The earliest known reference to the Fuzz Face is from a report that the pedal was being demonstrated at the British Musical Instrument Industries Trade Fair in August of 1966. Date codes on the potentiometers of surviving examples suggest that production was only properly ramped up by September of that year (units with pot codes earlier than September are particularly uncommon).
Arbiter apparently bought a large supply of potentiometers in late-1966, and seem only to have finally restocked in early-1968, which makes it impossible to accurately date an early Fuzz Face.
The Fuzz Face is almost part-for-part a copy of an early version of the two-transistor Tone Bender ‘MK1.5’, from early-1966, but was built with two NKT275 germanium transistors. A common assumption has been that Arbiter modified the Tone Bender circuit to allow for a better bass response, by increasing the value of the volume pot, but more recently it has been discovered that some of the earliest Tone Bender ‘MK1.5’s’ were built with the same 500k Ω pot, and that this is most likely what the designer of the Fuzz Face used as a reference.
By early-1968, Arbiter had formally merged with Dallas.1 It was in this year that the Fuzz Face’s circuit was also updated, featuring two NPN silicon transistors.
Jimi Hendrix was photographed using an Arbiter Fuzz Face as early as in November of 19662 and the Fuzz Face (in various different colours) would be one of the models that he would continue to be photographed using throughout his career.
- Melody Maker, 20th April 1968, p. 4
- Ulrich Handl, 8th November 1966, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Big Apple, Munich, [https://ulrichhandl.com/produkt/jimi-hendrix/]