I’ve been interested in Paul Trombetta’s pedals for a while now — though admittedly, the ones I first noticed were his high-gain distortion designs (Knife and Blotto — do a search for them on YouTube). But I am casually looking to see if there’s any fuzz pedal that can do the dynamic low-gain tones of my LovePedal Gold Dragon without its shortcomings, so when I stumbled upon a reasonably priced PTD Mini-Bone v2 (v1 apparently is a three-knobber), I jumped at the chance to try it out.
The word “versatile” really doesn’t do this pedal justice — it’s more like a pedal with 3-4 different faces. Let’s have a look at each of them.
Besides the gain and volume knob, there are knobs for mysteriously-named Bore and Mood. On the top are toggles for 3-way presence settings (normal/bright/dark) and Mood Range (high/low).
Of which, the presence switch is the easiest to explain. It is set at rather high frequency — I might call it the “sizzle” range. On some low gain settings with Bore and Mood set counter-clockwise, I hardly notice the effect of presence. For it to take a noticeable effect, one of the knobs — gain, Bore and Mood — ought to be above noon. The more knobs are turned clock-wise, the bigger the presence toggle’s impact.
The dented Bore and Mood knobs are quite unusual and they behave differently depending on the range switch. Bore is like a low-end control — counter-clockwise is tight, clockwise is fat. The Mood sets the voltage of the circuit — counter-clockwise is high-voltage, turn it clockwise and it goes lower. Knowing what the two do help you understand how they interact.
The Range switch is supposed to affect the Mood knob — set to the left, the Mood knob operates in the higher-voltage realm, the right, the lower voltages. In reality it comes across like a range choice for the amount of dirt — the left position is less gain and right position is higher gain/fuzzier.
In the low-gain/high-voltage mode, they more or less behave as expected above. With the Mood set counter-clockwise, turning up the Bore make the thing fatter with low-end girth. The low-gain mode is actually the Mood knob dealing with higher spectrum of voltages, so turning the Mood knob clockwise has sort of an expected result for such an adjustment in a fuzz pedal — the tone gets more compressed and buzzier. Turn up the Bore knob, with Mood also set clockwise, and it starts to sound like a fuzz pedal instead of an overdrive.
Now flip the Range to high-gain/low-voltage range and the above two knobs start doing something different. I’m guessing that when the Mood knob is set counter-clockwise, it sort of picks up where the voltage was left at the low end of high-voltage range. With the Mood and Bore set counter-clockwise, it sounds like a regular fuzz. Articulate, woolly, still fairly compressed and hairy. Turn the Mood knob clockwise, with the Bore set counter-clockwise, you get into the signature “trombone” range. It develops this tight yet round attack and reedy tone. Mood knob counter-clockwise and Bore clockwise, and the low-end gets farty and spitty — very buzzy sound. Finally, the Mood and Bore counter-clockwise and you can produce some wild sounds — ring-mod, octave, bit-crusher — the sound of a fuzz with low voltage and huge low-end boost. Forget about playing chords — whatever the lowest note you play will cover up all other notes.
But, the whole pedal is very sensitive to the input volume. Not as much picking dynamics (at least not like Fuzz Face style ultra-touch sensitivity) but with a twist of the volume knob you can still clean up the dirt or chaos, and get smoother tones. If you turn up the gain high, you’ll have to reduce the volume a lot to get the tone approach cleanness, but even at highest gain there is no weird artifacts.
So therein lies the multiple faces of this pedal. With the range set to low gain, gain low and Mood and Bore also set counter-clockwise, this thing is like a dynamic overdrive pedal. Sort of reminds me of my limited experience with Hiwatt-type sound. Very articulate, in-your-face, with brunt attacks. But turn up any of the gain, Mood and Bore knobs and it quickly goes into distortion range. Pretty raspy and hairy, though still dynamic. With the range set on low-gain, there’s not a ton of sustain/compression here, so it’s probably best suited for rhythm playing. The transparency is still there as well — I can hear difference of pickup selection clearly. The Bore knob acts like a bass boost in this realm, and it can make a big difference — but the presence knob doesn’t do much on the other hand, so you sort of miss a traditional tone control when using as an overdrive.
Flip the range to high gain/low voltage and you are in the fuzz land. It won’t do a dark, Muff-type sustaining tone — there really isn’t anything smooth in this pedal. But depending on where the gain, Mood and Bore are set, it can do a rather interesting lead sound — with just enough articulation, attack and sustain. When Mood and Bore are turned up you can experiment with the chaos it creates — it’s the type of thing where it reacts differently to different pickups and different guitars. Experiment with volume knob on your guitar, too. Depending on where your guitar’s volume is set, you can get a sound that’s really unobtainable just by fiddling the settings on the pedal itself. The pedal does yield a bit smoother sound when the guitar volume is lower, though I still wouldn’t describe it as a smooth tone. It just reduces some of the hair.
A great demo of the OD side. But in person nothing ever sounded quite as smooth as it does in this video — even in low-gain and presence set to dark. And I can pick fairly lightly….
This demo sounds more like what I heard.
And here’s a nice demo of extreme sounds.
This is one deep pedal, it strikes a great balance of having not too many controls yet offering many sounds. It’s such a stark contrast from most pedals that are one-trick ponies. Add to the mix your guitar’s volume knob and you can spend hours exploring the range of sounds it can produce. If you strike upon a cool tone, though, be sure to write down that setting! With the knobs being so interactive you have to set everything precisely if you want to reproduce a certain sound you heard at one point.
As for real-world application, I’d say do look for this pedal if you’re into various experimental textures that can be produced by a fuzz pedal. This may seem obvious, but if your primary need is a smooth overdrive tone, look elsewhere. It can do a great low-gain overdrive, but its lack of tone/treble control means you can’t dial it as well to fit whatever context you’re in. (You can play with your guitar’s tone control, but still it’s not the same thing as a decent tone knob on a pedal) It can be set to be fairly articulate but clarity is not its forte either, so don’t plan on having low, dense chords come through cleanly.
Where it really excels is in single-note leads where you want a unique tone (the trombone-range is excellent for this) and of course, coming up with some experimental, out-there sounds. If you’re the type of guitar player who gets inspired by a new sound — like the Edge or Tom Morello — this pedal offers a world of possibilities. You can get it to sound somewhat traditional but it really doesn’t sound like any vintage fuzz and you’re really missing the point. As big of a range as this pedal has, all sounds it produces have musical applications — it’s up to you to make music that is inspired by the sound this pedal makes.
I’ll be really curious about checking out its big brother, Bone Machine with silicon/germanium switch — as I’ve read that the germanium side is mellower and can get more traditional/vintage sounding. That’ll expand the already broad range even more. Definitely a fun pedal to have around, and if you end up writing music based on the sounds it produces, you’ll not be able to function without it.