Kirk Hammett has developed guitars, amps and pedals with an impressive variety of the music industry’s top manufacturers, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that he’s started his own boutique pedal company called KHDK Electronics.
The company’s name combines the initials of Hammett and his business partner David Karon, who previously collaborated with Hammett on the design of his limited edition Randall half stack amp released in 2008.
KHDK has also enlisted the talents of Antonin Salva (of Salvation Mods) as a product designer/engineer, and the pedals are built by a family-owned company in Paducah, Kentucky, which allows KHDK to maintain high standards of quality control.
KHDK recently made an impressive debut by simultaneously introducing three different stomp boxes—the No. 1 overdrive, No. 2 clean boost, and Ghoul Screamer overdrive. One may wonder why KHDK chose to introduce three overdrive pedals at once, but the differences between each are distinct, as are the applications that most players will likely use them for. While Hammett is best known for creating some of the heaviest metal known to mankind, these are not metal pedals either, but instead are useful for any style of music.
The KHDK No. 1 and No. 2 pedals, while voiced differently, both share an identical control configuration and basic overall feature set. Both have four control knobs for gain, volume, bass, and treble along with a lo/hi gain mini toggle switch. Small LEDs, which illuminate in brilliant purple when the effect is engaged, are located on either side of the true bypass footswitch, and an adapter jack for a standard 9VDC (center negative) power supply is located on the top/front vertical surface of the pedal. The pedals also operate with a nine-volt battery.
The Ghoul Screamer shares the same compact dimensions as the No. 1 and No. 2, but it has an entirely different control configuration consisting of a trio of drive, tone, and volume knobs and five mini toggle switches for bass, highs, body, and two compression setting switches. The Ghoul’s LEDs are bright green instead of purple, but like the other two products it has a true bypass footswitch, 9VDC adapter jack, and mono heavy-duty 1/4-inch input and output jacks.
One attribute that all three KHDK pedals have in common is that they all produce natural-sounding tones with dynamic responsiveness similar to a tube amp. These are professional-quality effects that blend in very well with an amp’s inherent tone qualities and enhance and improve its sound like an amp modification. And while the pedals are classified as overdrive or clean boost effects, they all can produce a generous amount of gain that pushes the effect into distortion territory.
The No. 2 clean boost is probably the most mild-mannered of the three, and it delivers its namesake effect best with the gain control all the way down, the volume control at 12 o’clock or higher, the bass and treble controls at 12 o’clock, and the gain switch at “lo.” However, with the gain control cranked up past 1 o’clock and the “hi” gain setting engaged, the No. 2 produces gloriously gritty crunch with lots of aggressive bite. This pedal works particularly well with a clean amp setting that you want to push to or just beyond the edge of breakup.
The No. 1 has an even more aggressive edge, and its bass and tone controls cover a wider range of frequencies. The pedal also kicks in a very musical midrange sweet spot when engaged. The bass control is actually a secondary gain stage tied to the bass and low-midrange frequencies, and when this control and the gain control are cranked up and the “hi” gain setting is engaged, the pedal can produce blistering classic metal distortion similar to a Marshall JCM800.
The Ghoul Screamer is a very versatile variation of the popular three-knob Screamer-style overdrive, with its five switches allowing guitarists to dial in the perfect tonal character. If you need bigger, tighter bass, engage the bass switch. More cut and presence? Engage the highs switch. Want singing sustain? Try the three different combinations of compression settings. I liked using the Ghoul Screamer for dialing in solo tones that cut straight to the front of a mix and sing sweetly like a violin.
Street prices: $199.95 (No. 1 and No. 2 each); $229.95 (Ghoul Screamer)
Manufacturer: KHDK Electronics, khdkelectronics.com
• The Ghoul Screamer features five mini switches for customizing the overdrive effect’s tone and dynamic response to your preferences.
• The No. 1 and No. 2 both include a lo/hi gain mini toggle switch that allows users to dial in subtle overdrive or crunch/distortion character.
• The No. 1’s treble and bass controls provide a generous range of tones, while the No. 2’s treble and bass controls affect those frequencies in more subtle ways.
• The Ghoul Screamer’s compression settings allow guitarists to dial in smooth, singing sustain ideal for solos.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Whether you want pure clean boost, classic rock raunch, or screaming solo tones, KHDK’s new overdrive pedals offer the flavors you love and the versatility to create the sounds you’ve always dreamed of.