G&L Kiloton Review
Two of Leo Fender’s most significant designs for G&L come together to make one powerful bass.
Clip 1 - Parallel mode with volume and tone dials dimed.
Clip 2 - Series mode with volume and tone dials dimed.
Although the master, Leo Fender, is no longer with us, the engineers at G&L continue to push forward with Leo-like moxie, rolling out highly respected instrument designs while still keeping them fiscally in reach for many players. The latest bass to come out of Fullerton is the Kiloton, as in 1,000 tons of explosive power at your fingertips. When a company names a product so boldly, there had better be something big behind it. So we took a close look and listen to find out what makes this bomb tick.
A Tale of Two Basses
G&L was founded when Leo, after his years with Fender and Music Man, felt he had more to offer the musical instrument world. His SB-2 design is evidence of this, as it introduced a more comfortable, sleeker P-style bass and quickly became a favorite with players the world over. In the same breath, G&L developed MFD (Magnetic Field Design) pickups, which allow for individual pole adjustments. The MFDs also offer more output while remaining super-quiet, making them popular in bass circles as well.
And now, in classic Reese’s-peanut-butter-cup-moment fashion, two divergent forces have been joined together to make a singular bass powerhouse. The body of the SB-2 has been equipped with the large-pole MFD pickups, making for an interesting combination of features and (ideally) tone.
Straight out of the case, I was impressed with the overall presentation of the Kiloton. Our tester was finished in emerald-blue metallic, which leans more toward the green side of things, but it’s flashy nonetheless. The body is alder and the hard rock maple neck felt nice from the get-go with its satin finish. (Custom wood, finish, neck-profile, and pickguard options are available.) Unplugged, the comfortable bass was responsive, with great tone and sustain. There is an air of familiarity with some aspects of the design, but make no mistake, it’s a very modern build with a whole new feel.
Any great bass is the sum of its parts, and G&L has engineered some excellent features into the Kiloton. One very important (yet often overlooked) feature is the Leo Fender-designed Saddle-Lock bridge. It’s unique in that there is a block of metal under the bridge that embeds itself into the wood—rather than just a flush bridge resting on top—and adds sustain and another point of resonance to help give the unplugged bass its power. Other great bits include the bone nut and G&L’s Ultra-Lite tuners. The triple-ply (white/black/white) pickguard is a nice touch as well.
The neck of the U.S.-built Kiloton is PLEK’d to optimize string action. Getting an instrument PLEK’d is a high-dollar treatment if done aftermarket, so I like the built-in value. As I pointed out earlier, the satin-finished neck felt wonderful, but the point where the fretboard and neck meet could have used just a few more touches with the sander. All said, the action was nothing short of amazing, the frets felt great, and the bass was assembled very well overall.
You put your humbucker on my P bass! You built your P bass around my humbucker!
To hear the electrified nuances of the Kiloton, I plugged the bass into a PreSonus FireStudio running Studio One Professional software. The Kiloton’s control set is pretty simple: volume, tone, and a mini 3-way toggle for pickup tapping. The first position of the 3-way is series mode—which is the most aggressive—so I decided to start there.
With the tone and volume dials dimed, the Kiloton’s MFD pickup sang with really hot output, yet kept its composure with articulation and a solid attack. Tonally, the bass brought punch and clarity with a noticeable mid bump. When rolling the tone back to halfway, however, the bass got lost in a case of wet-blanket syndrome. In series mode, I’d suggest keeping the tone control dialed to at least 75 percent to get the Kiloton’s real voice.
When I switched to single-coil mode (the neck-side row of coils), the Kiloton took on quite a different flavor. The tone was crisper than in series mode and quite usable, even with the tone control dimed. The location of this row of coils is closer to the pickup position of a traditional P, so the bass displayed a surprising amount of beef utilizing just a single-coil. I’m not saying the Kiloton will replace your P, but it’ll give you a sonic punch that won’t leave you wanting for too much more.
The tone mellows out a little in parallel mode. To my taste, the tone control needs to be above, say, 60 percent, or else the bass just sort of barks. Above that mark, the Kiloton can be a mid-scooped little slap machine. It feels like a great, active P/Music Man hybrid—even though it’s really neither. If this were my No. 1 instrument, I’d likely use the parallel setting with the tone at about 75 percent for the entire gig—and I’m talking just about any gig, at that.
G&L has done a nice job keeping Leo’s vision and innovative spirit alive, and with the introduction of the Kiloton, they just pushed the bar up another notch. With its pointed and rich tone, the Kiloton lives up to its name. One of the biggest secrets of great bass tone is not big low-end: It’s pointed and pronounced mids that allow a bass to be heard in live and studio mixes. The Kiloton’s MFD pickup runs a good race in this middle section and will give players a solid option that bridges the gap between a P and a full-on MM, though not quite reaching either end of that range. The setup from the factory was amazing and I just can’t stress enough how silky and good the neck felt. The Kiloton’s tones might not be for everyone, but I think if you have the chance to play one of these basses, you likely won’t put it down for a while.
Watch the Review Demo: