one yourself, definitely reach out as I would love to compare the two and see if we can find any clues to its origin.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Disc Destroyer

Just found this demo for the super rare fOXX Power Machine plugin from the early 70s. What a cool sounding drive! 

The craziest thing about these, that you can't really see in this video, is the enclosure... It's like a small metal recycled flimsy snuff or coffee can disc with a bottom plate that was literally just a thin piece of plastic, or sometimes even cardboard, cut into a circle. 😂 The one I have is so fragile that it's amazing any of these survived!

It is unknown how many of these were made, but from what I can tell they came in Red, Blue, Black, and Purple. So there's at least 4 different units out there (but we're probably looking at somewhere between 15-100).

Check it out in all it's boosty and overdriven glory!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Box-o Tone

So lately I have been digging through some old photos and came across these; an amazing example of the super rare and legendary distortion pedal, Astro Amp's "Astrotone" (by Universal Amplifer Corp). Somehow this pedal survived all the way through the mid-60s and into the 2020's, where I assume it now resides in some other pedal nerd's collection...

Probably the most interesting thing about this is what we can read from the instruction manual and it's emphasis on the fact that it uses silicon transistors instead of germanium; Temperature Instability? NO MORE! I'm not sure how common this was for music gear in 1967, but it does seem like a legitimate selling point. I'm also into the final hyperbolic sales pitch that states the pedal "will last and sound better than any distortion generator you have heard before!".

 Thanks for reading!