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


Almost 5 years ago I got on the “waiting list” for a King of Tone pedal, simply because people started drooling like mad when you mentioned that pedal. Finally I gave up waiting after 3 months and ordered some pedals from here. The real kicker (or laugh) was when I received an E-mail 3 weeks ago letting me know I was finally able to have a pedal made for me. I sent back a reply “Sorry but you’re 5 years too late and $400 too much” Wonder why I got NO reply ….

June 15 2017


I agree that mass produced pedals (boss, Dunlop/MXR ESPECIALLY for some, etc.) can absolutely do a fantastic job in their specified role. I enjoy them very much. But not all boutique pedals are a limited exclusive cool kids club, or just a vintage chip/signal path with a cool paint job. When you see features like silver core wiring or mogami internal wiring(super low noise modern studio quality, lead free hand performed silver solder joints, audiophile quality potentiometers and switches (my favorite/biggest pet peave when you push the switch and “POP!” Or turn a knob a bit to brighten, calm, or warm up the tone and, “kkckckkkkk!!!) Just kills me, no matter how good the damn thing sounds once it’s successfully activated and tuned in to suit the acoustics of the room/theater/hall/basement/bathroom. Check out effectrode (unique attitude towards a pedals purpose- I like that, tubes sound musical with enough voltage, and finally- quality heavy duty low noise construction and components), Red Witch pedals from Canada (easy going attitude, they do analog so good and digital for less than a grand sounds like an impression so it’s refreshing, and their pedals, especially the red witch analog chorus and ESPECIALLY their deluxe moon phaser/tremolo/tremophase” (entirely unique sound, along with the phaser not being a copy or emulation of another already created phaser like the MXR original and awesome sounds) makes this alone a worth the money pedal- and they do a bunch more REALLY really good ones. Then there’s Effectrode. I don’t like all their stuff, but I absolutely LOVE their fire bottle tube booster (sex and flight in a little steel case). Oh and Robert KeeleyI never liked big muff pedals or tube screamers when I tried them at the shop. Any of the MANY MANY of the stupid slightly different versions I tried (if an old fender tube combo or…. yeah I’ll say it, a Roland jazz chorus, eww solid state lol,doesn’t sound good with it- the damn thing just doesn’t sound good), but the keeley modified tube screamers (especially the ts808 reissue have one, and the best overdrive I have personally played through ts808hw with mogami and gold Plated etc and fancy potentiometers etc.) sounds absolutely amazing. And also has this supernatural touch sensitivity to the aggressiveness of my picking attack, and the interactive nature of the controls makes it almost a new pedal with an original attitude for every 5 minutes you noodle with it. Stock ts9? No thanks been there, good for one sound and then boring ever after. Keeley hand wired Keeley mod 600 bucks? Sure- I would’ve needed 10 overdrive pedals to keep me entertained thus far, and it still gives me excitement when I hit the carl Martin octoswitch lol. But I do REALLY like basic Boss digital delays (have 3, a dd-3, dd-5 which should be DG for damn good, and a DD-6 which is only slightly less awesome). But I still would throw them all like rocks and never use ANYTHING but my Fulltone tube driven tape echo unit if the service hours and need for regular maintenance/fragile parts repair like the damn tape itself wasn’t an absolute money eating pain.

May 21 2018


So I’m a BIT of a snob because I like tubes, hand wiring and high quality components like potentiometers, good switches and the absolutely worth everything you’re gonna pay mogami cables/internal wiring. That being said, I also own and use an old beat-to-hell-andbackagain almost bare housing Maxon OD (not even sure which one cuz it’s way more metal than paint, and honestly don’t give a damn anyway cuz it just sounds so freakin good in that mid gain breakup rhythm role.) It’s the Doctor Jeckell to my late 1990’s Mesa Boogie V-Twin dual 12ax7 3 channel preamp pedal’s Mr. Hyde. And that’s like the red headed step Mesa Boogie lol

May 21 2018

Ryan :

Has anyone arguing either side ever plugged into a Boss OD-1 plain ol’ digital over drive pedal (cute lil’ fella with so much spunk and charm) and the absolutely mesmerizing, almost spiritually moving Keeley modified Ibanez TS-808HW Limited Edition Hand Wired Tube Screamer? I have never even really liked a tube screamer (TS-808, TS-9, etc) ever. Usually weakish and thin/tinny for my taste. Keeley changed that for me and absolutely worth the $380 to Ibanez THEN the cost to Keeley for the mod. I have 2 now so I won’t be without in 15 or 20 years. That’s how much I genuinely love the little shit lol. And I’m mad at myself because I was always AGAINST needlessly expensive (especially analog stomp box style) effects pedals. But that dirt cheap, simple little Boss still has its sonic purpose and A TON of uses. Still absolutely adore my Maxon OD- something torn up kinda green and raw scraped metal pedal. Best mid gain rhythm OD IVE EVER HEARD, the little guy. But that Mesa Boogie V-Twin… that’s boutique done right and it’s special. Now I do have a Fulltone custom shop tube driven tape echo, but also modern Boss digital delays (DD-3, 5, and 6). Also a Fender reissue ‘63 tube driven spring reverb tank….. and an Electro-Harmonix Cathedral digital reverb. Which one’s best? Depends on your purpose and taste, desired sonic impact, etc. Then there’s the impact you’re trying to make. I bought an early ’60’s echoplex and I’m already trying to sell it. Same as I did with a bunch of “best ever” effects. Not bad or over rated by any means. Just not my sound, or a role I needed filled in my sonic collection. Maybe if I had a different amp in my stupid large collection of mostly tube combos. That’s what it all comes down to. I love my trashed little Maxon OD-something screamer clone that’s worth 5 bucks and hated a REAL everybody wants it early ’60’s echoplex (I am spoiled with the Fulltone tube driven tape echo so no foul on the echoplex, just had unrealistic expectations I guess). And that’s why price, desirability and reputation mean nothing. These are simply sound shaping devices. If they are durable and functional enough for your purposes, the only truly important thing is how they hit your ear, brain, then heart and soul- in that order. My little half decayed late ’50’s Fender Bronco combo sounds easily as good, probably better to a decent mic, as my year old ‘59 Bassman LTD Reissue. Just not as loud. Pretty means nothing and reputation is usually made by sheep that repeat what they hear, because it’s cool to go along with the popular opinion. Doesn’t make your guitar sound or feel good to you. And they wouldn’t ever know the difference if they can’t see. That’s the secret- do YOU, make your rig sound good to YOU. I have a bunch of junk- cheap and expensive boutique/vintage. All just because it sounded good to ME because it’s MY sound. I love and own a lot of CHEAP and SUPER EXPENSIVE (can’t afford lol) gear, but not because of image. I either connected with it plugging in or I didn’t. Other stuff like the Carl Martin Octoswitch just made sense and made it easier to get down without thinking too much. Side note- check out Friedman power grid 10 and also Friedman buffer thingy. I don’t always use them on my boards (I sadly and honestly have 7 boards of various sizes and sound purposes), but Friedman is quickly replacing my trusty Voodoo Lab gear- other than the new GX-8 Plus loop controller switch board deal (toss up with Carl Martin October, depending). That’s another new favorite of mine. And I always have/always will swear by Pedaltrain boards. Get a road case with wheels for it and you will NEVER need or even want another board. Wow got off topic. Point: price, image, origin Etc. means absolutely nothing. It’s all about if it effects your sound in a way you feel with goosebumps or other physical reactions you shouldn’t mention in public. And my little trashed Maxon OD-garbage full of gold could be your Chinese $20 eBay score you cherish. Or the $300 boutique pretentious hipster fad pedal. Or the classic and respected but common Boss, MXR, Digitech, hell- even the pricy/common/but frustratingly decent Electro-Harmonix. I don’t wanna like them but then I fall in love and buy one, once in a while. I’m not picky and I don’t care about image. I just like what I like: tubes sound good. Boutique pedals can sound good WHEN THEY’RE DONE WELL. Cheap pedals can sound good WHEN THEY’RE DONE WELL. Most mainstream (Boss, Digitech, MXR especially) tend to at the very least sound decent, usually pretty good honestly. Shut up about image because talking image is encouraging it. Just buy and use what REALLY DOES IT FOR YOU. Then forget price tags and enjoy YOUR TONE. Isn’t that what it’s ALL ABOUT to begin with or are we having a coolest pedal board contest? Well, hell- then I win. But you should feel the same way if you picked the sounds and characters that fit YOU. If so, CONGRATS on that win, champ of YOUR PERSONAL PRECIOUS IRREPLACEABLE NEVER GIVE IT UP EVER SOUND. Oh and I win too. And him and her too if they went about it right and didn’t care about “cool” or fancy or exclusive or most revered/desired etc, over the sounds in their heads. Done ranting, good night and thank you all for humoring me

May 21 2018


I absolutely agree that the tube screamer circuit (circuits, depending on the model and year), are stupid simple. It is not simply the circuit, however that makes the sound. Two similar but slightly different chips, and Ibanez has used a handful of different ones over the decades, make a difference. That’s why the “bucket brigade” chips and other desirable- but almost just like other- chips are sought after. Then there are differences as simple but significant as potentiometer quality, wiring quality, and even the quality of jacks and switches that make a huge impact on pedal quality without much real physical difference. 10 pedals, made by 10 people, from the same exact schematic, using similar but NOT EQUAL components and materials, makes 10 slightly but DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT pedals with their own personalities. And the one with the most expensive guts might not even be the best sounding one to you or me. I might (and sometimes do) like the “crap guts” example. Some of the most sought after pedals (ProCo Rat? Lol) weren’t exactly the cream of the crop, materials/components wise. Anything decent is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s the overall combination and how these little insignificant seeming things all interact with one another. Usually higher end/more expensive materials and components can only be sure to give you less noise and resistance, and better longevity. Tone is a magical mysterious amalgam of near alchemy lol. Dallas arbiter, anyone?

May 21 2018


I’ve had a few Boss pedals I really enjoyed over the years, but not so much I felt the need to hold onto them. MXR honestly makes great stuff- solid quality, solid sounds, but I’d have to say if there’s any knock against them, they’re kinda boring and maybe soulless. Good utilitarian sounds that live up to their title, that’s kinda it. I’ve taken a real liking to Red Witch as of late. Empress analog chorus is tasty and started my interest. Then it was the deluxe moon phaser, which I recently found out was their first pedal to market. Another “boutique” outfit I’ve really started enjoying is effectrode. Different enough to stand out and make an impression on my ears, but conventional enough in their sound objectives to fill real practical roles on a usable pedalboard. Not a huge EHX guy, aside from the odd gem in the pile here and there. Even a blind squirrel is bound to find a nut once in a while, right? But a WHOLE LOT of relative duds in the big picture. Meh kinda sums up a lot of their modulation stuff and I’ve never really gotten excited about the performance of any of their drives or distortions. I do like their cathedral digital delay, but again- a gem in a big pile. Maybe that one is just me though. I REALLY DO like Diamond effects, although I only recently got turned on to them. Plush is a boutique outfit designed by Joe Fuchs, and I believe also manufactured by Fuchs, the fairly awesome boutique amplifier company. Interested to check out their offerings if/when I get the chance. Not gonna order anything sight unseen (or sound unheard more like), just to find out though. Oh and I do really like the Greedtone stuff I’ve tried- enough I bought and regularly use their tube booster pedal. It’s hand wired, 12AX7 tube driven with an actual 300V to PROPERLY UTILIZE a tube (not the usual 9-50V that essentially makes a lot of those 12AX7’s in other pedals effectively decorative), and it just generally sounds good. Push your signal into a good overdrive with it, into the front end of a good tube amp- this guy makes a noticeable difference with some sparkle and really variable level of clean, transparent boost. No coloring of the tone really- or considerable amounts of, at least. Has essentially replaced the MXR booster and Keeley Katana booster pedals I had settled into going between. Still love my Keeley modified Ibanez TS808HW limited edition hand wired tube screamer. Mogami wiring, super quiet pots and switch, literally 2 pounds of solid steel in the case- what’s not to like, really? I know, I know….. another tube screamer, and a stupid expensive one. But if it’s good enough, it’s worth it right? And it is really really good. Especially after Keeley made it better lol. Tighter, more defined, seriously articulate- but not at all harsh or overly bright like a lot of screamers I’ve tried. Oh and I also came into a pedal from Italy, by a company called Gurus- the Optivalve tube compressor. Not bad at all, but nothing really special either. I don’t regularly use a compressor, and this one probably won’t make it a regular thing for me. But if a compressor is your thing, I like it a lot more than a dyna comp or the silly EHX Black Finger tube gimmick

May 21 2018

Junior Rossetti:

just remember that 99% of the cheap pedals that you extol and bring here as viable solutions are actually pure Chinese piracy ..! well .. many boutiques are also .. so .. going back to the BOSS and Ibanez …!

May 21 2018


I agree- in fact I played a Pro Co Rat pedal back to back to the La Grange pedal which costs 3x that of the rat and the rat sounds just as good!

July 06 2018


A good article, hate all that 808 cork sniffing bull shit. If you like it – play it, and never follow the crowd. You name it and I’ve played it or owned it and the likes of the Joyo Vintage Overdrive or Bad Monkey sound every bit as good as an 808. When I hear some guy saying I can hear the difference I always wonder how they can hear anything with their heads so far up their asses. Anyhoo rant over. Bye….

August 06 2018

Paul Ewing:

So I have a Empress Echo Systems digital delay. It is state of the art using the cutting edge digital parts …it is quite simply THE BEST $600.00 ( & not Strymon their parts are now 2 generations old.) Sitting beside it is a mini Mighty Sound M5 made in China analog delay …$23.00 USD. Which is better? It’s a tie!!! It all gets down to the sound of the thing. In a blindfold test 5 years ago…the best 5 delayswere chosen… guess who was in it?? LOL
So…use your ears. While you are at it you can scoop up another gem …the MOEN FUZZ MOO…right here….it is a total STEAL!!! at the price they are giving it away

August 06 2018


First, anything “boutique” is the opposite of cool, because it is the opposite of “classic.” “Boutique” guitars are just the same. They’re all just putting tracing paper over the actual innovations of people like C.F. Martin, Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim, and engineers at Roland/Boss/DOD/MXR/Maestro and countless others. Everyone’s gotta make a living, I know. But if you can’t plug direct from a Squire to a Squire amp and move people in the room – with just your rhythm, voicings, and dynamics – you’ve got no business worrying about tone, much less effects. The whole pedal deal reminds me of my dad and his golfing buddies. They were constantly changing their drivers, irons, putters, golf balls – because no matter what, they couldn’t break 80, and it was always the club’s fault. I was a very serious and successful golfer in my teens, too. I was a scratch golfer by 8th grade, by 15, I was the men’s club champion at our club, was paired with Sergio Garcia at the North American World Junior’s at Doral at the age of 16, and the whole time, I had ONE set of clubs. They were Titleist blades – the golf equivalent of a block logo MXR Distortion+. But I knew those clubs inside-out. So buy BOSS, buy boutique – but STICK with what you buy. Because everytime you buy a new pedal/change your signal chain – you start at square one. While my dad’s buddies were wasting money and pontificating about which clubs were better, I was on the driving range hitting balls til my hands bled. So, just remember, Tone comes from practice, not from pedals. That’s assuming your end goal is being the best musician you can be. And for the record, while many of my friends are on the PGA tour now, I grew up to be a guitar seller. And I don’t sell “boutique” anything. Boutiques are where ex-wives spend YOUR money. Practice yields what purchasing never can.

All the best,
Ian ❤️

September 12 2018


do you wish to be totally ripped off? cannot stand the cheap boss pedals for their reliability or the chinese for copying even if they are becoming good at it?
Buy a Wampler yes! sounds dodgy doesn’t it, well it is !
That is right for $200 U.S. you can get ripped, as in off and enjoy all the fun of wamperism explaining to your mates how boss is so passe’

September 12 2018

Mark Seel:

I’m taking pedals down a different path. Digital but high quality DSP and careful algorithm design. Milled aluminum custom cases. USB audio and MIDI. Google Chrome preset tweaking. Fully programmable – load my neffects or someone else’s using USB. Development kit to crate your own effects. No licensing fees or download costs.

October 17 2018


It seems like you’re cherry picking here just a bit.

Is there a major difference between a Mooer copy of a Tube Screamer, and a $230 boutique clone? Or a standard Joyo Fuzz and a $300 boutique fuzz face copy?

Probably not. Certainly not so much that the price difference is justifiable.

But let’s also not try and pretend that all boutique pedal makers are simply pumping out TS or Fuzz Face clones and calling it a day. Some are, sure, but many more are either adding several layers of functionality, or something truly new and unique. They’re innovating. Look at companies like Stone Deaf FX or Old Blood Noise Endeavors Or JPTR FX or Triode Pedals or Red Witch or Fuzzhugger or any number of other great boutique pedal makers, and you’ll see offerings and options you won’t find anywhere else.

I just received a $230 Fuzz pedal. Now if it were just straight fuzz, it probably wouldn’t be worth it. But this boutique fuzz has bias control, dry mix (though they don’t call it that), hi/lol mode, 3 band graphic EQ, hpf/lpf, gate control, and several other options so you can dial in your fuzz to pretty much exactly how you want it. AND it looks cool as hell.

I have a boutique Tube OD that’s amazing, and cost less than a TS. The EQD products I have are exceptionally innovative (Afterneath and Avalanche Run). You’re not going to find that level of imagination and craftsmanship from a $50 Mooer pedal.

So if you want to strictly limit your argument to the differences between a Chinese TS clone and a boutique TS clone, this is apt. But to pretend that all boutique pedal makers are simply pumping out clones made from schematics downloaded off the internet is a wrong estimation. Many boutique pedal makers are driving innovation in guitar sound, which in turn will drive musicians to innovate music.

February 26 2019


Ive got say I’ve been building a huge rig and have over 40 pedals some are boutique some are proven expensive pedals. I’m chasing that sound that says me. but one thing i’ve noticed is that a couple of cheap pedals are in my line up which I had seen youtube reviews that swore by them, liked what I head and wasn’t disappointed when I got them. the first pedal I got was a Moen Fuzz Moo now I’ve got expensive Fuzz pedals 3 of them but this little gem just out does them ,it sounds great and has a sustain that outdoes all my snobby pedals. another pedal I’ve fallen for is the Biyang Metal End I just love it soon as I switch it on, the only way I can describe it is that it just sounds real and has so many options its practically six distortion pedals in one and it looks cool all chrome switches and dials . now I don’t know weather they will outlast my expensive pedals but the choice to have them on my rig is because I’m chasing the best sound to my ears for the perfection in my own self expression that I’m trying to achieve not to mention that I can have their expensive counterparts next to them on the pedal board for that change of flavour when I want but if those cheaper pedals were to break down id just spend $50 to replace them instead of the $300 to replace the snob pedals,.dont get me wrong some of my expensive gear is down right amazing , but the Chinese stuff can have its own magic, my best three are the Moen fuzz moo, Biyang metal end, Mooer tender octavia, I also have a Digitech Bad Monkey that sits next to an Ibanez TDX9 tube screamer and if I had to take one off the board it would be the Ibanez, so that says it all . music isn’t about Colour, Country or Cost , music is about SOUND !!!!!! so close your eyes listen and choose.

September 16 2019

Paul Ewing:

As the reviewer on Stomp Box Steals I have reviewed 844 pedals.Many were very expensive. I own at least $15,000.00 USD worth of pedals.a FEW excellent ones are very cheap …the traditional Big names can always be blown away by someone’s cottage industry gourmet pedal.
First good design is important but military and NASA spec make a NOTICEABLE difference.
Comparing by simply having up two pedal demos from YouTube then muting one & going quickly to the other and back can tell you a lot.
It all gets down to what you want your pedals are for. I write and perform original music. I am always conscious that most of my audience has never heard my tunes and ………..

September 16 2019

Mathew Molk:

Birth of obscene noises.

I, like everyone back then, bought a Gibson Maestro Fuzztone when they were brand new. Why? So we could play a song that most kids today never heard of called “2000 Pound Bee” – and later “Satisfaction” That was it. We never used one for anything else back then. ANY type of distortion was avoided like the plague. A lot of us played without even reverb, depending on the room to do that. ,,, Face it,. ALL pedals do only one thing. Take a pristine guitar sound and make it sound like crap.

The reason distortion became the norm is because we started playing bigger and bigger rooms and there was no such thing a miking or DI-ing into the PA, (Which were not all that big anyway) The result was you were forced to turn up your amp to max just to be heard at all,,,,And after hearing it enough the audience was brainwashed into thinking that totally fouled up sound was what we were trying to play and “tube overdrive” was born. ,,,, in tandem with blown speakers and hearing loss. (I wounder how many kids that suffered hearing loss from our :“music:” would like the dirty sound if they could still hear well enough to actually hear what it sounds like. .

So there you have it. From Fender “vibrato” (which is actually tremolo) and a little dark ollive drab box (that was used only on 2-tunes) we now have guys that can’t play unless they have 15 or 20 magic pedals that enable them to make every obscene noise know to man,,,,,and call it music,,,,and have pushed actual working entertainers to buy horrid noisemakers so we could play top 40 tunes that people requested and keep making a buck,,,,,Little did they know that it was brainwashing and not taste that made them think “death metal” sounded good.

And yes, I am still playing out after almost 60 years,,,,and I have a pedal board and even play metal when they pay me enough (Music Whore here – I’ll play anything if you pay me enough, )

March 09 2021

Tom Glenn:

I have had boutique pedals and budget pedals, and been in a 60’s club band for 10 years till covid hit. Also used a roland cube 60 as a clean pedal platform, and no one in the audience cared, or knew what gear i was using, had lovepedal, maxon, visual sound,cmatmods,and a few behringer and joyo pedals, all worked well. As a gigging guitarist, i found any pedal will do as long as it is reliable, and none of mine broke playing 2 shows per week for 10 years.

June 28 2021

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