Review: Bluetone Rattlebox Fuzz

• Riff guitar parts (panned slightly left and right): Hamer USA Studio Custom
• Rhythm and lead guitars: Squier Bullet Stratocaster
• Guitar amp: Bluetone Shadows Jr
• Mic: Shure 545SD
• Mic preamp: Cranborne Audio Camden EC2
• The Squier Bronco Bass was recorded direct with the EC2

To many the Glam Rock genre was born with the release of T. Rex’ eponymous album in December 1970, as well as with the band’s two standalone singles ”Ride A White Swan” (10/1970) and ”Hot Love” (02/1971). The album ”Electric Warrior” (released in September ’71) – and especially its huge hit single ”Get It On (Bang A Gong)” – then shot the band into the stratosphere.

Marc Bolan’s idiosyncratic vocal delivery, charged with unveiled eroticism, was an important ingredient in the band’s success, but for many the real magic happened in the T. Rex guitar sound. Probably the most important ingredient in Bolan’s tone was a rather rare British fuzz box, called the John Hornby Skewes Shatterbox. Even though the Shatterbox was a two-in-one box that added a switchable treble booster to the fuzz, Marc Bolan tended to rely on the fuzz effect only, while using a Dallas Rangemaster for boosting purposes.

Fans of the T. Rex guitar sound were facing a dilemma; Rangemaster copies aren’t that hard to come by, but Shatterbox Fuzz copies are almost impossible to find. That is, until now…

The brand-new Bluetone Rattlebox Fuzz (220, – €) is a slightly modernised version of the original 1960s Shatterbox.

Bluetone’s Rattlebox contains a sensibly updated version of the Shatterbox’ original fuzz circuit. The Rattlebox is extremely easy to use, because it sports only two controls – Swell (the gain control) and Fuzz (the volume).

The Bluetone Rattlebox’ circuit is designed around three silicon transistors. The built-quality is top notch, without resorting to any point-to-point-voodoo. This effect runs on any Boss-type nine-volt power supply.


What does the Bluetone Rattlebox offer you that you cannot get from other fuzz pedal?

Compare to a silicon Fuzz Face, for example, the Rattlebox sounds much fatter, and its bite is situated in a slightly lower frequency range.

Speaking of which: Fuzz Faces – and similar designs – are usually used with the gain turned up full or almost full. Then you use you guitar’s volume control to find your personal sweet spot.

This ”pedal to the metal” approach doesn’t work that well, when applied to the Bluetone Rattlebox. There are two reasons for this:

For one, Bluetone’s new fuzz react very interactively to the pickup feeding the signal to the pedal, and, secondly, the ”wrong” choice of Swell setting will make the pedal gate rather easily, sometimes even sounding like a broken guitar cable.

The Rattlebox is best approached by carefully going over the settings across the whole range of the Swell control to find the best spots to achieve the desired sound with your guitar.

In this example I recorded a silicon Fuzz Face clone (first half) and the Bluetone Rattlebox (second half) with the controls turned full up on both pedals. With these settings the Rattlebox leaves clearly audible gating artefacts with the guitar’s (SG Junior copy) own volume turned down.


You can get beautiful and creamy rhythm sounds from the Bluetone Rattlebox, as the demo song proves. The lead guitar’s strong gating, on the other hand, is used here deliberately to accentuate each note’s start and finish.


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