John Hornby Skewes Zonk II in a cast aluminium enclosure
John Hornby Skewes Zonk II in a cast aluminium enclosure.

The Zonk II was a fuzz box that Hornby Skewes offered alongside the ZZ.1 ‘Zonk Machine’ during the period of approximately 1967 through to the early 1970s. An early advertisement for the Zonk II describes the unit as a ‘good quality Fuzz Box at a reasonable price’, and indeed, the Zonk II was priced considerably lower than the Zonk Machine.

Text advertisement for the Zonk II from Hornby Skewes catalogue

Early versions of the Zonk II were built & supplied to Hornby Skewes by Sola Sound, as the OEM,1 and these units featured a variety of different germanium-transistor fuzz circuits during the course of this period. These early Zonk II pedals can be distinguished by the fact that the units are housed in heavy duty, cast aluminium enclosures, similar to the Marshall SupaFuzz (which was also being built by Sola Sound at the time).

JHS Zonk II, built by Sola Sound

Sola Sound were still supplying Zonk II pedals to Hornby Skewes by 1968, because a handful of surviving Sola Sound-built Zonk II pedals have been fitted with a later revision of Sola Sound’s Tone Bender Professional MKII circuit. The pedal pictured above features a MKII circuit, and even has a 1968 date stamp on its bottom plate. (Photo credit: R. Green)

By 1969, the parts selection and general construction of the Zonk II changed, and the model was apparently no longer being manufactured by Sola Sound. This newer version of the Zonk II featured silicon transistors, as well as a similar mixture of parts as the earlier Zonk Machine. The silicon-transistor Zonk II was also housed in a similar enclosure to the earlier Zonk Machine, made of folded aluminium. A small handful of silicon-transistor Zonk II’s (dating to 1969) were housed in the earlier (Sola Sound) cast aluminium enclosures, despite not having been built by the company. These ‘transitional’ Zonk II’s have thus far only resurfaced in Italy.

1970s-era Hornby Skewes Zonk II
Late-production Zonk II, manufactured by Wilsic Electronics in the early 1970s. (Photo credit: C. Nelson)

The Zonk II fuzz boxes, housed in the folded aluminium casings, were most likely supplied to Hornby Skewes by Charlie Ramskir. Under the ‘Wilsic Sound’ company, Ramskir was already supplying Hornby Skewes with [Miles Platting] amplifiers during the 1970s, and Skewes recalled in a 2015 interview that Ramskir was involved with the production of Hornby Skewes fuzz boxes too.2 The track side of the printed circuit boards in later Zonk II pedals bear an imprint reading ‘W. E. 3’, and Wilsic Electronics even offered a fuzz box under its own brand, with the same enclosure & electronics as the 1970s-era Zonk II.

The two-transistor circuit of the Zonk II would also feature in the more sophisticated Hornby Skewes ‘Shatterbox’ pedal, that was also being sold during the late 1960s through to the early 1970s.

  2., Hornby Skewes Zonk Machines, 2015 []

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