CoffeeAndKlon #22: Who Needs Pedals When You’ve Got A Great Amp?

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good afternoon! I’m a bit late with this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon. There’s a couple of reasons why. And one of them does involve the Klon.

I’ve been a bit flat for most of this past week. Delivered a couple of workshops and a talk on the Saturday and Wednesday, and didn’t have much left in the tank after that.

So Thursday and Friday, I’ve mostly been finishing off the home studio revamp. A bit of upgraded gear, and mainly about getting the gear I already have back into use.

At the heart of that is the Synergy amp system I got way back in February last year. It’s at the opposite end of the scale from the home-tone amps I normally talk about here.

Since getting wired up again, I just can’t stop playing this thing: the Synergy 800 module. Designed by Dave Friedman, it’s the classic JCM 800 sound that I grew up with.

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And when you push it with a Klon that’s setup as a clean boost? Les Paul heaven right there. And I haven’t been able to put it down.

Then I had a thought: I’m a pedal guy at heart. How well does a pedal hold up against proper amp filth? That’s where the rest of today has gone 😀

Our contender this afternoon: the JRAD Animal. On its own, this pedal isn’t the most exciting sound in the world. Boost it, and man does it come to life. A bit like a real JCM 800 to be honest.

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After a bit of experimentation, I’ve ended up running it into Synergy’s TDLX: a blackface-style clean amp. I tried running it into the 800 module setup as a clean amp. Didn’t like it at all, and it made A/B testing a pain.

Oh, and I’m using the exact same 1×12 cab loaded with a Celestion G12-M Creamback for both amps. It’s a speaker that brings out the Marshall in everything I run into it. More on that in the long-overdue Marshall Origin One Year On review.

How does the Animal do? It sounds great. It feels great to play. And there’s plenty of satisfying crunch if I boost it with the Klon. There’s a couple of key differences though.

There’s something deeply satisfying about the mids of the real amp that I can’t dial in using the pedal. The pedal setup has crisper highs and crunch, and deeper lows which are addictive in the room. I wish I could borg them together.

The other difference is noise. The pedal setup is picking up so much more string noise than the real amp does. An indicator that the pedal setup is amplifying the treble frequencies much more than the real amp does.

I’ve just switched over to the Marshall Origin for the first time today. Man, this amp loves drive pedals. And I have serious ear fatigue after listening to the pedal setup for most of the afternoon.

I’ve just switched over to the Marshall DSL 20HR. Still learning how to use this amp. Had to really go wild with the dials, as you can see in the photo. Man, it sounds really good too.

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To finish off – and by now, I’m a long way away from trying to match the JCM 800 sound – what about the boosted Animal into a Vox? Here’s my settings on the Mini Superbeetle. Like the DSL 20HR, an amp I’m still learning.

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Through the G12-M Creamback, it’s not a sound I would go for. Stick it through a Celestion Blue though, and that sounds really really good. The mid-range might just be the best of the bunch. Makes me want to add an EQ unit to my studio to tame the top-end though.

(Suggestions for an affordable, rack-mount EQ unit most welcome!)

Now I’ve got real amp filth on tap again, am I going to give up pedals? No. The Klon into the Synergy module sounds fantastic, and feels great to play. And so does the pedal into the other amps, just in a different way.

And for me, that’s what it’s all about, at the end of the day: having a palette of sounds to choose from and experiment with. I’m not a one-sound kind of person.

I’ve worked for three companies that had a strong singular colour for their brand. Going into the office to see a single colour everywhere all day, every day for years … it’s not me. And I’m the same about sound.

I’ve spent the whole afternoon on this, and my ears need a rest. I’ll tell you what though: no matter the amp, it sounded better when boosted with the Klon.

Have a great rest of your weekend, and let me know what questions you have for me about today’s #CoffeeAndKlon 🙂

CoffeeAndKlon #21: Fender Elite Strat And A Klon

This conversation was originally posted on my Twitter feed.

Good morning! It’s a (rare!) sunny day here. I hope it’s nice wherever you are too. For this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon, I want to talk about how I’ve been using my Klon these past few days.

Coffee Has Already Gone

I’m afraid that my coffee this morning has long gone. Yesterday was an 11 hour day at work, and I don’t think my coffee touched the sides on the way down today!

We’re drinking coffee beans sold as “Mexican Lion Boy” from @CortileCoffee here in the beautiful Welsh Valleys. It’s a single-origin coffee, and it’s a very easy drink indeed. It’s one of our favourites, and a great contrast after the Sumatran coffee last week.

Classic Klon Usage

So … back to the Klon. It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about the Klon itself. And I think that’s mostly because I only use it in one specific way: as a clean boost. I never said that I was imaginative or creative in how I use pedals 🙂

Normally, I use a Klon as a clean boost for guitar solos.

The Klon’s characteristic mid-hump has the effect of lifting a guitar out of the mix. It’s a really easy way to add a bit of mojo when you’re recording something.

The exact same settings on the Klon can be used to make a completely clean Strat sound even better. Which is what I’ve been doing this week.

The Elite Stratocaster Has Noiseless Pickups

On the back of Fender announcing their new Ultra range of guitars to replace the Elites, I dug out my Elite for a bit. It hasn’t had as much use since I got the Player Strat earlier this year. That’s a story for another day though.

One of the reasons I have the Elite are the N4 noiseless pickups. They’re an absolute godsend if you want to record clean guitars in a very sparse mix, and you’re powering everything off a dirty, noisy electricity supply.

They also work surprisingly well into a rig that’s mainly voiced for Les Pauls. Not as important to me today, but it definitely was back when I got my Elite.

Compared to the great-sounding single coils in the American Performer, the N4 pickups in the Elites have:

  • a bit more low-end
  • stronger low mids
  • rolled-off highs

… and my Elite is an early one with a rosewood board, which accentuates the differences more.

I like the extra low-end. It’s a characteristic that I went after when I chose the new pickups for my Fender Player Strat. I like my low-E to go *plonk* and not *plink*.

The stronger low mids – combined with the rolled-off highs – can make the N4s sound different – and can be muddy if you don’t adjust for it. I suspect Fender switched from rosewood to ebony boards part-way through the Elite’s lifetime to help offset this.

I’ve been using my Klon to bring the best out of the N4s in my Elite Strat. The mid-hump of the Klon deals with any mud from those low-mids really nicely. And the treble boost makes the N4s sound a little more alive.

The Klon Makes Everything Sound Better

I’m delighted with the results. Best way I can describe it is that it sounds more like a Strat tone after it’s been mixed. And, of course, it’s dead quiet too. I get more noise from my Les Paul on really bad days.

In the room, just practicing or noodling around for fun, I do prefer the single coils I’ve put in my Player Strat. Thanks to some advice from Andrew @astringsuk, that guitar sounds really good. I can see me choosing Elite + Klon for recording though.

The Elite isn’t the only guitar where I’ve got noiseless pickups. I’ll do a follow-up on the decade-old set of passive EMGs in my old Charvel, and how the Klon helps there too.

And I *might* go and find out what the new pickups in the Ultra are like through a Klon … (that Texas Tea finish is very alluring …)

Anyone else using the Klon in this way with noiseless / stacked single-coil pickups? I’d love to hear how you’re getting on too.

#CoffeeAndKlon 9: Would You Take A Klon To A Desert Island?

This conversation was originally published on my Twitter feed.

Good morning! I hope you’re having a great weekend so far. This week, I’ve been thinking about my Desert Island rig … and whether or not a Klon / klone would be part of it. #CoffeeAndKlon

Coffee this morning is my absolute favourite: Sumatran. It has a stronger flavour, and tastes quite bitter, compared to most coffees that I have tried.

It would be my Desert Island coffee choice 🙂

The whole Desert Island rig concept always amuses me. It’s such a contradictory premise. You’re stranded alone on an uninhabited island, presumably with only your wits to sustain you. And yet somehow there’s electricity to run your guitar rig of choice *shrugs*

Even ignoring the logical fallacy for a moment … who, in their right mind, would bring the gear they love the most to an environment that it won’t survive in?

Oh, the joys of hypotheticals 😀

That brings up an important point. For many many people, the gear they use is simply a tool. It’s a commodity, and ultimately a consumable for them. They use it, and when it’s worn out, they replace it.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked there …

Why have I been thinking about my Desert Island rig this week?

Normally, I’ve got a new (to me) pedal on my little pedal board, and I’m trying it with different stuff to work out what I think of it. No new pedals this week, so instead I’m using the guitar, pedals, and amp that together give me “my” sound.

I’ll break down all the different parts of my Desert Island rig – the what, and the why – over the next few #CoffeeAndKlon threads / posts. There’s a lot to discuss, and discussing it will help me understand it for myself. I wonder if I’ll change my mind as a result?

Will a Klon / klone be part of it? Let’s deal with the klone question first.

I’ve tried a number of klones – not all, by any means – and I always come back to my Klon KTR. I’m not even sure I can say why, or that I could pick it out in a blind test. (That could be fun to try!)

I know there’s a lot of folks out there who don’t rate the KTR. If there’s a klone that you prefer, I think “good on you.” If we all liked the same thing, and all sounded the same, the world would be a very dull place.

The whole Klon thing isn’t so much about making my guitar sound better, it’s about making my guitar standout in a band / mix setting. If it’s just me, on my own, on a Desert Island, is the Klon thing going to matter?

And I think that’s one reason why so many #HomeTone players either don’t get the Klon thing, or are disappointed with it. If it’s just you noodling alone, you don’t get to hear what (IMHO) the Klon does like no other.

The Klon isn’t the only kind of boost pedal in town. Regular readers will have seen me use the Brit Blue, the OverZoid od1, and the Forest Green Compressor as boost pedals too. They all have their sweet spot.

Will the KTR make it into my Desert Island rig? I’ll tell you soon, as I work through the signal chain of my choice of Desert Island rig. Follow me here, or come and read the http://hometoneblog.com  if you prefer 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Would you take a Klon or klone with you to a desert island? Tell me why – or why not. And have a great weekend!

#CoffeeAndKlon 1: The TC Electronic Mojomojo

This conversation was originally posted on my Twitter feed.

Good morning, and welcome to #CoffeeAndKlon. Starting off with this question from last night: can the Klon make the Mojomojo sound any good? (PS I’ve dusted the Klon for y’all this morning)

The Mojomojo isn’t a ridiculous pedal like the Metal Zone or Digital Metalizer are. (See last night’s thread for context). It’s probably the worst drive pedal I’ve got to hand right now.

Can the mighty Klon help it out?

(It’s not just my opinion. When I posted my Take The Plexi Challenge a year ago, the clip recorded using the Mojomojo was everyone’s least favourite tone.)

So what makes the Mojomojo what it is? If you could build a drive circuit out of a marshmallow, it would sound like a Mojomojo. It’s just the softest-sounding drive pedal I’ve come across.

That’s my only criticism against it. Otherwise, it sounds perfectly fine. Decent amount of frequency range, decent dynamics, good strong separation. 30 years ago, I’d have been delighted if this had been the worst pedal any of us had.

So, now I’ve finished my coffee, the question is: can a Klon make this pedal sound better?

A quick break for 2nd coffee 🙂 Almost feel human and functional now.


The Klon delivers a bit of a mid-boost. It’s one of the ways that the Klon helps lift a guitar out of the mix a bit – and why it’s such a desirable pedal. That should help bring out the character of the Mojomojo a bit.

The trick with a Klon – imho – is that it doesn’t do anything interesting at unity volume or below. The magic happens when you’re using it as a boost.

Not all pedals react well to a boosted input signal.

The Klon also has an active treble control. I can nudge that up bit by bit to add some bite to the final sound. So does the Mojomojo. There’s a little less noise if I turn the Klon’s treble up a bit, and the Mojomojo’s up to 3 o’clock.

The overall result is to turn the Mojomojo into a marshmallow with a bit more bite. It still doesn’t crunch, but it’s got much more life to it now. It can definitely growl now – and that’s a sound I can make use of.

To finish off, I’m going to switch out the Klon for one of the JRAD Archer klones. Curious to hear how that does.

I grabbed the white Archer. To my ears, it does not do what my Klon does. There’s a perceived loss of bass. Not what I want for noodling at home. In a mix, this might be a good thing.

That’s it for coffee and Klon this morning. If you enjoyed it, please do let me know.

What should I boost with a Klon in the future?

Attack Of The Klons!

Chappers and The Captain have done a shootout between ten Klon-like pedals.

If you’re not sure what all the hype around the Klon is all about, let me explain …

The Klon is low-gain pedal that (in its day) did something unique. Set as a clean boost, it lifts the guitar in the mix (or in a live setting) thanks to the way it increases the upper mids. And yet – it also does something to the bass response that makes clean tones sound fuller, without making drive tones muddy or boomy.

The hype is partly because, for many years, the only way to get this tone was to get a Klon Centaur. They were hand-built by Bill Finnigain, and due to limited availability they started changing hands in the second hand market for eye-watering amounts of money.

Eventually, klones (with a ‘k’) started appearing. Bill himself created the Klon KTR as a mass-production version of the Centaur, did a deal with JRAD to make them, before JRAD went on to create their own klones.

The most important klone is the Soul Food. It wasn’t the first klone, and I’d argue it is amongst the worst, but it did bring awareness and availability to the mass market. Since then, there’s been an explosion of interest in klones and the Klon thing. Today, there’s plenty of choice to suit all tastes and budgets.

I’ve got three of these on my boards, including the (for me) unmatched Klon KTR. It’s the only one that I’ve tried that doesn’t add a huge bass bump to overdrive tones. That’s something that doesn’t come across in this demo, to be honest.

Watch the video to choose your favourite, and then please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment..