This is a fabulous Vox Tone Bender Mark 1.5 fuzz from 1967. It appears to be in untouched original condition, including the presence of its two Germanium MTK 213 transistors.
Following is from an article in premierguitar.com Dec 2018 –
“Initially conceived as the British answer to the American-made Maestro Fuzz-Tone (built by a subsidiary of Gibson), the Tone Bender—and its somewhat confusing iterative evolutions over the years—went on to carve out its own definitive place in history. Its rank in the sonic pantheon in the sky is assured by its use on seminal recordings by a plethora of legendary guitarists from the British scene in the mid-to-late 1960s. Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Mick Ronson, and Pete Townshend were among the many users who deployed the Tone Bender to devastating aural effect.
The popularity of the US-made Maestro FZ-1—and its scarcity in the UK —were leading impetuses for the design of the Tone Bender.
To be sure, the Tone Bender has a convoluted, murky history. But while it went through many changes during its time, each version had something to offer to eager guitarists who were ready to kneel at its altar of fuzzy brilliance.
Electronics engineer Gary Stewart Hurst, a former Vox employee, designed the first iteration of the Tone Bender MkI in 1965. Heavily inspired by the Gibson-built Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone, which was hard to obtain in England at the time, Hurst produced a 3-transistor circuit after being asked by session musician Vic Flick for a pedal that would emulate the sound of the FZ-1 but with more sustain. (Flick, an in-demand session player of the era, is now most famous for playing the iconic James Bond riff.)
A critical Maestro design element that Hurst changed was the use of 9V power. Although this is now standard in virtually all guitar pedals, the few pedals that existed in 1965 were powered by 1.5V or 3V. This voltage boost, along with a few resistor-value tweaks, allowed the MkI—which features level and attack knobs, much like the Maestro’s volume and attack controls—to be louder and achieve greater sustain than the FZ-1.
A raspy yet articulate fuzz with laser beam focus, the MkI offered guitarists the ability to coax the gritty, distorted sounds that were coming into vogue without having to resort to Kinks guitarist Dave Davies’ method of taking a razor blade to his amp speakers for more breakup.
Early versions of the MkI were built by Hurst (in wooden enclosures) and sold by Macari’s Musical Exchange, a music store on Denmark Street in London. Hurst built approximately 100 MkI Tone Benders in the wooden enclosures before changing to a wedge-shaped, folded-steel enclosure with a gold-and-black finish.
Around the time of the introduction of these steel enclosures in mid-to-late 1965, the pedal began being marketed under the Sola Sound name—a brand created by brothers Joe and Larry Macari in late 1964.
The Tone Bender MkI.5 –
In early 1966, the Tone Bender went through the first of its many circuit changes. Reportedly looking for a cheaper, easier-to-produce design, Sola Sound equipped the Mk1.5 with two transistors (rather than three) and morphed the enclosures from the wedge style to a sleeker sandcast-aluminium design.
In addition to the Sola Sound version, the MkI.5 was produced in Italy under the Vox brand. The Vox is perhaps the most well known version of the I.5 circuit, and featured a couple of minor circuit changes from the Sola Sound unit, which resulted in a slightly brighter, more cutting tone with less low end. (Interesting side note: The MkI.5’s same 2-transistor circuit, with a couple of minor tweaks, appeared later that same year in the form of the Arbiter Fuzz Face.)
Tonally speaking, the MkI.5 has a different feel and response than its predecessor. Less saturated and with more low end, it’s a more controllable, less gnarly fuzz than the MkI.”
Apart from being used by the legendary artists listed in the second paragraph above, it is known that a Vox Tone Bender resided in Abbey Road Studios in the mid – late 60s. If you want the guitar sound from “Revolution”, this is your pedal.
Everything works as it should, and this is a crazy fat sounding fuzz machine.