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!
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.
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?