Are These the 10 Rarest Effects Pedals Ever Made?

Photographer Eilon Paz's music career didn't last for long—just four months of playing the recorder as a child. But while growing up, he was always surrounded by music, musicians, and record-buying friends. Once he started taking photographs, which would become his life's work, he often shot bands and concerts, along with whatever other subjects piqued his interest.

Later on, he began documenting record collectors, first as a photo project, then a website, and then the popular book Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting. Vinyl enthusiasts proved to be enthralling subjects, with their obsessive hunts and their desire to uncover rare gems.

In two new books, he fixes his lens to an analogous realm: the wide world of effects pedals.

Stompbox
Stompbox
Vintage & Rarities

Stompbox: 100 Pedals of the World's Greatest Guitarists is the first. It offers snapshots into artists' creativity by way of one particular pedal: like Tom Morello's Digitech WH-1 Whammy, John Frusciante's Ibanez WH10 Wah, or other premier pieces of pro guitarists' rigs.

The photography shows off the artist's pedals in all of their ragged glory, scarred by countless tours. When looking at, say, Lee Ranaldo's AD-80 Analog Delay, you see all the marks and warts—the chipped chassis and the gaffer tape with scrawled settings.

"I approached this project as a visual artist, and less so from the editorial content—so it was obvious to me and super important to bring in experts who know about the subject matter," Paz says. "I didn't start the project until I had a strong backbone of experts and writers."

Stombox includes contributions from some of the best gear writers today—like Dave Hunter, Barry Cleveland, Richard Bienstock, and James Rotondi (who was the book's early editor too). Thanks to their work, we get short, intimate interviews with the artists themselves, who tell why the exact pedals in question are so important to them.


Tom Morello's Digitech WH-1 Whammy Robbie Krieger's Gibson Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone Juan Alderete's EHX Big Muff Pi John Frusciante's Ibanez WH10 Wah Steve Vai's MXR M104 Distortion+

The book's second and final editor, Dan Epstein—a prolific writer and guitarist who has written about music gear for more than 20 years at places like Guitar Player, as well as books on everything from Buck Owens to baseball—spent a lot of time securing these interviews.

"In many cases, the guitarists we wanted to talk to had a particularly iconic sound, based on a certain pedal that they've used. And as you know, pedals don't stick around the way guitars or amps stick around," Epstein says. "So a lot of times we'd approach some guitarists, and they'd be like, 'Yeah, I'm into it. How about we talk about this new pedal I just bought last week that I love?' And I was like, 'No, no, we want to talk about this one you used 20, 40 years ago.'"

That mission, ultimately, was successful. So, Stompbox presents Steve Albini on his Interfax Harmonic Percolator HP-1, Thurston Moore on his Ludwig Phase II Synthesizer, Sarah Lipstate on her Boomerang III Phrase Sampler, Jack White on his Third Man Bumble Buzz, and more.

In compiling Stompbox, Paz and Epstein stumbled upon a kind of side quest. When asking artists to show off their single most-important pedal, they started to hear stories of truly rare effects and wild collections.

Thus, Vintage and Rarities: 333 Cool, Crazy and Hard to Find Guitar Pedals was launched. In this second book, players and collectors eagerly talk about the absolute strangest, oldest, and rarest effects in their collections—and thanks to Paz's photographs, they're presented in all of their stunning visual glory.

Paz and Epstein have allowed us to highlight 10 of the rarest pedals they've uncovered in Vintage & Rarities—though there are, in all honesty, far too many delightful oddities for us to list here.

Take a look below, then head to The Stompbox Book Official Reverb Shop to order one or both books.

Sola Sound Tone Bender Prototype
Sola Sound Tone Bender Prototype

This rarity belongs to Vince Pupillo Sr., the associate director of the Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project (EMEAPP), a private musical instrument museum in Philadelphia. This wooden Sola Sound Tone Bender is not only the rarest in his collection, it's one of the rarest in any—one whose mere existence is almost beyond belief.

According to Vintage & Rarities, it is one of maybe 10 wooden wedges made by Gary Hurst for Sola Sound in 1965, before metal enclosures became the norm. (And at least a few of the other wooden ones were broken by a heavy-footed Jeff Beck.) This particular one contains the original MK1 circuit, with the internal components "merely linked together, without being mounted on a circuit board."

Rangemaster Fuzzbug
Rangemaster Fuzzbug

Back in the '60s, Sola Sound was the sister company to Macari's music store. Ant Macari is the son (and nephew) of the co-founders, and he still runs the store today with his cousin Steve. In the store's basement lies untold treasures of pedals' past—a collection of gear history and family history that Macari is always trying to add to.

Of the many rarities in his collection, the Rangemaster Fuzzbug may be one of the most historic—not necessarily because of what it is, but what it inspired. "It's a gorgeous little thing. I love it," Macari says. Arbiter, apparently, loved it too, as that company took the Fuzzbug's modified Tone Bender MK1.5 circuit and turned it into their very first Fuzz Face.

EHX Hotfoot Universal Pedal
EHX Hotfoot Universal Pedal

Professional guitarist Jerry McPherson has amassed quite a collection. He has a particular fondness toward early, strange pedals from Electro-Harmonix, and the pedal featured here is a strange one indeed.

Like a one-off version of Neil Young's amp-top Whizzer, the Hotfoot Universal Pedal is a mechanical device that doesn't make any sound of its own. Instead you can clamp the arm onto any potentiometer of another pedal. “It’s a great companion to any pedal where you want to control a knob with your foot,” says Jerry McPherson. “I remember early Electro-Harmonix ads would show it hooked to a Deluxe Memory Man."

Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro
Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro

You might be thinking, How is a Tube Screamer rare? But this is not just any Tube Screamer—it's a version so hard to find that Ibanez had to borrow it from its current owner to make a recent 35th anniversary reissue.

Wolf Merkel, the man behind one of the internet's best vintage pedal resources, Tonehome, says, “I have probably the most comprehensive collection of Ibanez pedals of the early years, 1974 to 1984. … and some are so rare that not even Ibanez headquarters has them in their vault."

Such is the case with this "narrow box" TS-808, with the "flying fingers" decal on its side. "These pilot run pedals were only displayed at trade shows and handed out to mega-dealers and some gear-testing journalists," says Merkel. "I know of only three existing samples."

Elka Dizzy Master
Elka Dizzy Master

Yoshi Murata manages Hoochie's Guitar Shop in Tokyo's Shibuya-Ka business district. As you can imagine, that gives him quite a position to scout out the best the effects world has to offer, particularly Japanese vintage specimens.

The Elka Dizzy Master, however, is actually an Italian multi-effects unit. The pedal's wah, tremolo, and fuzz all have their own footswitches, though they are not necessarily intuitively set: "The fuzz switch is located at the bottom of the pedal, while the wah switch is under the heel of the treadle, and the tremolo switch is under the toe," Vintage & Rarities writes. "There is a rate knob for the tremolo at the top of the pedal, while the intensity of the fuzz and the sweep of the wah are controlled with the treadle."

Epiphone Rocco Tonexpressor
Epiphone Rocco Tonexpressor

Mike "Analog Mike" Piera is a foundational figure in today's boutique pedal industry, so it's fitting that he has such a foundational pedal in his collection. Vintage & Rarities calls it "the granddaddy of every pedal in this book."

Originally built in 1937, Epiphone's Rocco Tonexpressor is a combo volume-tone pedal. When used for its original purpose, steel guitar, it gave players a way to change their volume or tone with their feet. By rocking the treadle back and forth, one could change the volume. By rocking it side to side, one could change the tone.

Bohm Electronic Trickverzerrer
Bohm Electronic Trickverzerrer

Bart Provoost runs the Effects Database, where he runs down info on rare effects and shares it for the world to see. It also offers a nice excuse to add to his personal collection, which numbers more than 1,000. "Because of Effects Database, I’ve always liked to buy as many rare and obscure pedals as I could," he says. "Most of them have been rather cheap, as well."

As the only distortion pedal built in East Germany, this effect was the only one of its kind, made in a country that no longer exists. The Trickverzerrer has a buzzsaw tone, which may attract contemporary players. Unfortunately, it uses 5-pin DIN connectors instead of a standard I/O jack.

Sound Projects Company Lectrolab Fuzz Buzz
Sound Projects Company Lectrolab Fuzz Buzz

The builder of Jerms pedals (and former guitarist in Built to Spill), Jim Roth has a highly tuned ear for rich fuzz tones, and his collection boasts a deep bench of American and British varieties.

This Lectrolab Fuzz Buzz was an early clone of Gibson’s Maestro FZ-1A, using three germanium transistors. "It’s hard to find a Fuzz Buzz these days," Vintage & Rarities writes, "in part because its bakelite housing didn’t hold up against the enthusiastic stomping of garage band guitarists as well as metal would have."

DOD Overdrive Preamp
DOD Overdrive Preamp

JHS' Josh Scott hardly needs an introduction, but to anyone who's missed the walls of pedals behind him on his YouTube videos, you should know: He's a completist as much as he's a builder. The current count is north of 2,300. "I'm a bit obsessed," he tells Vintage & Rarities.

This DOD Overdrive Preamp is one of the rarest of the bunch—just the 75th DOD ever built. "I tried for years to find one, and I only know of two on Earth, this one included. It’s by definition the rarest pedal in my collection, though it’s only on long-term loan from the owner, who agreed to let me care for it for the purposes of research and history," Scott says. It inspired the far more common Overdrive Preamp/250.

Sebatron DDF-100 Dual Dynamic Filter
Sebatron DDF-100 Dual Dynamic Filter

One of the most-distinctive looking pedals in the whole book, the Sebatron DDF-100 Dual Dynamic Filter falls more on the "rarities" end of the Vintage & Rarities spectrum.

Created in the '90s by the pro audio brand, this pedal is one of about 10 or 20 ever made, according to its owner, Taka Tozawa. The EQD artist relations specialist and guitarist says its the rarest pedal in his collection, though, if non-footswitch effects count, his Topaz Tremolo and Lift might take the cake.


Are you a pedal head yourself? Or just want to learn more about effects? Check out the brand-new trailer for Reverb's upcoming feature-length documentary, The Pedal Movie. Tracking the rise of the boutique pedal boom, The Pedal Movie tells the stories of the builders and artists that have made them such a dominant force in music-making. Find the trailer and sign up to receive updates on the movie's release here.

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