Vox Tone Bender MKIII

When it was introduced in 1968, the Tone Bender MKIII was the latest incarnation of the series of Tone Benders that Sola Sound had been supplying to Vox (among other brands) since 1966. By the time that Sola Sound were producing the MKIII, their fuzz boxes were no longer being built into cast aluminium enclosures, and instead, the MKIII appeared in a pressed steel casing, with a far livelier and attractive set of silk-screened graphics.

The Vox Tone Bender MKIII featured a three-transistor fuzz circuit that was based on the earlier Baldwin-Burns Buzzaround, but offered users a tone control in place of the ‘balance’ control on the Burns model. The result was a pedal that sounded much tamer and was more user-friendly than the often chaotic-sounding Buzzaround.

Sola Sound would continue to supply Vox with the Tone Bender MKIII until well into the mid-1970s, with the fuzz circuit undergoing various further changes over the years. Pedals that are formally labelled ‘Vox Tone Bender MKIII’ could have any one of at least three entirely different fuzz circuits inside, and the only way to recognise the specific type of MKIII is by inspecting a pedal’s cosmetic features, or its electronics inside.

Three Vox Tone Bender MKIII pedals
Some of the earliest Vox Tone Bender MKIII fuzz boxes were built on stripboard with a silicon transistor circuit, and featured only two control knobs. These Tone Benders, ‘with treble ‘n’ bass boost’, were in production by August of 1968, when a Tone Bender MKIII with only two controls was demonstrated at the British Musical Instrument Industries trade fair at the Russell Hotel in London.1 (Photo credit: Ronin7st)
1969 Park Fuzz Sound

During the late-1960s, Sola Sound produced the same Tone Bender MKIII that they were predominantly supplying to Vox, for other companies such as Rotosound and Park too. The MKIII was also briefly sold under Sola Sound’s own brand name.

By 1970, Sola Sound had begun producing the Tone Bender MKIV under their own, as well as under other companies’ names. The MKIV was being manufactured and sold alongside the Vox Tone Bender MKIII, and featured identical electronics.

Rotosound Fuzz Box MKIII
A Rotosound-branded Tone Bender MKIII, built by Sola Sound in the late-1960s. (Photo credit: D. Main)
Vox Tone Bender MKIII, cast-enclosure Hastings version
For a short period in the early-1970s, the Vox Tone Bender MKIII was built into a cast aluminium version of the same ‘MKIII’ enclosure, with stickers noting ‘Vox Sound Limited’s’ address in Hastings, Sussex. For more information about Vox Sound Ltd, please see this excellent web page. (Photo credit: eBay.com)
  1. Beat Instrumental, October 1968, p. 25

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