Introducing Our New Pedal — Sparks

Hi all,

I’m excited to announce our new pedal Sparks!

Sparks is a stereo overdrive, wavefolder, and multi-mode filter that combines an all-analog signal path with state-of-the-art digital control. Every parameter is continuously-variable and can be modulated by the LFO and envelope follower — letting you navigate vast spectrums of texture and motion.

Color your signal in one sweep, from subtle grit to blown out fuzz. Sculpt your harmonics with a shape-shifting filter. Spin the LFO across the stereo field to create lush analog soundscapes. You can even play Spark as an instrument on its own with a built-in SID Chip-inspired synthesizer.

We wanted to share about it here first to give forum users a heads up. Please note that this is a limited preorder. Everyone’s purchases directly fund the production. We plan to start shipping in 8-12 weeks and will create another forum post soon where we’ll share updates as things get moving.

You can read a more detailed description of Sparks, listen to a bunch of different sound clips, and place an order on the Sparks product page.


Here is a video introduction to Sparks:

I wanted to share some backstory here about how and why I made this thing.

I’ve been chipping away at Sparks since we launched Ribbons in the fall of 2022. At first I thought it would be a simple project that would come together quickly, but fast forward to now, it took longer than I ever imagined and was probably the hardest work I’ve ever done. It was also hugely rewarding and taught me lessons I could only learn by experimenting and refining the design. I did 7 revisions of the PCB until I was happy with it.

Sparks is the compact drive I always wanted. My goal was to create a stereo drive that could shape-shift and sound equally great on guitar, bass, drums, or full mixes. Not an easy task, but with the right utilities surrounding the drive, I found a way to achieve it.

The Drive and Filter:

I spent a lot of time studying circuits that I liked and found that the key to a great drive is the pre and post-drive tone shaping controls. The most important ingredient in the pre-control is the low-cut filter, especially when playing complex chords on guitar. But - having the option to dial this back when running bass, drums, or full mixes through it is essential, so I made it variable.

For the clipping section I picked two extremes - a pleasant soft clipping circuit with zener diodes and an aggressive Serge-style wavefolder with the option to crossfade between them. My take on the Serge wavefolder is somewhat unique - I managed to squeeze twice as many folds out of a typical folding stage, which achieves an incredible sound in a small amount of space.

For the post-tone control, I wanted something musical but not too surgical, so I chose a filter topology from my favorite synthesizer - the Oberheim SEM, which gives you high-pass, band-pass, and low-pass outputs, letting you hone in on the harmonic content you want to emphasize while also having resonance. I feel a special connection with the SEM because I restored an Oberheim Four Voice (made up of four SEM modules) 6 or so years ago. It was found abandoned in an apartment and filled with bullet holes - it was a complete wreck. But after restoring it, it was one of the most beautiful sounding instruments I’ve ever heard. The SEM is very pure/vanilla when it goes into resonance though so I added another soft clipping section afterward that adds some extra harmonic content to it, making it growl like an MS-20 when the resonance is cranked.

Finally, I added the ability to blend the dry signal with the distorted/filtered signal, to help add back in some clarity and dynamics when the gain is high. I also threw in a gate in case you end up getting a little noise or feedback on the stage or in the studio.

Adding Motion to Things:

After discovering a great recipe for the analog section, I really wanted to add motion to things. Not just vertical motion (turning a parameter up and down) but also horizontal motion (stereo). So I added an LFO and an envelope follower. The LFO morphs smoothly between waveforms (no clicks or jumps), goes well into audio rate in case you want to get weird, and can add variation to the stereo field using the SPIN control. The envelope follower has 3 modes: classic, which started as an emulation of the ARP 2600 envelope follower but ended up being tweaked into something more useable. Compressor, which emulates compressor side chains and takes inspiration from Ribbons compressor, which itself was inspired by the SP-303’s Vinyl Sim compressor. And AR, which emulates the auto-swell effect found in devices like Slow Gear and Attack Decay.

The combination of the LFO/ENV and the DRIVE/FILTER turns Sparks into a powerful analog toolkit capable of compression, auto-wah, auto-swell, tremolo, harmonic tremolo, audio rate amplitude modulation that sounds like a ring-mod, and many other uncharted possibilities.

The SID chip synth

My favorite music group of all time is the late and great Broadcast. From Work and Non Work, to their Microtronics experiments, and their soon to be released Spell Blanket/Distant Call, I’ve always felt a deep connection with their music. On their 2005 release, they made heavy use of a VST plugin called QuadraSid by ReFx, which was an emulation of the SID chip from the Commodore 64. It’s one of the center pieces of tracks like Black Cat and I Found the F.

So… why emulate it for Sparks? Well… it just felt like a perfect opportunity. The SID chip architecture consists of digital oscillators injected into an analog state variable filter (same filter topology as the Oberheim SEM). All I had to do was re-create the oscillators and envelopes and we’d have a really great emulation of a SID chip. So I rolled up my sleeves and tried my best to re-create it from scratch using information I could find on the web. An interview with the SID chip designer Bob Yannes provided me with almost all the info I needed and then I was able to fill in the missing pieces of information from discussions on the site. I’m really happy with the result and am having a blast emulating my favorite synth patches from Tender Buttons.

As a bonus: some feature requests from our beta testing team have turned this thing into a powerful techno acid-machine that is great at emulating the sounds of the TB-303.

Huge Thanks

To my partner Hannah for helping me turn this crazy idea into a focused and intuitive device, to our beta testers for their brilliant and thoughtful feedback, to my friend John Snyder from EAE whose advice and guidance helped me unturn every stone and elevate this design from noisy prototype to a polished and well-engineered tool, and to our friend Pat Horigan for helping us showcase Sparks by making some great music with it. Finally, thank you to all of our amazing users. We couldn’t keep Kinotone going without your support.


Jaak, Ribbons is my favorite pedal hands down (and I have most of the pedals that might be considered “competition” to Ribbons) and Sparks looks absolutely phenomenal. I’ve been wanting a flexible filter pedal and this looks like that and more. It blows me away that this is mostly the work of one person. You’re creating some of the most musically inspiring equipment I’ve had the joy of playing. Can’t wait to play with Sparks. Hats off!


Sounds amazing, Jaak! Absolutely stellar engineering.


Aaaaah. You warned me against buying the OBNE Float but I was too impatient. I didn’t expect this to have so much gain/modulation control built in as well.

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Hey y’all. This thing is the real deal and something I genuinely didn’t think was possible. Hats off to Jaak for pulling it off!


Oh yes.

Any testing of this on a bass?

edit: and hell yes to Broadcast! And to the Deerhoof riff in the demo!

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I play electric and acoustic guitar and dabble with a synthesizer (Hydrasynth). I’m always looking for stereo effects that play well with all three, and I think this will fit the bill. The detail that sealed the deal was the link to the Commodore 64, which was my second computer (still waiting for someone to emulate the ZX-81). My final project for my 9th grade media class was an 8mm stop-motion Lego space movie, with a soundtrack I programmed on my C-64.


Woahhh… so Sparks makes it possible to assign the lfo AND envelope to any function? Mind boggling, yet again.


I called it! Not the pedal, there’s no way I could predict an engineering marvel like this…but I was right about the fact that it’s an instant-buy!


Amazing, congratulations, bravo. The demos sound fantastic (:clap: for the Deerhoof clip) and the SID chip synth is a compelling product all on its own (:clap: for Tender Buttons, also one of my favorite albums of all time).

Best wishes for another huge success on this one!


Hey ya’ll! I just want to express some immense gratitude to everyone here on the forum who has ordered a Sparks or expressed interest in it.

I was worried it might take a little while to get enough orders to kick off production but we surpassed our goal on the first day through the forum alone!

We’re so grateful for your support and excited to get them in your hands. Thank you. :white_heart::relaxed: :white_heart:


Congrats @jaakjensen and @carl_cat :tada:

Can’t think of a more deserving duo.


Bass is the first instrument I’ll be putting through Sparks when mine arrives!


I’m so happy Jaaks approach here was to consider how sparks could be used on full mixes. I regularly use pedals when mixing and this will take things even further!


If i dont have a midi keyboard, and only have a guitar, is it possible to get the synth tones from the pedals
Like the ones in the sound samples.
Could you make a small guitar demo with synth tones? :slight_smile:
Btw i already preordered this pedal, same day as announced:)

Hi there and congrats for what seems to be an amazing device !!
I wonder if it would be possible to purchase Sparks and Ribbons together as a bundle ?
I live in France, so the total price including all fees and duty taxes makes the initial price significantly higher (I mean REALLY higher), so if by any chance it was possible to save a few bucks on shipping costs and customs declaration fees billed by the transporter… I would be so glad and definitely would buy the two pedals !

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We don’t have Ribbons in stock so not possible at the moment unfortunately. We’ll get back to making Ribbons asap but we’re focusing on kicking off Sparks for now!

The SID Chip synth isn’t designed to be used with a guitar, it’s really made for a MIDI keyboard. Some MIDI foot controllers (like the ones from Morningstar) can send MIDI note data - so in theory you could use one of those to trigger the synth with your feet. We haven’t tried it ourselves though. Lots of cheap MIDI keyboards out there so if you want to play the internal synth that’s the best route.

You can get some synth-like sounds with your guitar using the envelope follower paired with the filter. I don’t think we have clips of this but we can add it to the list for when we make more.


Super excited by this one! Ribbons was my pedal of last year - just adore it. Sadly just bought a Mood Mk2 and need to wait until payday :sweat_smile:. Hope the pre-order lasts a few more days! Is there a set number or the pre-orders, or is that secret squirrel stuff?