Z.Vex Instant Lo-Fi Junky Pedal Review
October 18, 2011
The Lo-Fi Loop Junky remains among the most unique pedals in Zachary Vex’s pedal line, which is saying a lot. It didn’t fill many common needs when it debuted, even by the adventurous standards of loopers. But it produced one of the most distinctive ranges of tones you could ever use for looping—a mixture of compression and vibrato-warble that gave loops the character of warped records, warbling tape, and other very lo-fidelity treats. And while its merits weren’t as obvious to straight-ahead players, looping players that wanted to add a little more character—well, in this case a lot more character—to their loops without tap dancing around three other pedals fell in love with the Lo-Fi Loop Junky.
With the Instant Lo-Fi Junky, Z.Vex adapts the effects that make the Loop Junky’s loops so, well, junky and puts them in a stomp box without the looper. The result is a tone-tweaking tool that very happily strays from the ordinary.
Engineer Joel Korte designed the Instant Lo-Fi Junky by reverse-engineering Vex’s original Lo-Fi Loop Junky circuit. But the Instant Junky isn’t just the Lo-Fi Looper’s circuit minus the looper. Instead, the Instant Lo-Fi Junky uses a different set of components with a combination of compression and vibrato effects to replicate the tones you get using the original Loop Junky’s recorded tone.
While the effects can be radical, the pedal is among the simplest to operate in the Z.Vex product line—with a set of knobs for Volume, Tone, Vibrato Speed, Vibrato Depth, and a Mix control for moving between full-compression and full-vibrato. There’s also a tiny, 3-way switch at the top of the pedal’s face that changes the vibrato shape from sine to triangle or square waves. Either a 9V battery or a standard Boss-style power supply, drawing less than a miniscule 20 mA of power, powers the analog, true-bypass circuit.
Clean Up This Junk!
For all intents and purposes, the Instant Lo-Fi Junky houses some of the wackiest tones in the entire Z.Vex line. But there are also very usable and more conventional sounds within. Rest assured, the Loop Junky’s strange, vibrato-laden murk is perfectly preserved here, along with the option of mixing in some out-of-this-world compression.
Before I delved into the lo-fi emulation aspects of the pedal, I plugged it in between a Fender Blacktop Telecaster and Fender ’65 Twin Reverb reissue, and turned the Comp/ Lo-Fi knob all the way to the left. Playing the opening passage to “The Wind Cries Mary” had me twitching in my seat—the compression is staggeringly good—reminiscent of Z.Vex’s brightly-voiced Super Hard-On booster, but with an unbelievable amount of sustain and smoother response. It’s nearly worth the price of admission alone.
Moving the Comp/Lo-Fi control clockwise brings the pedal’s lo-fi processing into play. With the mix full-on, the tone is just as gloomy and warbly as the Z.Vex’s looper, with the added bonus of being able to drastically change the waveform from smooth rises and falls to sudden, immediate pitch-changes. Pulling the Mix control back gave me a warm, heavenly chorus that was reminiscent of a beloved vintage Boss CE-1 that I once owned, but with more clarity and a wider scope. Chorus may be one of the more conventional and familiar effects out there, but Z.Vex managed to put their own stamp on it in this case.
Those aching to apply the Lo-Fi Loop Junky’s granular tonal-qualities to their direct guitar sounds will be extremely satisfied with the Instant Lo-Fi Junky. The Instant Lo-Fi Junky’s tone sounds much like its looper counterpart, and has an incredible compression tone for cleaner playing to boot, in addition to some of the coolest chorus tones available on the market. A lo-fi star to be sure, but one you can use in proper company too.
you’re looking to experiment with new textures in your guitar tone.
you’re perfectly happy with keeping your tone’s high fidelity.
Street $Street $219 (Vexter version); $349 (handpainted version) - Z. Vex Effects - zvex.com
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