The name Slayer is about as known as a name can get in the world of heavy metal. Kerry King is one of the most notable guitarists in heavy metal history and Marshall is arguably the biggest name in the amp business. In Kerry’s career his guitar brand of choice switched a few times over the years but the name on the front of his amps and wall of cabinets always remained the same.
The two collaborated on what became the now-discontinued Kerry King KFK / 2203KK 100watt head. Basically, the amp is a Marshall JCM800 2203 with KT88 tubes instead of the traditional EL34 and an added section with an EQ boost and gate. A power tube swap from the traditional and rounder EL34 to the tighter and brighter KT88 is a huge factor in the famous JCM800 tone we all know and love. It also makes this plugin a lot more of a must have for Marshall tone enthusiasts given it’s uniqueness.
Softube have brought the mighty KFK to the plugin realm and it’s been delivered with a fully detailed cabinet section so that players everywhere can have the power to crush their own heavy tones at home or in the studio.
The GUI looks incredible but I’m curious as to why the tribal graphics are so different from the original. The textures in the amp and really everything about it looks very realistic. My only issue with the GUI is in the cabinet window and how it sort of pushes the amp over when activated/deactivated. The tools and graphics inside the window itself are very cool but the amp graphic kind of moves / condenses when the cabinet section is open. Not a huge deal but it definitely distracts the eye a bit.
The amp itself is quite simplistic. Users get a fairly standard set of Marshall controls with the addition of a couple of mods. The regular controls respond similar to those of a JCM800 but the tube change makes it tough to tell for sure.
The mods are fairly straight forward. “Beast Mode” is essentially a gate and a one-knob style boost similar to what players get with a Fortin Grind or Fortin 33 where there’s a specific EQ curve and one knob to control the boost but in this case, the boost has been catered to the legend himself. To my ears, it adds to the upper mids but I really just don’t care for the characteristics that are enhanced as the knob turns to the right. The gate is simply a one-knob gate that helps to tame the additional noise that can be added with a boost.
I have heard a few people say this amp “doesn’t sound like a Marshall” and there’s good reason for that. As mentioned in the intro section, the KRK has a KT88 power section instead of Marshall’s go-to EL34. This change drastically changes the sound of the JCM800 preamp. Warm, round and full turns into a colder and more sharpened set of dynamics. Not a bad thing per say but as a long time Marshall fan, I really prefer the EL34.
I have also seen and read about a few people struggling to get famous Slayer album tones with the KFK plugin. The answer to that is simple. For starters, Kerry King didn’t use the KFK on any of the band’s classic material and if you aren’t using an EMG 85 in the bridge you may be out of luck for full authenticity. That said, Slayer tones don’t actually require that much gain and the KFK still does a nice job of recreating that classic thrash sound.
For being billed and marketed as being a high gain amp in addition to being associated with one of the most famous metal bands ever, I have to say, it’s really more of plugin / amp for rock. If you are using your own boost pedal with the plugin, it definitely possible to give some more push and saturation but as is, I don’t think I would reach for this plugin for anything heavier than thrash. Without a boost, the plugin really doesn’t come close to the amount of gain contained in the average high gain amp.
It might not make many Slayer fans too happy but I will say that the KFK does have a lot of use in the rock department. Punk, classic rock, hard rock and other more mid-gain focused genres are really easy to dial in. The presets include more than a few ways to call up a variety of rhythm and lead tones.
The plugin includes a cabinet section packed full of really great sounding 412 impulse responses. There’s a section of IRs done by legendary producer; Terry Date, a Kerry King live cab setup and a section for users to customize their IR section a little more thoroughly. All three sections are very effective but the layout is a little troubling at times.
3D cab sections are never completely necessary as long developer has provided the optimal mics and positions. However, Softube’s GUI for the cab section really didn’t mesh with my needs. The scratchy pencil style writing to mark key components of the cab section was a weird choice. The cab section is the main tone shaping option for the plugin given the amp’s simplicity so it would be better to have everything a little more legible.
As mentioned in the GUI review section, I really don’t care for the way the cab section pushes and condenses the amp portion of the GUI when activated. It creates a weird optical distraction when it shifts where it would be better if it came out over top of the amp GUI. Lastly I have to say, I really don’t think the cabinet section bypass should be such an easter egg to find. They made the amp’s traditional power bypass into the cab bypass without actually marking it as the cab bypass. It’s fairly easy to find but a key plugin feature should never be hidden and unlabeled.
After testing out the plugin as is for a few days, I started adding my own components. Boost pedals worked great providing the “beast mode” was deactivated. I didn’t find a lot of luck stacking the internal boost with any other OD, TS, distortion or boost pedals but without the beast mode, a lot worked out great. With a good OD plugin or one of the Marshall Guv’nor pedal plugins out there, the KFK started to round off a little more, bringing out more of the “Marshall” characteristics.
My absolute favorite applications for the KFK plugin came in the lead department. WOW, is the word that comes to mind first in fact. When I added delay and a slight bit of tube screamer, the lead tones I constructed were really on another level. I would consider buying the plugin for those capabilities alone even though I had to add components to get the tone I wanted. This is nothing new, plugins don’t have to include every component of a signal chain, all that’s really needed are an amp and a cab section. The rest players should be able to acquire themselves with a proper signal chain.
UPS / DOWNS
The KFK from Softube is a solid plugin with a lot of great tones available but I feel many people may reach to it thinking it’s a modern high gain tool. I just don’t see a lot of value in that side of the product so I would suggest modern high gain lovers definitely do the trial period before purchase.
It can definitely do a more classic or vintage version of high gain but when put up against many of the premium modern high gain plugins out there, it falls short of the mark without assistance from an outside drive plugin/pedal.
Softube provide one of the longest free trial periods out there so be sure to grab the free trials for both the KFK, Plexi 1959 plugins and others. The trials are also fully unrestricted so users can demo and test the plugin any way they need to while also using it for mixes and content creation with no limits.
See more: Softube release video