There’s something charming about looking back to a point in history when we thought we were onto something new and then, very quickly, realised we weren’t.
There’s little glimpses of these moments in time sprinkled all over the history of modern guitars and amps. Zero frets being one of them and these Kay / Univox Effector guitars, being another.
They were manufactured in the 60’s and, unbelievably, right through to the 80’s. They were sold via the Sears catalogue as an affordable home guitar with an added extra. Built in effects. It even has a headphone socket, so there’s no need for an amp. I imagine this guitar was a good choice for parents who wanted to encourage their children to learn to play but didn’t want to hear them play loudly through an amplifier.
They’re powered by a 9V battery and the volume knob actually acts as an on / off switch.
I’ve heard the built in effects described as “tone suckers”, and I understand why. The echo effect (it’s not an echo, it’s a tremolo), is very useable, however. It has an old school dub reggae vibe to it. It’s nice for playing more paired back, stripped down tracks and you can get an ambient feel from it.
The other effects are pretty much not worth even mentioning. They create harsh tones and doesn’t really provide anything useful, although the Whirl-wind effect can be fun for an auto wah style sound.
The truly useable effect, though, is the fuzz. It really sounds great for lo-fi punk rock riffs and high energy thrashing chords. But equally as great for noodling solos.
The Kay / Univox Effector is an interesting and rare piece of guitar history but it’s not difficult to understand why the built in effect technology didn’t take off in a big way.
It’s been nice to work on I’m pleased I had the opportunity to fix this one up as best as I could.
Hear the effects here and if you enjoy the video, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel: