Price paid: € 219
Purchased from: Keymusic
Sound — 8
Right now I run this pedal with either a Fender American Standard (2010) Strat or an American Special Tele through a slightly evil VoxAC15 and I must say the sound is quite amazing. Plugged it in with everything at noon and it effortlessly did the Spirit in the sky - Norman Greenbaum fuzz. Playing around with the tone knob soon led me into the realm of queens of the stone age where the slightest hint of a muffled upper octave can be heard with the pedal tone knob pointed loosely at the treble side. Switching it to the middle you'll get a nice mid fuzzy crunch that will cut through any mix and make proud. With the tone knob on the bassy side and with quite a bit of power-tube gain it will do stoner rock quite well (to my surprise with this being a 'vintage' style fuzz). But then again mostly any fuzz combined with enough raw tube volume will get you there. Overall this pedal sounds like a Vintage fuzz should. It's not a big muff and no fuzz factory. It's much more delicate than that. Lead tones can be very aggressive given that you have enough gain with your starting sound to accompany the fuzz to the land of loudness and noise but they can also be pleasantly buttery in a 'lying-on-the-sofa-and-playing-guitar' sort of way with a clean sound to start from. You could play anything on this. It can be boomy and bassy, mid crunchingly delicious (think QOTSA) or even electric moon trebly (though not a velcro fuzz). It's great for rhythm as well though it requires a bit of playing with to make it not too muddy or sloppy sounding which is possible too. I do have a complaint with this pedal though. It does not play nice with other pedals that are not true bypass like the soul bender. You could technically put it in between all your others pedals on your board but the fuzz wouldn't be quite as refined as having it on solo. I tried pairing this up with a Dunlop Original Cry Baby Wah and the fuzz sounded a lot more shrill and undefined. (The butter was gone). Other than that, the pedal is real treat, it's also very quiet. I have no issues with hum or any unwanted noise (bearing in mind I play with single coils).
Overall Impression — 8
This pedal is great for any genre (leaving high gain metal and anything ending in -core out of the equation). If you like The Black Keys, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Cream, QOTSA, red fang or any good 'old' record with a fuzz on it than this will be fantastic. It is a really good 'vintage' sounding pedal. (for lack of a better word since this pedal is so versatile) It does Hendrix pretty well too and sounds very warm and fat. There's a lot of soul (hence the name) in this pedal. The reverse polarity power input does seem like it would be annoying when I ever run out of batteries (but a polarity switch cable easily solves that problem). I also wish this pedal came with one of said polarity switch cables. I understand this protects the three germanium transistors inside and it says to look out for it above the input jack BUT that could've easily been included in the price. I've played anything from blues and rockabilly to stoner and doom in my humble 12 years of playing and this pedal has done everything I asked for. It's a great workhorse, like a 'vintage' (ugh) swiss army knife of fuzz. Don't mistake this for another fuzz rip off though (except the sola sound tone bender of course which, to be honest, doesn't really quite sound like this). It's not a muff, not fuzz face or a fuzz factory. It's a refined fuzz that oozes Vintage class and warmth and should be considered by every serious player. Video from YouTube:
Reliability & Durability — 8
Built quality is superb: Sturdy, heavy, smooth and sturdy knobs. As you'd expect from a hand built pedal that costs about 4 times as much as a big muff. I wouldn't gig with it without a backup though. I never do but that has nothing to do with build quality or reliability. As for reliability, I have not had any problems thus far. I was afraid it might be like an alfa romeo that would just stop working on the inside after any given time as these pedals are based on a Vintage tone bender. No horror stories yet though. (The thumb screws seem to be staying in place nicely too... for now).
Ease of Use — 8
Alright, the Fulltone SoulBender. First, the obvious: very simple pedal though slightly different: "Volume", "dirt" and "tone". The Tone knob works the other way around (treble left, bass right like the sola sound tone benders of yesteryear on which it's based) the 9v power should also come from a reverse polarity adapter (positive center) so be careful. It's also painted white with blue lettering. The manual is not really a manual so much as a praise to themselves for building, quite frankly, a fantastic pedal. As far as getting a sound out of it, as long as you have it turned on with a guitar going in and out to an amplifier and have the volume NOT set on zero you'll smoke all day long. No matter how you tweak the knobs or your amp this pedal will sing in apocalyptic, juicy Harmony all day long.