Designed in collaboration with the JHS Pedals team, EHX’s Lizard Queen is a slightly unusual distortion pedal — there’s no control for regulating the actual amount of distortion other than the volume control on your guitar! Housed in a compact pedal format and powered by either battery or an optional external supply, the pedal takes only 5mA, so battery life should be long. Other than the bypass footswitch there are just three controls, labelled Volume, Octave and Balance. The octave effect created here isn’t as obvious or as dissonant as you might get from something like an Octavia fuzz pedal, but if you are planning to include a cover of Purple Haze in your set it will get you close enough.
Volume does as you’d expect, and is used to produce an appropriate overall effect level relative to the bypassed level. Octave brings in more of the octave effect as it is turned up, which in this type of pedal is generally created by full‑wave rectification of the original signal, to create a distorted upper octave. Balance adds a light warmth to the output when turned anticlockwise, or a little more edge when fully clockwise, the idea being that you can emulate the sound of a warm and cuddly fuzz/distortion box or dial in something more raspy. This control has a fairly subtle effect and is most obvious when the octave sound is added.
The basic distortion sound... delivers a convincing Billy Gibbons type of grind that to my ear sits somewhere between classic distortion and fuzz.
The basic distortion sound is well chosen, given that its amount is preset: it delivers a convincing Billy Gibbons type of grind that to my ear sits somewhere between classic distortion and fuzz. I would still have liked to have had a separate distortion amount control but, even so, the pedal seems just as happy with single‑coil pickups and humbuckers. Take a listen to ‘Gimme All your Lovin’’ by ZZ Top to get a rough idea of how much drive you get! Bringing in the upper octave brightens the sound until at higher settings it becomes more obvious and the overall sound loses some low end.
Turn down your guitar volume and what happens depends very much on the setting of the Balance control. Set this fully anticlockwise and you can clean up the sound as you back off your guitar to a useful extent, although it never gets completely clean. Turn it clockwise and at lower guitar volumes the result is like a fuzz where the transistors have been biased to turn off at low levels, so you are greeted with almost expander‑like dynamics and an unnatural, ring‑modulator‑like harmonic structure (not dissimilar to some of the sounds used by Jimi Hendrix during his Band Of Gypsies period). Given the modest cost and the fact that there are only three knobs to play with, the Lizard Queen can conjure up a good range of useful tones covering the requirements of both rich distortion and fuzz.