ProGuitarShop

Shop Talk: Boutique or not boutique?

June 25, 2013

by PGS Fitz

In the proverbial beginning, there was Fulltone, Analog Man, Keeley.  These guys were the builders of the ‘boutique’ – providing handbuilt or hand-modded effects pedals one at a time using the highest quality components for the highest quality tone. Only true aficionados even knew to look for their pedals—and if you had one (or more), you were obviously someone.

Fast forward through the 90s & 00s – now everyone and their mother builds pedals. Fulltone & Keeley pedals are sold in big-box music retail stores alongside the major mass-produced manufacturers like Boss and Digitech. So with the market so full of makers of all varieties and the small, iconic makers of yesterday now among the large makers (Wampler and Z.Vex, I’m looking at you!) – where does that leave the ‘boutique’ market these days? Does it even still exist?!

While waiting to open up the floor to comments from everyone (we know you have opinions and can’t wait to hear them!)—I’ll say that I always think of ‘boutique’ pedals as being hand-made, one-at-a-time, with high quality components and a ton of personal mojo (that last one certainly isn’t on the product BOM, but it goes in there just the same). This hand-made attention to detail usually commands a high price, since you usually can’t keep labor costs down when there’s one or two people making each pedal one-by-one, but then—you’re getting an artisan’s hand-wired pedal.

With the market flooded full of small pedal-makers who, thanks to the internet, are now distributed around the world—are handbuilt effects still ‘boutique’ (for a specialized clientele) or are they for everyone? Gone are the days of the all-Boss or all-Ibanez pedalboards. A quick, completely non-scientific search of pedalboards on Tumblr reveals that almost everyone has a mix of mass-produced and hand-built effects on their board these days.

Some smaller-but-growing manufacturers like Mad Professor offer both hand-wired and PCB (printed circuit board) versions of some of their pedals (with a radical price difference). Some giant manufacturers are now hand-wiring pedals in their custom shops (MXR) but managing to keep prices down in the process. Some mass-produced digital effects (Eventide?) seem to fall under the heading of ‘boutique’ due to their sheer sophistication (and sometimes pricetag).

 

Is it time to redefine ‘boutique’ or is it time to retire it? The same way that retailing music will never be the same in the digital age, have we moved into a more democratic era of manufacturing, where the big boys and the underdogs are on, essentially, level playing field?! Is searching for boutique equipment even relevant now that it’s so readily available globally? Is a hand-wired pedal necessarily better quality than a mass-produced pedal made by machine/bots?!

Let’s all kick it around the water cooler and talk shop – sound off in the comments and let us know what you think. As always, thanks for stopping by Andy’s Corner – see you soon.

Comments

  1. the wired turtle says:

    In the beginning there was NOT keeley.. Fulltone yes, Analogman YES, and Dave of Barber Electronics,YES…..    Keeley rose up after these first fruits of the boutique pedal business, just so you youngins know. Keeley should be its own story in marketing but dont mix it up with the original guys that pioneered successful and lasting boutique businesses.  - tavo

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 2:47 am
  2. sebastian says:

    Some boutique pedals and amps sound really good and others are expensive products with nothing awesome. Let your ear decide.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 2:49 am
  3. Mike says:

    Boutique, mass produced, who cares?!? As long as it sounds good, and serves your needs, to hell with the gear snobs.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 2:58 am
  4. Filippo says:

    I think it’s not a matter of quality. It’s a matter of feelings. I have no doubts that quality/sonically wise a handwired pedal (or amp) and a PCboard built pedal (or amp) are/sound exactly the same…. but knowing that my pedal or amp is handwired PTP makes me feel better. I am just happier when I use it. And for me this is enough to let them price them higher and just be in the market.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:01 am
  5. Andrew Glenn says:

    The notion of “boutique” is a misnomer these days. Pedal prices across the board have seen dramatic increases because of the claim to be “boutique”. While most companies might meet a stretch definition of what boutique entails, it is not completely realistic to continue the use of the term. In reality, the climate of the pedal market has shifted, and the mass production (i.e. 100’s or 1000’s at a time) of guitar stompboxes may be a thing of the past. Smaller shops have established themselves at the same level of their predecessors and are each reaching a unique niche of the pedal market. Larger manufacturers are working to function like boutique upstarts through use of the word “custom” (or custom shop). One thing that has remained constant is that hype and branding are uncontrolled phenomenon that people gravitate towards at inconsistent, yet widespread levels. Because the level of quality and craftsmanship has found a plateau, in many ways, hype, branding and customer loyalty are carrying some builders into the forefront of the pedal world, while others are completely fine living in obscurity. I, for one, have no interest in such hype other than the humorous conversations I find people engaging in on a regular basis (i.e. “Mr. so-and-so is playing ___________ pedal, produced by _____________ manufacturer. I have never heard it before, especially through my equipment, but I NEED IT!!!).

    When I am looking to purchase a new stompbox, my first concern is: what will this effect add to my tone? What can it give me that my current equipment cannot? What new technologies are pushing the limits of what was possible, and what consequences exist for the pushing of those limits.

    For many reasons, this approach has led me to a place where my effects chain has pedals that play well together—as opposed to one-and-done boxes. I want pedals that inspire and are fun to play through. I am not looking for a “plexi” sound or some other iconic tone. I want to sound like me, and my equipment is such that I can sound the way I hear things in my mind.

    Enjoy. Cheers, and stay inspired.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:01 am
  6. heemowatt says:

    To me the word “boutique” implies precious, pretentious, overpriced. You can get some great products that are not made one at a time by someone sipping Jack Daniels and chain smoking Camels in a mad scientist garage. Radial Engineering comes to mind.

    Alexander Dumble: now there is an example of “beyond boutique”. The dude encased his circuits in epoxy so they couldn’t be easily reverse engineered and copied. That’s pretty intense. His amps go for around 30K. Small batches of amazing tone machines might be worth it if you are Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Neil Young, or Carlos Santana ;)

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:01 am
  7. Bill says:

    I agree with Sebastion… totally subjective area here. certainly a consideration for durability and longevity when deciding on mass produced vs hand built (one at a time) but even that can bite you in the rear. Just had to return a $265 Analogman pedal for repair that was a month old yet my $37 Behringer Delay is still going strong despite it’s rinky dink plastic enclosure. go figure

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:07 am
  8. Joe says:

    I think of ‘boutique’ as something that is tweaked individually for tone, not even just hand-wired. Like the aforementioned Dumble amps, or like Trainwreck amps. These were hand-tweaked for tone.

    Something like that in the pedal realm might be Landgraff with their bespoke dipped finishes, but even then, the circuit is probably not tweaked (and $500 for a TS clone is WAY too much).

    I don’t have the budget for boutique, even though I did spring for an Ethos OD. Otherwise, I find great low-cost gems (Bad Monkey) or make my own (GGG Boutique ‘60s Fuzz, a germanium Fuzz Face that’s a clone of the Fulltone ‘69—cost me about $75). I’m much more about what comes out of the business end of my amp than what kind of ‘mojo’ a pedal might have.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:07 am
  9. BarryJ says:

    What was not mentioned that I feel is beneficial for some guitarists is that there are many sites like GuitarPCB with a huge knowledge-base of info allowing the Guitarist/DIY types to do there own boutiquing and tweaking.
    Unlike some other sites that try to offer so called exact copies etc… I easily learned to understand and demystify some of the more common designs and build my own for pennies on the dollar. They may not be clones or copies but I have certainly built some of the best sounding pedals I have ever owned in the last 40 years.
    That being said, not everything is quite as unique as it seems. For one minor example I can count easily (25) Tube screamer variants, all with different names on many commercial sites.

    At boutique prices of $125 to $350 (and higher) a pop that’s a lot of Tube screamer. Or Mojo?

    Just food for thought since it was not mentioned and can be a lot of fun if you have a knack for electronics.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:17 am
  10. Soldier says:

    I appriciate the attention thown at the meaning of ‘boutique’.
    I think I have high standards about pedals, which start from sound design, design of use and goes to build quality, the look, feel, functionality can vary but in the above mentioned criterias it has to be sophisticated, and clean. I have items like this, like the mass product Line6 Echopark, or the likely rare EmpressPhaser, if I would like to emphesise their good attributes and use one word to describe it, I would use “killer sound” “multiple option pedal” “well designed” “rigid”... theese are just the parts I say “great” pedal. But the tricky part is that so many peolpe wants just one know bare distortion, or just a good looking pedal, or just wanna tell that his rig is handwired, or cheap and useable… so these requirement are the mainstream, and who wants the above described sophisticated product is rather part of that small clientele who want to own boutique pedals. So when someone tells me that his pedal is boutique because it’s handvire, or because it’s very simple, or because it’s retro painted, or because the webshop tells it… I hasitate between laughing and crying.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:19 am
  11. Bob says:

    Part two of your definition of boutique still works.  The internet’s removal of geographic limits on “boutiqueness” does not remove the fact that the client base for boutique equipment remains small and specialized.  I’d say that true boutique’s next evolution may be back to the geographic…finding a guy in your hometown that can build one-offs to your specifications.
    Check out https://www.facebook.com/mccandytonepedals‎
    This is a one-man shop in San Antonio that’s built and modded a couple of pedals for me…great work, and each one is hand-painted…no two alike…true boutique exists.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:19 am
  12. João Miranda says:

    I understand boutique has the pedals that are essentially handmade and no mass production. If they sound better? I don’t have a super ear, but my boutique Dr. Boogie sounds way better than my old Boss Metalzone, but, I still find my Boss tremolo a great pedal, or my TS-9 a great overdrive, even though I always have a boutique drive in my pedalboard… If it gives me the tone I want, I would buy it.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:19 am
  13. Mark says:

    Some comments here about point to point wiring of amps and their tone as it compares to PC board based amps compels me to chime in…  Subjectively speaking,... we can argue tone all day long…  but having serviced PC board amps I can say this,...  I have seen scorched PC boards that have been rendered useless from a bad cap or resistor…  once that happens the amp is G O N E…!!!  I have searched for replacement boards,... and the only ones I have been able to find are exactly the same… scorched and burned in exactly the same place…!!!  That being said,... let me also say that recently someone brought in an old Silver Face Champ….  bought it at a garage sale for $40…!!!  it had been sitting under a lean-to for more than a decade,...  the speaker was rusted through…  there were holes in the cone,...  when the guy brought it in…  I looked it over visually really quickly and I said that I bet we plug it in and I get it to fire up inside of 5 minutes…  he said,...  NO way…  plugged it in…  the jewel lit up and there was no sound at all…  So, I knew the first thing to do was to replace the rectifier tube…  and when I did,...  it took a few seconds for the main B+ cap to warm up,...  but after about 10 seconds…  through that nasty speaker,... this thing gave up the goods…  LOL ran like a…  well ... like a Champ….  new power tube, new rectifier tube, and a new 8” speaker,....  a little Armour All… and this guy was happy as a clam…  with some serious cool tone…  So,... we can argue, subjectively, tone between the two all day long…  but the argument I will win every time is long term serviceability…  how many PC board based amps are you going to buy and replace over a 40 or 50 year period of time??  and how does that compare with the cost of a new hand wired “boutique” amp…  well,...  you don’t have to think about that for long…

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:22 am
  14. Chris Bellamy says:

    To me, boutique is when you purchase a pedal and the actual guy that makes the pedal responds to your email.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:22 am
  15. thomas rietman says:

    Boutique or whatever..when i buy a pedal, my main concern is if changes my original clean tone…I believe they call it transparency…it’s important to me to retain as much of the original tone as possible…I also have found that many of the boutique pedals strive for that….but i don’t really care who makes it or what it costs..it’s all about tone.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:23 am
  16. Leroy Brown says:

    A boutique is were ladies go to get their hair done.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:23 am
  17. Kris says:

    With playing over 20 years now I’ve had some many different pedals over the years. I’ve been there when the Analogmans were going for over 500 for the KOT. In the end now a days I play straight through my Anderson Amps when pedals start to get the point of costing more than a hand wired amp I have to question it. But then again people must be welling to pay for them because more and more companies are making more and more pedals

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:23 am
  18. FrankTheITGuy says:

    Given the changes in the industry you’ve noted, I’m starting to feel that “boutique” is indeed an obsolete term.  I’d prefer to revert to my previous 2-way classification system:  “good pedals” and “crummy pedals.”  Saves a lot of time in the long run.  It’ll still be a bit subjective, but no moreso than pondering whether a pedal is boutique or not.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:25 am
  19. D. E. L. says:

    Throughout the years I’ve accumulated many great pedals which are mostly “Boutique”.  Yet, just like my Harley, it wasn’t what I started off with.  Money was tight (wonder when that will end) so my first pedal was a Electro Harmonix Small Stone and then a MXR Distortion +.  Moved on to some good DoD stuff too. They were the best around at the time but sounded great.  Analogman was the first pedal maker that I bought into even though I heard great reviews about Dave Barber’s work.  I’ve since added Fulltone, Wampler, Kendrick,  Teese, Lee Jackson, Area 51 audio and of course they all sound great, but I’ve played some pedals from these makers that you couldn’t give me.  I lately have been using Lovepedals which I do love, yet one of my friends uses old Guyatone, and a Beringer OD that sound fantastic in his use.  He paid 55 bucks for them.  Bottom line is, if it sounds good to you,  then it’s good to use regardless of price.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:26 am
  20. Rich says:

    A boutique is where you buy ladies undergarments.Just saying.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:29 am
  21. Larry Lachmann says:

    All I really know is how I react when I hear a pedal. I’ll know right away if it’s something that will give me a sound I want to hear. Usually these pedals are boutique. I don’t know if it’s a pysch job I’m playing on myself, but I don’t think so. I react to sound, and unfortunately for me I have always liked boutique pedals best. (D*A*M, Skreddy, Paul Cochrane, Janglebox) Other pedals I have and love are from Xotic, Catalinbread and TC Electronics. I’m not sure whether they are considered boutique or not actually.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:34 am
  22. Tongo says:

    I have gone out of my away to avoid boutique snake oil.  My tone has not suffered one bit.

    I let the brand conscious crowd worry about that.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:34 am
  23. Andrew says:

    Personally I feel that even the established “boutique” companies have lost some significance to the over flooded market of at home DIYer’s. There is so much information readily available schematics, layouts, and such that any one could learn to build clones as they do. I do one offs every now and then, not to get rich but for fun/learnin and to fund other little projects sometimes.

    Point being, even people don’t hesitate to buy these one offs or clones from various small onetime builders, high and dirt cheap prices. Sometimes unique but mostly clones.

    Not to sound pessimistic but I just wonder how long could this last?

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:45 am
  24. theonlychrisj says:

    The term has become a marketing ploy. You have guys like JHS and others that have 13 minutes of circuit and soldering knowledge and fantastic Google skills, straight up ripping off other people’s work and building their pedals with drop-in pbcs.

    I’m sorry, if the only time your hands are touching my pedal in the build process if to solder the jacks, that’s not boutique

    Maybe it’s respect for the industry, or just knowing John personally. I hate when people bash the LDO’s pricepoint. It’s a lot more than a tubescreamer and he BUILDS them one at a time. Going and buying a $75 GGG kit doesn’t even come close. It depends on what your standards are, I suppose.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:57 am
  25. Ron says:

    Boutique has many definitions. I think the most relevant is the volume of the company’s output. It just so happens that most small producers tend to use above average quality components, true by-pass, etc. I have a mass-produced univibe clone that I modded a tiny bit that sounds better than the two boutique ones I have.  I would never trade my Analogman BiChorus for a boss. In that case it’s a bit of snobism and a lot of sound quality. But that doesn’t mean the boss or the TC Electronic choruses are bad. Again, I think boutique primarily refers to the number of units produced, not the quality of the build or the sound.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:57 am
  26. pbay says:

    Keeley was in the beginning? What about Z Vex and Prescription Electronics?

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:04 am
  27. Will says:

    boutique is “technically” more about the branding and process of production rather than a guarantee of quality or taste.  still, people and companies are going to use the word however they feel it will benefit them.  companies will use it to imply quality and tone, yet we know too many factors figure into overall tone to think one pedal will be “better” than another.  players will use the word to imply that they have better taste over others because their specific brand is more expensive and has a limited production capacity.  call me a functionalist, but i know it boils down to what sounds good to me.  i, too, used to think if it’s handmade or analog, it must sound better, but i’ve come to realize that my budget and ear affect my choices now more than my eyes.  sure, than fulltone tte may sound better, but does it sound $500 better when a digital emulator has 95% of the tone?  also, the digital pedal doesn’t take up a whole lot of space and doesn’t need maintenance.  that’s the value scale the player has to figure out.  there will always be people who can afford dumbles, klons, and the such, so somebody will use exclusivity to market their brand and that is their right to do that.  sorting out the details is each guitarists responsibility.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:04 am
  28. Tuomas Timonen says:

    About a quality issue. Strange enough, I’ve only needed a warranty repair for the pedals that are “hand wired”. If I was a cynical type of person, I’d say robots do it better than human beings.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:07 am
  29. Ken says:

    I own a complete set of Rockman Modules. For those who don’t know, Tom Scholz is one of the founding members of Boston, (I believe he is the founder of the group but there are those who argue the point so…). In the pursuit of tone Tom created his own line of equipment. The were marketed during the 80’s and mass produced, albeit on a much smaller scale than the big companies like Dunlop. Years after they went out of production they are still sought after and there are a couple companies that refurbish and Mod some of the modules such as Perfect Sound Rock Refurbs. David and Rick do a wonderful job bringing these units back to life and in some cases improving a great design along the way. So are these Boutique effects? The quality is sure there!

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:22 am
  30. Mike says:

    I think you all have too much time on your hands. Go to your rooms, pickup your guitars, and practice, write, create,  practice some more.  Try unpluging all of your toys for a week and just use your guitar and amp. Guess what? it sounds like music, not sound effects.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:23 am
  31. Steve says:

    Tone and sound is really very subjective. There’s a lot of great Boutique pedals out there along with some not so great ones. My go to pedal is still a Japan TS-9 that gets the job done!

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:26 am
  32. Adam says:

    If we go by the dictionary definition then BJFE hand built pedals are still boutique and Mad Professor is something else. A new category is needed.

    my take is that the reason most pedalboards are a hodge podge of “boutique” and mass produced pedals is A: a lack of snobbiness. A Boss TU-2 is a darn good tuner. B: value: i can spend less on a TS9 overdrive and put the money on a higher end reverb pedal. or whatever is important to your personal sound and tone.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:31 am
  33. Randall Ayers says:

    I’ve followed my ears mostly, It’s about the Search for Tone, A sound I hear in my head and try to pull out of the Equipment, It’s not an exact science, It’s about working around and with the short comings, That’s where the magic happens, You can refine the magic out of the mix by trying to make it to perfect. I mostly missed the Boutique thing, I was stuck in Rack hell and then MIDI rack hell since the mid 80s. Pedals did not give me what I wanted so I went upscale a notch. I should have stayed with the UE 400, UE 405, AD202 system I started with, it had as much soul as anything I’ve tried since. I wanted to simplify , I watched Bill Perry coax some great stuff out of minimal set up
    .

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:32 am
  34. Bob N says:

    I think the question should addressed sound or quality. The comments seem to address reliability. Should a “boutiqe” product be all of those things? and “do you get what you pay for” Humans like to name things, it seems to give them solace. All the comments I heard were about OD and DIST, but what about compressors, reverbs, delay, chorus, vibrato,etc.?  Anyone who owned a Vette knows it’s high end but requires much maintainence. Would you be happy with a $99 Boss compressor or an LA2A on your guitar? I didn’t think so. Is there overpriced high end and under priced low end? Absolutely! but a quality $300 made OD/Dist will be cleaner on the distortion end every time. Sometimes the ear tricks you but once you hear it you’ll know. It’s not about class poor vs rich snobery or any other conspiracy theory but education of sound. Same with audio

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:32 am
  35. Funk E says:

    First of all, in the beggining, there was the Fender and Premier outboard reverb units. And the Echoplex. And the Vox wah, Meastro fuzz, Fuzz Face, Tonebender, many Electro Harmonix effects, Univibe, etc.,etc., etc. They were almost all hand wired as the pc board was in it’s infancy. The ones mentioned in the article came decades later. Some are/were just mods added to existing pedals.
    Why is a hand wired item from a small builder called boutique, and yet a hand wired item from a large company not ? If they both meet the supply and demand of the market, they’re equal to me.
    I have pedals ranging from $40 dollars to $200. If they give me the sound I want, and are sturdy and reliable, I don’t care who made them. Typically, one builder might make a great delay, but so so distortion. Another mighy make a great overdrive and/or distortion, but lousy chorus, etc.
    Sound and reliabilty are what counts. Sometimes you find it surprisingly cheap, sometimes you just have to pay the piper to get. Do your research and testing first if possible.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:47 am
  36. Randall Ayers says:

    This needs an edit function.
    so,I watched Bill Perry coax some great stuff out of minimal (BD2, Dunlop 355Q wha, Donlop Roto vibe pedal fender Supper Reverb )  set up and wanted to try that, The BD2 didn’t do it for me, tried A FAT boost was better by not that great, I learned about Analogman from Jim Weider Got KOT and Beno boost and went from there ( Hermida then Ethos and Origin Effects ) but by that time everyone else knew, it was Now just a Marketing term, in in all the Guitar mags which I’d stopped buying because they are mostly Fan Mags not about music, it’s about selling stuff, GAS is a terrible.disease, Gearslutz anonymous here I come.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 4:52 am
  37. RICK says:

    Now Boutique=`s $169 & up,Espescially $199+

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 5:07 am
  38. Leroy Brown says:

    Marketing is an evil disease. Boutique / Shmoootique - if it sounds good for you, use it.

    Botom line is, we are living in the golden age of “gear” and that is a good thing.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 5:08 am
  39. Jon Rohland says:

    Some great discussion here.  I agree the term “boutique” has become pretty confused, and as a result, may not be as relevant as before?  I agree with previous comments about wanting something that inspires my playing and letting your own sound evolve.  Putting too much stock in marketing hype or so-and-so’s sound will likely get you caught in a vicious cycle or spending and tail-chasing.

    If I’m truly letting my ears be the judge, in many cases a great sound can come from a more mass-produced option.  But I’ve still justified some hand-built pedals on my board when it offers something truly unique/innovative (at least for the time being), or offers options I was able to have customized direct from the builder.  Just like some folks prefer the personal interaction of brick-and-morter vs. the typically cheaper online purchasing option for just about anything, there’s something enjoyable about knowing you’re speaking or emailing directly with the builder, about options you want, and who takes steps to ensure you become a happy customer.  That’s been my experience in a few cases, through guys I’ve discovered by word of mouth (one of which now has bigger operations) and I’ve even had occasion to run into them at NAMM and have a pleasant chat (“I have a custom first run of your ___ pedal!” and they remember who I am).

    Of course, not all builders have a strength in customer service, or afford that level of customer interaction, so your results may vary.  But when it happens, it’s an enjoyable experience (both during the process, and with the resultant product)… I may have paid a bit of a premium and been on a wait list, but I don’t regret it and prize those pedals.  Does it give me a “better” sound?  Not necessarily… More unique?  Perhaps… but definitely inspires me to play.  And I won’t deny feeling like I have something a little special and that I got my money’s worth.

    Those are my thoughts as of today.  I might think something entirely different a year from now, as I’m still figuring it all out.  :)

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 5:19 am
  40. Matt H says:

    I like pedals as much as the next guy, but like most of you I have a budget. It has to be a pretty special pedal to be worth more than $150. When you consider the time it takes to make and materials involved, any simple mass produced PCB pedal SHOULD retail for less than $100. The biggest rort IMO are pedal power supplies. These should be $75-100 maximum. Out of all the pedal manufacturers Boss and EHX have the most realistic pricing.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 5:28 am
  41. Mojave Johnson says:

    In the beginning there was ROGER MAYER!!  EVERYONE ELSE came later!

    Back in the late 1960’s, there was ONLY “boutique”, and that’s because effects were really still in their infancy.  Roger Mayer, and a handful of others were experimenting with electronic devices to modify an audio signal.  They HAND BUILT every effect device, and no two were exactly alike.  Many of these effect devices were sold to studios who wanted that extra little trick in their proverbial bag to help entice clientele to use their studio.  Studios back then were very secretive about the gear they had on hand, because if everyone knew what a particular studio had, then ANY studio could have one, thus eliminating the exclusivity of their gear.

    When Roger Mayer build the wah pedal, the Fuzzface, and the UniVibe for Jimi Hendrix, no one else on the planet had them!  That’s partly what gave Hendrix his unique sound - no one had the equipment to duplicate it!

    In the 1970’s, when Dunlop, Boss, and DOD/Digitech stated mass producing these effects pedals, the sounds of the electric guitar in popular music started to converge, and people started sounding like everyone else.  In fact, by 1990, guitar-based bands were sounding so alike, that you could often no longer tell what band was playing on the radio just by a guitar player’s tone!  By 1992, there were basically 3 bands on the radio - Pear Jam, Nirvana, and Green Day!  Practically everyone else on the radio sounded like one of these three, and IT SUCKED (and most of it still does)!!!

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:03 am
  42. craigwonderfingers says:

    Has everyone forgotten the Klon Centaur?  Big mistake, if so.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:17 am
  43. James Nunn says:

    I think we (musicians) would benefit from a far better means of classification than ‘boutique’.

    What I, personally, care about is this: Was the product I’m considering purchasing hand-made by one person/one small group of people, or did it just drop into a box at the end of a production line? And does the price reflect that?

    It’s the same with guitars - yes, CNC routers are WONDERFUL things, but only if you’re using them to keep prices down. ALL the big boys are guilty of charging hand-made prices for assembly line guitars.

    So in short, I’m suggesting that handmade products cost more to reflect the care and effort involved, and something that is the end result of an assembly line is priced as the budget option it will always be.

    No more ‘boutique’, ‘custom’, and other nonsensical tags - just ‘Hand made’ or ‘Regular’.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:18 am
  44. mark says:

    boutique is for professions who’ve made it in the music biz, everything else is for everyone else.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:35 am
  45. f1shburn says:

    Two aspects about the boutique market that weren’t discussed here are 1) the artistic element and it’s higher desirability among some consumers and 2) the location of origin, from a personal and an economic perspective.
    I like Walrus Audio products because they’re artwork is fresh and they’re made in Oklahoma.  I like Strymon products because they look cool and professional and they’re made in California.  I like my Timmy overdrive because I had to call Paul in Tennessee to order it (before they started popping up in stores online) - he even talked to me about my setup and whether I should go with the Timmy or the Tim.
    A lot of these companies make pedals that look great (many of them featuring the work of real live artists), are easy to reach personally by phone or email, and are located in the country that I live in.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:39 am
  46. Zampuuji says:

    ” The Emperor’s New Clothes “
    Does that story ring a bell ?
    Every overdrive pedal sounds exactly the same…same guts in different enclosures..
    Just make sure it looks like it was painted by a third grader,and sell it for $300.00.
    Of course,I’m being facetious,but sometimes it seems like the truth.
    Just use your ears.
    It that simple…

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:39 am
  47. Vegas Matt says:

    Mojave Johnson, you were doing so well until the end. Plenty of us who grew up on 90s music can easily tell apart bands of that era by guitar tones. Just mark that down as the time in your life when you turned into an old fogey.

    Anyway, I don’t personally care so much about boutique pedals as boutique amps. I like gear that can either do something unique that I want it to do or just be so exceptional as to seperate itself far and above the rest. I don’t find that very often in the endless slew of OD pedals and fuzz boxed in the boutique market, but I do find it in the boutique amp world.

    One case of finding that in pedals though is Strymon. Several of their pedals are unique and exceptional well beyond their big box counterparts.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:45 am
  48. Terrance says:

    I use both and have had many of each . Right now my dd7 kicks ass and I have tossed all my line 6. Having said that I choose dr scientist -the elements over the wampler sovereign. Whatever works. Hey I still love the ibanez d7 echo and is still on my board and used. It’s whatever does the job for me .  Some of those old big company pedals are great - dod comressor and the fulltone ocd kinda lost it ‘s appeal.
    Great topic

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:47 am
  49. HGH says:

    Topic - extremely subjective
    History - heavy on the mythology
    Opinon - like you-know-what and everybody’s got one
    Moral of the story - if it works, use it. If it don’t, don’t.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 7:19 am
  50. Bob Smith says:

    It’s funny that this topic gets so much attention, for a purely artificial distinction. First off, I’ve got to add Jorge Tripps and Bill Finegan to the list of boutique innovators, both were already building by the mid-90s at the time Analogman was primarily doing mods…

    I’d have to argue that a boutique pedal is built in small batches, hand assembled (can be SMD but at least some parts have to be thru hole or wired off board), tested and tuned by hand. That makes the current boutique market pretty thin. Guys who build really excellent pedals, like Analogman, Keely and Fuller don’t really qualify any more as their pedals are stuffed and usually assembled offsite. EQD, Blackout and similar that appear to have things pretty consistent but take the time to route wires carefully by hand, probably.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 7:26 am
  51. craigwonderfingers says:

    I wonder if any serious musicians have time for this sort of thing?

    Boutique?  So what?  Is anyone really listening to what you are playing?  Guess you
    are not playing if you are typing away here?

    I always had heard that “boutique” means you order your product directly from the
    man who was actually going to make your product himself to your specs, not some order taker
    for a standard product that anyone can buy?

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 7:29 am
  52. Jake Reed says:

    Boutique to me is more than just the rage and a feeling of elitism, although those things definitely happen.  It’s more about finding that sound that nobody, or very few know exists, which can define your sound; Dumble amps are the epitome of this concept.

    Also now it’s becoming more about customizability, with custom signal routing options with midi master/slave ability.  Even the new pedalboards are less about tone, but the drive to purchase remains the same (cough cough, Salvage Custom).

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 8:36 am
  53. Michael says:

    And yet the greatest players run straight into their amps with one, two, maybe three stomp boxes at most.
    My guitar sounds so good on it’s own that all I use is an EQ. and a compressor. (Not that I am a great player, I just have a great guitar.)

    Look at the rigs belonging to Mick Ronson, Jimi Hendrix and Ray Davies for simplicity.

    Boutique, hell.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 8:49 am
  54. will says:

    Want to see boutique, and become part of it yourself? It is not rocket science. Start here
    www.Madbeanpedals.com. $50 will buy all the boutique parts to build your own. Really.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 9:12 am
  55. J C L says:

    I’ve been playing since the late 80’s and got into the boutique thing in the mid 90’s. Over time I’ve gone through phases of buying and modding gear, with some success as well as the creation of some extremely expensive noises. After time the snobby douchebag boutique builder sorts (Zvex comes to mind) have really rubbed me the wrong way with their pricing and hype. I got kicked off of several guitar sites because I disagreed with them and their overpricing. I still believe they priced real musicians out of the market. You can go buy a new cheap green muff pedal or a CC2 because they’re both great pedals but neither one is going to create anything, you’re going to have to do that.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 9:27 am
  56. Ken says:

    If everything else was equal; tone, sound quality, construction quality and price, who would you rather buy from a corporation, medium sized business or one man shop? At that point I think it comes down to customer service and the support they provide.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 9:42 am
  57. Jim says:

    i hate the term “we only use the highest quality components/mojo unobtainium parts”
    with no justification. coz we all know people like to see old/big parts.
    guitarists are stupid

    you see this more and more now that the blogs with free vero layouts post layouts and all these “builders” who think they can build anything (quickly searches for latest vero layout) and just put it “designer” parts and do a small tweak here and there (dont have the right value? no sweat…tweaked) and undercut the guys who do spend hte time doing R&D
    slap on some swirly paint and use stupid stuff like cloth wire and oh dont forget the double sided tape “Securing” your circuit into the enclosure…and viola youre in the boutique business.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 9:46 am
  58. 1lespaul says:

    I liked what people like Andrew Glenn said above. 

    In my personal opinion, the word boutique doesn’t really matter any more.  What matters is

    A.) Build quality.
    B.) Is it right for your rig/band and the sound you’re going for.
    C.) Is it in your budget range.

    If it fits all three of these, it can be anything from a Boss to a Cornish, and you get the “right” sound.
    On a personal note, the “right” sound for me comes from JHS, Strymon, Xotic, and Electro Harmonix, among a few other pedal brands.  :)

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 10:10 am
  59. Rick says:

    Boutique pedals are basically a rip off of a manufactured pedal.  Manufactures such as Boss design the pedal and costs down due to economy of scale.  Boutique places rip off the design charge a little more than the manufacturer for the same thing.  You could be better off getting the circuit diagram and making your own pedal. As far as components go, certainly for distortion/overdrive, op amps of a specific series are the same from any manu8facturer, resistors and capacitors of a certain tolerance are the same, there is really not the best components thing, that is just part of the blurb to justify their price and there is certainly no mojo.  There would be more mojo if you picked up a soldering iron and learned from scratch how to put a circuit together.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 10:33 am
  60. Simon says:

    @ the wired turtle…..

    Fulltone? ...early? Boutique is a word I can’t stand….“oh they are not Boutique any more they sell too many”

    Maestro….Roger Mayer…..Warwick (Clyde McCoy).....Tychobrae - These were the early ones.

    Get some real perspective buddy.

     

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 11:26 am
  61. michael kerr says:

    hi dont know about the pedals but I own a hand built amp made in a small shop by splawn,its a 112 combo that is 40 watts of tube power and has a half power switch,and has 3 gears,1st is made to sound like a plexi,2nd go for the modded jcm 800,3rd is a super hot rodded jcm 800,its called a street rod,the build quality is outstanding in every way,the cabnets are made by one person,so are the tolex that come in alot of custom colors all are hand wired point to point,this is a four person operation,the wait is about 6 months to order one,I plug my guitar right in to the front of the amp and have no need for a gain pedal,these amps are not cheep about 1850$ for a 112 combo,every time I play thru it I just smile,so to me they are worth every penney,might look at adding some pedals later on but for now just enjoing the raw tone.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 11:40 am
  62. Also Steve says:

    In the beginning was just a guitar, a cord, and an amp. No wait, in the beginning was an acoustic guitar and a microphone. Or maybe it was a lute and a big hall…..
    Buy what inspires you to create and play more, ignore the labels.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 11:51 am
  63. Bluesblud says:

    Best tone I have ever had was with my Strat and MKII Superlead, the only effect that I have kept in my setup is an oddball 70’s rack mount analog delay called a Time Machine.  There is a wide range of tones you can get with a Strat and a cranked amp that those fancy pedals try to emulate .

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 12:07 pm
  64. Jake says:

    Aural beauty is in the ears of the beholder. Here’s a humble suggestion about pedals.You can take it or leave it. But, it has always worked for me. Listen to others play the pedal you’re thinking of purchasing. Research everything you can find about the pedal, the builder, it’s components along with the pros and cons, then listen some more. THEN play the pedal in question at a jam and wring it out. When you’ve done ALL this, honestly ask yourself how much will you actually use the pedal. Finally, weigh the cost of the pedal against what else you may more desperately need to do your “average” gig. Most likely you’ll have a smaller pedal board but you’ll really know how to use the ones you have.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm
  65. Mike says:

    I think Keith Richards once said"give five minutes and it will all sound the same”.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 9:55 pm
  66. James Spina says:

    I recently put together a hefty string of ultr-cheapo Danelectro pedals VERY carefully wired and noise suppressed and housed the whole train in a classy Salvage Custom pedal box. I use it mainly with my new “lefty” Eastwood baritone guitar. Welcome to MY boutique.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 10:25 pm
  67. CaptPostMod says:

    Random tip: Switch your pedals to zinc–carbon batteries. Boutique sounds await.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 11:27 pm
  68. Imerkat says:

    As long as it’s a business with small number of employees and relatively low volume of sales and take custom orders then your are boutique in my book. CoPilot FX comes to mind. I wanted a pedal for dubstep, told the guy what I wanted it to do. send me the drawings to approved. 3 months later it came in the mail. Now that’s Boutique!

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 12:01 am
  69. Stefaun Crichton says:

    I started playing about 50 years ago. There were not any pedals then, literally!!!  An amp with a reverb and vibrato was the maximum there was.  The number of pedals now is beyond belief!! Some of them are really great!!!

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 1:09 am
  70. Matthew Ivaliotes says:

    There is no such thing as “mojo.” It’s a pedal. It is a circuit in a box. Component selection can certainly matter, and building it might means it will last. I’ll pay for good work, but the notion that there is some sort of magic pixie dust that (insert pedal maker here) has is completely absurd.

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 1:46 am
  71. Mojo says:

    I love my Sweet tea from JHS Pedals :)

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 1:57 am
  72. Matthew Ivaliotes says:

    Also, Boss made all of 10 million pedals as of 2010. That’s over 30+ years. So we’re talking an average of maybe 300,000 pedals per year. And typically dozens of pedals in their lineup every year. So maybe 10,000 of each pedal per year. That’s ore than Fulltone, but *nothing* in the pedal world constitutes “mass” production scene in most big industry.

    I think boutique is a term that is only meaningful as a signal of pretense. Retire it! Lead the vanguard!

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 1:59 am
  73. Matthew Ivaliotes says:

    (corrected below)
    Also, Boss made all of 10 million pedals over 30+ years. So we’re talking an average of maybe 300,000 pedals per year. And there are typically dozens of pedals in their lineup every year. So maybe 10,000 of each pedal per year get produced. That’s more than Fulltone makes, but *nothing* in the pedal world constitutes “mass” production as seen in most big industry.

    I think boutique is a term that is only meaningful as a signal of pretense. Retire it! Lead the vanguard!

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 2:06 am
  74. Todd says:

    It’s all about the players taste, and what sounds good to their ear.
    I prefer older pedals, and analog signal paths. I also don’t have
    a huge budget for my pedal board. I suggest play them all
    youtube the demos of pedals your checking out, and build the
    pedal board of your dreams. If these ‘Boutique’ pedals fit in those
    lines, awesome. I’ll still go for what I like to hear,
    like a Memory Man from the early ‘80s.
    Have some fun!!

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 2:33 am
  75. craigwonderfingers says:

    This is really turning into the old folks home for long-time pedal lovers!

    No one has mentioned the Gibson Maestro or Jordan Boss-Tone yet—any opinions out there?

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 2:38 am
  76. Alen says:

    ive tried loads of botique stuff and i have to agree with couple of guys above that the sound is all that matters for exaple ive tried Soldano and Fryteere/VHT and i have to say that Fryette really deliver something new and special, soldano was just like any other amp with a bit more definition in the tone, comparing original maxon, ibanez and keeley tubescreamers/overdrive pedals i must say that keeley really delivered. it all goes down to personal perference and if it sounds good. from my point of view i think that some people really do make good butique pedal others are just using the word for profit

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 4:49 am
  77. Mountain Tree Moonman says:

    Ever see Prince’s pedalboard? It’s a Whammy, a Crybaby wah, and 6 or so Boss pedals! I was like, “Wah-t?” Kind of amazing to me, probably because I bought into the whole boutique pedal world, and still, for the most part, love it.

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 6:05 am
  78. Bill says:

    Labels are meaningless, if it makes the sound you want at a price you can afford but it.  Fulltone makes great pedals, I sent an email to them on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago with a question regarding product registration.  I got an answer a couple hours later from Michael Fuller himself.  When the boss of a company takes the time on a Sunday morning to answer customer questions, thats service, boutique or not

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 6:57 am
  79. Emin Zelic says:

    Fast all my pedals are “Boutique” pedals- Fulltone, lovepedal,JHS,Sweet Sound etc. but only in few pedals You can hear a Soul of a Builders in their Sound.Some Pedals like W&C Box off Warr or Love pedal Echo Baby or even MXR `74 vintage phase 90, You can instantly hear that “Mojo” that We all look and search for. That what`s really Boutique for me.

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 7:11 am
  80. Kaz says:

    Just to interject here I know there are tons of tone arguments between the older mass produced and the newer. It comes down to components. Older mass production companies go for the cheapest they can get while still maintaining somewhat of the same tone of the old days. Boutique builders started trying to capture the original tones with better components and then started expanding and experimenting giving the players more usable tones than the original vintage stuff provided. Why not buy a redesigned Tub screamer like pedal rather than pay outrageous prices for the original that will most likely be pretty beat up.  It comes down to components. Also, many newer mass manufacturers are using micro components which make pedals impossible to modify. The only thing that keeps me from buying exclusive boutique pedals it lack of cash.

    posted on June 26, 2013 at 7:51 am

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