Can’t decide if you need a pricy pedalboard to sound good? So, today we’ll answer the question, “What’s the difference between cheap and expensive guitar pedals?”
All serious guitarists carry a variety of guitar pedals and other accessories in their gig bags. The most obvious reason for this is that, with the correct pedals, a pedal can greatly enhance a guitarist’s playing. However, they can be quite pricey, leaving many beginning guitarists wondering if they are worth it.
Brand, supply and demand, features, and value all play a role in how much a given guitar pedal will set you back. Only some guitar effects pedals are priced similarly. However, most quality guitar pedals are worth the investment for dedicated musicians.
Cost (expensive or cheap) and value are highly relative concepts. This article will attempt to examine the prices of guitar pedals and provide an answer to the subject of whether or not they are worthwhile.
What’s the difference between cheap and expensive guitar pedals?
Cheap pedals may be mass-produced to keep the price down, but their dependability and structure strength may need to improve. Despite their higher price tag, pricy pedals are meant to provide the greatest possible sound, and some even offer additional tonal variation.
As the saying goes, “tools are for work, not play.” Depending on the task, even low-priced tools can deliver satisfactory results. One possible advantage of a more expensive pedal is that it is made of higher-quality materials, will last longer, and will distribute heat more evenly. But you can still get by with cheap tools.
Cheap Guitar Pedals
Even though cheap pedals can’t compare to other methods of adjusting your tone, they nonetheless serve a vital purpose in your live set and beyond. For instance, the most crucial aspect is that they allow novices to quickly and cheaply find their sound, which is vital because the tone is in the fingers, and these solutions will enable them to achieve this.
It’s only possible to know if a guitar pedal is right for you if you try it. Although a specific pedal may be getting a lot of attention from guitarists due to the quality of its sound, you may not share their enthusiasm. Consumers often choose pedal brands with a more extended history of satisfied customers.
However, some low-priced guitar pedals are surprisingly effective. Do your homework and check customer reviews before purchasing a low-priced guitar pedal. Finally, low-cost guitar effects pedals are a gamble since you may or may not like them.
- Practicing at Home
If you don’t make a living as a musician or play in public often and instead limit your guitar practice to the confines of your bedroom, this article is not for you. So, a cheap pedal is a terrific investment if you want to mess around and try different sounds at home.
If you aren’t a professional guitarist, you do not need high-end equipment to ensure your reliability on stage. Secondly, if you’re starting, you shouldn’t invest in expensive pedals because you haven’t yet established your personality, character, and “distinct sound” to the point where you can determine what gear sounds excellent, bad, or suitable.
- Easy Replacement
To put it simply, this is why low-priced pedals exist. Imagine you’re in the middle of a performance when your go-to pedal mysteriously stops working. You quickly swap it out with the inexpensive pedal you remembered to bring, saving the show for the rest of the band.
The best part is that even if you switch pedals, your audience might not notice because the cheap ones sound just as impressive. Of course, you would bring extra consumables and even a guitar to a show, so it stands to reason that you would also get different pedals.
- Tone Experimentation
Suppose you’re itching to shake up your musical routine and try something new. For instance, if you’re a metal guitarist interested in exploring bluesy tones, you can. Your desired tone for infinite noodling and tone exploration can be easily created with inexpensive pedals.
If you’re a guitarist, you should always be looking for new sounds to experiment with. A guitarist may get a lot of mileage from cheap pedals for experimenting with different sounds without breaking the bank.
- Filling Your Sound
So you’ve built the ideal board to house your signature sound, but there’s something about your tone that could use a little reverb or chorus while you’re playing a clean solo on stage.
When you can get the same effect for as low as $20, why spend $150 on a fancy old reverb pedal? Pedals like reverb and compression are usually the finest economical choices to add to your setup. You can leave those pricey boutique pedals where they are and save yourself some cash.
- Build Quality
If you are a guitarist who performs live often, resist the urge to acquire a ton of low-quality pedals. Remember that to provide such a low price, and you must have made certain concessions. Quality of construction and manufacture, which contribute to a product’s longevity and dependability, is often reduced to cut costs. While not all inexpensive pedals are poorly made, regular usage will reveal any flaws in the components.
- Cheaper Inputs
If you’re looking for an inexpensive pedal, this is the biggest drawback you’ll encounter. Because you need to take care of the pedal to ensure a low-quality input runs smoothly.
They are always in contact with moisture, which can cause rust, and if you use the pedal on a pedalboard and leave the jack in, it may never come out. Furthermore, a low-quality input results in a shaky connection, meaning the pedal may ship with an unpleasantly loud background noise.
- Plastic Housing
Naturally, a plastic housing wastes a lot of time because you must be more cautious when transporting the pedal, avoiding hitting it during a session and triggering it with your foot. In addition, the pedal is easily broken, and its short lifespan means you should minimize its use as much as possible.
- Lower Quality Wiring
Most of the circuits in these pedals are located near the battery compartment, which not only gives you a lot of noise but is also highly likely to deteriorate over time. Unfortunately, the same holds for the wiring: if it’s of low quality, it can soon fail in any situation: use, storage, or transit.
Expensive Guitar Pedals
Contrary to popular belief, guitar effects pedals are not prohibitively expensive. For starters, your idea of “expensive” may differ. Second, there are situations in which their usefulness justifies the cost. Finally, there are some affordable brands, though most guitarists avoid them.
Finally, the price of multiple pedals can add up to a noticeable amount, even if each pedal individually costs less than $50. In this light, it’s clear that a single effects pedal might not break the bank; a fully stocked setup would be another story.
Increased competition in the market has driven up the price of guitar pedals in recent years. In addition, the labor cost in countries like the United States is higher than in countries like China. As a result, rare or out-of-production pedals will command a premium above their mass-produced counterparts.
What makes them expensive?
- Costs of Production
Production costs are a constant concern, of course. To a greater extent, this is true for businesses that have yet to begin outsourcing their manufacturing processes. For example, many pedal makers, like smartphones and computers, get their goods from China.
But there are other expenses, like production. Many other elements come into play here as well. For example, depending on the model, you may need op-amps, diodes, or transistors, all of which can be difficult to find. When these are in short supply or manufactured by a single manufacturer, the pedal price naturally rises.
It’s also important to note that manufacturing costs rise when using more rigid metal casings. For one thing, they prevent electromagnetic interference from damaging the electronics, which is an obvious benefit.
The so-called “boutique” pedals may be familiar to you. However, for the uninitiated, these are boutique pedals, meaning they were individually crafted by a small number of people and sold for a high price. As a result, they have a one-of-a-kind impact and will include their original artwork.
A select handful even supplies individualized adjustments and versions. Unfortunately, there is a long queue for this one, and each person may only own so many of these pedals in total. Naturally, such pedals can rack up a hefty bill. Moreover, if there is a limited supply, the secondhand versions may cost more than the new ones.
- Collector’s Items
Certain rare and antique pedals can become valuable collector’s goods. Unfortunately, despite their age, they are revered for their tone or historical worth, making them generally not that great and adaptable. It’s a delicate subject because people have different opinions on whether or not they’re worth the cost.
These things are more valuable for their historical significance than their musical merits. Some effects equipment is exceptionally particular, delicate, or one-of-a-kind that it even needs regular servicing. Tape-based delay devices are an excellent example, even though they are not pedals.
Generally speaking, the more functions a pedal has, the higher the price. While this is only sometimes a concern, especially when looking at single-effect pedals, it can become relevant when considering multi-effect pedals. So be sure to consider available features when shopping for a guitar effects pedal.
A quality circuit has been constructed with durable components. As a result, the analog circuit is of higher quality in pricey pedals than in cheaper ones, and the wiring may never wear out due to extensive reinforcement. A good course also allows you to use other pedals in tandem with your preferred one without producing an annoying amount of background noise.
- Allows More Creativity
In addition, many guitarists find that a pedal is a catalyst for their unique brand of innovation. Think of the guitar as a paintbrush and each pedal as a different color. Finding new sounds to experiment with can be challenging when you’ve been using the same guitar and amp for a while. Trying out a unique effects pedal could be the missing ingredient if a guitarist needs help getting into a creative groove.
- Resell Price
More well-known and pricey pedals, like the “Ibanez Tube Screamer,” “Dunlop Fuzz Face,” and “Cry Baby Wah,” tend to retain their value better if sold on. These well-known pedals are in high demand and have a solid reputation, so you can expect to make a profit if you decide to sell them.
This unquestionably confers a plethora of advantages upon its users. For instance, it will be much simpler to discover your musical individuality if the pedal provides you with a greater variety of sounds. Additionally, the sound of a great pedal can assist you in finding your tone, even if you are not exceptionally skilled in this area.
- Lack of Innovation
The truth is that most boutique pedal manufacturers are merely recycling the same 50-year-old guitar effects. Sadly, only a small number of boutique producers are actively expanding the capabilities of pedals. Let’s hope for some variety in sound if we’re shell out that cash for a pedal.
- Low Tech High Prices
The previous fifty years have seen incredible developments in industry and technology. We can carry a miniature computer, phone, music player, and camera in our pockets today, allowing us to be in constant contact with individuals worldwide. A new phone costs about the same as a cake-sized metal and knobs piece of technology from the 1960s, complete with a circuit board and a 9V battery.
Because of the relationship between supply and demand, the price of a rare good must increase as demand outstrips supply. Boutique pedal vendors, like those dealing in vintage equipment, have to charge more for their wares due to the scarcity of both.
Sometimes they even make their pedals in small quantities to increase demand by keeping supplies low. Consider the well-known example of the Klon pedal. The proprietor reduced production for “quality control,” and consumers bought into the strategy. As they became more challenging to acquire, the demand for them increased.
5 Factors To Look For When Buying Guitar Pedals
Adding new pedals to your setup should be a fun and enjoyable experience. But it can be conflicting if you need to know what to look for. Is a cheap pedal worth adding to your pedalboard? The correct response to this question depends heavily on the person asking it. While a guide, the following details will prove helpful as you explore the market. As you shop for a pedal, keeping this in mind will yield the best results.
You should inform any pedal purchase by thoroughly understanding the pedal’s intended function. This is the most glaring red flag. However, several guitarists buy pedals without understanding what they do. As soon as you fully grasp its capabilities, consider why you need to buy it. Even though a pedal has a specific effect, it may not be helpful with your current design.
This part of the purchase requires the most thought and consideration. In addition, you should evaluate the pedal’s features in light of similar pedals that cost more. This is where you will test the pedal’s usefulness. It’s essential to identify the most legendary pedals within each effect type.
Sometimes, you may have spent a little more on the tried-and-true standard. If you put in the time and effort to think things through and learn more, you can keep this from being a regular occurrence. Finally, try out the pedals before buying them, even though it is only sometimes possible.
Demos on the internet are excellent, but they can only show you so much of what a pedal can do. You can only get a true sense of a pedal’s sound by putting it through its paces for yourself. Also, you can see how well a pedal works with your playing style and tone by doing this.
Another factor to consider is the pedal’s layout as a whole. This establishes the degree of difficulty in operation, so it’s essential to consider it no matter the cost. For pedal enthusiast who wants to control the minor nuances of their sound, variety is vital. It’s not uncommon for certain pedals to feature a single knob that contains all of the pedal’s functions.
Especially for the guitarist who prefers a minimalist approach to their sound, they are still excellent pedal. Pay close attention to both the arrangement design and the actual foot switches. The majority are push-type switches, although some have additional functions. Although it may not be immediately apparent, this can increase the pedal’s usefulness in various situations.
Some pedals may require the user to press a series of foot switches in a particular order to perform certain functions. Think about how simple it will be to utilize the pedal in actual performance. In the middle of a commission, something complicated could be a distraction. Once again, trying out the pedal is the best method to familiarize yourself with its design. However, if you put in the time and effort necessary, you may learn a fair amount about this through reading online resources.
Cheap pedals are great because they allow you to afford even more pedals, which is one of the most significant benefits. Due to the adaptability of many low-cost pedals, guitarists can assemble a fantastic pedalboard on a shoestring budget. However, your pedalboard needs to be more crowded as your collection grows. The space available on a pedalboard is limited, and bringing two pedalboards to a show is only sometimes feasible.
Therefore, the guitarist needs to determine which pedals are necessities carefully. Having a use for every pedal can make it difficult to give some up. Here is when forethought and investigation of the pedal’s accurate dimensions can prove helpful. Knowing each pedal’s measurements allows you to arrange them on your board strategically.
While this may not seem like much individually, the cost quickly becomes prohibitive when multiplied across numerous pedals. Not only must you account for the footprint of the pedal itself, but also that of any necessary cables. To minimize clutter, you’ll need to connect all the pedals. A micro (or nano) pedal can be a lifesaver in many situations.
These little pedals provide the same purpose as their bulkier counterparts. Mini versions of all the pedals on your board are an option, but they may only be helpful in some situations. Wah pedals, for example, can be pretty bulky, which must be considered. When you have a firm grasp of your resources, you may more effectively maximize the room available on your pedalboard.
Always check the pedal’s power requirements before making a purchase. The majority of pedals require only a 9V power supply to function. A battery can fill in if you don’t have access to a reliable power source. Many pedals have a power input for a standard wall outlet and a 9V battery option.
However, this is sometimes the case; further investigation is essential. All pedals don’t support battery operation, and some need a specific power supply voltage. Don’t try to figure this out once you’ve brought the pedal home. If you do this, you may need more strength to move the pedal. You will need to buy a power supply before using your new pedal. Although it may not seem like a significant deal initially, it will necessitate an additional purchase.
You still need to be aware of your expenditures even though you’ve selected to acquire affordable guitar pedals. This is an inescapable truth that you must consider before completing any purchase. Buying many pedals may be tempting due to the low prices of some options. Think about the total of your stuff constantly. You may have spent more than you had planned despite your efforts to save money.
Look into the secondhand market if you wish to save some more cash. You may find countless barely-used pumps for far less than they would cost brand new. This implies you’ll be able to try out several pedals without paying a significant price. In addition, you may always resell the pedals on the secondary market if you need something else. Remember, too, that low-quality pedals will sell for little if anything, when worn.
You get to keep a portion of the pedal’s initial purchase price no matter what happens. Another way to save some cash is to examine whether the merchant has ever had any demo copies for sale. In some instances, you may hear these pedals referred to as “open box,” although either term describes the same thing. Demonstration pedals are pumps that have been deployed within the store alone. Besides this tiny issue, they are otherwise brand new and for sale at most stores.
A guitar pedal is an effect device used by guitarists to modify their playing. A pedal’s purpose is to take the signals from a guitar and change them to create new effects that the guitar itself is incapable of. Despite its widespread use among guitarists, their exorbitant price is sometimes cited as a drawback.
Furthermore, purchasing a low-priced guitar pedal is a good idea if you are on a tight budget. It could be something you like since it suits your taste. Whether the guitar pedal costs $20 or $200 is ultimately irrelevant; what matters is that you find satisfaction in using it and that it complements your sound.
Death metal enthusiast here. I am a Romanian musician and producer with over 13 years of experience in the music industry. I’ve experienced all types of Metal up until now, playing Melodic Death Metal, Brutal Death Metal, and Black Metal with different bands. Learning by doing is my base principle, which is why I’ve been drawn to sound design from an early age.