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If you are a regular reader of our news page you will have probably noticed we are quite big fans of vintage and cool boutique pedals. Not just tools for tripping up guitarists, we just love the immediacy and character that pedals provide. Out of this love we have built three new pedalboards that feature at our Livingston Studio 1. Each board has its own specific purpose (with some unusual twists), Board 1 being our gain/overdrive/fuzz board, Board 2 being modulation effects and the final board concentrating on delays/reverbs.
Today we are going to look at our gain/overdrive/fuzz board and give you some details on the pedals and why we chose them.
First in line we have a pair of wah pedals, a vintage classic for that wonderfully vowelly veering into phase type of wah, the other a much more modern take with a wider searing tone.
First up is a wah from the legendary Japanese brand Shin-ei. Shin-ei came into existence after the demise of Honey and took over the floundering company’s operations. It created a wide variety of now incredibly sought after effects that were sold under many different brand names. Production stopped sometime in the 1970s. What became of the company is something of a mystery. This wah is under their Kimbara name. Combine this with the Companion fuzz also featured on this board and you are into instant The Jesus And Mary Chain territory.
Our other wah is the Dunlop Slash Signature, a very different and modern take on the classic wah. Featuring a Fasel inductor to provide those classic Vox Clyde McCoy type of tones, it also includes a high gain distortion circuit for those modern searing lead tones.
This is then followed by a Klon KTR. If any pedal was the impetus behind the ‘transparent overdrive’ craze it would be the Klon. The Klon was one of the first ‘boutique’ overdrive pedals. Introduced in 1994, it was designed and handbuilt by Bill Finnegan. Originally priced at $225 (which 20 years later still seems pretty high for an OD pedal) and discontinued in 2009, the Klon Centaur now sells for $1,500 and up on the used market.
In 1994, a $225 overdrive pedal was a pretty bold idea. Many guitarists were either happily using digital rack units or just starting to realise that maybe those old ‘stomp boxes’ that we replaced in favour of our rack units were actually pretty awesome. In any case, the Klon Centaur slowly built a following and landed on many a pro board over the years. According to the Klon website, 5,400 Klon Centaurs were built between 1994 and 2009. The final selling price before the Centaur was discontinued was $329. When Bill Finnegan discontinued the Klon Centaur in 2009, it opened the door for original units to skyrocket in value and for other builders to create clones or ‘Klones’ of the Centaur. However, since the original Klon Centaur had a ‘gooped’ circuit board, meaning it was coated in epoxy to keep others from reverse-engineering it, it took a while for the circuit to be analysed. Eventually, numerous builders offered their own versions of the Centaur – some apparently more accurate than others.
Finnegan then came back with the Klon KTR, which he himself says took a long, long time to finish. Though Finnegan says it was much more difficult than he expected, he feels it has achieved all of his design objectives. “It sounds the same as the Centaur, takes up considerably less space on a pedalboard, is less expensive and it’s distinctive aesthetically — it’s got the Klon thing going on.” He laughs, “Whatever the Klon thing is.”
Next up are two pedals by one of my favourite (if rather short-lived) brands Lovetone. Only in business for just over five years, Lovetone created some of the most original and coolest pedals on the planet. We have chosen both The Big Cheese and The Brown Source for our board. The Big Cheese has graced just about every major player’s pedal board, from The Edge to J Mascis to Johnny Marr to many many more, one of the greatest fuzz pedals ever made and super versatile. The Brown Source just loves to work in conjunction with a great amp, giving you that classic late 60s/70s grunt without any of the nasty fizz normally associated.
Next up is the daddy of the huge sustain fuzz, the EH Big Muff Pi. The NYC original, Hendrix and Santana were among the first to get a piece of the Pi, and for over 40 years the Big Muff Pi has been defining the sound of rock guitar. Revered by contemporary guitarists and rock legends for its rich, creamy, violin-like sustain, from Pink Floyd to The White Stripes, everyone still wants a piece of the Pi. This boards unit is a 1990 ‘Russian model giving instant Smashing Pumpkins to Black Keys fun’.
Following the Pi is another stone-cold classic, the RAT. The Pro Co RAT pedal first burst on to the guitar scene in the mid 80s, and swept through the guitar playing world like no other dirt pedal has. There was a good reason for this. It was really good. At lower settings it behaves like a cool overdrive that kicks a good amp into some really musical high gain fun. At mid-way settings a filthy animal that turns the cleanest Fender amp into a metal monster. And at its highest setting the best retro fuzzy pedal, so good that Hendrix would probably be using, if he was still with us. Users as diverse as Sunn O))) to Matt Bellamy to Kevin Shields to Jeff Beck make the RAT a truly versatile dirt box. The model on this board is the Big Box ‘Woodcutter’ from 1990.
Last on our board is an absolutely mint condition late 60s Shin-ei/Kimbara Companion fuzz, like the MXR Blue Box it’s a one-trick pony but what a trick it is. Think Jack White’s killer chainsaw fuzz intro on the ‘Another Way to Die’ soundtrack. Other big fans of the Companion fuzz are The Jesus And Mary Chain, Radiohead, Graham Coxon and Dan Auerbach.
Sales Manager – Miloco Gear