Michael has been fiddling with pedal circuits since the early 90’s, and there is a reason why his range of boutique effects pedals has collected a cult following, and a hefty price tag – they are built tough, simple and able to do wonders with any guitar put before them, and almost any amp after. That is not to say that a little of the work falls on the beholder.
First, a little background on this creamy delight. A custom version of the Eternity, the Kanji is another highly tweak-able and dynamic overdrive pedal from Lovepedal. With no experience trialling the original Eternity, rendering any attempt at comparison moot, we fall on Lovepedal’s own literature for guidance. In comparison to the Eternity, the Kanji Eternity is said to possess more warmth and a little more low end than its kin.
Straight from the box, all dials at 12 o’clock and into the clean channel of a Fender DeVille, the warmth that this pedal brings to any operation is immediately apparent. Lovepedal’s claim of ‘ it adds a slightly mid-humped, very warm character to your tone’ is on the money. It’s less transparent than other overdrive pedals I’ve had the pleasure of playing, and although varied combinations of any of the three pots – level, glass and drive – result in dramatic tonal shifts, the personality of the Kanji is rife at any setting. This should hardly be seen as a negative; it’s this rich characteristic that justifies its place on your pedal board.
I found the more time spent experimenting with the dial settings, the more I discovered the Kanji’s hidden talents. It is surprising what can be achieved with this pedal with simple addition and subtraction of the controls. Fine-tuning is key to getting the most out of the Kanji, as the answers are not always in the most obvious of places.
The level, the first of the dials, left to right, is a clean boost and where I found a good baseline for shaping tone. With the remaining two set at 10 o’clock, the emitting sound is a low gain overdrive. In the past I’ve found such a setting on overdrive pedals will mean a more muted tone at lower gain levels, but with the Kanji, the light, gritty output maintains spark and attack. It’s almost like a driven Marshall head – tight and responsive, even at low volume and gain. The main difference being this pedal’s bass response – it’s evenly weighted, giving its tone punch and adding to its warmth. Lead playing screams with soul, and chords are hearty – a highlight that will be difficult to surpass.
Upping the drive setting stacks the grit on to your dialled-in settings without muddying the tone. The glass, the pedal’s middle dial dubbed a treble boost, depends greatly on the positioning of the dials either side of it. Generally speaking, rolling off the glass setting will darken tone, while the opposite direction will brighten things up a bit. Though it is labeled a ‘treble’ boost, it encourages clarity over pure treble boost. Meaning, pushed to its peak, it doesn’t overdo the treble EQ to a piercing high range level. Instead, it pushes the highs to poke through a little more, adding a well-rounded bit of attack, allowing for rich harmonics without the aid of drive saturation.
The boutique pedal market has seen a surge in the last decade, flooded with so many great takes on staple effects. It’s a great time for pedal enthusiasts, but just because it’s handmade, it doesn’t mean it’s worth the exaggerated price tag. Conversely, the Kanji is legit a grade A boutique pedal. Yes, it’s handmade. Yes, it’s a boutique pedal. But its worth is contained inside that cream box of joy. It’s versatile and in front of a tube amp, the possibilities are aplenty.