The Philosophy Behind Cheap Pedals

“Hey Budget Boy!”

Despite the cries of “Cheap Charlie!” I have decided that cheap guitar pedals make more sense than so-called, superior expensive ones. Here’s my philosophy for what it’s worth.

There is a saying that often goes something like this:

“You spend/lose more money in the long run if you buy cheap stuff because it won’t last as long or won’t do the job properly. Therefore you’ll end up buying the expensive stuff anyway or spend money fixing the cheap stuff, costing you more than just buying the better-quality item in the first place”

First of all, it is true that cheap equipment will end up costing you more over time if that cheap equipment is actually poor-quality. Example – a cheap guitar that won’t stay in tune and has terrible, noisy electronics. You replace the hardware necessary to get it to stay in tune, which may include you buying replacement hardware that wasn’t necessary, which you didn’t realise initially. Then you change the pickups and wiring in the guitar and you realise that you could’ve bought a more expensive guitar in the first place cheaper.

I get that and whilst I agree with that philosophy most of the time I have found that with the cheap guitar pedals I have bought, this doesn’t hold true for more than one reason.

There are MANY cheap pedals on the market that are of high quality, both in construction and sound. Price is no longer a reflection of quality, but that is not the main reason in my opinion, although a very good reason to save money investigating cheap pedals.

For me the biggest reason is a common, mental disorder, seemingly shared by all guitarists and the cause of the condition known as GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

It is almost a 100% guarantee that the majority of guitarists pedal boards will not stay the same for more than a few weeks. There is always an effect that the guitarist must have to make their rig complete.

“Last week I’d never heard of (insert name of pedal here), but now I can’t play a gig properly until I have one.”

With this in mind, it’s fair to assume that many, many guitarists spend a fortune on expensive pedals and still end up with something that doesn’t quite satisfy their tonal needs. Not because it doesn’t sound good, but because…

“It doesn’t sound like it does in my head…”

The never-ending quest for the holy grail of tone results in an endless invoice that just keeps on growing.

In years past I remember paying money for boutique pedals, which I ended up selling a few months later for less money (of course) all for the sake of fancying a change or preferring a different killer lead tone to the one I wanted, and obtained a few weeks before.

Enter the cheap guitar pedal to save the day!

Take it as read that you WILL change the pedals on your pedal board, you will ALWAYS be “investing” in another effect and you will DEFINITELY become dis-satisfied with your “amazing” boost pedal that “changed the game” when you got it last year. This is whether the pedals in question were good or bad, it makes no difference.

If those pedals you now have the urge to replace were expensive, chances are that you will need to sell them to finance your new pedal plans, losing a little money here and there on every pedal (less so if you managed to keep them 100% scratch free and still looking brand new – haha good luck with that!). If those pedals you are thinking of replacing cost a quarter of the price of a boutique or name-brand pedal then maybe you don’t need to sell them at all, so that WHEN you change your mind again, you can always go back and try out your cheap Tubescreamer clone that you still have and then realise how much you do love Tubescreamers after all.

A case in point. The pedals in the post image are all currently not being used in my rig, but patiently waiting in the wings for when I get bored. Since sticking mostly with cheap pedals I have found myself just as satisfied with my tonal choices and have less cases where…

“I wish I hadn’t sold that delay pedal. Now it’s exactly what I need for this new band I’m in, but I don’t have the budget for one anymore…”

I now have plenty of backup pedals ready and waiting for when (and it is when, not if) I get bored with my pedal setup.

I do have a couple of things that are not so cheap, but I bought those used to soften the price blow. Maybe I am a “Cheap Charlie”, but I’m a Cheap Charlie with some great tones at my feet, alternatives to satisfy “Bored, guitarists syndrome” and a little cash left in my pocket!


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