Gear talk for the GAS-afflicted.

Joyo Pedals – Attack of the Clones!

Joyo Pedals – Attack of the Clones!

Aug 23, 2012


Who on earth are Joyo pedals? That’s the question I asked myself recently when I started hearing about them. The short answer is that they are one of many companies in China who are in the business of making “clones” of other pedals, but at a cheap pricepoint.

What’s unique about that? Well, on the face of it, nothing much. But what caught my interest was the fact that these guys were actually doing clones of the Tech 21 Character Series, some of which I reviewed recently for the good folks at NZ Rockshop. Now that’s a little bit different from your usual clones of boutique overdrives and such. If you’ve never heard of the Tech 21 100% analog amp simulator pedals, the first thing you should do is go check out that link above. And then come right back.

Okay, how was that? Cool stuff, right? A pedal that you can basically chuck in your backpack, and can replace your whole amp by going straight the PA if your tube amp releases its magic smoke without warning.

But these high tech analog amp sims don’t come cheap – local pricing is about $299 new, and you wouldn’t be too far off that price if you were to import one from overseas (so buy local, people!). On the other hand, these Joyo pedals are dirt cheap – going for about $45USD (before shipping etc) on eBay. That is a major difference, and if they’re anywhere near as good as the originals, it would be a tough ask to spend the extra hundreds of dollars.

So the question remains, are they any good? Luckily enough, there is a guy on TradeMe who is currently importing these (he goes by the name of “webdude“), and it happens that he was nice enough to send me two of the Joyo pedals to try out. I asked for the AC Tone (which is based on the Tech 21 Liverpool, my favourite of the Character Series) as well as the British (which is based on the, well, Tech 21 British). A couple of days later, they showed up – excitement!

Screen within a screen… it’s like freakin’ Inception in here.

At first glance they’re roughly the same size box as the Tech 21 stuff. The controls all fulfill the same parameters, but with a different layout. The paintjob is nothing flashy, but what do you expect for the price? It’s a solid metal box, with an easy access battery compartment. They proclaim themselves to be True Bypass, but I’ve heard that this is not entirely true… I’m no stompbox guru though.


I was pretty excited to try the AC-style Joyo pedal, seeing as the Tech 21 Liverpool had been my favourite, and I was basically saving up to buy one anyway. Plugging in and getting things going, I at once noticed that the knobs were a bit sticky (hah) – not a huge deal, but it’s always nice to have… uh, well-lubricated knobs.

I set the Voicing knob (which sort of corresponds to the era of AC30 sounds – from jangly clean to midsy Brian May roar as you go along) to about 10.30 o’clock and the drive about the same. I ran my Gibson LP Classic into the AC Tone, and straight into my Focusrite interface.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed. The response was at once flatter than the Liverpool, and had less of the distinctive treble and presence response that you’d expect from an AC-style pedal. I did also feel that it was quite difficult to get anything less than a hairy clean out if the pedal – it didn’t seem to have a gigantic amount of headroom. However, overall it wasn’t too bad.

Next up, I cranked the Voicing knob as well as the Drive, to get into more gainy territories. I also messed with the EQ section a little, and found that I had to crank the High control way up to get more high end in, while the Tech 21 original had had amazing high end presence for days without getting towards the extremes of its travel. So, the obvious thing is that the values for components and pots probably do differ (as expected, somewhat) between the clone and the real McCoy. Always better to EQ with your ears, anyway. Pretty good with a bit of tweaking, but I found it a little fizzy sounding on the whole.

As I did with my review of the Liverpool, I ended with a crunching, more modern rock tone. I think it turned out pretty well, and again my previous conceptions of how the Liverpool should be set did not help at all, as the settings I ended up with were quite different.

Alright, so here are the clips:

End result? Not too bad. Not completely blown away as I was for the Liverpool, but for the price you can’t really complain. A good pedal to keep as a backup for live gigs, or just to sit on your desk for quickly recording ideas and songs.

Onion, Jack

The British one! Unfortunately I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play the Tech 21 version, so I won’t be able to offer a comparison, but let’s push through.

As previously, Voicing takes you from early eras (JTM) through to higher gain times (JCM) and in between.

Setting the Voicing and Drive quite low, I found that I achieved a better clean tone than I did with the AC Tone. Warm with good presence up high. Winding these controls up progressively gets you rawk, rawk, and more rawk. I started off with a little bit of a blues shuffle, before cranking out some AC/DC, and ending with some pretty decent chunk chug that bordered on metal territories. Very cool!

And here are the sounds:

End result? I liked it. Does a decent Marshall impression, and for the price I suspect it can’t be beat for a straight-to-PA solution. I suspect the original Tech 21 big brother will be better, but at this price I’ll probably pick one up as a backup, and continue saving for the Liverpool in the meantime.

Thanks again to webdude on TradeMe¬†for sending me these to try out, much appreciated. I believe they also have clones of the Blonde and California (Fender and Mesa, respectively) – might try and see what those are like if there’s any interest!

So what do you think? Also, what’s your favourite “clone” pedal?


  1. Ross Blakely says:

    Cool review, I listened to the TEch 21 clips on youtube too. Had to tell how different they really are. Impressive pedals though as I never knew. about these. I have owned the Sansamp Tri ac at some point and hat was very impressive.

    1. thesamurai says:

      Cheers Ross :) Yeah, the Tech 21 concept is a really cool one. The main reason I’ve been looking into these is to have a small, direct-to-PA pedalboard which I can run for small gigs, and just leave the amp at home!

      I always wanted the Tri-AC back in the day!! Never managed to own one, though I did have the Tri-OD for awhile.

  2. Scott says:

    I have the vintage overdrive pedal from joyo. It’s a tubescreamer basically.
    I’ve never owned a tubescreamer because I’m not a cork sniffer but for $70 how could you go wrong?
    I got it for jangly lo gain settings, which it does very nicely.
    My take on it would be that for a cheap option, it’s a hell of a lot better than other cheap pedals out there.

    Plus, webdude is a total gentleman.

    1. thesamurai says:

      He is indeed. I’m looking forward to getting a few more pedals from him in the near future – I’m still keen on checking out the rest of Joyo’s Tech 21 clone range, e.g. the California (Mesa) and American (Fender) sim pedals.

      A friend of mine had the tremolo pedal and another one (can’t remember which), and again, for the price, you just can’t fault them!

      Welcome to the site, Scott! Take a look around and if you have any thoughts on gear, always happy to listen. :)

  3. Greg says:

    Thanks Samurai, you really know how to wield an axe!!
    LOVED the attached Tech 21 reviews too. I own and use at Church the Liverpool, from U2 boards etc I got the G.A.S.!
    What is your honest opinion on the comparison between these ‘pedals’ and the Amp Sims of these amps in the HD 500?
    Cheers, Greg, Sydney.

    1. thesamurai says:

      Hi Greg! Sorry it took me a little while to reply to your comment – it’s been hectic recently.

      Ah I love the Liverpool. It was hands down my favourite of the Character Series, and if I were to assemble a direct-to-PA board, it would be based around it.

      One thing I found was that while the Character Series pedals certainly sound the part, they don’t quite manage to completely capture the “feel” of playing a real amp, especially in terms of dynamics like rolling back your volume knob, or picking hard or soft. In that respect I would probably rate the HD500 more highly, although in its stock form some of the models aren’t that great for it either – e.g. JCM800, AC30 models I feel are the weak spots. However, combining the HD modelling with a Line 6 DT series amp (as I do these days) definitely brings these amp models to life!

      Hope that helps!

  4. StratDude says:

    I use a Line 6 Floor Pod Plus with the Vox AC30 simulation in our church (direct to PA) and the Joyo AC Tone pedal in a Christian band that plays out at other venues. I use it into a 100-watt Peavey tube head and 2X12 cab for that application. Both the Line 6 and Joyo AC simulation have great Vox tones, but they sound different from each other. Does that make sense? The Line 6 model might be a little closer to a true Vox, but the Joyo is so close that nobody who hears it is going to be saying, “Hey, that’s not an AC30!!” What’s interesting is that while the Line 6 Vox model covers about the same amount of overdrive territory as a real Vox amp, the Joyo pedal covers that same territory and a whole lot more. You can get serious amounts of gain out of the Joyo pedal, much more than a real Vox amp will give you. So it’s not quite an accurate reproduction of that amp; however, it IS much more versatile. It goes straight into high-gain metal territory, which is not what I was expecting. I generally keep the gain at about 50% and the “voice” knob at around 50%. I use a Monte Allums modified Boss DS-1 in front of it for leads (very nice pedal, by the way). In case you’re wondering which Peavey amp I use, it’s the Windsor, a cheap JCM-800 clone. Stock, those amps do not offer much of a clean tone, but if you replace the 12AX7s with 12AU7s, they clean up and take pedals nicely. Oh, an added bonus with the Joyo AC Tone is that it can be used as a direct box for recording and it sounds particularly sweet in this configuration.

    1. thesamurai says:

      Great stuff! Sorry for the slow reply StratDude – I’ve been battling getting out the year’s final content as well as contending with some nasty hackers trying to screw up the site!

      Yep, it’s funny how much we obsess about tone, but when it comes down to it, Joe Public in the crowd just doesn’t give a shit!

      The Joyo pedals are interesting in that they aren’t 100% reproductions of the Tech 21 pedals they’re based on – there are obvious circuit/component differences, so I’m guessing that may account for the differences you’re getting in terms of gain etc.

      I always love hearing about people’s rigs and setup – thanks for sharing! Have a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

      1. StratDude says:

        What’s really funny is when guys compare the Line 6 emulation of a high-gain monster like an ENGL Fireball with the actual amp, and say things like, “The Line 6 sounds totally digital and I’d never use that on stage”, when if you listen to the comparison the difference is so slight. Heck, two Marshalls of the same model placed side-by-side would sound a little different from each other. Amp simulation has come a long way and I’d bet that many of these guys who say they can “hear” the difference between a recording of the real amp and a digital simulation aren’t really hearing any difference at all, but the fact that they spent $1,800 for that all-tube head makes them WANT to hear a difference. I’m a tube amp guy myself – I’ve owned Marshalls, MESA/Boogies, Laneys, etc., and in all reality if you were to hear either a tube amp and a simulated amp in a mix it’s unlikely you’d be able to tell which is which. I used to own a Tech-21 SansAmp GT-2 and it was freaking amazing straight into a PA. Wish I had kept that one….

  5. […] the damn clones are ALWAYS trying to take over the world. Last year, we did a few reviews on the Joyo series of pedals which were clones of the Tech 21 Character Series (which reminds me, I still have […]

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