Guitar Overdrive Pedal Shootout: Joyo Crunch Distortion Review
Part 3 of my Guitar Overdrive Pedal Shootout series. Review of the Joyo Crunch Distortion.
A”Marshall In a Box” at a knock-down price.
Let’s take stock of the situation in my Guitar Overdrive Pedal Shootout.
- Joyo Ultimate Drive — Too dark, too scooped, too twitchy.
- Electro-Harmonix East River Drive — Too polite, and too mid-biased to be able to boost with my Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2
Next up we have a clone of the M.I. Audio Crunchbox, which promises more of a mid-range thump than the Ultimate Drive, and more gain than the East River Drive. For £10 second-hand, I couldn’t really go wrong could I ?
The Joyo Crunch Distortion seems to be a perfectly designed pedal, bar the now too common LED positioned right under your foot. This is less of an issue here though, as you’ll be left in no-doubt when the pedal is on or off (more on this later). It’s pretty light and compact, with solid aluminium casing, positive jack connections (unlike the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2) and good quality pots with a nice firm action (not easily knocked out of position). It’s bright orange colour scheme leaves you in no doubt what your stepping on and overall there’s very little about the pedal to criticize design-wise. It’s just a solid, no frills pedal with Gain, Level, Tone and a foot-switch (of my preferred small, round protruding variety).
Underneath the hood is an unexpected surprise, a presence pot (also a feature on the crunchbox). Unfortunately you need to almost dismantle the whole pedal to access it, but at least it’s there.
After the over-politeness of the Electro-Harmonix East River Drive stepping on the Joyo Crunch Distortion for the first time is like transporting you back to 80’s Heavy Rock/Metal land, even with the gain only at 12'clock. It’s a singing, full-sounding lead guitarist’s paradise with all the cascading gain, sustain, harmonics and punch you could ever need, a lot of fun in other words. Claims of a “Marshall in a Box” are totally justified, the tone being much more organic and punchier than the Joyo Ultimate Drive. Van Halen? No problem ! The tone control is really intuitive, giving you a usable range of brightness to match your amp with no real bad setting. It’s pretty much set and forget.
Why did I add the Joyo Crunch Distortion to my pedalboard?
With my Epiphone ES-335 PRO into a Fender Blues Junior and a Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Drive V2 (my favoured boost pedal), I hurriedly installed the Crunch Distortion onto my board, just before the Dano. It was immediately apparent that the level of gain (an noise) generated by anywhere near 12'oclock gain was too much to bare, so I settle for a much more natural sounding 10'oclock, which gives you more of an ‘overdrive’ as opposed to a ‘distortion’ tone. The Crunch Distortion has more output than any pedal I’ve ever experienced, so the level knob needs to only be about a quarter to match the clean signal. Unlike the Electro-Harmonix East River Drive, when I boosted the Crunch Distortion with Dano, no compressed mess this time, just more volume and gain. PERFECT!
So there I had it, a great clean sound with just the Blues Junior, a thick, sweet, high-mid focused Marshall-style main overdrive that really cut through the mix, and a natural sounding boost with the Dano. Was this the end of my search?
Why did I take the Joyo Crunch Distortion from my pedalboard
Not quite. The Joyo Crunch Distortion is an amazing sounding pedal no doubt, especially for the price. It’s so good in fact, that I almost lost myself in the singing, dynamic, organic richness of it’s tones. I’d completely forgotten about using my guitar volume, which sadly is it’s achilles heal….
Once you back off your guitar volume with the Joyo Crunch Distortion, you get mud, and lots of it. The presence/treble content of your guitar is lost almost immediately, leaving you with an indistinct, unusable tone (unlike the Joyo Ultimate Drive which cleans up uncannily well). For those of you that always have you guitar volume on ten that’s no problem, but backing off for cleaner / quieter parts on the fly is a big part of my playing, and something I don’t want to be without.
I didn’t want to give up on the Joyo Crunch Distortion, so I tried maxing out the internal presence pot, to no avail. Then I came across a revelation; using the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 as a treble booster before the Crunch Distortion……. SUCCESS! Now when I rolled back the guitar volume, the treble content was retained. I had the perfect main overdrive tone which also cleaned up well……. but……. no boost :(
I did contemplate the idea of having two Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2’s. One setup as a treble booster before the Joyo Crunch Distortion and one as a booster after it, but the idea of having three overdrive pedals just didn’t appeal to me, particularly as I was trying to simplify my setup.
The Joyo Crunch Distortion brought me very close to tonal nirvana, As a stand alone overdrive/distortion with the guitar volume on ten, I still think it’s unsurpassed, but unfortunately, for my needs, it’s needs a treble-booster before it (or a guitar treble bleed) so that it cleans up on the guitar volume, and I just didn’t want the extra complication.
Joyo needs to be congratulated for producing such a well-designed and constructed pedal that can get you into hot-rodded Marsall-land for peanuts. It’s so much less twitchy and much more intuitive than the Joyo Ultimate Drive, all you need to do is use your ears and adjust it to taste. Out of all the pedals I’ve owned, this is the only one I contemplated keeping despite it not quite working for me.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, it’s also true bypass.
Next up, I’m giving another OCD clone a try………
Here’s some other M.I. Audio Crunchbox clones worth trying……..
- Danelectro Cool Cat Distortion
- Mooer Cruncher