In truth, Source Audio (SA) made me a digital believer a couple of years ago with its OFD pedal—a two-channel, multi-option distortion machine that’s entirely digital and sounds anywhere from good to great. Given that, and the fact that I now have several SA pedals on my board, I figured the Kingmaker would get a rubber stamp of approval from me, but a listen to the pedal shows SA hasn’t been sitting on its laurels, and the flexibility in this one-footswitch stompbox arguably trumps the many layers of tweaking offered by the OFD.
To start, the Kingmaker offers three different flavors of fuzz, which are selected by a three-way toggle: Heavy (think Big Muff), Normal (think Fuzz Face) and Octave (think Octavio). Enhancing these sounds are (at a minimum) two bands of EQ; right there, that should be enough for most fuzz lovers, but read on.
The Big Muff setting on the OFD was one of my favorites and, not surprisingly, I love it on the Kingmaker: it’s thick and syrupy yet articulate, providing infinite sustain and a nice amount of body. One of the places you might expect a digital distortion to falter is the treble response, but you can crank the Kingmaker’s treble and get nothing but a nice sheen that will ensure you shine through the mix.
The Octave really nails the Octavio effect with a throaty grind that absolutely captures that classic effect. Again, the two-band EQ is wonderfully complementary, adding (or subtracting) presence and body as needed. What’s unusual about SA’s take is how responsive the effect is to playing. The sound is there, but it’s consistently chaotic; there’s no sense of having to struggle with the effect, hoping the octave will cut through and resolve. For some, this might be part of the original’s charm, but I loved having access to this effect without having to dumb down my playing.
Finally, I was prepared to be disappointed by the Normal setting, because the OFD’s Fuzz Face voicing was one of that pedal’s disappointments. Instead, I was blown away by its implementation in the Kingmaker: thick, round and tubular at high gain setting, raspy but articulate at low settings, gorgeous clean up with the volume knob, and totally interactive with the EQ, the Normal setting is the answer for those who find typical Fuzz Faces murky or just plain hard to work with.
This radically improved variation on the Fuzz Face made me wonder what else SA had improved, and one of the secret weapons of the Kingmaker (and SA’s other Series One pedals), is that it can access 40 other distortion settings via the Neuro App, which you can download to your phone or tablet. The App also provides additional tone and volume options, including two bands of Mids.
Setting up the App was astonishingly easy, and hearing the effects in real time was even more rewarding. I didn’t have time—nor the space—to review all 40, but I did revisit two of my least favorite settings on the OFD: the Rat and the Tone Bender MKII. As with the Fuzz Face, both were radically improved, and the best way to put the difference is the originals sounded like samples from a boxy 12-inch speaker through a SM57, and the new versions, well, just sound like good pedals based on the original effects. The Rat was more open and the Tone Bender more present, and both did justice to the originals while offering the various EQ options inherent to the Kingmaker itself and the Neuro App.
While messing around with the Neuro App, I also found a second Fuzz Face option, which sounds more like a silicon take, and a version of the Maestro FZ-1A. As with the Octave, the latter take on a classic fuzz nails the tone and texture while providing much more stable response. And the best part? Any of these effects can be saved to a toggle on the pedal so, if you’ve already got a Muff, you can write over that space and add one of the 40 options that are available in the Neuro App. For that alone, the Kingmaker is worth the price of admission, but if I said you could have a great Muff, Fuzz Face and Octave pedal in one box—with two bands of EQ—for under $200, wouldn’t you be intrigued?
What We Like
Fantastic sound quality and an astonishing array of options for a ridiculously reasonable price.
As a fan of both the two-channel Soundblox series and the great variety of sounds in the Kingmaker, I’d love to have ready footswitchable access to all three of my chosen settings in this one box.