Friday, September 30, 2022

Knight Fuzz Box KG-389 (1967)

The mid-1960’s saw a glut of new Fuzz pedals entering the scene as the popularity of the Maestro Fuzz Tone soared. Riding this fuzzy wave, it seemed like every electronics-adjacent company was getting into the game. Some of these pedals became future classics (Sola Sound Tone Bender, Jordan Boss Tone, Univox Super Fuzz) while others were destined for obscurity (Sunn Buzz, GM Electronics Fuzz Up, Lectrolab Fuzz Buzz)...

The Knight KG-389 Fuzz Box was part of an interesting subset of this trend, the build-it-yourself kit. It was sold exclusively by Allied Radio of Chicago through their mail-order catalogs from 1967 through 1972. Knight Electronics Inc. was a subsidiary brand of Allied Radio specializing in DIY kits ranging from ham radios to tube amplifiers to synthesizers. Ordering an unbuilt kit, originally retailing for $12.95, was the only way to get your hands on the KG-389 Fuzz Box, and you had to literally solder it together component by component, guided by the detailed instructions. 

While it does sound cool as hell, one of my favorite things about this pedal is actually the borderline-ridiculous advertising slogans like, “Turn on this electronic fuzz box, and your audience too, for the wildest sound they ever heard." and “Turn on your guitar to freak out your audiences!” The copywriters at Allied Radio were clearly doing their best to capture the attention of  all the new hip young guitar freaks and geeks emerging from the 60s rock scene.

The Knight Fuzz, most interestingly, seems to be of its own design; which for a little $12 kit out of 1960’s Midwest, that’s saying a lot! Many of the fuzzes from that era were clearly Maestro rip-offs, and although the Knight is most similar in build to the Astro Amp Astrotone (1967), the two sound nothing alike. So what about it, how does this little blue wedged beastie sound?

While there are no known famous, or even obscure, recordings available of the Knight in action, there are a few decent video demos online (see this one I posted a while back). And in addition to that I also happen to have a unit right here that I can do my best to describe in ridiculous sonic detail! 

Comparing it to effects you may have heard before, the Knight Fuzz Box sits somewhere between a lower gain Mosrite Fuzzrite and a more precise Jordan Boss Tone (Alhambra, V2). 

It only has two controls, “Volume” and “Fuzz Tone”. The Fuzz Tone knob acts as the gain control, going from a nice round low-gain distortion all the way up to a squelchy splattery fuzz. It's also fairly sensitive, making it pretty useful at any setting. My favorite thing about the Knight Fuzz is that it retains a nice articulate bottom-end without ever getting too muddy; this was something its sonic sister the Jordan Boss Tone never got quite right. Another helpful feature is that it’s very responsive to guitar Tone and Volume adjustments, allowing for even more versatility and customization. One little trick I accidentally came across was using an old 9v battery that was on its way out; the result was a low rumbling, gated square wave fuzz perfect for bass!  

So while the Knight KG-389 Fuzz Box was never meant to be more than a cool low cost project kit for aspiring musicians/electricians, over 50 years later through a combination of rarity, simplicity and individuality it stands firmly on its own among the masses of overproduced 60s wedge fuzzes.  And maybe after reading this, you'll track one down for yourself and join the cool kids at the Knight club. 😎

Thanks for reading!

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