Sharing the Road
The Kliptonite is substantial and dripping with cartoon-spooky flair. The size and slanted faceplate evoke ’60s fuzzboxes. Some may lament the large dimensions, but it means easy access to the 9V battery door, which is mounted on the left hand side of the unit. A 9V barrel adaptor may also be used.
The faceplate is home to two switches: on/off and fuzz/klipped. Fuzz/klipped is used to switch between the mirror image fuzz/overdrive ratios. An LED changes from green to red depending on which blend you’ve selected, and you set the ratio using the mirror mix knob. Fuzzy drive sets the overall amount of gain. The potent but simple EQ section, meanwhile, is comprised of the “freq” knob, which dials in frequency emphasis in a range from 35 Hz to 6 kHz. You can fine-tune the intensity (or “Q”) of the selected frequency using the center-mounted rotary bandwidth knob. Turning clockwise yields a thinner tone similar to a cocked wah. Turning counterclockwise results in progressively fatter low-end response. The cut/boost knob can add or subtract up to 20 dB of boost and the balance parameter helps match your line level with this cut/boost setting. Finally, there’s an expression pedal jack (it only works with the Stone Deaf EP-1, which is not included) that can be used with the bandwidth control to create wah- and phase-style effects.
With the fuzzy drive parameter to its minimum position, Kilptonite yields a very thin fuzz tone—like an outsized, angry mosquito or a robot on the fritz. At these settings, some notes higher up the neck barely sound through the clipping effect unless you really dig in. You get a bit more sustain by bringing up the drive to 9 o’clock, but even here, deep bends that would sustain on, say, a Big Muff, collapse upon themselves. You hear some of this clipping behavior throughout the entiresweep of the fuzzy drive, though you definitely get a little more sustain at the highest gain settings.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the other controls influence both sides of the mirror mix, so cranking up the mid freq for an overdrive-heavy mix makes the fuzz tone more mid-heavy, too. This can be a help and a hindrance. It’s great to have a certain continuity between the two mixes as you switch between more radical clipping textures mid-solo. On the other hand, a lot of folks that want to exploit the Stone Deaf’s radical clipping tones may want equalization shifts that are radical and different, and for that you’ll need the expression pedal. If you don’t need extreme tone shifts on the fly, you can still craft radically different tones via creative use of the bandwidth and freq controls. Pushing the bandwidth control to fatter, bass-focused extremes adds real meat to the fuzzy bones—perfect for a serving of dusty desert rock. Reducing the peak resonance also focuses your attack, if you want the narrow intensity of a Mick Ronson cocked-wah lead. These effects are most pronounced and perhaps best experienced on amplifiers with a lot of headroom.
Rocking with the Kliptonite is a satisfying, if sometimes hairy, experience. The extreme tones the pedal delivers can make it difficult to tame. But scads of tonal options make exploration of the pedal’s deeper capabilities well worth the time. Kliptonite isn’t really for fuzz traditionalists who favor a predictable Big Muff or Fuzz Face tone and use little else. Where those pedals are smooth and creamy in many settings, Kliptonite wails with a spitting, shattered bark. Yet the mirror mix and impressive EQ features still make Kliptonite capable of dancing between styles as disparate as classic rock and jagged metal. The $205 price tag is not small, but neither is the range of distortion you can extract from this well-built, creatively executed, and unexpectedly musical dirt machine.