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MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II High Octane Fuzz 

Remember...never wear boxers while you solder...

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

MOD Kits DIY pedal building kits have been reviewed on Harmony Central before, and we all walked away surprised by the quality of components, circuit design, and incredibly low prices. Designing a kit to give players looking for some hands-on soldering experience a useful tone they’ll use for under $50 is no small feat, especially considering comparable DIY clone kit from other manufacturers easily come in between $70-100 dollars. What surprised us even more than the quality and value, though, was that their customer support for troubleshooting build problems involved a real-live human being, not an outsourced user forum. 

 

After touching base this past NAMM, I was sent one of their most popular effects builds to review. I spent the last week building their MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II High Octane Fuzz pedal (well, less than an hour the first evening building it and a week of running it through the paces) and am reporting back for those curious what the first step towards building your own effects with a MOD Kits DIY package is like.

 

What You Need to Know

 

The MOD Kits Contortionist II arrived neatly packaged with a pre-drilled enclosure, three terminal strips, a handful of quality resistors, caps, transistors, and a true-bypass switch. The printed instructions were concise and descriptive, and a quick peek online revealed quite a few tutorials (both official and not) to walk through the build process. It’s truer than I’d like to admit that I got through the Contortionist II build with less ambiguity and rework than my last Lego project. 

 

If you’ve ever used a soldering iron before, the build process is a cinch. If you haven’t, a 45 second YouTube video will get you started and a few test runs with soldering and desoldering wire will have you creating a tour-ready circuit board.  The eyelets in the terminal strips were clean and inserting and temporarily mounting the components in them to solder was a breeze.  The instructions are written in sequence, so if you follow them step-by-step you’d be hard pressed to do something wrong or need to reference previous steps.  

 

How does the Contortionist II sound? Thick and throaty, with ghostly octaves jumping out on sustained notes that create an almost feedback-like wail. The fuzz is very sensitive to gain and shines best with single coils and lower output pickups. Vintage Noiseless pickups in a Strat bark and bit, while the BurstBuckers in my Les Paul seemed to overdrive the fuzz and congest it a bit, especially with chords, unless I rolled back the volume.  I found dozens of applications for the fuzz, from lo-fi blues to stoner riff rock, and there is a reed-like attack to notes that sets it apart from a stereotypical fuzz.

 

The Contortionist II most shines in a lead setting, where its sensitivity translates to articulate solo parts with expressive dynamics and a fair amount of sustain. The raw power of the gain structure also opens doors to some creative post-fuzz EQ sculpting through an EQ or colored overdrive devices. The Contortionist II is a secret weapon waiting to happen in the studio.

 

 Limitations

 

While a true vintage-flavored fuzz, there isn’t a traditional low-gain setting to the fuzz… it does weak fuzz, strong fuzz, or rip your face off fuzz. This is especially true when using higher output pickups.  

 

Conclusion

 

There are two points of consideration for how successful the MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II is; as a DIY pedal building project and as an addition to your pedal board. From a build perspective, MOD Kits create a satisfying build experience that holds your hand but doesn’t baby you. My one critique of the build process is that I think there would be value in explaining the circuit itself and how the components work within the circuit to better educate first-time builders as to why there are doing what are are doing, but I also know from experience that it’s a near-impossible tightrope to walk between educating and overwhelming when it comes to explaining electronics. Sonically, the MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II is an absolute delight, and stands out from a field of Fuzz Face clones by being aggressive, unique, and filled with character. It’s the sort of tone you’d expect will show up on a Jack White or Black Keys album at some point, but you can beat them to the punch for under $50!  -HC-

 

Resources

 

MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II High Octane Fuzz Box Product Page (Available from Manufacturer for $47.95)

 

MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II High Octane Fuzz Box Product Build Instructions

 

MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II High Octane Fuzz Box Product Schematic

 

MOD Kits DIY Contortionist II High Octane Fuzz Box Product Troubleshooting Tips

 

                                      

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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