Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Kurosawa The Fuzz

As we like to do here at Tone Machines, today we're going to look into another pedal of mysterious origin. This is The Fuzz, or as the internet has dubbed it, Kurosawa The Fuzz. It's a 6 transistor monster, that for the most part, is a Super Fuzz copy. All things point to an early 80s build, and definitely from Japan. But unfortunately that is where our solid(ish) information ends...

So today we're going to do as deep a dive as possible and grab from all of the currently existing info to see what we can come up with!

So first, the things we do know 100% from holding two of these in my hands: 

A. They sound and act just like a Super Fuzz / FY-6.

B. The circuit board has "PRAT-7" and "Kurosawa" printed on it.

C. The circuit itself has 6 transistors and a single op-amp. Although the op-amp doesn't seem to do too much tone-wise.

D. The components are all consistent with other early/mid-80s Japanese builds. 

E. The bottom plate has "Japan" embossed on it.

I was really hoping that some day an ad, or old magazine article, or even an actual box would pop up and we would get a clue to the brand behind The Fuzz. But after a decade or so of scouring the net I came across nothing. 

Until last year, when a friend of the blog reached out to show me that he had just purchased a beautiful boxed version!

Unfortunately it didn't help much to solve the mystery, but we did get to see the original price of ¥1980. And while it failed to have any sort of shop sticker, or date, it is really cool just to finally see a box! 😍

I have read/heard some rumors about who may be responsible for The Fuzz. One of them was that the Guyatone PS-030 Fuzz from the late 80s was essentially the same pedal, circuit and all. And that there may be a connection.

So I looked into this theory, and while the two do share similar sonic qualities (aka Super Fuzziness) the construction, the usage, and the components are just so different that I am going to have to rule this one out. 

Awesome and underrated pedal though!

Next is the supposed connection that some people swear is the smoking gun.

"What about that enclosure??? It sure looks a lot like the Locobox pedals from the same time period, from Japan. And they're known for licensing to OEM brands. CASE CLOSED!!!"

Ok, so let's look into Locobox and see what other similarities we can find, if any.

As you can see, the enclosures for both pedals are actually the same! I can't deny that. Same size, same little slant on the front, same rounded corners, everything.

Now I do fancy myself a bit of a pedal detective (lol) and this was something I noticed around 2009 when I first became aware of the Kurosawa fuzz.

And if we just take the enclosure, it does seem to be a pretty enticing conclusion. But if you keep looking, even at just the outside of the pedal, lots of small differences start to emerge.

So let's take a look at this Electra Compressor, which was built by Locobox and shares the same circuit as their legendary "The Choker" pedal. 

Locobox built pedals for a ton of other brands like Rolling, Nadines, Boston, Volz, and more. All of them use the exact same circuits, placement of jacks and pots, and wiring. The only variation I have found is the bottom plate and a couple of them use different knobs.

So if we know that for the most part, all of the OEM Locobox pedals are built the same, then we quickly begin to see some differences with the Kurosawa.

Take the input/output jacks. Every one of the Locobox pedals has the jacks below the slant of the enclosure. While the Kurosawa clearly has them above. 

Now while I didn't take a photo to compare, you're just gonna have to trust me on this one, but the 9v jack is on the top right of each Locobox pedal and is a completely different type; while the Kurosawa's 9v jack is on the top left.

The bottom plates do not match up either. There are 3 variations in the Locobox builds, but none of them use the plastic, battery holder snapout like the Kurosawa does.

I will give you a couple of similarities though; the LED and the footswitch placement are the same. But those both seem to be pretty logical spots given the enclosure, and could have even been pre-drilled?

Ok so the outside seemed to fail the test, but what about the inside. Surely that's the clincher...

So here are two Locobox pedals opened up. The boards are consistent with every other variation/OEM; all showing a serial number on the bottom right and the wiring connections to the left. 

Notice that the serial numbering system is completely different (compared to "PRAT-7" we just get a string of numbers followed by a single letter). But also there is nothing printed on the board that mentions not only Kirosawa, but no brand name at all. 

And finally, if you look back at The Fuzz board above, you'll notice the wiring connections are located at the bottom, not to the left.

The most convincing argument though has to be that Locobox never released their own Fuzz pedal.

Even if we look into the connection with Aria (who were the distributers for Locobox, and even co-promoted them as a part of their own brand), we don't see a fuzz pedal that would have been out at the same time. The mid-70s Aria fuzzes are completely different inside, and the late 80s Aria fuzz, in its plastic enclosure, is also a totally different animal than any of the Locobox pedals or the Kurosawa fuzz.

So what can we take from all of this?

I think the most simple answer is, The Fuzz and Locobox purchased their enclosures from the same place. 

That's it. No other connection there!

And I bet if we dig a little deeper we can find even more pedals from this era that also used the same enclosure. I honestly haven't looked at all, but I would put money on it.

I definitely did not mean to make this a post about the history of Locobox, but hey, it happens.

Well, what do I think is the actual origin of the Kurosawa fuzz? If I really had to guess, my assumptions would point me in the direction of the Kurosawa Musical Instruments shop in Japan. This has been one of the largest and longest running guitar stores in the country and it would make sense that they not only had an in-house fuzz pedal, but that they could simply call it The Fuzz because the brand IS them. 

Sadly we still do not know for sure who built these, or really anything more than when we started.  But hopefully this post helps to pull some new facts out of the dust, and we can an update it at some point in the near future.

As always if you happen to have additional info, agree or disagree with anything I've posted here, please message me via Email / Instagram.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 23, 2024

Carruthers Dyna-Soar Fuzz

A couple of months ago I finally added something to the collection that I had been hunting for... a while.

In the mid 2000s there was a mysterious pedal that began to haunt guitar forums. The only thing we had to go off of was this super blurry/grainy photo. The photo, from 1998, was of Kim Gordon's live board, and featured this black pedal with yellow text that seemed to read "Dyna ___?". 

After more searching and internet scouring from the nerds, it was revealed to be a fuzz called the Carruthers Dyna-Soar. It was made sometime in the 80s in New York, and was a Big Muff clone with enough volume and gain on tap to level entire city blocks; which was pretty perfect for Sonic Youth. And from what the internet tells me the Dyna-Soar is featured on this track "Wildflower Soul" (most likely at the intro and then from 6:35 on). //

Sadly the Dyna Soar would wind up on a list of gear that was stolen from Sonic Youth while they were on the road in 1999. And since then, another one would not emerge for over a decade! 

Fast forward a bit to 2012 when I came across my very first siting of a true Carruthers Dyna Soar. Which was awesome, but there was something noticeably different about it, as the text was orange instead of yellow and it definitely said Dyna-Soar Lite. So what was going on here? 

Well as it turns out Carruthers also made a more chilled version of the pedal, which happens to be about 5 times more common, that sits comfortably in the dirty overdrive category as opposed to the fuzz family. But lucky for me the owner of this pedal had modded it back to it's original non-lite version, as it was technically the exact same circuit but with an odd configuration of the transistors. And after his mods brought it back to it's full wall-of-fuzz Muffy glory it was now punishingly loud and sounded exactly like how I assume the end of the world will sound.

So for the past decade+ I had been trying to find myself an original Dyna-Soar fuzz (minus the Lite) but had only ever seen 1 come up for sale. Which was cool because anytime I see 1 of something I know that A. they definitely exist, and B. time will eventually bring another one out of hiding. 

Then finally this past December patience paid off, and to my mind-blowing surprise what would I see pop up online, but an original Dyna-Soar fuzz!!! 

What a cool take on the Big Muff! This thing is LOUD, beefy, gainy, mean, and just huge sounding all around. The only other Muff style pedal I can compare it to would be the Maxon OD-801, which itself is like a super high gain Civil War Muff. 

When I play this against my modded Dyna-Soar Lite it has a bit more low end, and gives a nice textural crunch in the mids. It's also more "organic" sounding, as my Lite can almost be too abrasive and full-on at times.

I am so pumped to now own both of the Dyna-Soar fuzzes, although I probably need to find an unmodded Lite version.. ugh, it never ends!

The final thing I will leave you with is a small possible clue to the origin of these pedals. On the back of my Lite version is a sticker that reads Dalbec Audiolab - Rensselaer, NY 12144 US. I looked into Dalbec and it appears as though it was/is a sound system manufacturer and distributer. (check their website here) But unfortunately nothing about making hi-fi systems implies that they had anything to do with making fuzz pedals... But who knows! At the very least it requires a bit more digging.

Well, as always if you happen to know anything about the origin of the "Carruthers" Dyna-Soar Fuzz please reach out via Email / Instagram. I would love to hear from you. 

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A White (BUD Box) DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp?

I'm not sure how well I have made it known over the years, but to me the best overdrive pedal ever made is the DOD 250. I can honestly gush for hours about how good they sound, and even longer about their history and all the different versions over the years (but we'll save that for a later post).

One thing that has been rumored to exist, in nerdy pedal collector circles, is a very briefly-lived DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp housed in an off-white colored "BUD" box enclosure. We know for sure that about a year or two after DOD officially launched with their original big box pedals, they decided to move in the direction of a trending style at the time. And that trend was all about MXR and the smaller pedals that took over the 2nd half of the 70s.

And while I have never personally owned one of these "Bud" box DOD pedals, I have seen photos of a few existing units over the past couple decades.

BUD Box White DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp

BUD Box White DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp

BUD Box White DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp

If you don't already know the story; around 1975/76 in an attempt to capture the new small-pedal market, DOD and ROSS decided not only to use suspiciously "similar" circuits to MXR, but also the exact same enclosures! 

The BUD box (which was basically a generic metal electronics project box) was the enclosure of choice. In fact there are a slew of pedals from the 70s that are all the same size and shape precisely because BUD were the go-to.

But unfortunately for ROSS and DOD, they just got a little too big for MXR's liking and a cease and desist was issued.

So in 1977 (which coincidentally was the same year MXR stopped using BUD boxes themselves) DOD came up with their own enclosures, which we all recognize now as THE 70's enclosure associated with the brand.

BUD Box White DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp

This ad from the Fall of 1977 is the earliest one I could find that not only shows the classic DOD enclosures, but also announces them as the "new" 200 series, and highlights their "extra rugged pressure die-cast case(s)".

So... this all begs the question, Was there a DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp that was built and sold in the BUD box era?

At this point it is hard to know! If I were to go by serial numbers alone my earliest grey 250, from roughly the Fall of 1977, should be the 1,001'st unit ever made. 

Should be.

But I have discovered grey 250s from 1980 that have EARLIER serial numbers!!! So after seeing this (the earliest being 250-0559) my first thought was that maybe they printed the serials for what was supposed to be BUD box 250s, but after getting the cease and desist from MXR they decided to hold off on production until they could make a new enclosure. And then for some reason they just kept a few hundred serial stickers until 1980 when they decided to recycle them way out of order??? but who really knows!

BUD Box White DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp

The corners of the circuit boards in the BUD box DOD pedals are all cut at an angle, just like the old MXR pedals. And so far I have yet to see one of the classic DOD enclosures utilized those cut boards. Which hints at one of two conclusions; either they decided to sell through all remaining stock of the BUD box pedals, or they trashed them and started fresh in the Fall of 1977. 

(I'm sure there is a 3rd option too, like they exist and I have just never seen one, but I needed to add some kind of drama to keep you on your toes)

BUD Box White DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp

As of now, this one above, which is my oldest 250, is the earliest I have been able to find. 

And while I have heard stories from two separate people who swear they have seen/owned a BUD box version, I have to hold out belief until I see one for myself. 

Even if it's just a photo, I'll take it!

Come on universe! 

Give me something!!! 

Well, as we always do about this time, if you happen to have ever seen or owned any of the BUD box DOD pedals I would love to hear from you; (Email / Instagram) but especially if you have any information about the BUD box 250 Overdrive Preamp.

*a big thank you to all the owners of the BUD box pedals above. I appreciate your documentation for posterity. 

Thanks for reading,