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.
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.