Get Zappa's EQ Circuit with the Son of Kong!

March 3, 2014

Anything related to Frank Zappa is bound to capture attention, so it’s no surprise that the Son of Kong pedal ($495 street) has created a stir among tone hounds. Fundamentally a parametric EQ and powerful clean booster, the SoK can be deployed after (or ahead of) a chain of pedals to perform tone shaping and level functions. The unit can also generate distortion via the EQ, and it’s well equipped for radical forms of clipping that most fuzz and distortion boxes lack the EQ range to deliver.

Designed and built by FZ’s tech, Arthur “Midget” Sloatman, who installed the same EQ circuit in all of Zappa’s guitars from 1979 on, the SoK also features an XLR direct out (which uses a high-grade Lundahl transformer) for direct feed (with or without EQ) to a mic pre, recording or FOH console, or other balanced input. There are also ¼" normal and Thru outs, which can be used to toggle between two amplifiers—one dry, and the other with optional EQ and boost. The unit is powered by an internal 9-volt battery or with an external supply of up to 40 volts for maximum clean headroom.

The control panel may look a little daunting with its five knobs, three mini toggles, and dual footswitches, but in reality it’s pretty easy to get around on once you understand what everything does. There are two gain circuits, and with V1 selected (indicated by an LED) and the upper toggle in the “DI” setting, the SoK is in low-gain mode, which is optimized for using the XLR out or driving pedals—with the ability of adding up to 6db of boost when the V1 knob is all the way up. With the EQ knobs pointed at noon, the response is essentially flat, and the pedal is in primed for subtle boosting and clarifying of guitar tones, which it does extremely well. You can really hear the difference when toggling the Bypass footswitch between straight and effected settings.

The EQ is always active in “DI” mode, with the “G” knob controlling gain boost or cut, and the “F” knob adjusting frequency. Here, the mini toggle with Bass and Treble settings sets the range of the “F” knob to adjust frequencies from 180Hz to 5kHz, or 35Hz to 1kHz. The “Q” knob controls bandwidth: Turned all the way to the right, the EQ affects 1/10th of an octave, the middle setting one octave, and turned all the way to the left, it affects two octaves. This control lets you nail down exactly what you want from an EQ—everything from narrow, wah-like timbres to big shifts in frequency response, as might be needed to radically increase bottom end, suck the mids into oblivion, or create teeth rattling highs—perhaps all three at once. You can also get 15dB of gain boost by setting the upper switch to the +20 position, a setting that could be useful when the SoK is at the end of a chain of pedals and you need a hot signal to hit your amplifier’s front end. (Note that the DI out is not active whenever the +20 boost is engaged.)

When you use the right-hand footswitch to select V2 (indicated by a corresponding LED), the “V2” volume control provides the same 6db of boost and the EQ can be activated by moving the lower right-hand toggle to the V2+DI position. Put the Gain switch to the +20 setting, however, and now you’ve got 26dB of gain to play with— almost twice that of what is available in V1 mode—which can be used for boosting the signal level into an amp or generating distortion within the SoK.

As shipped, the SoK is not true-bypass. This allows the DI out to remain active when the pedal is in bypass mode. Changing the internal jumper (which is moved between pins) to the “Yes” position removes all circuitry from the signal path when in bypass mode (i.e. true bypass), but also mutes the DI out. There’s also an internal Thru Mute jumper that allows signal to be present at both ¼" outs when either V1 or V2 is selected. By changing this jumper to the “On” position, the Thru out is muted when V2 is selected. This is the mode you want to use for switching between amplifiers.

As a clean EQ and potent booster, Son of Kong definitely succeeds, and you can use it to simply toggle between two levels of boost (with or without EQ in V2 mode), switch between channels on the same amp, or as a DI box for basses, keyboards, mandolins, etc. All considered, it’s a beast worth investigating if you’re looking for ways to enhance your rig.

Kudos Excellent clean EQ. Tons of boost potential. XLR out.

Concerns Expensive.


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