Louis Electric

December 2014
more... GearEffectsSound SamplesReviewsDistortionApril 2009Hip Kitty

HipKitty Oxblood Distortion Review


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A Vox in a box? Sounds good to me! The folks at HipKitty have produced a distortion pedal known as the Oxblood. It was specifically designed to emulate a Vox AC15 amplifier, with an added tube stage for greater distortion and a bigger kick. With this pedal you can achieve that true British tube-amp tone, without the British tube amp! Like all HipKitty products, this pedal is a “hands-on” experience. It is hand constructed, the component board is hand etched and populated, and it is entirely hand wired. On top of that, each pedal is hand painted, so no two units are exactly alike.

The Oxblood is a no-nonsense pedal. It consists of an On/Off switch, an LED indicator, in and out jacks, and three knobs for Drive, Tone and Volume. It features true-bypass switching and can be powered with either a 9-volt battery or through its 9-volt power jack. The casing is heavy duty and is sturdy enough for any stomping you may do on it. The hand painting is a nice touch, with a red diamond pattern reminiscent of Vox amp grill cloth.

Three knobs help shape the Oxblood’s tone to your liking. The Drive knob controls the amount of distortion and works like the volume control of an amp. If you turn the knob clockwise, it gradually brings the guitar signal from a mild overdrive to a heavier distortion. The Tone control is like the “Cut” control of a Vox AC30. It allows you to control both the high and low frequencies of the guitar signal. Turning the knob to the left cuts the high frequencies and enhances the bass frequencies, while turning the knob to the right does the opposite, enhancing the high frequencies. The Volume acts like a Master Volume, which controls the overall output of the effect. Thanks to the true bypass, your clean sound (when the Oxblood is off) is unaffected by the Volume control.

An interesting feature of the Oxblood is the trim pot, located on the inside of the pedal. Removing the four screws and backplate of the pedal, you’ll find the small trim pot on the component board. The trim pot is used to bias the Oxblood, and adjusting it has an effect on how much distortion and sensitivity the Oxblood will exhibit. It’s a nice, added feature that allows you to fine tune the effect to your liking and customize the tone with your specific guitar and amp.

Plugging In
I began my test drive with my Charvel So-Cal with humbucking DiMarzio pickups. I wanted the full effect right away, so I cranked the knobs to the fullest. Starting with a clean sound on my amp, I stomped on the Oxblood and was welcomed with a warm and fuzzy British tube-amp tone. It was as if my amp was instantly transformed into a Vox! It has a well-balanced fuzz tone, with chimey high-mids but a warm low end. The chords cut through nicely and were not abrasive at all.

I switched it up a little and strapped on my Strat to try out the single-coil sound. I was pleasantly surprised with the fat overdrive I got from my single coils, and it added plenty of sustain. I also liked backing off the Drive to about 10 o’clock on the dial, and got a nice hybrid of clean and “on the verge of breakup” tones. The Tone knob is also very effective, and you can really hear the difference in accenting either the high or low frequencies, depending on the knob position.

I couldn’t complete my test drive without giving it the Brian May test! I plugged in my Burns Brian May guitar with three Tri-sonic pickups. While the tone wasn’t instantly dead-on as a Vox/Queen tone, it was pretty darn close! Playing around with different pickup configurations as well as the Drive and Tone knobs opened up an even wider variety of tonal possibilities.

The HipKitty Oxblood is well built, easy to use and great for transforming an amp into a Vox. This tone isn’t for everyone, and probably won’t please the high-gain metal guitarist. However, if you’re looking to emulate a Vox AC15, the Oxblood would be a great choice.

Buy if...
You want to get a Vox in a Box!
Skip if...
You're an AC15 purist and have to have the real thing.
Rating...
4.0 

Street $140 - HipKitty Products - hipkittyproducts.com