Thursday, January 14, 2010

Top Finds of 2009 / Skincontrol Pedals

The killer gear just keeps on rolling through! My dearest of friends, I'd like to introduce to you SkinKontrol Pedals. This talented little outfit I came across just a few months ago, and from that first encounter I was hooked to the gills. SkinKontrol uses NOS parts, custom artwork, and the highest quality components to handbuild each and every one of sonic masterpieces. If there's one company out there that's definitely going all out, bringing it to the max, and thinking outside the box, it's SkinKontrol. The SkinKontrol mothership is run by the one-man team of Jason Marshall. From the few of Jason's pedals I've had a chance to try I'd say he's definitely one of the most gifted I've come across. We will be looking at two SkinKontrol creations in this feature, and both are exciting enough to write home about. Dig it and see.


SkinKontrol Pedals
Temple City, CA
Builder: Jason Marshall
Years in the Game:

Skinface AC128
Fuzz Pedal

* 2 AC128 Germanium Transistors
* NOS Carbon Comp Resistors
* NOS Illinois Capacitors
* 3PDT Cliff Footswitch
* 9V Battery or 9Vdc Adapter
* Hammond Die Cast Aluminum Box
* Handbuilt One at a Time
(current lead time is approx two weeks)


The fuzz pedal. My favorite of all the effects that are out there today. For as long as fuzz has been around it has been one of the prime tone tools for Rock and Roll music. This is an effect that can convert your guitar's natural sound into a screaming wall of attitude and soul. Comparing the feeling one gets when coming across a really great fuzz box is second to none. I can only imagine the feeling cats like Hendrix, Page, Townshend, and Richards must've gotten when they plugged into and heard the sound of those first available fuzz units. We've come a loooong way since then and today have an arsenal of fuzz boxes capable of shaking the world. The Skinface AC128 from SkinKontrol Pedals is exactly one of these pedals, and capable of pushing your guitar tone into the golden realm. The ability this pedal has to get one's creative juices flowing is impressive to say the least. I myself have not been able to put the darn thing down ever since it landed on my doorstep. The Skinface AC128's circuit is based around the same powerhouse AC128 germanium transistor that was used in the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. The difference between the Skinface and the classic design? Well, this baby uses some of the highest quality components and is built like a tank. The Skinface is capable of reproducing all of the signature tones from the original and can also take you into some newer territory via it's Bias control. The other two controls on the pedal are a Volume and a Fuzz control. I was stunned at just how much control I had over this pedal's fuzz sound with just these three knobs. I could hit everything from traditional fuzz tones to the rudest of rude splattery fuzz mayhem, and everything in between. One thing's for sure, the Skinface AC128 never sounds weak.

I noticed from the first few runs I put it through that this pedal wasn't going to mind which kind of guitar pickup I played it through. So let's start with a not so traditional pickup, the mini-humbucker. We have a three stack mini-humbucker guitar we've been playing with that really sounds killer through many fuzz boxes. Pairing up the Skinface AC128 with the mini-buckers was an absolute dream. The amp for the job was a Twin Reverb with it's eq stack set at 7, reverb at 3, and plugged into the #1 channel of the vibrato side. For the first pedal setup we matched the Volume to the amp's and set both the Fuzz and Bias at it's lowest. The sound we got here was strong, chunky, and full of vintage feel. With the guitar's neck pickup I got these great sounding thick'n'warm rhythm tones. I was stoked I was able to pull not only great chord work but also huge sounding single note runs. I love nothing more than a fuzz pedal that can make a single note sound like a big fat chord. I started adding in the Fuzz knob alone which gave the sound an even bigger fatter sound, but what I noticed quickly about this pedal is that it works much better when combining the Fuzz and Bias together. With the Fuzz at around half power and Bias at about 15% the fuzz begins to get tighter and a bit more jagged. With both controls at about 50% you start getting a killer sounding octave-up effect in the higher range notes. This was Hendrix city all the way baby. The clarity and character in the notes was magnetic! It was like having the baddest cream of the crop Arbiter Fuzz Face. Another awesome quality that really stood out about the Bias knob was the affect it had on double stops. It added a sustain that really brought out the dynamics and undertones. Here I also started testing what kind of an affect rolling down the guitar's knob had on the fuzz tone. To my amazement I discovered it didn't take much to start cleaning things up. With the volume knob down about 25% it cleared the fuzz of all the over-the-top hair but kept all the rumble. At about 50% down I was able to control the amount of grit with my pick attack, getting both a fuzz and overdrive sound. From 75% on things start to really get clean, not spic'n'span but enough to give you a great semi-clean rock tone. For a fuzz pedal capable of taking things to a wild extreme it's pretty impressive the Skinface AC128 was able to clean up so well. Another guitar we paired the pedal up against was single Lollar P90 equipped Junior copy. With the P90 we were able to get all the same aggressiveness we got from the mini-humbuckers only with a bit more spank and midrange punch. With the P90 at lower volumes the Skinface produced these really crunchy fuzzy overdrive tones. A sweet blend between a hairy overdrive and vintage fuzz. The next setting we dialed in absolutely floored us, Fuzz at noon and Bias control all the way up. The Skinface AC128 all of a sudden became this 8-bit, synth-like, octave monster. The further down the neck you went the more extreme the effect would get. I threw in all of the amp's reverb and got a great haunting fuzz howl. Bringing the Fuzz knob all the up as well gave the sound even more balls and lots of girth. In the end I found the Skinface AC128 to be an absolute epic fuzz box. You'll come across many many fuzz boxes these days and most likely more than half of them will be absolute clones or just unusable. With this pedal you get something that will give you a realm to explore and a sound you can be proud to showcase. I'd give the Skinface AC128 three thumbs up if I had them.


Germanium Push/Pull
Octave Fuzz

* Germanium Design
* Neutric Jacks
* Cliff Footswitch
* 9V Battery or 9Vdc adapter
* Hammond Die Cast Aluminum Box
* Handbuilt One at a Time
* Signed and Numbered
(current lead time is approx two weeks)


These days when you comes across an octave fuzz box you're bound to get either something way too extreme or something just not appealing. When the pedal boom hit I kept hearing "Octave fuzz box, you gotta get a octave fuzz box!". Only problem is that every time I went out and tried one it just never cut it. When I think of an octave fuzz I think of the great pedals that the heavyweights of yesterday used. The octave pedals of the 60's and 70's had this character about them that you just couldn't ignore. One thing I always wanted to see was someone taking the octave fuzz design to the next level, with the same soul and same intensity. The wait is over. This little devil, the SkinKontrol Push/Pull Octave Fuzz is everything one would want from a classic octave fuzz box and everything you'd need to take your sound to the next level. The Push/Pull's layout is very very simple, two knobs, being Gain and Volume. The pedal is built with the highest possible components, this along with it's design make the Push/Pull a beast of a octave fuzz pedal. I promise you if you've been on the hunt for a rich sounding, soulful, guns blazing octave fuzz box, this is it. When I first plugged it in my partner had to double check that I hadn't plugged into a few pedals. Both the fuzz and octave effect on the Push/Pull are like nothing I have ever heard in my life.

There isn't much to say other than this pedal is absolutely stunning. I know the octave fuzz pedal isn't all the insane of a design, it's something that has been around for a long long time. When the pedal first arrived I took a Strat, a nice cable, and plugged directly into an amp. The transformation that took place in the guitar's natural sound was unbelievable. I wanted to rock out to some loud guitar settings so we plugged the Push/Pull into a 100 watt Super Lead and got to steppin'. I cranked the Super Lead to a nice gigging volume and set the Push/Pull with it's Volume matching the amp's and Gain knob at about 15%. One really cool thing about this pedal that you won't find in many octave fuzz pedals is that the octave sound is always present no matter if you'r ein a high fuzz or low fuzz setting. At this setting we could still hear the natural sound coming through, blended with a hint of fuzz and a nice amount of octave up madness. All of a sudden what were great sounding licks turned into killer sounding wails and cries. The higher we went up on the Gain knob the better things got too. At about 50% Gain the Push/Pull hands you a hefty amount of both fuzz and octave-up sounds. Here you can turn your blues licks from traditional to out-right nasty. It's as if you've taken the guitar's tone and spanked it into an angry fury. The notes hang in the air a bit longer and bark like racing banshees. With a tad bit of each guitar knob rolled off I was able to get this strange half jazz/half rock sound. Something in the way fuzz and octave effect blend that gives the overall sound oddly beautiful character. It was time for me to swap guitars. The next lucky bastard to get a taste of the Push/Pull was my Custom Tele, the ultimate guitar for testing pedals. When I put together this Tele I wanted to make sure I was able to get as many tones as possible, which is why I added a humbucker to the neck with a push/pull knob for splitting the coil, and an extra hot bridge Tele pickup. In the humbucker position the Tele took to the pedal like it had been friend's with it for a long long time. I was flew around the neck and never got one bad note. With extreme sounding fuzz pedals and octave boxes you can tend to hit bad places in the neck, areas that just don't sound too good. Not with this pedal, the Push/Pull loves every inch of the guitar's neck and will work with you like a dream. In the middle position with both humbucker and Tele pickup engaged I got a P90-like tone that gave the pedal this extra thump and growl. Still the octave effect stood out clearly only now the fuzz sound was much more in my face. Kicked into the lead pickup with the Push/Pull at 100% Gain was again a mighty mighty sound. Chords didn't work too well at the higher levels, but playing single note runs blended beautifully and evenly. Here's a little trick in case you get one of these bad boys. I took my favorite chorus/vibe pedal, set it pretty super lush and floaty. Switched into the neck pickup, rolled off a bit of the volume and tone, then played below the 12th fret picking just above the guitar's bridge. I got some of the most trippy sounding sitar sounds I've ever heard come from a guitar. Playing it through a delay pedal and swelling in the sound with a volume pedal also created some extra fun tones. The SkinKontrol Push/Pull is definitely one of these pedals you can use to add that extra bit character to a song, album, or gig. It is impossible not to notice this pedal's genius sound. If you do one thing this year to your rig I'd say go here, you'll fall in love with this pedal. Jason has quickly become a favorite around our little studio and we hope to continue working with him so we can bring you more of these wonderful stompboxes. I am absolutely certain the rest of the SkinKontrol line is just as impressive as this pedal. Analog War Cry is going to keep a close eye on this little company, we just know great things will keep on coming from this outfit.


For more info on SkinKontrol Pedals go to or click the direct link in our sidebar. There also some cool vids on the website and on Youtube. To access the SkinKontrol video demos fastest go down to our Analog War Cry Youtube search engine at the bottom of our site and type in SkinKontrol Pedals. Hope you dig it!

No comments:

Post a Comment