It was 1976 and Arthur Sloatman was repairing all things musical and electronic as a technician at the old Valley Sound on Sunset Blvd. Frank Zappa sent in a busted ARP 2600 synthesizer vital to the recording of Zappa’s Zoot Allures album. Sloatman fixed the ARP and Frank made him a tech at his studio, Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. For Zappa’s ’78 tour, he created custom on-board electronics for Steve Vai, Ray White and Ike Willis’ guitars.
One day, Zappa came into the UMRK tech dungeon where Arthur was working and noticed an old Systech Harmonic Energizer and remarked that he really loved the sound of that box with his guitar, but it was so noisy at the settings he liked, he gave up on it. Sloatman studied the mystery box and figured out it was indeed a parametric EQ with a very sharp bandwidth. He consulted some audio circuit design books and created his own narrow band low noise filter. He showed it to Zappa who ultimately had Arthur install a two-band version in his stage guitars. Frank used Sloatman’s EQ circuit to “tune” his guitars to the resonant frequency of whatever room he happened to be playing. This not only allowed Zappa to produce a wide assortment of studio sounds live, it also gave him massive sustain and total control over feedback, which he used to great effect.
Fast-forward thirty some years and Arthur was playing with his own band and finding himself dissatisfied with his guitar sound. After some thought, he dug up his old plans for Zappa’s EQ and set about modifying it for his own needs. The first version, dubbed "Kong," was a giant box many deemed too large to be practical. Sloatman went back to the drawing board and finally miniaturized the beast to an elegant pedal-sized enclosure, and Son of Kong was born.
Son of Kong is an EQ/Gain pedal and DI featuring two switchable channels of gain with the Zappa EQ hard wired in the Channel 1 signal path while Channel 2’s EQ is switchable in or out. SoK’s EQ provides up to 20 dB of boost or cut at the selected frequency and the frequency selection is infinitely variable from nearly sub-bass to high frequency definition and edge. The selected frequency band can be as wide as two octaves or as narrow as a single note so you can get quite specific when it comes to boosting or cutting frequencies.
Son of Kong features two Gain Modes – DI and +20. DI Mode is low-gain, and in conjunction with the EQ circuit provides massive headroom and killer clean tones. It works great with bass, pedal steel and all acoustic instruments, and can produce some incredibly Beatlesque keyboard tones as well. SoK’s +20 Mode provides up to 35dB of clean gain to pummel your amp’s front end into peals of singing overdrive and sustain.
The EQ circuit can be clipped to create a vast palette of distortion. Crank the EQ gain then tune your distortion by sweeping the frequency and widening or narrowing the Q to achieve a variety of distortion sounds – from big, thick and heavy to sharp and nasal.
The switching capabilities inherent in Son of Kong are intense. In its simplest terms, SoK can be used to switch between direct guitar sounds in Bypass, an EQ’d boost in Channel 1 and a super boosted signal (with or without EQ) in Channel 2. Things get a bit more interesting when you utilize the Thru jack and its internal mute switch which operates like an A/B/Y switch. Various combinations will yield simple switching between two amps and various channel switching schemes on an old two-channel amp.
We like Son of Kong because it’s just so damn cool. You can tweak and tweeze Zappa guitar tones of course—like his badass “Bulgarian Bagpipe” lead tone. When put to more subtle use, the available clean tones are exceptional— shimmering bell tones, wide clean leads, dark, vibey Motown sounds, and everything in between. Arthur swears by his beloved Tantalum capacitors and Lundhall transformer for optimum sonic integrity and we agree with his choice. Simply plugging in to Son of Kong will bring out more depth and detail of your tone.
"While mixing Willie Nelson's 80th birthday concert, I used the Son of Kong on all of Neil Young's direct acoustic guitar tracks to add a fantastic body and presence to the sound. It's amazing how many ways there are to use this thing!" - F. Reid Shippen
"I'm addicted to the Kong. This pedal has amazing tone capabilities. The EQ alone is worthy of it's own pedal, but the ability to get different gain settings makes this an essential tool for any time I record guitar. By having this pedal, it's like having new amps, too." - Jacquire King, Producer
"I don't know another EQ that does exactly what it does...plugging into it with no EQ just seems to sound better." - Byron Gallimore, Producer
"This is the pedal I have always been waiting for." - Buddy Miller, Producer/Guitarist