The first Fuzz box, the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone, made its American debut in 1962. It was created in an attempt to have the guitar imitate brass and string instruments. Sales through 1964 were very slow. Everything changed in 1965 with the release of the song “Satisfaction”, the legendary riff being the work of the Fuzz Tone.
Sola Sound introduced the MK I Tone Bender in 1965. The 1966 MK II was used by many famous British guitarists. Built with germanium transistors, the tonebender had bold fuzz and maximum sustain. Sola Sound would eventually change their name and become Colorsound.
The FZ-1 was not easy to come by in England and the birth of British Rock was just starting. The British company Sola Sound, sometimes spelled Solasound, and others were founded in response to the Fuzz demand. The “Fuzz Era” had begun.
The first era of fuzz pedals were equipped with either two or three germanium transistors. These pedals produced great tone, but many of these transistors turned out to be manufactured inconsistently, affected by climate, and generally unreliable.
In the 70’s, most germanium transistors were replaced with silicon transistors. Silicon transistors were more compact and reliable. The silicon transistor yields a much higher gain and the sound is brighter. Of course, there is debate as to which transistor sounds better.
Fortunately, the consumer of today has the ability to listen to and choose the Fuzz effect that is right for him. The Fuzz pedals of today mimic the legends, but also provide additional features. Most offer the choice of germanium or silicon transistors.
MJM Guitar FX makes a great Tonebender clone called the Brit Bender. It’s an almost exact replica of the original circuit.