PAUL TROMBETTA DESIGN
By Michael Ross
In the summer of 2011 I reviewed Paul Trombetta’s Tornita pedal for Premier Guitar. Trombetta built the fuzz to specs requested by sonic explorer David Torn. Based on Trombetta’s discontinued Donita pedal, it is a high gain, fuzz/distortion that can produce self-oscillating feedback.
I discovered Torn also used the Trombetta Mini-Bone fuzz. A quick check of the Paul Trombetta Design site revealed the Mini-Bone was another interesting unit. After sending the Tornita on to Torn at Trombetta’s request, I decided that I needed to have both. A chat with the pedal-meister led to the construction of my very own Feederbone: a Tornita and a Mini-Bone combined into one pedal.
BACK TO BASICS
If you visit the Trombetta gallery page, you will see pedals offered with fancy paint jobs, as well as carvings, ranging from elegant to wacky, etched into the metal. My Feederbone sports a distinctly DIY look; with its unpainted metal casing, minimal carving, and hand labeled knobs it vividly represents its function as an electronic sound generator.
DOWN TO THE BONE
The right side of this dual pedal is dedicated to the Mini Bone: essentially silicon fuzz, with some twists. The three white knobs that control it are labeled V for volume, G for gain, M for Mood, and B for Bore. Volume and Gain are self-explanatory. Mood works on the bias, while Bore is said to affect the “fatness of the whole circuit” The mini-toggle to the left of volume is a three way presence switch called Top: up is normal, middle is bright, and down is dark. The mini-toggle to the left of the Mood knob is the Mood Range switch, with Hi (up) creating a tighter sound and Lo (down) loosening matters up. The footswitch below the Bone section turns the whole pedal on and off, while the one on the far left toggles between the Bone and the “Tornita” sections.
FACING THE FUZZ
In a number of ways, the Bone section of the Feeder Bone recalls a Fuzz Face. With Mood full up, and its switch set on Hi, this side of the pedal offered rich distorted tones ranging from smooth overdrive to rich fuzz, depending on the amount of gain. Regardless of gain settings, rolling back the volume of the guitar cleaned up the sound nicely, offering a wide range of grit, and terrific attack dynamics throughout the guitar knob’s taper. At these settings the Bore knob subtly affects the low end, seeming to enhance it when turned counter-clockwise. This control became more interactive as I turned the Mood knob down and/or flicked its switch to Lo. This is where I found the trombone honk that gives the effect its name, as well as a plethora of cool spitting and splatting, amp-dying and bit reduction sounds. Even at the most extreme settings, I only needed to back the guitar volume down a tad to be back in normal dynamic overdrive land.
The Tornita side of the Feederbone began life as the Feederfudge, a sort of poor man’s Tornita. Like the Feederfudge, its black knobs control the Volume, Feedback, and Bias. A two-way mini-toggle controls the Feedback Phase, and the momentary footswitch between the effect/bypass and Feederfudge/Mini-Bone switches, engages the feedback effect.
The fuzz sound on this side is completely different from the Bone tone. With no gain control, it came on as a full bore, Big Muff style fuzz, provided I had the Bias full up. In this setting it provided the kind of at fat, singing sustain you get from the Electro-Harmonix pedal, but more articulate and quieter. Turning the Bias control down a little softened the fuzz—great for Frippertronics, while at around noon it started adding funky aritifacts for Black Keys-type grunge. Any lower and it got into cool bit reduction territory. The Feedback knob did nothing unless I engaged the feedback switch. Then it tuned the pitch of the feedback. Changing the Bias retuned the feedback as well. I could also tune the feedback using my guitar’s pickup selector switch, volume and tone knobs. The Feedback Phase switch emphasized the upper harmonics in the up position and the lower harmonics in the down position.
While I am quite sure that someone will learn to play the feedback notes in a virtuoso fashion, I found that playing around with the feedback sounds was great for random noise effects, and for recording various sounds and creating clips in Ableton Live that I could then easily repeat to create compositions. Like the one I did with the Tornita for the Premier Guitar review.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE
The Feederbone is on the small side for a double pedal, making even more amazing the huge amount of discreet tones available from these two versions of the venerable fuzz effect. Though both sides can sound good in a clean amp, I found, as with most fuzz pedals, running it through a slightly gritty one, or a mild overdrive pedal fattened the sound enormously. Having used it for gigs and recording for a while now, I discovered I would prefer the feedback switch to be latching instead of momentary (the Tornita offers both options). If I can ever bear to let it out of my hands for a week or so I will send it back to Paul and have him make the change. If fuzz features in your music, this might just be the one pedal you need.
I sent the pedal back to Trombetta to have the momentary switch changed to the latching variety. Paul offered to add a germanium switch to the front that selects silicon or germanium circuits on the Mini-Bone side. This added a whole new range of tighter, more focused, almost overdrive tones in the germanium setting, making the pedal even more versatile.
Price: $400 ($420 with germanium switch)