Vox 1901 Distortion

Vox 1901 v Guyatone Zoom Box >>>

Vox 1901 Distortion
The 1901 Distortion is a really simple pedal; no tone controls, just the self-explanatory 'Output' and 'Distortion'. It has a fairly wide gain range from totally clean to relatively high gain - it definitely has enough for me and should suffice in most situations.

Tonally, the effect changes as you turn up the gain; all the way down, it is fairly 'transparent' - sounding near-enough the same as the bypassed signal. As you turn the the distortion up it gets quite full and beefy sounding but then, from around halfway onwards there is a gradual roll-off of the bass frequencies. This is a common trait of other distortion pedals from the 70s/early-80s that I've used; no doubt the theory is that the higher gain sounds would be used for playing leads, and you'd want your leads to have less low end to enable them to cut through a mix.

As I've already said, the lowest gain settings are really transparent - making this a great boost pedal. Things stay pretty clean up to halfway using my P90-equipped Epiphone Casino whereas, predictably, the crunch kicks in earlier using my Gibson SG - thanks to it's higher output humbuckers. The low gain sounds are a little hairy - but in a good way; this pedal (with conservative settings) is really good for jangly rhythms. The distortion itself has a slight tinge of fuzz to my ears - but that's fine by me.

I really like this pedal; I like my overdrives and fuzzes to be dynamic and the 1901 definitely meets that criteria. Even with the gain all the way up, picking softly still yields an almost clean sound; dig in and it screams.

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From clean boost to crunch, jangly rhythms to thick fuzz, the Vox 1901 can serve a number of purposes equally well and could be put to good use across a wide variety of musical genres... not that I like to label music, of course.

Guyatone PS-102 Zoom Box Distortion

* * * Notes about the video * * *

Gear used:

  • Guitar - Epiphone Casino
  • Recording set-up - Award-Session JD10 as a preamp (DI'd) through a Palmer PDI-09. Recorded to Cubase on PC (via a MOTU audio interface) with no additional processing.


When Guyatone brought out their then new range of compact pedals in 1981, they continued to produce six of their earlier pedals for Vox. These pedals were the distortion, chorus, flanger, compressor, auto wah and phaser.

The Vox versions are marked as 'Made in Japan to Vox specifications'.

While they are largely just straightforward re-housings of the original versions, some of them have slight differences - the Guyatone Chorus Box for example has two outputs (effect/mix and direct), whereas the Vox version has a single output. Others have slight differences (perhaps one feature omitted) and I suspect, having done side by side comparisons of the flanger, chorus, compressor and distortion pedals, that there are slight changes to component values to re-voice the effects and/or tweak their response.

(Guyatone also made their early analogue delay and chorus available through the JMX brand.)

Vox 1901 v Guyatone PS-102

The key difference between the Vox and Guyatone versions, is in the overall tone of the distortion. The Guyatone Zoom Box is very noticeably brighter than the Vox 1901, and it also thins out much more in the higher gain ranges.

Due to these tonal differences, the 1901 is a bit more throaty. In my opinion, the Zoom Box is at its best when the gain is kept fairly low, giving a nice rhythm crunch or lead boost. The Vox on the other hand sounds consistently good at all gain settings.

I don't know the official reason why the two pedals are EQ'd differently, but I suspect the 1901 was reworked to make it a better match with brighter Vox amps (such as the AC30TB).

If I had to choose one, I'd choose the Vox.