Trashing Your Songs with Lo-Fi Guitar Pedals

I’m a big fan of lo-fi music and I’m going to look at two guitar pedals that I frequently run tracks through to get a dirty lo-fi sound: the ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky and the Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl mkII. These pedals emulate the noise, tone and wow & flutter of gramophone / vinyl record players, which is a very low-fidelity sound, especially compared to something like tape. I’ll try them out on synth, guitar, bass and then the whole mix.

The Pedals

The ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky emulates the features of an earlier ZVex pedal, the Lo-Fi Loop Junky, a low-fidelity loop pedal with heavy compression, hiss, distortion and vinyl-like vibrato. The Lo-Fi Loop Junky has been used by Kevin Shields, Deftones, J Mascis and Godspeed! You Black Emperor. The Instant Lo-Fi Junky produces the same effect in real-time and can be used as a chorus effect too.

The Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl is a very powerful effect that features an all-analog signal path with digital control over parameters to get some really wacky, unique effects. There is a mkI and a mkII versions; the mkII features a tone knob, and a switch for less noise.

lofi_guitar_pedals.jpg

The Song

Here’s a short song I quickly put together to try dirtying up with the pedals, there’s just 4 tracks; a Juno-106, a Fender-P Bass, a Fender ’51 electric guitar, and a drum machine. I’ve applied effects and reverb to each track and I’ll run the lo-fi pedals after all these effects, so that the reverb/delay tails get affected too.

note – to get the most from the audio examples, use decent headphones / monitors!

Basic Song Audio:

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ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky

Firstly, here are the individual tracks run through the ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky pedal.

Lo-Fi Junky Synth Audio:

Lo-Fi Junky Bass Audio:

Lo-Fi Junky Guitar Audio:

Next I’ll use the pedal to process the whole mix; you can really hear that the lo-fi pedal completely trashes the drums presence in the mix, and they become almost inaudible.

Lo-Fi Junky Mix Audio:

zvex_lofi_loop_junky.jpg

Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl mkII

Here are the exact same parts run through the Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl; I’ve used the warp function to make the LFO slightly uneven and raised the volume a little to very slightly overdrive the sound. Apart from that, the settings are mostly the same as how I set the Lo-Fi Junky, and for the most part it sounds very similar, however I’d say the Warped Vinyl sounds clearer, less compressed and less noisy than the Lo-Fi Junky.

Warped Vinyl Synth Audio:

Warped Vinyl Bass Audio:

Warped Vinyl Guitar Audio:

Warped Vinyl Mix Audio:

You can hear in the final mix version that although the drums are heavily affected, they’re not as inaudible as in the Lo-Fi Junky version. Make sure to A-B compare the two tracks to get a sense of each pedals character!

chase_bliss_warped_vinyl.jpg

Stacking Both Pedals

Finally, here’s the full mix being run through both guitar pedals together; I’m running the Warped Vinyl into the Lo-Fi Junky. I’ve also created an extra mix of the lo-fi instruments with clean drums.

Stacked Pedals Mix Audio:

Stacked Pedals Drums Audio:

You can hear that with both pedals engaged, the sound is being really smashed with compression from both units. The sound is darker and the vibrato effect is less predictable because of the two independent LFOs, creating a wobbly, almost seasick feeling.

Hopefully you enjoyed hearing what these two great pedals sound like, however I’ve barely even scratched the surface of what these pedals can do. Both can be pushed harder to get some really insane sounds, and they’re both very versatile, offering varying amounts of chorus, compression and overdrive. Additionally the Warped Vinyl pedal has tons of extra modulation options, including a whole back panel of switches, saveable presets and the possibility of MIDI control.

If you enjoyed this piece then be sure to check back as I’ll likely do another piece exploring some more creative uses of these pedals, as well as using delay pedals such as the Strymon El Capistan and the Chase Bliss Tonal Recall to emulate tape effects.

4 thoughts on “Trashing Your Songs with Lo-Fi Guitar Pedals

  1. Nice article!

    Do you use a reamp box to send the audio from your interface to your pedals and back to the DAW? I’ve always wanted to do this but don’t really know the correct signal path to use.

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    • For this I just went output > pedal > input. You have to turn off monitoring to avoid feedback loops and adjust levels to get a good in/out balance. I’d only use a reamp box if I was getting too much background noise. Hope that helps!

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  2. wow this is awesome. I’m a big fan of lo fi music too and I love the sound of that Warped Vinyl pedal. It is a bit pricey though. Have you tried any tape or vinyl plugins and did you like the sound of any of them?

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