As an audio engineer and guitarist I’m fascinated by different weird sounds and lately I’ve been really getting into lo-fi, warble and vinyl replication sounds. There’s something organic and comforting about that less-than-perfect wobble.
Finding that warped vinyl sound
Originally when I was looking at finding a guitar pedal to get this sound I was searching for “vinyl sounding pedals” – in other words I wasn’t thinking about what that sound was built on, I was just after the final result.
There are a few different options out there. And as guitar pedals go many of them are quite pricey. This is fine – they are what they are. But perhaps unless this is your main “sound” you’re after it may be difficult to justify the price for 1 or 2 songs in a set or for some experimentation.
These were some of the options I was looking at:
- Zvex Instant Lo-fi Junky Vertical – circa £220
- Caroline Guitar Co. Somersault Lo-fi Modulator – circa £220
- Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl HiFi Analog Vibrato/Chorus – circa £350
- Fairfield Circuitry Shallow Water – circa £300
- Raygun FX Ghosty Lo-fi Modulation – circa £90
The Raygun FX is by far the most inexpensive option and could well be a really good option. But, I haven’t tested it. There are a couple of videos online of it which you check out. There’s also a mini version.
In defence of the ZVEX Instant Lo-fi Junky
To me, the ZVEX Instant Lo-fi Junky is a work of art. It’s beautiful. It’s like a classic car: Stunning to drive and glorious on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but maybe not so practical on an everyday level.
Putting the analogy to one side, the thing that makes it difficult to use is the compression and the hiss. At louder gigging volumes this could be tricky. The compression is hard and the hiss is very audible.
What I would say in defence of the ZVEX is that if you take these things away then maybe it loses some of its mojo. But, much like needing a Mondeo for popping to the shops, I looked at seeing if it was possible to create a more everyday version of the Instant Lo-fi Junky.
What sounds make up the Instant Lo-fi Junky?
Firstly I needed to understand what basic effects the ZVEX was based on. To my ears here’s what’s being used:
- Chorus (more subtle effect)
1. Recreating the vibrato
With the vibrato, it needs to be a slow speed. I didn’t really consider vibrato as a nice effect before this because I’ve only associated it with faster rates – and to me, that sounds like shopping mall jazz. But at a slow speed that’s where the warped vinyl sound is.
The problem is, there aren’t many vibrato pedals that go this slow. There are some great examples of cost-effective vibrato pedals which have been modded. You could check out the following:
- Modded Behringer UV300 – Check out this video here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cs1aRrFUyE
- Modded TC Electronic Tailspin – Check out this video here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMvRlsd62PI
While these mods seem fairly straightforward to do, I’m quite lazy. So I looked at another option – the TC Electronic Shaker Mini. This pedal makes use of TC’s Toneprint editor which offers more options than just the 3 knobs on the pedal. And quite importantly it also has a hi-cut setting to get even more of a lo-fi sound.
The TC Electronic Shaker Mini
Here are the Toneprint settings I used to recreate the warble:
2. Recreating the compression
This is more subjective as one of the “problems” with the ZVEX is that the compression is too hard. So I wanted some of the flavour of the ZVEX comp but dialled back a little.
I stuck with TC Electronic and specifically the Hypergravity Mini pedal as this also had their Toneprint technology which meant I could really dial in the right sound.
If you didn’t want to use the Hypergravity then it might be a good idea to use a compressor with a blend control. That way you could start with a hard compression and then dial it back to suit your playing.
The TC Electronic Hypergravity Mini
Here are the Toneprint settings I used to recreate the compression but more subtly:
3. Recreating the chorus
To my ears the chorus sound on the ZVEX is quite subtle. And of course it depends on what setting you use. On the Comp-Lo-Fi knob at around 2 to 3 o’clock is where the chorus comes in. I believe it sounds chorus-y because you are blending the 2 main sounds – the compressor sound and the Lo-Fi sound.
You can get this same effect in 2 ways:
Without a chorus pedal and using the TC Electronic Shaker Mini
On the TC shaker with the settings I’ve used, you can use he mix knob and turn it from full right to around 3 o’clock and you’ll start to hear a chorus effect coming in. It’s more subtle than the ZVEX but might be what you’re looking for.
Using a chorus pedal
Alternatively you can use chorus pedal. Like the compressor you might be best using a chorus pedal which has a blend knob in order to get the desired chorus level you want. I didn’t have a chorus like this to hand but used a good old Electro Harmonix Neo Clone. While it’s probably too much chorus compared to the ZVEX, it’s a gorgeous watery tone.
Recreating the warped vinyl sound: Clips
I’m using a Gibson 335 and a Fender Blues Junior.
ZVEX Instant Lo-Fi Junky:
Settings used –
My recreation 1 (vibrato only):
My recreation 2 (vibrato & a more subtle compression):
My recreation 3 (vibrato, chorus & compression):
Have fun! It’s all subjective
I think I’ve got pretty close to the original ZVEX and perhaps I could get closer spending more hours on the Toneprint settings but I’d rather play than twiddle knobs all day. I don’t want to hate on the ZVEX at all because I think it is a truly wonderful sound that I can get lost in. But for a more practical application I found the settings and alternative pedal choices above much more usable. If you have any thoughts or comments feel free to drop me a line – [email protected]