||Download Example 1
|Clip recorded with a 1978 Set Neck Ibanez Iceman into a '73 Marshall Super Bass head with a Bogner 4x12
Hailing from the great state of Texas, Ryan Kirkland is a newcomer to the pedal building scene. His company, Skinpimp Hand Crafted, has produced some of the most fantastic reproduction pedals in recent memory, while utilizing his skills as a tattoo artist to design elaborate enclosure artwork. The MKIII is one of Kirkland’s faithful tributes to the celebrated Vox Tonebender, various versions of which were used heavily by such greats as Paul McCartney and Mick Ronson (MKI), Jeff Beck (MKII) and Jimmy Page (MKIII).
I decided to demo the MKIII with a 2007 Fender American Telecaster and my trusty 1978 Ibanez Iceman, a set-neck model. While I love the sound of a good fuzz tone combined with a snappy single-coil pickup, I’m a total sucker for the wall of sound that a great humbucker setup can produce. That’s why I grabbed the Iceman first and connected it inline with the MKIII and a 1973 Marshall Super Bass head. In addition to the MKIII’s layout of a Volume, Tone and Gain control, a three-way toggle switch on the backside of the unit controls different frequency responses. The gamut ranges from thin and reedy to standard fuzz thickness all the way to monstrous low end with aggressive midrange response. I set it to the left position (standard fuzz), and cranked the Gain with the Tone control at noon. Before I comment on the resulting tone, I should mention that we get a lot of really amazing gear at PG from a very eclectic group of individuals and manufacturers.
The Initial Mojo
The sound that I got with this setup and the MKIII was one of the best fuzz tones that I’ve ever achieved. The note separation, low-end response, and sensitivity were near perfect. I was particularly impressed by how punchy the MKIII was, with every note that I played up and down the neck hitting me in the gut like a prize fighter. The highs were very present and sharp, exhibiting more of the qualities of a distortion pedal than a high-gain fuzz device. It reminded me of when I used to run my old Boss SD-1 into my Big Muff, which resulted in a colossal wall of sound with more sharpness and intensity than the stock Big Muff was capable of. In this case, the MKIII achieved tones in that realm that were tighter and thankfully quieter (it sounded great, but the feedback I used to get from that setup was enormous). Flipping the toggle switch to the fattest setting threw me into vintage metal territory, with the MKIII kicking out some of the most fantastic, midrange-heavy fuzz this side of Master of Reality.
I had to tear myself away from the Iceman to pick up the Tele, which had been sitting alone in the corner of the room while I’d been beating on the Ibanez. Ultimately, that proved to be the best course of action. The MKIII sounds great with humbuckers, but it really, really likes single coils. I put the pedal back to the original settings that I first used with the Iceman, and the resulting tone was almost completely different. All of the afore-mentioned articulation was there, but with a raspy bite in the mids and a rock-solid low end that was extremely pleasing to hear. Rolling down the guitar’s volume knob yielded one of the best vintage Jimmy Page tones that I’ve ever come across, including that sharp bite Page had in his pick attack that is so elusive in fuzz pedals of today.
The Final Mojo
If the MKIII is any indication, Kirkland is definitely on to something. What is basically a copy of a common, simple fuzz circuit had me captivated for hours on end. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever played the riff to “Whole Lotta Love” for that long at any other point in my life. The combination of the extreme attention to detail, high-quality parts and impeccable build quality here is testimony to just how central those things are to a great product—the MKIII nailed all three of them. Stay on the lookout for this up-and-coming pedal builder and artist, because if the old saying, “it can only get better from here,” is true we’re all in for an amazing treat in the future.
you want tight, articulate and sensitive fuzz that’ll still satisfy your vintage fuzz jones.
you prefer the looser low-end response of other fuzz pedals, such as the Big Muff.