With many of our peers raising their prices at the moment, people often ask on forums why guitar pedals are so expensive, especially when so many clones of pedals hit the market at a fraction of the cost of the originals. It’s very true that everything we buy costs more than the sum of its parts. Otherwise, there would be no business. But the subject goes much deeper than this.
In this blog, we’re going to cover a few key points which from a buyer’s POV could easily be overlooked. We hope it helps clarify some things and encourages guitarists to support the community when they can.
One At A Time
Firstly, a pedal is (normally) a one-time purchase with no recurring payments or extra downloads (with the exception of some multi-fx units and cab sim type pedals). Therefore, the rush that many companies see upon first release of a new pedal needs to cover the rest of the time until the next big release. Few companies are lucky enough to produce a pedal that maintains its desire long term. The main point here is that any player buying these pedals only needs one (most of the time).
An exception to the rest of this blog, but still one worth mentioning, is rarity. Vintage pedal prices – for example, ToneBenders and Klons – in our opinion are an anomaly and an unjust one at that. With so many great clones of these pedals on the market at great prices, it seems that mainly investors are buying up these expensive units now.
No one would work for free…..would they!? Well, during the research and development design process of a new pedal, that’s exactly what the manufacturers are doing.
This is why we see so many fuzzes hit the market, as the work has been mostly done before.
Developing something like a Chase Bliss pedal, or a radical new approach that has never been tried before like Thorpy’s Selmar Amp-inspired Scarlet Tunic, takes a lot more time.
Our analog multi-FX pedals have many connotations and are designed from the ground up, so this is a subject close to our hearts.
This is also one reason clones of pedals are much cheaper. Often, they simply wait until all the work is done, and then just copy. It’s like someone looking at your work during a test.
There are many similar-looking pedals on the market and many which do the same thing. For companies to succeed, we have to each offer something different from the rest while maintaining a high level of quality. To do this, some companies utilize special techniques which take longer, such as 6th degree fx beautiful through hole PCBs, special enclosures like BOSS uses, and unique paint such as our dual color sparkle finishes which can only be finished using a special process, and our pedalboard in a box approach that players love so much.
Other features include presets, adding midi, or special switching to footswitches – the list goes on and on!
This all comes at an increased cost, and since these features are why people buy the pedals, it’s always a choice.
This is where the big changes have come for most companies regardless of their specific industry. Globally, fuel prices have increased and components are in demand by everyone. As a result, those with the deepest pockets get the first dibs on the components and this in turn lets the companies charge more for their parts.
It’s not unusual to see pedal companies move from direct sales to distribution and shops. This is a natural progression for many and comes with additional costs. When companies do this, expect costs to increase by approximately 20%.
Once several shops begin stocking a company’s gear, the U.S. MAP (Minimum Approved Pricing) pricing model comes into action. This is designed to prevent shops from undercutting each other’s prices to snag customers.
If a pedal is created and sold in a single company such as in the U.S., then the tax on a pedal is around 5% on average.
When things start to move across borders, then we start to see tax rates of around 20% plus the import taxes on top of this. Those exotic pedals can start becoming quite expensive very quickly.
With all this in mind, it’s clear to see that in order for our favorite pedal builders to grow, expand, and make a living from selling pedals, then the costs make sense, from the local guy in town selling his own fuzzes “off the record” to the large companies creating new technologies for crazy new sonic experiences and beyond.