Why the big price gap in guitar FX pedals?
March 17, 2008 9:08 PM   Subscribe

What is the essential difference between guitar effect pedals in different prices ranges? Also, are the DIY stompbox kits worth it?

I'm in the market for a delay pedal, and the gaps between prices are huge (especially for such a simple effect). Is there anything intrinsically wrong with Danelectro's pedals? Why are they so much cheaper than, say, Boss pedals?

I've read this question and its answers (namely, these two), and they were helpful.

I've also got an engineering background and am handy with an iron, so building my own would be no problem. The thing is, the kits aren't any cheaper than just buying a production one. So are they worth the extra effort for sound quality?
posted by spiderskull to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The essential difference between expensive and cheap pedals is build quality. You could run over a Boss pedal with your car and it would probably be fine. I'm not so sure that Danelectro's would survive. If you aren't a gigging musician, I wouldn't worry about this; just buy what sounds good to you regardless of the price.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 9:19 PM on March 17, 2008

Danelectros are said to be very noisy. Not in a good way, humming and hiss.
posted by mzurer at 9:24 PM on March 17, 2008

You're really asking two questions.

Delay pedals: get a Line6 DL-4. It's the most versatile - it gives you 3 presets plus tap tempo, great sound, stereo, while not being much larger than a single-switch pedal.

The Danelectro is run of the mill; nothing wrong with it per se, but you still have to go through it's cheap electronics. I'm not sure if you can set it for true bypass, but you can with the DL4 if that is an issue.

Kits: delays in the pre-digital days were based on "bucket brigade" technology, which is outmoded today. I can't imagine a kit today being cheaper to build than a DL4, or any cheap digital delay pedal.

However, the advantage to the kits are that *you* control the quality level. For certain types of pedals - Tube Screamer clones - it's actually cheaper, because the parts in a "boutique" TS clone are not that expensive relative to what some people are asking for them.

So - if you want a distortion pedal, I'd say build it; a delay pedal, buy it. But first check out the DL4, or Line6's EchoPark (which cleverly uses one pedal switch for on/off, as well as tap tempo) (and sounds good).
posted by raikkohamilonso at 9:44 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Raikkohamilonso's right on. The price difference is build quality + quality of components/circuit + packaging and marketing. I would add that we could probably recommend something if you'll say what kind of delay sound you're looking for.

One fairly concrete difference between Danelectros and more expensive pedals is the issue of true bypass — basically, does the signal completely skirt the effects circuit when the effect is disengaged? True bypass is sought after in some circles, though the difference (to me) approaches levels of imperceptibility scarcely known outside of audiophile conventions. At any rate, I think for the Boss brand, some pedals are TB and some aren't.

As for kits, it might be worth it if you find you really enjoy guitar effects in and of themselves. If you're already handy with a soldering iron, you might try something simple (there are a lot of homebrew plans to customize the basic Fuzz Face circuit, for instance) and see whether you want to move up to something orders of magnitude harder, like a delay effect.

I used to haunt the Effects Forum on harmony-central.com. It's been a few years since I've been there, but there's a lot of good information on the issues you raise if you care to find it. Posters are pretty friendly, too.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 10:59 PM on March 17, 2008

Sound and features are clearly an issue, but basic toughness is the real difference. I've got a Danelectro tremolo pedal. Two of the knobs have broken off, and the battery enclosure is looking a bit dodgy. I've got nothing to complain about the sounds I get out of it, but the thing is just slowly falling apart. Compare this to my metal Ibanez Sonic Distortion and metal Boss Octaver, both of which I bought second hand, both of which continue to work perfectly with no further damage after a decade in my hands. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, the rubble of our cities will be littered with Boss and Ibanez stomp-boxes, I swear.

The positive you can take out of this, though, is that second-hand purchases of these tough, metal-cased old brutes can be very good value and you will get good use out of them for years to come.
posted by Jimbob at 11:47 PM on March 17, 2008

(I should say that my new, plastic-cased Ibanez Digital Delay has also been pretty tough, and it's a pedal that's served me well despite the lack of advanced features like tap-delay.)
posted by Jimbob at 11:49 PM on March 17, 2008

Delay pedals are not simple effects. They're complicated and include a wide array of variables, the value of which will depend on your uses and needs.

Boss pedals are very tough and sort of industry-standard. I love the dd-6 and dd-20, and am intrigued by the soon-to-be-released (already?) dd-7.

A lot of people use the Line 6 products, but I have not had experiences with them.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:13 AM on March 18, 2008

If you like the sound of the Danelectros, you could always disassemble it and put it in a tougher/more shielded case.
posted by drezdn at 6:25 AM on March 18, 2008

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