Blammo Electronics has released its modern take on the Zonk Machine in the form of the fantastically named Skronk Machine.
The handmade pedal manufacturer assures us that the original pedal’s magic, which played a big part in the British fuzz pedal boom of the mid-60s, remains. All changes made are purely practical.
The original Zonk was the “third-times-a-charmer” in a lineage of classic fuzz pedals. It all started with the Maestro FZ-1, which in turn inspired the Tone Bender – a modification of Vic Flick’s personal FZ-1, as the writer of the James Bond riff sought more sustain from the pedal.
Contrary to its fuzzy counterparts, the Zonk gained a reputation for its slightly gated sound that offered a sound brighter than the Tone Bender. It was also said to offer more “sustain and bite” than the FZ-1, as per Fick's wishes.
According to Blammo, that makes the pedal the perfect stompbox for cutting through a dark mix.
Pre-empting the obvious question that the pedal’s revival will drum up, Blammo says it hasn’t made any tonal tweaks to a pedal it calls “pretty much perfect.” Instead, the focus is on flexibility and functionality.
The biggest update is the footswitch, which has been updated with a no-click relay bypass system. Depending on whether players tap the switch or hold it down, it kicks in a momentary or latching effect.
A benefit for rack effects fans, it also remembers its last state before being shut down.
Blammo has opted for NPN as opposed to PNP for its NOS germanium transistors. That decision was driven by the desire to make daisy chaining more convenient.
Pedals that use PNP transistors require a negative power supply, making daisy chaining something of a conundrum. The Skronk, meanwhile, can live off a standard ‘Boss-style’ 9V power supply.
The Portland-based pedal maker adds that each set of transistors are thoroughly tested and specifically biased for each build before they leave the workshop. They are tested through two voltage checkpoints on the circuit board to help drive consistency with these handmade builds.
Although the original pedal’s tonal characteristics remain unchanged, it has been given a handy sidekick in a “finely tuned” passive tone control. This is designed to cut some of the high-frequency harshness that can prove to be a little overly bright in certain set ups.
Dialed to the right, the filter is switched off, offering the stock Zonk voicing. The more it’s cranked to the left, however, the more highs are cut, taking users into a more Tone Bender-like ballpark. Blammo says that the frequency cutting works without cutting any of the pedal’s volume.
Finally, the pedal’s enclosure has been slimmed down to the standard industry size. That makes it far more pedalboard-friendly than the original, which needed its own landing strip when being placed on stages. Additionally, its jacks and power input are now top-mounted.
“The heart of the Skronk remains true,” says Blammo. “The upgrades just help keep the blood pumping more efficiently.”
Fuzz effects were around before Keith Richards churned out the instantly recognizable riff of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in 1965. Afterward, however, an obsession with the effect swept over countless guitar players.
John Hornby Skewes – based in Leeds, England – jumped on the trend. Although its true origins are somewhat unclear thanks to various conflicting sources, it is believed the pedal first appeared in 1965 and was shipped extensively to Canada, where many of the pedals often resurface.
Regardless, its modern equivalent’s origins are less murky. Blammo Electronics was founded by Dan Adamson. Before remaking vintage '60s pedals, he worked in medical, aviation, and defense PCB assemblies.
Alongside many other fuzz creations, Blammo has also made the Deth Pedal in collaboration with Dirty Haggard. The pedal merges a Rat distortion with a green ringer analog octave-up circuit.
The Skronk Machine is available now and costs $169
For more information, head to Blammo Electronics.