In the current stompbox climate, bringing back vintage sounds – rejuvenated with an added shine – is in vogue. So too is the practice of mixing and matching pedals, of identifying the best sounds and fusing them together to create a superior end product. Catalinbread, a US manufacturer growing in prominence down under, is a key exponent of both of these practices. While renowned for their rather unique pedal names, where they truly flourish is in their ability to capture defining tones, reshaped and reworked with new age ingenuity. The Katzenkönig is a product of this very approach; it melds together the quality workings of both a vintage Tone Bender MKII Fuzz and a classic Rat distortion to generate a fully-fledged spectrum of distortion and fuzz.
A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
We’re met with a filter knob, as well as gain, volume and an input knob. The compact chassis is a dirtied yellowy green, stamped with a fierce black cat donning a crown – in English Katzenkönig translates to ‘cat king’. This pedal borrows from the aforementioned MKII Fuzz, utilising a modified version of the three-silicon transistor setup. ‘Input’ controls the sensitivity of your guitar signal as it enters the fuzz section and is described by Catalinbread as a volume control for the front of the circuit. The gain knob also elevates gain, this time by controlling the amount of negative feedback in this stage of the circuit. Where the pedal emulates a Rat is after the third transistor, the signal suddenly met with a Rat-esque clipping section and a filter tone control. The end result is a fuzz tone that can come in blistering hot, yet ceases to fizzle out or combust. Conversely the pedal can be dialled in without restraint, made to channel a firm crunch or defined growl.
ONE STEP BACK, TWO STEPS FORWARD
The Katzenkönig has got attitude and grunt. Yet with a two-prong gain attack and tone-sculpting capability, there’s no need to always go in all guns blazing. When using a low gain setting, turn the ‘filter’ to 1 or 2 o’clock for a more precise and smooth tonal shape. Introduce a little more gain and soon this pedal is purring. While the makeup seemingly points to metal and heavier genres, the filter knob does an amazing job at channelling the artillery on board. Punk and indie rock guitarists would no doubt feel at home using this pedal. By pushing the gain past 12 o’clock it starts to transition into fuzz, which eventually leads to fuzzed-out mayhem with increased input. The sweet spot, however, tends to be based on subtlety rather than a “crank and ask questions later” approach.
Much younger than its two guiding parents – yet better for it – this pedal is served well by the repurposing of its references. It doesn’t reach the heights of the sweltering steel-housed Tone Bender MKII, or the tight low- end grip of a Rat. In between, however, exists a tone of its own, purposeful and emphatic.
For more details on the range of Catalinbread pedals, head to guitarfactory.net.
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