29th January 2021

History

About The British Pedal Company


The British Pedal Company brings together a team of builders and developers with over 60 years of experience in the music industry. Originally developing, designing, and re-creating pedals for the JMI brand in the early 2000s the team achieved great success. In 2011 they cut ties with the JMI brand and in 2014 launched their own range under the new British Pedal Company. Today, The British Pedal Company is able to offer a far superior product due to the sheer amount of hours of research gone into improving both production and the optimization of transistor manufacture. All of our transistors are manufactured to our own specification ensuring improved reliability and low noise.

Many people ask us how each transistor differs in tone. Everyone’s ears are different but here is our small guide

OC75: Bright and high gain, snappy in tone, sounds raspy in a 3 transistor circuit such as the MKI.5
OC81D: Smooth gain lots of saturation
2G381: This is what gives the MKI its sag when you bend a note. They are key to the MKIs Tone.
OC44: Bright and Driven Tone
OC71: More Shrill and Glassy then an OC44
ACY41: Bright, Raspy, and in your face (ideal for fuzz)
2n4061: Silicon-based, used in the Shatterbox for crazy amounts of thick fuzz

 

New Transistor vs Old Transistors

In some of our models we do use original 1960s transistors. Like old pickups over time they degrade in strength and generally a little more rounded in tone.

We are always more than happy to assist with any issues or questions you may have so please get in touch.

Please find below a brief history of some of our products:

TONE BENDER | DALLAS RANGEMASTER | ZONK MACHINE | SHATTERBOX  | BUZZAROUND | PEP BOX


THE BIRTH OF BRITISH FUZZ


     The UK fuzz box phenomenon began in 1965 when electronics engineer Gary Stewart Hurst was approached by James Bond theme guitarist Vic Flick to modify his existing Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone pedal in order to give the unit more sustain. Gary Hurst’s modifications of the FZ-1 led him to design his own circuit, the ‘Tone Bender’. Originally housed in wooden boxes made by Gary’s brother. these units were distributed to artists across London, including Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck, and Featured a circuit that consisted of one OC75 and two 2G381 transistors. Original examples of the wooden case models are very rare to find with only a small handful of examples being produced. As well as top and rear jack sockets The Wooden Case models feature level and bias control which enables the user to tune in their perfect fuzz tone.

Tone Bender Launches

During 1965 Gary re-housed the Tone Bender circuit into a metal casing, making the pedal much more durable
for stage use. The early models featured hand-applied lettering that was simply covered with nail varnish to protect its fragility. This along with a flat gold finish gave it a distinct look. This version is commonly known as the MK1 Tone Bender. To launch his new product, Gary approached London retailer Sola Sound, to market and distribute the pedal from their London store, Musical Exchange. The MK1 has a very distinctive sound and found its way into the hands of many famous guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Mick Ronson, and Pete Townshend. The MK1 can be heard on many classic tracks including Beck’s Bolero & Moonage Daydream from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album. The Tone Bender had become part of British music history.

Transitional Changes

During 1966 the Tone Bender went through many changes. Gone was the original folded metal casing and a new space-age aluminium cast casing came to the forefront as the new housing. Around 1966 several other fuzz boxes appeared on the market including the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. These new effects featured a two-transistor circuit. The Tone Bender matched their performance, moving to a two OC75 circuit, giving more grit and bite to the tone. These models were only produced for a short period and are affectionately known to many, based on the transitional circuit as the MK1.5 Tone Bender. This was the pedal used by The Beatles in Abbey Road Studio while recording Rubber Soul.

Tone Bender Developments

1967 saw Vox move their Tone Bender production to the Italian Jen factory, resulting in the release of the V828 Tone Bender. Sola Sound continued to develop the Tone Bender circuit and in 1968 launched their new three control Tone Bender featuring a new punched metal casing, circuit board and three OC75 transistors. The MK3 Tone Bender was supplied as a pedal to various manufacturers including Park, Rotosound and Vox. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was again eager to try the new version of the Tone Bender and can be seen in 1969 using the Rotosound version of the three-knob tone bender. The 1970s saw the MK3 Tone Bender change from the traditional Germanium transistors to more Consistent silicon units.

Famous Tone Bender Users


Jimmy Page


Jeff Beck


Mick Ronson


Spencer Davis Group


J Mascis


Sid Barret – Pink Floyd


Dallas Rangemaster History


The Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster born in the mid-1960s. Its function was two-fold: to increase the signal strength of the guitar going into the amplifier, and to increase tones at the high end of the spectrum (a treble booster).

The need for a treble booster arose in the mid-1960s as British tube amplifiers such as the Vox AC30 or Marshall JTM45, tended to produce a slightly dark, muddy sound when overdriven, particularly when used with humbucking pickups. A pre-amplifier that also boosted treble proved a solution. Additionally, the vintage components in the Rangemaster circuitry could add characteristic distortion and overtones to color the guitar sound, much in the way of the more modern overdrive pedals.

The Rangemaster Treble Booster was first made in the 1960s by London company Dallas Musical Ltd., incorporated in 1959. It made guitars and amplifiers under different brand names, including Dallas, Shaftesbury, and Rangemaster.

How many Rangemaster Treble Boosters were built is unknown and original examples regularly fetch over £1000.

Notable users include Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher, Brian May, Tony Iommi, Marc Bolan, and Billy Gibbons.


Famous Dallas Rangemaster Users


Eric Clapton


Brian May


Rory Gallagher


Tony Iommi


Marc Bolan


Zonk Machine History


After the initial launch of the Tone Bender, the thriving music scene in the UK demanded more fuzz boxes. John Hornby Skewes of Leeds wanted in on this growing market and decided to develop his own fuzz box to meet demand.

In 1965, Skewes approached Charlie Ramskirr of Wilsic Electronics, Doncaster to build his new fuzz box. By the end of the year, the Hornby Skewes Zonk Machine was launched with a retail price of  £14 which made it quite a costly purchase.

Similar to the MKI Tone Bender, the pedal was housed in a simple steel box with two controls, fuzz, and swell. Fuzz controlling the volume and the switched Swell controlling the amount of Fuzz. In the national press, the Zonk was described as featuring a “highly developed circuit, using expensive American transistors” which was aimed at setting it apart from its Tone Bender rival. Very few of these original units were produced between 1965 and 1968 with the product being discontinued after Ramskirr’s death (1968) making them highly sought-after by collectors and fuzz enthusiasts.


Famous Zonk Machine Users


Doyle Bramhall II


Shatterbox History


After the Silicon-based Zonk Machine MKII was launched in 1966 as a more affordable version of the Germanium MKI Zonk. John Hornby Skewes commissioned another effect from Wilsic sounds Charlie Ramskirr which combined the Fuzz circuit of the Zonk MKII and his Rangemaster competitor the Hornby Skewes Treble Boost. The result was the birth of the SHATTERBOX. The Shatterbox came in a folded aluminium casing similar to that of the Zonk Machine bit had two footswitches to turn the independent circuits on and off.  The most notable user of this crazy pedal was Marc Bolan of T-Rex who can be seen using the pedal in his rig in many pictures from the period.


Famous Shatterbox Users


Marc Bolan


Buzzaround History


Designed by Gary Hurst in 1966 for the Baldwin-Burns Company the Buzzaround fuzz was very different from its competitors. Constructed on tagboard the Buzzaround also used a new configuration of transistors. This time Hurst deployed NKT213 units which offered rich smooth sustain. The controls were updated from the Tone Bender to include Balance, Timbre, and Sustain which gave the user a larger sonic scope than its predecessors. The Buzzaround was also housed in a new wedge-shaped casing with a sliding tray, similar to the Dallas Rangemaster. Only a handful of units were produced between 1966 and 1968 making them almost mythical to some collectors. The most famous user of the Buzzaround was King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp who was quoted in Guitar Player (1974) as stating

“On stage, I use three pedals on a pedalboard: A volume pedal, fuzz-tone, and wah-wah. I’m not sure what type of wah-wah it is. The best fuzz-box to use is a Burn’s Buzz-around which they discontinued making in England about six years ago.” – Robert Fripp, King Crimson


Famous Buzzaround Users


Robert Fripp


PEP BOX History


The Pep Box fuzz was originally designed by engineer Pepe Rush in 1965. He had been brought a fuzz pedal from the period and investigated how it amplified the sound using Germanium transistors. After building some initial prototypes in 1965 Pepe Rush sold some of his units to Charlie Watkins of WEM.

Badging them WEM-RUSH PEP BOX Charlie Watkins managed to get one into the hands of John Lennon during the Revolver sessions as well as several other musicians from the period including The Animals, Zoot Money, Georgie Fame, and The Blue Flames. WEM went on to develop a silicon model of the pedal in 1966 which was featured the long thin casing but it did not have the tone of the early Rush-produced Germanium models. Early examples are highly sought after and command a high price on today’s market.


John Lennon – The Beatles


Hilton Valentine – The Animals