Cheap guitar pedals have been gradually filling up music stores for the past decade and the quality of these mass-produced gadgets just keep on improving at an impressive pace.
There used to be a time when cheap guitar pedals were lumped together with the knock-offs and typically avoided by a lot of musicians. You could even get ridiculed for having a plastic-encased clone that is about a quarter cheaper than the original.
Nowadays, because of dwindling record sales, even popular musicians are starting to become more practical and are taking advantage of ways to cut costs. With the swift development of guitar pedal technology in the east, some rock stars are getting attracted to the sonic possibilities that they can achieve through guitar pedals below the $50 range.
Meanwhile, ordinary musicians who had to scrape hard for monthly rent, as well as young beginners who needed to save their lunch money, now have better, more affordable alternatives in the form of the Behringers and Joyos of the guitar pedal world.
Although cheap guitar pedals are dismissed as inferior, the sound quality of most of these gadgets are very reliable and can hold its own against stompbox heavyweights.
Factors that affect the price of guitar pedals
One of the main factors that contribute to the price of a guitar pedal is the cost of labor required to produce them. Unlike in China and Indonesia, workers’ salaries are much higher in Europe and the United States, resulting in more expensive music and audio equipment.
With the perpetually rising taxes in America, companies have no choice but to either increase the price of their products, or move their operations offshore. This is the reason why a vast majority of instruments and gadgets manufactured in Asian countries are way cheaper than the ones made in the U.S.
The materials used for constructing a guitar pedal also largely affects its price. Stompboxes with metal chassis enclosures are more superior to plastic ones, but they certainly cost a lot more.
Number of units produced
Boutique guitar pedals are produced in small batches, sometimes meticulously hand-made. Since this is a more laborious process, boutique pedals are sold at higher prices compared to mass-produced gears.
Just like most commodities across the broader market, the price of guitar pedals can also be determined by the popularity of the brand name behind its production.
Due to the lack of leveraging power that smaller stompbox companies have on their side, their only way to be noticed in a crowded room is to lower their prices. On the other hand, the more established names that already have the loyal following and illustrious history to bank on, can price their products any way they want.
Reputation of the pedal
Guitar pedals that are rare, either because of their vintage status, or limited production, are also more expensive. Lesser-known guitar pedals that were released in the past decade are usually cheaper, compared to the ones that have already achieved an iconic reputation in music history.
Pros and Cons of cheap guitar pedals
Guitar players are more likely to purchase more expensive pedals if only they were granted unlimited spending powers. But since a lot of musicians are short on funding, any instrument or gadget that is priced within their means, can be quite enticing.
A growing number of cheap guitar pedals are catching the attention of a lot of guitar players, even raising the eyebrows of some of the most discerning musicians out there.
Some of the pedals in the market today are priced absurdly-low, but sound surprisingly good. In fact, a lot of these cookie-cutter guitar pedals can match the quality of more well-known names, as well as the overpriced boutique ones.
Aside from lowering labor costs, the use of cheaper materials to construct guitar pedals are crucial in making them as cheap as possible. Cheap guitar pedals are usually clunky and vulnerable to impact because they use inexpensive materials such as plastic.
A vast majority of the cheaper guitar pedals in the market are just plain clones and for some guitar players, this is not acceptable at all. Although cloning is considered legal if the patent has already expired, some musicians would still opt for the original, more trusted version of a certain pedal.
- Low resale value
In the future, cheap guitar pedals will cost a fraction of its original price, unlike those legendary guitar pedals that can fetch prices as high as $3,000 to $7,500.
However, cheaper guitar pedals are not expected to last as long as some vintage ones that were produced with very high standards. If you are constantly gigging, chances are, your Behringer won’t be around anymore for the next generation to inherit.
Examples of good cheap guitar pedals
- Behringer Ultra Chorus UC200
- Behringer Vintage Delay VD400
- Caline CP-18 Orange Burst Overdrive
- Donner Morpher Distortion
- Donner Stylish Fuzz
- JOYO American Sound Amp Simulator
- JOYO JF-01 Vintage Overdrive
- KLIQ Tiny Tune Tuner Pedal
- TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion
- TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost Pedal
- Tone City Matcha Cream Fuzz
- Tone City King of Blues V2 Overdrive
Are cheap guitar pedals worth it?
Whether you are still a beginner or an advanced guitar player, it is important to have inexpensive options that will still allow your talent to shine. Because cheaper pedals have gotten much better nowadays, the dream to learn an instrument and conjure some amazing music, is now a lot closer to reality.
However, you must also keep in mind that cheaper pedals often use weaker materials, so if you are the type of musician who gigs every night, or plays extreme, aggressive music, you might want to consider getting more durable pedals instead. They may be more expensive, but still a safer bet for touring artists, unless you are willing to buy three or four units of your favorite cheap guitar pedal and use some of them as backups.
Cheap guitar pedals are worth it, but it depends on your budget, needs and taste as a guitar player. What’s more important is that you are comfortable with your setup and satisfied with the sound and music that you are creating with your equipment.