Excuse me if I'm going to offend you. You may be someone who really really likes boutique pedals. (But then you probably wouldn't be on!) I actually like some of them too. I just spent too much money on too many boutique pedals that were not worth it. I started to question all the hype and trust my own ears and judgement

Expensive Boutique Pedal Ad

1. Where's The Value?

Off the bat boutique pedals are ridiculously expensive. Ranging from $200-400, the money used to buy one of them can get you an excellent beginner guitar. Two of them will buy you an amp. Three of them will buy you a professional grade electric guitar. If someone on the street asked you to pay a couple of hundred bucks for a small painted metal box with a bunch of transistors inside you'd give him a funny look and walk a bit faster. 

2. Low Tech High Prices

Manufacturing and technology have made staggering leaps in the last half century. Today we are able to fit a phone, computer, music player, and camera inside a small hand held device and walk around with it and interact with people all over the the world using it. An absolutely amazing invention! But have pedals advanced significantly since the 1960s? No. Essentially we're still paying the same amount of money for a new iPhone as we are for a 50 year old piece of technology: a cake sized piece of metal and knobs with a circuit board powered by a 9V battery. A freaking 9V battery! Technologically speaking, an effect pedal is an ancient low tech product. So why are we paying so much for them?

3. Lack of Innovation

How many boutique pedal brands out there are truly innovating? Does the world really need another Tube Screamer mod? Or do we need a fancy $200 "boost" pedal whose only job is to lift your signal? The truth is the majority of boutique pedal makers are regurgitating the same kinds of guitar effects that have been around for 50 years. The truth is that there are only a few boutique manufacturers pushing the boundaries of what pedals can do. If we are going to pay so much for a pedal, let's at least expect them to create some new sounds once in a while!

Early Digital Effect Ad

4. Marketing Machinations

It's the business of business to create new reasons for consumers to buy their products. Pedal manufacturers are no exception. In my own lifetime, the pedal market has gone through a series of trend changes. In the 80's newer digital technology was considered much better sounding than old analog ones. (see image on left) Then suddenly that got old. Someone had the bright idea to say the old analog models actually sounded better than the new ones. Vintage analog! Ok then the old models' prices shot up as people bought them all up. Companies dredged up these old designs and reissued them. Tube Screamers and Big Muffs being the most obvious offenders. So their total lack of innovation was/is actually being used as a selling point!

Fast forward to today. Let's take the old designs, copy them, mod it, give it a really cool paint job, call it boutique and charge an extra hundred bucks for it. Can you imagine this happening in any other industry like cars or PC's?

5. Scarcity

When an item is scarce, the law of supply and demand dictates that its cost should rise. For the same reason that vintage gear is more expensive than new gear, boutique pedal suppliers charge more because their products are scarce. They sometimes even produce limited numbers of their pedals to drive up demand even more via low supply.  Take the case of the infamous Klon pedal. The owner lowered supply in the name of "quality control" and the public ate it up. The rarer and more expensive they got, the more people wanted to own one. They are now going for over $1000 dollars on Ebay. Proof that some people are too dumb and too rich for their own good. On the other hand, mass producers are trying to sell their products to the most people possible which drives down costs in manufacturing and margins. 

6. Gear Snobbery

Snobs are everywhere. We probably all know people who are wine snobs, art snobs, music snobs, and of course gear snobs. There will always be those people whose chosen role it is to define what is good and bad for other people. In the end, if you gave Jimi Hendrix a crappy pedal to play through, he'd still be...well Jimi Hendrix.  And give a gear snob the best pedal ever made and they would still be...a gear snob. Is it the music that matters or is it the gear?

7. That Missing Something

As guitar players we're never quite satisfied. (Actually this is part of the human condition.) We're forever trying to scratch a tone itch that never goes away.  Boutique pedals are convenient brick sized pieces of hope that we're plugging into everytime we buy one.  The truth is no pedal will truly solve all our tone issues. The problem may lie in our gear or our own playing. Buying the right pedal, whether a boutique or a budget Joyo will only help us get closer to an elusive goal.

8. Judging A Book By It's Cover

As a red blooded man, I'm a sucker for a pretty face. I like beautiful hand painted boxes that make me fall in love with my eyes. Mass produced pedals are usually not much to look at. Remember the old frumpy DODs or Ibanez pedals? Compared to a sexy little boutique number, they are hard to get excited about...visually speaking. I'll freely admit to making many a bad guitar or pedal purchase based just on appearances and regretting it later. I'm sure I'm not alone.

9. Expensive Does Not Mean Good

It's a natural judgement to believe something that costs more is better. Nobody wants to buy the cheapest thing in the showroom. The truth is there are great boutique pedals. There are also great budget pedals. There are terrible boutique pedals. There are also terrible budget pedals. Each stompbox should be judged on whether sounds good and is built reliably. Many famous guitarists still use cheap pedals such as the Boss DS-1 (~$50) in their pedalboard. So just because a pedal is inexpensive doesn't make it bad, and vice versa. I challenge anyone to take a Tone Gauge Overdrive or Biyang OD-8 pedal and test it next to a boutique overdrive pedal and tell me there is any quality gap. You may even find they are better...

10.  Let's Be Unique! Ok Boutique!

An unfortunate consequence of being in a consumer based society is we often define our identity from our belongings. Nobody wants to be part of the herd, especially artistic creative folk like musicians. Face it, a guitar player with a pedalboard full of generic Boss pedals doesn't seem quite as cool as the one with cool rare vintage and boutique gear. We want our gear to give us some identity, and not sound like everyone else.  I know I definitely feel way cooler when I tell my friend about my limited-edition vintage hand soldered point-to-point russian germanium transistor fuzzbox versus my $50 Chinese mass produced pedal. Sound familiar?

In closing, my intent is not to disparage all boutique pedals. There are some manufactures who are making innovative guitar and bass effects (see Devi Ever) and creating value by truly earning their keep. And there are also some lesser known budget brands like Mooer and Biyang creating great quality effect pedals for a lot less. Amid the hype, if we use our own better judgement then we know what we are getting ourselves into.

Let's spend our money wisely and have fun doing it.

--And here's a link to an impartial third party with some similar thoughts

Written by Wolf . — April 16, 2013


Jason :

I really liked your post. When I started building my rig, one of my main concerns was staying with US built pedals. I have managed to build a quality sound using a mixture of boutique pedals and cheaper, mass produced boxes as well. I have, however noticed a difference in the quality of the boutique pedals and their counterparts. The boutique models, in my opinion, have a much cleaner change of sound while still staying true to the natural tone of my guitar… kind of hard to explain in words, though.
I am considering purchasing your Joyo Tremolo. I am hoping that if I do, your theory of cheap, quality sounding pedals will shine through…

Happy tone searching,

May 16 2013


Thanks Jason for your comments! Yeah I’d agree that boutique pedals generally have a better transparency in original tone. That said, it depends on the brand and effect obviously. Some strong effects such as Chorus or Fuzz this matters a lot less because what you’re going for is that altered sound. I personally like the Moen Tremolo.

May 16 2013


rubbish. as in most things where quality and nuance matter, you get what you pay for. it’s an extremely competitive business, with tons of companies to choose from. sure, a prius gets you from point A to point B, but it’s still a prius. so everyone who pays for the more expensive gear is just an idiotic snob?
as a counterexample, the most expensive gear for effects freaks are the boxes made by the likes of Roland. sure, they retail for around $500. but the options are unlimited, you couldn’t match the possibilities by buying forty different outstanding individual pedals. want to make your guitar sound like a flute? a B3? a grand piano?
there is gear, and then there’s gear that makes you drool. as i said, it’s a competitive business, if the companies could figure out how to lower the cost to gain an edge in price and make it up in market share, they would. i have several friends who started their own boutique pedal companies, i demo for some along with friends of mine. a recent gem i discovered at the most recent pedal convention- EarthQuaker Devices. can’t wait to overpay for some of their gear if they won’t swap me in exchange for demo work.

June 03 2013

William Seals:

Very well said! I agree totally!

June 12 2013

Russell Nute:

I can see both sides of this discussion but here’s my two cents….. Being inexpensive doesn’t mean it sucks and being expensive doesn’t make it amazing. Buy what you like and what makes you happy but don’t think your better than someone else simply because your pedal board is filled with fancy expensive pedals…..ever watch gregs guitars on you tube?? Doesn’t matter what guitar this guy picks up it sounds amazing…..why??? Because he is an excellent guitarist……saw him demoing some joyos…yep. sounded just as good as ever. If you got the $$$ and you want your pedal bored filled with the finest go for it…I would say quality/construction probably is better but if you don’t mind possibly having to replace them eventually and your budget only allows for say 150.00 bucks …… people like me average Joe’s w/ wife kids etc……you can still fill your board with what you need…..which is for most 1. A chorus 2. A delay 3. An overdrive/ distortion or boost 4. An eq …..they’re are of course a lot of extra pedals you can add but to me these are the essentials. Just buy what you like and don’t let anyone else make you feel bad for buying boutique or inexpensive. Here’s the best way to be an amazing sounding guitarist……play your guitar. Peace

July 07 2013

~ Pepper ~:

I do agree at some point that the magic tone We’re all looking for doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Although sometimes the only way You’re going to get that effect that Ya want is going to cost Ya. Take for example a Pitch Bender. I’m a BIG David Gilmour fan and have been since the late 60’s. ( Right after Sid left the Band ) Digitech Whammy -1 is what David uses on the song " The Blue " and again on " Marooned " I haven’t found anything that works other than what David uses. Fortunately it only cost about $200.00. Being a Writer and Lead Guitarist ( 50 years now ) I’ll innovate one in My own work. I have just bought a Biyang Chorus cause I’m wanting a Chorus separate from another effect. I have an EHM Electric Mistress and a EHM Memory Boy that I can’t separate the Chorus on. I am truly hoping You are right and if this Biyang Chorus works out I will be writing Ya a review, if that’s OK by Y’all….. Thanks….. ~ Pepper ~ Austin Texas

September 29 2013


yes very true my friend! as a guitar player for over 25+yrs and 18yrs of it is the actual live gigs i actually fell in the trap of association by brand names when it came to gears.
This last 5 yrs I was able to gig in some places and got away with a $40 overdrive/distortion pedal and a solid state fender amp 1×12. When Tube amp Nazi’s and boutique pedal queens come around after a gig or during in between breaks to complement my sound, I laugh! and when they see what gear I was using,they laugh in disbelief… By the way I just discovered Joyo pedals through and I will post some reviews after this busy December gigs…

December 03 2013


If a company or small boutique operation is putting in some hard work, while still giving employees decent salaries, then I don’t mind paying that extra cash to support them. Take Strymon for example. Those guys seem to really be into the pedals they are putting out. The pedals are pricey, but the employees are probably getting a decent wage with health benefits, etc. On the flip side, a company like Joyo makes pedals so cheaply because they are paying slave wages. The workers are stuck in unsafe, crappy factories in China. When you buy a Joyo pedal, you are supporting this business model. Some people don’t think of this when they are buying a guitar pedal (or anything for that matter), but maybe they should.

March 26 2014


In response to Sledge’s comment, I do think the guys at Strymon are producing some really great pedals, well worth the money. They’re one of the better ones. What I’m addressing is guys pumping out $200 OD pedals with a modified EQ. And I think it’s a gross generalization as Americans to say that Joyo’s employees are slaves working in unsafe conditions. Not all factories in China are dangerous or exploitative, and making pedals is a lot less dangerous than working in an American steel mill or slaughterhouse.

March 26 2014


I would have to agree partially on both the boutique and “generic” sides of the argument, as I have been guilty of myself for needlessly “buying up” gear I ended up selling later, anyway.

In my early years of “gear buying/collecting and selling”, I have only managed to keep barely a handful of effects that are, truly useful, and meaningful to me.

I have an incredible-sounding, well-made Tone Bender MKII clone, made by De Marco Electronics, from back in the mid 2000s. At the time De Marco’s pedals were underrated and barely heard of, and somewhat still are today (though seems like more and more people are aware of his creations today than years before).

Heck! I bought the pedal when De Marco was fairly new on the “home-brew” market, and prices were just around $80 to $85. I wasn’t expecting much at first, as I was initially judging by the price, and his pedals only being sold on eBay.

I said to myself, “well, I always wanted a Tone Bender fuzz pedal, but I could never afford a real vintage original or a top-brand boutique maker.” So I went ahead and purchased one of Rick’s lovely KB MKII pedals from his eBay store. I even had Rick custom print the lettering just like the original font-style specs, like on a real vintage Solasound TB MKII pedal.

Within a week, I received the pedal in the mail, and when i first plugged the unit into my digital practice amp…whooah!!! I was absolutely “floored”! The authenticity and dynamics, tone and sustain were unbelievable. Truly vintage sounding and rich harmonics overcame my musical conscience…

Through time, of course, I learned I could adjust the bias/trim pot inside to fine tune the character and clipping/gating/sustaining of the fuzz to my desired taste and use.

Depending on amp and gear settings, I could get anywhere from typical early Jeff Beck tones and Jimmy Page Led Zep I, II tones, all the way to Strawberry Alarm Clock and early Gilmour fuzzface-like psychedelia.

Till this day, I still have the Klonebender MKII. And it will always be with me, no matter what (or for as long as I have it).

The KB MKII is a great little pedal. It serves me well and does what it does well, a good quality, affordable, “vintage” fuzz.

April 22 2014


Out of all the expensive, and cheap pedals I have gone through: I’ve bought and sold a USA-made EH Big Muff Pi which i didn’t care for much. I’ve bought and sold a vintage EH Soul Preacher Compressor Sustainer (which I later found no need for once I would get a descent tube amp). I’ve bought and sold a couple WEM Copicat tape echos (mainly for financial reasons). I’ve also owned and played a cheap Danelectro Daddy-O OD pedal (which was quite descent), but eventually sold.

All through the years, out of all the effects pedals I’ve owned, played and sold; I find that one of my best values I ever had was the De Marco KB MKII. And I think that’s what matters most, the value!

What do you value? What do you like?

That said, I’ll never judge any pedal too easily, again. Truly shows how your ears, eyes, feel and instinct (risk factor) really help you to judge and achieve your desired sound.

…I’m still gassin’ for real spring (tube) reverb, though. ;-)

April 22 2014


Joyo Factory:

Looks a bit far from the slave labour camp mentioned above…

There’s only two things that determine a good pedal and they’re on either side of your head. Use them.

July 14 2014


I agree with not wasting money on pedals because they look cool, but some boutique pedals really are amazing.
I recently upgraded a digitech digiverb to a Strymon Blue sky,
and a memory man delay for a JHS pantha cub.

The sound of my guitar has gone from tinny weak sounding digital repeats with unconvincing reverb to insane sonic hugeness and oscillating warmth.
I would pay twice what I did to get such an awesome sound.

January 05 2015


Totally agree Tom. The Strymon stuff is great. I don’t consider those boutique pedals…they’re more like mass produced high tech pedals. The boutique stuff is the analog stuff that charges $200 for a boost in a fancy casing.

January 05 2015


I totally agree!
A few years ago, a friend of mine who works in a music store was part of a demo where a new pedal was supposed to emulate another one perfectly. Mostly everybody including him said that it sounded nothing like the real one. It was a fake test, it was the real one with a sticker on top. It was part of a seminar on sales to remind them that our ears easily get tricked by our eyes. In my experience, I have noticed that in many cases, the price doesn’t reflect the sound quality. For example, I have been looking for a flanger for a long time. I’ve owned a few and tried many of them. Finally, I picked the “Donner Jet Convolution Flanger”. Probably the cheapest one you can find anywhere. (about 30 dollars) But it’s really the sound I have been looking for. In the past, I would have bought a more expensive one just to show off to my friends. Now I show off with my sound. Maybe one day it’ll be with my playing. Lol..Anyway, what I am getting to, is don’t buy just anything cause it’s the trend, or cause so and so is using it. Go to the store and try many of them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And get the one that sounds the best to “you”. At the end, you’ll have a board that reflects your sound and your style. Thanx. And have fun playing. That still remains the most important thing.

February 24 2015

Alan Haynes:

Just because a pedal uses technology from the ’60’s doesn’t mean that it’s outdated and as a result, bad value – take a look at Gibsons and Fenders from that period – most of them are still very nice instruments, whereas the current iphone, in ten years time, will just be junk.
I am a pedal designer and builder, and I produce pedals which are individually unique and sound out of the ordinary, pedals like phasers,compressors and analog delays. what’s more, I give a lifetime, transferable guarantee, and I don’t make much profit on each pedal.

March 15 2015



I have no problem with boutique pedals as long as they are good and have good value. A lot of boutique pedals are just fancy prints on some old circuits with a twist. Seriously, if it ain’t Strymon, Earthquaker, EHX, it’s probably not worth the money.

March 17 2015


One prime example of ungodly over priced boutique pedals is a Analogman King of Tone. People that got on the "mail"list and had one made a while back are wanting over $500 for one it’s just a clear case of gouging people who buy into the “Boutique is the best mentality”. Even a $145 Prince of Tone is going for $250 or more. For 1/2 to 2/3rds the cost of a boutique, you can purchase a really fine quality “Mass produced” pedal that will do the same or even more than the over priced boutique.
Production/mass produced models are getting better, while they may not have a Fancy paint job, they do what they’re made to do. As far as “Mod” kits, I can understand using/adding them instead of a $500 distortion pedal while there’s productions brands for $250-$350 that can produce the same results.
A boutique will NOT make you play like Satriani,Vai, Al DiMeola, Petrucci and probably not even sound like them either.
Take the time to develop your playing and invest in a good amp, don’t fall for the “If it’s Boutique, I’ll sound great trap” While a $5000 Orange brand Amp and speaker cabinet may look “cool” (as a STATUS symbol) I bought a B52 AT100, 3 channel amp that has way more EQ. channel options and saved $4500 buying something that was just a status symbol/name.

April 15 2015

Paul Pendantic:

I see others all over the map on their pedal choices….if one has a phaser…a flanger and an echo of some sort the highly coloured sounds are covered.
A half decent compressor can really smooth out …sustain and tighten up your overall sound.
I know the big thing are distortions. I cover that with a Metal type that gives me an overkill for leads…an over drive that gives me a beefed up Fender sound…in short a Mesa Boogie MK 2 sound…for riffing and chord work…and Marshall type pedal that does the same. So I have the classic American and Brit sound and a total screamer.
I have a noise gate that I use for delibretly chopping off the end of chords giving me a very precise sound when using distortion on chords. A needed pedal tuner…a volume pedal…and I’m done.
Other pedals are either gimmicky and of only of a small amount of use. Some do not even work well, Only a very expensive noise gate works well if got to get rid of noise. The octave splitters either sound a little cheesy or they glitch or track badly.
I will say that a Wah pedal is fine…just not my taste. I am not a big reverb fan…I hav a high end rack jobbie…but for live…anything in a decent amp just barely on is enough
My point is…I think I have nailed it… a selection that is completely .versatile.

as to makes….in many cases an old analog pedal works great…sounds great…and used is cheap…or check out the videos that compare cheap knock offs to the originals.
…as for overdrives that copy real amps…usually old 50’ and 60’s amps…compare them to old records…Fulltones OCD ..really sounds like the Marshalls in early Who records…or listen to Clapton on a live cut of Sunshine of Your Love….the tone is nailed….alternatively you can get a Moer clone for half or a Joyo clone for half that again. Same for fender tones….see which one nails it….and check out the clones.

April 18 2015


theres a few different ways to look at it and agree with some of the points…to a certain extent. some “boutique” pedals floating around really are shocking (ie would you trust your tone being held together by double sided sticky tape) and some mass produced “mojoless” (god i hate the M word) are engineering pieces of art. OR… vice versa.

What really shits me is when people judge a price of a product, solely from its component cost.

Please have a go at making a quality product yourself…spend the time learning (not just nabbing free diy layouts) and accumalating the tools, and knowledge + paying for advertisig to get people to give a shit.
only when you have done this….and failed, then you can bitch.

May 05 2015


I played thru a Zachary pedal once. Pue Sh*t. I cannot believe the hype and assitude of that guy.

August 26 2015


The way I look at it is, I’ll only go boutique if I can’t find a mass produced equivalent. For example, I have only 13 pedals (besides tuners, loopers and volume pedal) and only 3 of them are boutique. Why?

1. Triangle Big Muff clone – there’s no mass produced version currently available.
2. Mojo Hand Crosstown fuzz – It’s a Ge/Si hybrid Fuzz Face with a tone control and bias knob which means a lot of flexibility. Again, no mass produced equivalent.
3. Wilson Ten Spot II wah – It’s an Ibanez WH10 wah clone. I got this before Ibanez reissued it so the alternative would’ve been buying a $400-500 vintage one. This one cost me $180.

Those are the only times when boutique pedals seem worth the price to me. When a cheaper option simply isn’t available. I mean, why on earth would I want to pay $250 for your “exact replica” of a tubescreamer when I can get the real deal for $100?

Having said that, some boutique companies like Earthquaker, Catalinbread, Strymon, & Devi Ever that are really doing some great and innovative stuff and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them.

So bottom line, for me, if I’m buying boutique, I’m either paying for innovation or exclusivity.

September 12 2015


I really love the Xotic line of pedals. They have great sound, are made in the USA. Most are very compact and built like tanks. My $130 SL Drive (limited edition model, which included a voltage) made my $230 Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe sound like a toy in comparison. The same sound in a cool looking box with a more exclusive brand name could easily sell for twice as much.

November 08 2015


Oops, that should read “voltage doubler.”

November 08 2015

Paul Ewing:

I have…no kidding 47 pedals on one 4 tiered board. I use them all. most are made in China. I buy direct. Some pedals cost me under $30.00. I am 69…I have owned all the classics when they were new. Like any pedal company. some of their pedals are great…some good and some are mediocre. As for quality..i opened up a few. My oh my..look at all those Japanese and German parts. Just like the gourmet boys. The point is if you cherry pick the very best you can get mind blowing pedals cheap.I have tried out many of the gourmet jobbies. A few…yes few are very very good.and get 11 out of 10 for a score, A few more get a 10 out of 10. Most of the better Chinese pedals get 8’s and 9’s. In short they are Boss pedal quality for about a third of the price.There are a few that are excellent and deserve a 10 out of 10.
I would put the Biyang Metal End against any gourmet distortion. The most I would agree on is a tie. At $65.00 USD. It is a steal!

December 29 2015

H Munster:

Yes, boutique pedals are like luxury cars, it is all about status. Actually, at least with luxury cars your getting something more for your money.
A 300.00 fuzz box does not sound any better than that old beater you have played since 1982. Also, the whole true bypass thing is so overhyped. I have used mostly boss pedals for ions, yes they have buffers, but they sound great and are quiet.
I bought a fulltone pedal, its nice…two distortions in one, but I still use my old dod more often. Now there is a wide variety of cheap chinese knock offs, they may not be as durable, but sound good for less than 50.00

January 01 2016


speaking as an electro classical guitarist looking for the warm hall like ambient sound i found the Biyang triverb RV10 gave more than equal account of itself against the more pricey HOF and Digitech polara verbs in my setups. As said in the comments above let your ears be the judge of what you feel is right for you not price or brand snobbery.

February 01 2016


speaking as an electro classical guitarist looking for the warm hall like ambient sound i found the Biyang triverb RV10 gave more than equal account of itself against the more pricey HOF and Digitech polara verbs in my setups. As said in the comments above let your ears be the judge of what you feel is right for you not price or brand snobbery.

February 01 2016


speaking as an electro classical guitarist looking for the warm hall like ambient sound i found the Biyang triverb RV10 gave more than equal account of itself against the more pricey HOF and Digitech polara verbs in my setups. As said in the comments above let your ears be the judge of what you feel is right for you not price or brand snobbery.

February 01 2016

Renaldo Samosir:

I indeed agreed with this post. Well, I must admit that I can hardly afford to obtain expensive boutique pedals, but it’s not that I envy with that kind of expensive pedals; and I’m objectively agreed with this since I’ve tried to chain several cheap and mass-produced pedals to get the tone that I’m searched a few years ago. I chained several Behringer pedal: The BOSS Metal Zone replica a.k.a. UM300 Ultra Metal with the Ibanez Tube King replica a.k.a. VT999 Vintage Tube Monster and the final end before the cheap old amp I used, I simulate using the SansAmp Tech21 replica a.k.a. GDI21. And the results were quite interesting to my ears, at least within my perspective. And I forgot to mention the amp I used was a cheap local brand on my area: Jakarta. Anyway, thanks for the “enlightment”. Keep up your goor work. Regards and Hails from Indonesia.

March 04 2016


My take on boutique vs mass produced

Look, there’s nothing wrong with the garden variety Boss pedals. They’re built like bricks and many of them sound fantastic. For instance, the SD-1 is THE best overdrive you can get imo. Even disengaged—using it as a buffer—it gives your tone a slight, sweet mid-range gain boost.

But for me, one of the reasons I choose boutique over mass-produced is because many of the boutique manufacturers directly relate to their consumer’s interests. They know exactly what we like (true-to-spec vintage reissues!) but also allow for just enough innovation/deviation on the side to show us something fresh without totally alienating our basic interest. This goes for guitars, amps and pedals. For a long time all we had to choose from was digital pedals (millennial guitarists know!) and we had no idea that there was this world out there of pedals that were once built with human hands. Everything we had coming up in the late 90s/early 2000s was dodgy, entry-level.

To give you a scope…I NO clue what a tube amp was (or even of its existence) until maybe 2007. I was about 21 or 22 at that point. That’s how the marketing was for my generation, up until the boutique bloom in 2007/2008. Most everything you had immediately available (unless you were pro or knew someone that had the vintage stuff) was solid state or some cheap hybrid with a fake preamp tube in it, lit up by an LED.

And lastly, boutique prices and mass-produced prices are competitive with each other at this point, in that most pedals by ANY manufacturer are going to cost you $150-$200—so why not give that to the guys running a small businesses; doing well-crafted, hand-wired, hand-made products? So that’s my bottom line with this kind of argument: I prefer to support small business.

March 10 2016


I’ve been saying it for years that expensive does not necessarily mean better. I have a mix of the inexpensive Chinese mass produced clones; mid priced pedals like BBE, Truetone/Visual Sound, and Marshall; and Boutique and vintage pedals.

I honestly find it hard to justify the prices of most boutique stuff and will only pay those prices when I can’t find a less expensive alternative, or after comparing them, see or hear a definite difference in the boutique pedal’s favour. I’m also handy with a soldering iron, so rather than pay $200 or more for a vintage Triangle or Ram’s Head Big Muff or boutique one of the many boutique clones, I’d rather find a newer Big Muff for $100 or less and mod it to the specs of the version I want. I modded a Marshall GV-2 I found in a pawn shop for $25. Before, it sounded like someone put a blanket over the amp. It had a nice low end but lacked definition because there was almost no treble. After changing a few capacitors and resistors I’d put this pedal up against most boutique Marshall In A Box type pedals.

I used to avoid Boss like the plague after experiencing tone sucking in my bypassed sound; but have since found if I put a pedal with a better buffer between the guitar and it, like a Truetone/Visual Sound product, they are fine. I’ve also found that the vintage Japanese built Boss pedals seem to have a better buffer and I don’t experience loss of tone in my bypassed sound with them no matter where I put them. Sometimes I also find the classic Boss pedals still in production have changed over the years and the vintage Japanese versions do sound better, but other times I hear no difference.

That said, with all the stuff I’ve just said in favour of cheaper pedals, I love the sounds of many Devi Ever pedals and will buy one sooner or later. I’ve also got a Rangemaster style Treble Booster, the Solid Gold FX N.O.B., which I found used for just a bit more than a new EHX Screaming Bird. It is less noisey than the EHX and would have cost me just as much to buy the materials to build my own if I was going to build it to original specs using NOS transistors. It was also less expensive than any other boutique options out there. I refuse to pay $200 and up for a circuit I could build for $60 in materials in an hour or less (my less skilled hands could assemble the 9 components in an hour, a boutique builder or DIY’er who has years of experience could do it in 10 minutes).

March 17 2016


no freaking was I’m paying $200 for an effect. I make my own pedals. I biggest ripoff is the $200 Fuzz Face made by Dunlop. There is only $2 worth of parts inside. I made my own Fuzz Face and I can switch between geranium and silicon transistors with a bias adjust knob on the outside

September 04 2016


Pedals are not paintings, to become valuable with age. Would you prefere a vintage, boutique wooden-boxed TV set? Mmmm? Or a 30 cm (12 ") mobile phone? Evolution in the technology, but not in the human vanity. SRV would be the same with a 20 dollars cheap Chinese plastic pedal…

September 25 2016

David P. Makowski:

When I was out of work I really needed a good delay pedal. Having very little money to work with I bought a Danelectro FAB Delay for $21.95. I couldn’t believe how good this delay sounded so I took a chance on a Danelectro FAB Chorus. Wow! It was as good or better than the FAB Delay. This is when I learned an effect is an effect and how you obtain that effect, especially modulation, doesn’t really matter. If it sounds good then it is good. I am a big fan of Cheaper Pedals for this very reason. I mean the Moen Vibrato is every bit as good as a Uni-Vibe. It was around this time that I decided to use my ears not my eyes. In conclusion, most pedals are way over priced. Take the plunge and save enough money for that Fender Bandmaster you have always wanted.

October 03 2016


If one has a pro guitar that cost $1500.00 and an amp at $2000.00 a great Over Drive could be one third of the sound. Even at $500.00 it is very cheap compared to what it took to create the other two thirds of my sound.
This is especially true about overdrives. There are several between $175.00 and $300.00 that are amazingly good.sounding.
I am a pro Alt. Indy player. These are my tools.They will make a significant difference to get where I am going. So…I am only concerned with the value…not the price.
When an audience hears my music…they either think it is good or bad and behave accordingly. In short if you want to be ‘big time’ one day…you better sound ‘big time’
No amount of whining will help.

October 17 2016

Richard Veeck:

Good post, but I disagree with a lot of what you write. I have bought a lot of expensive boutique pedals, but for one
Reason only….they sound better in my experience. Could care less about the price ir appearance. Personal preference.

November 24 2016


Spaceman……..good god are you kidding me?!?!

I have a board full of boss, strymon, DOD, darkglass, idiot box, fuzzrocious, big game and behringer. It makes no difference to me. If it sounds good and works for my setup and bands sound, I keep/buy it. If it doesn’t, I move on. I didn’t have much of an issue throwing down for strymon or darkglass. They make a seriously quality product that sounds great and are really like no other. Maybe the strymon can be like others. But for what it is, maybe not. Either way, I’m not one who can usually spend $400+ on a pedal. Most times my budget it around $100-$180 tops. I don’t usually discriminate.

However, when I see builders like spaceman, Cornish, Toneczar, those types of builders, it kinda makes me sick. I’m sorry, but $700 of an OD, $500 for a fuzz?! Nah. That’s robbery. I don’t care how “awesome and clean” it looks how how good you think it sounds. At that point, do you really think the people listening to your music whether it’s in a live audince or on an album can tell the difference between a fuzz that costs $600 or $150!?? No, they can’t. I don’t believe they can anyway. I’m willing to pay for quality. Not mojo or to be raped. I also tend to be willing to spend my money on products by builders who are impeccably awesome. If he’s a total asshat, I don’t care how awesome he makes something, I won’t buy it. If you can’t be nice, decent and patient with your customers, maybe you’re in the wrong business. I can think of at least 5 indie builders right now id like to go F themselves for the way they treat people and how they are on social media and the like. But then I can think of almost double that right off the bat of builders who are the total shit and are great and easy to talk to.

So price to me is a factor. But I usually won’t spend more than a couple hundred on a pedal unless I think it’s really going to make a diffemce. Preamps make a difference to me. Some types of dirt and modulation make a difference to me. You can get “cheap” sounding ones in those categories depending on your ear and preference. I’m just as happy with boss as i am with darkglass. But I refuse to spend money on assholes who sell pedals where they think because their pedals sparkle or have magic caps that they can ask $800 for a fuzz pedal. That’s kind of insulting.

November 27 2016


Really the biggest reason to stay away from boutique stuff, and the only reason you’re ever going to need once you realise, is just how f***ing simple most of the circuity inside is. I’m an amateur electronics guy – not even a good one, just casual, and I could knock up a Tube Screamer in short order on any breadboard you could put in front of me. They are the cheapest, most simple circuits you can put together, and people are charging small fortunes for these and getting away with it through consumer ignorance. Because the average consumer a) doesn’t open things to look inside and b) wouldn’t know what they were looking at anyway – then these boutique guys have basically got a license to print money. I’ve thought about it myself but I’d be yet another joker flogging old dead horse carcases for hundreds of pounds and I dont want to be that guy. The point is, it would be terribly terribly simple for me to be that guy – it’s basic electronics is what’s going on inside these boxes – the hardest part of the whole operation would be the business part, not the technical part. Most electronics dudes could do the tech part with their eyes closed on a sunday afternoon, with one hand tied around their testicles. I could fart better circuits than the ones I’ve seen being charged a small fortune for.

And this needs to be impressed onto people squarely. That box you just bought for $200 was put together for $15 or maybe less. It took exactly no hours, no minutes to design the circuit because it was downloaded as a schematic and knocked up on cheap board in a couple of hours.

People, please stop getting ripped off. If I asked you to stop getting shot, you’d comply immediately. This is that bad, you dudes with your boutique pedals are being murdered financially because you dont know that what you have is one the most basic style of circuits in electronic circuitry in a posh metal box. STOP!!!!

Shit, if you want pedals that bad I’ll make them for you for cost. Anything just to put these f***ing shysters out of business.

February 07 2017

Paul Ewing:

Oh my some truth. I have bought over 60 pedals in less then 2 years. I run the blog Stomp Box Steals. I have bought what I consider the very best Gourmet pedals only to sell them a few weeks later. I have kept maybe 11 China Cheapies.
The Xvive Thomas Blog Golden Brownie ( a perfect JCM800 style pedal) at $45.00 USD is equal to about 90% of every OD I have ever heard.
BUT…the Alex K Production Red Distortion with military/NASA spec for every single part at $290. 00 USD in my opinion as absolutely perfect as possible in build …and YES IT’S VOICE.of any dirt box ever made.
In short.. you can only have the absolute best if art and technology is at the cutting edge pinnacle.
The best value for money is indeed made in China.
The very best.. is made world wide and it needs the best parts.
If you think you can put a price tag on the best…I can only laugh!!!
that said…the Mighty Sound M5 analog Delay at $23.00 USD…will never leave my 45 pedals …pedal board (that I use live on every gig) …it is equal in sound quality (not Features) to any analog delay regardless of price!

April 02 2017

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