What is it?
Tone Freak Effects Abunai. Made in USA,2008.
More like a boutique brand, the Tone Freak Effects apparently gained some recognition in the latter half of the 00’s. However, the little respect from the diy community turned into a frown pretty quickly. For those who do not see it, i can point out already – it is obvious why. For this particular unit, i got it in a trade as a defunct pedal. The interest for the brand and designs marketed on it did not exactly warrant the purchase of a new unit which is considered higher shelf boutique thing and is priced accordingly.
As always with broken pedals i get, the first thing was to debug the issue and find a cure for it. Opening this one up revealed somewhat ugly PCB design and all handcrafted board. Board design does not look very appealing and the plastic plate, in credit card thickness, says it all. Abunai 808.
Found the issue pretty quickly. A burned out polarity protection diode. Swapped that and the pedal was rocking again. You got your socketed opamp and switchable clipping configurations. Otherwise, the topology is pretty much a Tubescreamer. Now, those who didn’t understand why the brand’s profile isn’t as high as it could be. This is the reason.
Do we really need a new, slightly modified Tubescreamer derivative every month? Do these really sell well enough to warrant their existence? No matter what way you look at it, it is still nothing more but a slightly modified Tubescreamer. These modifications may, and usually will, make the unit sound better than the TS9 reissue you can buy from just about anywhere. This unit incorporates the modifications that are quite usual, clipping options, more bass and more gain. Main reason that makes this dull is that you can go out and get yourself a TS7 for less than 1/4 price and get the same “TS on steroids” sound. It wasn’t just this model on the Tone Freak Effects catalog that made the brand look far from great. It seems that most of the brand’s designs are slightly modified versions of known designs. If the board design looked even a bit more interesting, the hand made part would appeal a lot more to me.
How does it sound?
Like all the other “TS on steroids” boxes out there. Definite TS sound, including tamed mid honk, but with clipping options on a switch, added bass and gain content. Boxes with same tonal results are out there in numbers, so what makes the Abunai stand out? Nothing. Soundwise, this is just another souped up Tubescreamer. In fact i find the TS7’s Hot mode to sound pretty close, if not better.