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© Copyright 2017 Ramble FX. All rights reserved. Ramble FX, Twin Bender, Marvel Drive, and Kismet, are trademarks of Ramble FX, LLC. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners (details).

Classic fuzz tones were circuits designed long ago with parts that have been obsolete for many decades. Their circuits do not follow good audio design practices of today, and as a result, there can be some headaches trying to get them to play nice with other gear.



This page will discuss some of those issues and how to deal with them.

Powering Pedals with Germanium Transistors

Original fuzz pedals used a type of Germanium transistor which requires a power supply with opposite polarity, referred to as 'positive ground'. Back in the day, it was simply a matter of switching the wires that hook up the battery. But today's guitarists don't always want to use battery power, and that's where the problem is...When you share a power supply with several pedals, or daisy chain them, they all must have the same polarity. When a 'positive ground' pedal is connected with normal, negative ground pedals, there is a short that can cause damage.

How Does the Twin Bender Deal With This?

The Ramble FX Twin Bender solves this problem with a built-in voltage inverter. The inverter allows Twin Benders to be powered just like any regular 9V pedal, even daisy chained with other pedals sharing an adapter. This is a feature not found on most fuzz pedals.


How Do Other Pedal Brands Deal With This?  Most of the other brands deal with this in one of three ways: 1.) only use battery power, 2.) use the wrong type of transistors which don't need a positive ground, or 3.) Tell people not to daisy chain their pedals (and have a good warranty, because people will forget!).


Carbon Zinc Batteries  Some people will only use these outdated batteries, often found at "dollar stores" or hardware stores. It is true that using these batteries make a difference, whether it's an improvement or not can be debated in forums.

NOTE: Always check a pedal's specifications before powering it.

Bias Voltage  The bias voltage sets the operating condition of the transistors. It's the "middle" voltage, the spot where a waveform is centered on. It's useful to adjust with germanium transistors because the bias can change with temperature. The best way to set it is by ear. There's no "stock" setting because vintage Tone Benders didn't have a bias control and would end up being a big range of bias voltages. Set it to be loud and smooth or a splatty gated mess.

The Great Buffer Dilemma

NOTE:  What is described below is not much of a problem for the current version Twin Bender, but is for previous versions along with almost every other fuzz pedal. The current version of Twin Bender can overcome most of the problems with buffers and wahs by adjusting the 'IMPEDE' mini-knob.

 

Buffers are phenomenal devices that restore the sparkle of your guitar tone lost from long cables and other circuits dragging it down. They can be found in non-true bypass pedals, wireless systems, or as stand alone pedals.



BUT...



Buffers are not typically friends of fuzz pedals. At least not in front of them. Fuzz pedals have a notoriously low input impedance which loads the guitar signal. They rely on that interaction between the fuzz circuit and the guitar to sound right. If you put a buffer between them, that impedance relationship is broken and your beloved fuzz will not sound the same. (Fun fact: the loading of the guitar signal is why fuzz pedals were among the first effects to feature true bypass switching)



How To Deal With This?  Make your fuzz pedal the first in your chain. You can put true bypass pedals in front of it, but pedals like Tube Screamers and Boss pedals are buffered bypass and should go after your fuzz. Wireless devices without an impedance adjustment are also buffered and need to be avoided. With the current version Twin Bender, simply turn the 'IMPEDE' mini-knob to restore good tone.

The Great Wah Dilemma

NOTE: What is described below is not much of a problem for the current version Twin Bender, but is for previous versions along with almost every other fuzz pedal. The current version of Twin Bender can overcome most of the problems with buffers and wahs by adjusting the 'IMPEDE' mini-knob.

Many people believe that a wah pedal in front of a fuzz sounds amazing, and cite Hendrix and others as proof. The problem is that it just doesn't work with many setups. The wah effect is greatly reduced and the fuzz doesn't sound the same. The reason is that the wah circuit has a relatively high output impedance and the fuzz has a relatively low input impedance- a bad combo that loads the wah and doesn't let it do its job.

How To Deal With This?  In this situation, you want something to isolate the wah from the fuzz - a buffer! This is opposite of what was stated above, but this is a unique situation, where a buffer is actually helpful in front of a fuzz. However, you only want the buffer on when the wah is on. One solution is a buffer built into the output of a wah, with the wah wired true-bypass. That way the buffer is only on when the wah is on.



There are other solutions as well. Some people use an external buffer with a bypass loop pedal to handle the switching. Some use a circuit called a pickup simulator. Sometimes it just takes some resistance between the pedals to restore the wah. With the current version Twin Bender, simply turn the 'IMPEDE' mini-knob to restore good tone.