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 ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky emulates the features of an earlier ZVex pedal, the Lo-Fi Loop Junky, alow-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.
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!
ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky
Firstly, here are the individual tracks run through the ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky pedal.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.