This is essentially a companion piece to the previous / associated ’More Pedal Chain Delight’ article. I’ve also tagged on some additional pedals which are of interest to me by those brands/makers already covered - these may or may not be universally acclaimed the best by said maker - they are purely my own preferences. I have a sort of ongoing dynamically adjusting wishlist where I log potential acquisition targets and weigh them up against everything else that is available - in terms of tone, feature set, versatility, practicality and price. These things change on pretty much a daily basis - and are highly influenced by price and availability as well as forthcoming pedal introductions - I am also very amenable to second-hand, as long as said pedals are in pretty pristine condition and as long as someone is not trying to fleece me at 2 or 3 times face-value.
The following listing is alphabetical by Pedal Maker Brand - circa 340 pedals mentioned across 73 key brands.
The Amps in the title is actually more Pre-Amp pedals, as that is the bread and butter for this outfit really - with the PBF Flanger (Pedal-board friendly) their one product of note for me:
I have the La Calavera Phaser from this company, but am interested in 4 others. Alexander specialises in slightly quirky but really clever compact-design digital pedals - which all sound great and typically acheive some wonderful variation of tone not found elsewhere - pedals of note are listed below:
James Brown is something of an amp-making legend having worked with Eddie Van Halen to create the very first 5150 amp circuit while at Peavey. Amptweaker is his own pedal company, and is most notable for its very highly featured 'Pro' pedals. Recent innovations have seen miniaturisation of those into compact 'Jr' enclosures, and I have the Tight Fuzz Jr on my shopping list. There are a number of pedals of note here, particularly if you are a fan of high gain - where the Tight Metal Pro has established a pretty decent reputation.
'King of Tone' Mike Piera is extremely well known within boutique pedal-making circles (circuits!) - and his library and inventory of rare and amazing transistors and other vintage components is legendary. The most significant disincentive though it that near enough everything is hand-made one-at-a-time in the USA (waiting list) and only available direct from Analog.Man - so these can be difficult to come by for UK customers - not many turn up on Reverb.com either. Importantly though, prices here are pretty reasonable. The most famous Piera pedal is the celebrated King of Tone - based on an early Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal with additional boost - I personally prefer the more compact Prince of Tone - which foregoes the boost options, but gives you more gain in the highest setting. Pretty much all of Mike's pedals are excellent - many rate his vintage analogue delays too, but I'm really only properly interested in the following three:
Boss is an interesting case - they essentially invented the modern 'compact' pedal which is the standard size now - back in 1977. And they maintain almost exactly the same latched-switch-plate design today, which does have certain inherent limits - cv Chase Bliss, Dr Scientist and Foxpedal. That said, this is one of the 2 most legendary pedal companies in terms of creating long-lasting classics - with Electro-Harmonix being the other. EHX to my mind still does too many over-sized enclosures, and both companies could benefit with a degree of modernisation. That said - Boss has come strong of late with the Waza range, 500 range, Katana Amps and latest JB-2 Angry Driver pedal - which are all excellent. Much of this is super modern, but the compact pedals still look the same as they've always done, although currently they're made in Taiwan versus the Japan of old, and some have lesser quality components for a variety of reasons. That said, there are a tonne of Boss pedals that I'm still very much interested in - including all of the following:
I'm a huge fan of the sound of the Butler Tube Driver pedal - which uses an actual 12AX7 valve and comes in a pretty sizeable enclosure - funnily TC Electronic have just recently released their own sort of version of this - 'Tube Pilot' which is similarly loaded with a 12AX7 loaded into a regular enclosure, but with no tone stack - just volume and gain. The Buffalo FX TD-X gives you the same sort of sound from transistors alone - using a cleverly tuned analogue circuit. The TCE Tube Pilot is only £49 - so I'm actuall tempted to try that one too!
I'm not really into building and soldering my own pedals yet - but if I were I would start here. I have one of these pedals already (Lil' Mouse [Rat]) - assembled by Johnny Balmer of Alchemy Audio, and the Crown Jewel multi-drive is high up on my wishlist. BYOC specialise in making very high quality clone kits - based on the exact same components of those source models. They do a variety of different sizes - including lots of really decent mini pedals. They also have a number of these available pre-built - which is how I prefer to acquire them!
Compared to size of country, there really are quite a lot of really good Danish pedal brands - and they sort of split into Vintage and Modern - with Carl Martin, Nordvang Custom and T-Rex sitting mostly in the vintage effects category, while Emma Electronic, Lunastone and TC Electronic tend toward the more modern side. Carl Martin make universally excellent sounding pedals, but I have the same issue with them as I have with EHX - in that the vast majority of their pedals are in medium or above size enclosures. In several cases there is good cause for the medium enclosure as a number of these have dual footswitches - and this is something Carl Martin is very well known for - dual compression, dual chorus etc. I don't know why they can't take a leaf out of Chase Bliss's, Dr Scientist's and Foxpedal's playbook and adopt more compact size enclosures - even with dual footswitches as those do. The Greg Howe Lick Box is excellent though - yes it is oversized, but it does combine Boost, Overdrive and Distortion. I also really like the sound of the DC Drive, but would much prefer it in a smaller enclosure.
I used to know Catalinbread best for its delay pedals - Adineko, Belle Epoch, Csidman, Echorec, Topanga etc., but I've become more familar with their drive pedals of late - after I did copious research for a Vox AC30 Treble Boost pedal. I obviously ended up buying the Galileo, and have a mind to get the RAH and Sabbra Cadabra too sometime, while I've always been a huge Marshall fan too, so will most likely check out the Dirty Little Secret also eventually. I was for a while considering the Echorec also, but really want my delays and reverbs to be stereo these days.
These to me are the jewels of the pedal world really - seeing how much amazing functionality Joel Korte can squeeze into a regular compact enclosure is just a marvel of engineering - and these sound as beautiful as they look - they're pricey mind you. I've only just recently acquired my 5th Chase Bliss pedal - the Warped Vinyl Chorus/Vibrato, just to find out that there is an updated model coming out at the end of this month - the Warped Vinyl HiFi with a Lag dial instead of Volume and a totally different tone circuit - so that one goes on the wishlist too. I'm still kind of undecided about the Tonal Recall RKM - no doubt it's an excellent pedal, but very steep at £500 and mono output only - so I would have to squeeze it into the chain at an odd location. I'll probably wait for the sales to come around again.
I've known about Dawner Prince for a while now - mainly because of their excellent Binson Echorec delay simulation pedal - the Boonar. The only issues I have with that is it's odd landscape / horizontal orientation - I'm sure Zoran could fit this into a vertical style enclosure - like Zvex are now starting to do with their pedals, also I could really do with this being output in stereo - via TRS cable if need be - so that one is on my radar, but I'm not currently in any hurry to acquire. The RedRox distortion is another matter entirely - having a really crisp and crunchy Marshall-esque tonal profile - I'm looking to get that one quite soon. Other pedals from Dawner that I'm interested in include the larger Diktator OD+Distortion and the Viberator Stereo Vibe - they also do a pretty cool Tremolo.
Legendary High Gain Amps hand-made in Germany - of those the most legendary is the 4-Channel VH4 - so Diezel initially launched the VH4 pedal featuring Channel 3 from the amp. The recent updated MKII version include Channel 4 also - so you get the best of the VH4s distortion channels in a single pedal - and it sounds awesome, although the EQ control is not particularity expansive:
I feel DigiTech are a little unsung of late - where I feel they are kind of the American equivalent of TC Electronic - constantly trying to innovate within the digital compact pedal enclosure, and their relatively recent modernisation should give Boss an example how it can update its range while still maintaining the same level of interest. There have been a number of really innovative pedals recently - The Trio/+, Dirty Robot, Whammy Ricochet, FreqOut and Sdrum amongst others, and the bread-and-butter time-based and modulation pedals are all exceptional too within the compact enclosure format. I have three of these pedals already and have many more on my wishlist.
I find Dr Scientist pedals uniformly brilliant - this Husband & Wife team always have a clever angle on their type of effect, and without exception they all sound phenomenal. Of the current release there is a trifecta of brilliance in the BitQuest, Frazz Dazzler and The Elements. I think the Heisenberg Molecular OD is clever, but somehow does not quite resonate to me, the same could be said of the Reverberator and Tremolescence. I feel I have the best of Dr Scientist and would happily recommend these 3 smart pedals to everyone:
One of two pedal-makers I know based in Croatia - the other being Zoran Kraljevic of Dawner Prince. This company is similar to Origin Effects (Compressors) in that it only really has one type of pedal - a Univibe style Chorus/Vibrato pedal with a heap of hidden secondary functions - hopefully V-3 will have stereo outputs for a more faithful Rotary sound. I'm not aware of any Vibe pedal that has more internal features than this one.
Jim Dunlop Group is actually a collection of around 10 brands or so - which include CryBaby (Wah), Dunlop (Volume / Expression), Echoplex (simulated tape delay), Fuzz Face (Fuzz), Heil (Talk-box), Jimi Hendrix (Various Signature Pedals - Fuzz, Vibe, Wah), Rotovibe (Vibe) - and MXR and Way Huge - the latter two which I have separated out into the larger listing here. I have a preference for the CryBaby and Dunlop mini pedals - I don't like the larger full-size ones, I also don't really like the disc shape Fuzz Face Fuzzes - I prefer them as Jimi Hendrix specials in regular MXR-style enclosures. I may get the Echoplex pedals eventually - possibly some or all of the Jimi Hendrix Specials - but will only get a RotoVibe - if they make it as a mini variety.
EarthQuaker is a brand that I'm hugely impressed with, but peculiarly I've not acquired a single one of their pedals as of yet. I really like the look of their 2 single-dial pedals - the Acapulco Gold Drive and Erupter Fuzz. I also have the Bit Commander, Data Corrupter and Spacial Delivery in sight. There's no doubt that EarthQuaker is one of the most innovative pedal makers out there - but so far there's always been another pedal higher up the wishlist than one of these. Note that wishlists can be fairly fluid - depending on what you get exposed to - pricing, availability and new pedals. There are some pedals you gravitate more towards, and others you kind of somehow miss and overlook. So I definitely rate EQD highly and will undoubtedly have some of their pedals at some time fairly soon.
I already mentioned when I wrote about Carl Martin that I tend to gravitate towards compact / regular-sized enclosure pedals - if they are medium or over-sized they need to have a lot of features onboard - like Empress, Stone Deaf, Strymon, and those bigger box workstations do. I see both Carl Martin and EHX as somewhat old-fashioned, and in need of a degree of modernisation. EHX definitely seems to have taken that to heart with some of its newer more innovative pedals occupying compact enclosures - like the Canyon and Pitchfork.
Swedish Drum Machine and Synth specialists Elektron made a very credible large format Anlogue Multi-Drive Pedal - with no less than 8 separate analogue circuits including 2 fuzzes. The pedal mostly sounds pretty great - the fact that it has presets is amazing, but boy is it huge, and none of the near sound-alike circuits sound quite as good as the dedicated pedals I already have for those sounds. So the idea was to be able to swap out some of my existing pedals, but instead, I was encouraged to simply acquire more, and the bulky Analog Drive was relegated from the pedal chain - it very occasionally puts in an appearance - there is nothing wrong with it really, but there is not a single circuit on it unfortunately that I would choose over any of my existing pedals - and it's large size makes it tricky - just to slip it in and out of any pedalboard or chain.
The second Danish brand to get a mention uses still more classic / vintage mid-size enclosures, but fills them with very modern effects. I particularly like the DiscumBOBulator and Okto-Nøjs - but would infinitely prefer them to be in a smaller enclosure. For instance when I bought my Chase Bliss Modulation pedals I could have gone the Strymon route - which is stereo and actually lower cost than the Chase Bliss pedals largely - yet I chose to go with Chase Bliss for a variety of reasons, including the more compact form factor - reasoning that my now Boss MD-500 provides the digital stereo effects while it's OK for the analogue versions to be mono! Even though I quite like all the following Emma Electronic pedals, their size is still somehow something of a turn-off.
I frequently think of Empress as sort of the Canadian Strymon - very high quality smart pro pedals. With the EchoSystem currently being one of the all-round smartest pedals currently out there - it is a sheer delight to operate - with its amazing 36 algorithms, dual effect playback and 35 presets et al. I currently have 3 Empress pedals - and I would be seriously tempted if they brought out a dual-simultaneous effect Reverb in the same style as the EchoSystem. Their Multidrive and Heavy pedals are exceptional too, as are all their modulation pedals and Parametric EQ. With regard to the individual modulation pedals - Empress is probably 3rd in line behind Chase Bliss and Strymon for me - but overall its fairly compact pedal selection is immense.
I believe Eventide was the first really successful digital pedal brand - with its 4 magnificent workstation pedals - ModFactor, PitchFactor, TimeFactor and Space. Then the Strymon 'Stryfecta' came along and stole its thunder - Mobius, TimeLine and BigSky - I was more tempted by Strymon than Eventide for whatever reason. And now Boss has tried to one-up both its forerunners in this area - with its MD-500, DD-500 and RV-500. Eventide has a further ace up its sleeve in the form of its H9 Max Stompbox - which contains all the Eventide workstation effects and them some - in a single medium size enclosure. I have it in mind to acquire the H9 Max at some stage - simply because Eventide still makes some of the very best effects, and there are several you cannot get anywhere else. The downside though is that you pretty much need another control-box to be able to easily and elegantly control the H9 and switch presets easily on the fly. Which makes it a more incidental box for me than a regular part of the chain. I feel that Empress and Source Audio are really pushing the smart innovation in this area currently - going for more compact more easily accessible solutions - and I feel that overly relying on an iPad app (as the H9 does) is not necessarily the best way forward.
This Japanese sister-brand to Xotic is likewise probably best known for its mini pedals. And while I think the Little Brute Drive is pretty OK, the Little Fuzzy Drive is actually quite fantastic - and for such dimintive size gives you far more variety and oomph than you would have expected - one of the best mini fuzz pedals out there:
I'm a huge fan of this young brand, but am sad to report that it seems to have ceased operation now. A few weeks ago I noticed that the website had been wiped, and the various social media - Facebook, Instagram etc, completely gone - which is of course a crying shame. I own 3 of these pedals - Defector Fuzz, The City Overdrive and Wrath Distortion. I had, in fact still intend to scoop up a V2 Kingdom Combo at some stage, and the mighty The Wave is an exceptional Tape Delay pedal plus reverb, which might have benefited from a stereo update. These pedal are beautifully designed, and sound great, and there were a couple of really sleek looking delay and tremolo pedals due any day (Novaplex & Quiver). I do hope that something here can be saved and recovered, as a fellow business-owner its always devastating to see a business go down. I reckon I will still try to sweep out a few more of these - the Refinery compressor is really cool too.
Japan has no shortage of its own boutique pedal makers, and 'Free The Tone' is a great example of analogue innovation - in particular the Flight Time Delay - which has a smart microphone to automatically beat-match the timing (tap-tempo) to the rhythm it senses. Several pro players swear by its Chorus and Reverb too, and this maker produces a slew of great Overdrives and Distortion pedals.
Dave Friedman started out modding Marshall amps, so it's not suprising his own amp-rage has a significant Marshall influence, as to his 2 best loved pedals. I already have the BE-OD and fully intend to get the Dirty Shirley after the Christmas Holidays. The Buxom boost is a really versatile pedal too, and I might have consider it seriously if I did not already have the truly superb Jackson Audio Prism.
Mike Fuller is another one of the legendary pedal-makers - everything he puts out is excellent and worthy of consideration. I already have and love the OCD pedal, and have been intending to get the Plimsoul for the longest while - it just keeps getting pipped by a more pressing priority. At one stage also I was aiming to get an Octafuzz pedal - which bothered my slightly because of its reverse polarity, but since I'm all with isolated supplies it should not matter really, but I worry about inadvetent damage to pedals when you swap things around. In the end I decided to get the TCE Sub 'N' Up and just use that on my existing fuzzes. Although soon after I ended up with a Malekko Omicron Fuzz which just happens to be an ocatave fuzz - so that's covered for now. Fulltone has both regular and custom divisions and does some marvellous larger enclosure drive pedals too, alongside the Deja-Vibe and Supa-Trem tremolo. As with all my rocker pedals - I really make it a requirement that they need to be Dunlop pedal small, which unfortunately disqualifies the Deja-Vibe 3.
I only came across this Indonesian pedal maker half-way though this year, but they're off to a real winner with their Combined Delay + Reverb Specular Tempus. And while it cannot compete fully with the more powerful dedicated workstations - like Boss's new RV-500 - which will give you simultaneous dual reverb plus dual delay, it makes up for that with some of the lushest time-based algorithms you will ever hear. I am definitely adding this pedal to the collection - for occasional swap out with the RV-500. Maybe not in the next round of 10, but probably in the one thereafter - and especially if I can get a good price on one of these. Pricing always matters to a significant degree, and if you can get one of your target pedals at a significant discount, then that usually elevates it on the wishlist.
No idea what this fella's real name is - he calls himself variously Ravi, Ravi Goose and Ravi (Tha) Goose - some of those may be stage names or all even potentially. He specialises in his own custom hand-built high gain dual-distortion pedals, of which he currently has 2 models to his name. They both sound great, although my focus is more on the slightly higher gain Kult version. This was high up on my High Gain / Metal pedal wishlist before I acquired the Empress Heavy, and its currently being pipped by the MI Audio Megalith Delta!
Ibanez, apart from being responsible for many an amazing guitar is also behind the world's best-known and most-copied overdrive pedal - the Tube Screamer. It also has an excellent line of mini pedals now, alongside the unusal slider-controlled Echo Shifter and Paul Gilber Signature Airplane Jet Flanger.
Iron Ether is particularly loved by bass players, although most of its pedals are great for both bass and guitar. The most popular pedal here seems to be the FrantaBit bitcrusher - and it's the one that's been on my wishlist for quite a long while now.
I've had this for around a couple of months now, and it has to be the best boost currently on the market - it does so much within its compact enclosure, the only thing I think they could add really to improve it would be an additional Mid Frequency / Contour EQ dial to complement the existing High / Tone and Low / Body frequency dials.
When I came across the Amptweaker Tight Fuzz Jr - I thought it was ingenious that said pedal combined both the essential fuzz transistor types - Germanium and Silicon, and I thought I should check to see if I could find any similar pedals - which is how I ran across the website of this Berlin-based multi-talented guitarist who seems to have more revenue streams than Oprah - including his own boutique pedal operation, and within that - the very reasonably priced Union Fuzz - which also contains Germanium and Silicon transistors that you can switch between - he argues that he has 2 separate circuits - rather than just a diode clipping like most of these sorts of pedals do. The holy grain in that same category for me is the discontinued / sold-out Spaceman Gemini III - which not only contains Germanium and Silicon transistors, but allows you to mix the those two circuits together - unfortunately that pedal is now only available extremely sporadically on the second-hand market and retails for nearly £1000! - which put it out of most people's reach. Hopefully something similar will be available soon at a more reasonable outlay.
Josh Scott is one of the three best-known pedal modders alongside Mike Piera of Analog.Man and Robert Keeley of Keeley Electronics. In some ways he's slightly more similar to Robert, as they both have somewhat larger and broader pedal collections than Mike - Mike though offers up more variations of each of this pedals. All still continue to release exceptional modified pedals too, and as stated previously - started off modding Boss pedals, specifically Blues Drivers. It's kind of fitting that Boss celebrated the 40th anniversary of its original compact pedals by collaborating with Josh and combining their Blues Driver circuit with Josh's Marshall-esque Angry Charlie in a single enclosure which allows you to stack those circuits in series and parallel. The Angry Charlie and the Andy Timmons @ variation are probably still the best-known and best selling of Josh's pedals and I of course love my Muffuletta Fuzz, Angry Driver and modded EHX Soul Food. Lots of people also love the transparent overdrive of the Morning Glory and the toggle-switch tweakable overdrive of The Kilt.
Jay Rockett is best know for his Silver and Gold version Archer Klon clones - my preference is really for the new Steve Stevens Signature Rockaway EQ version of that pedal - it was right at the top of the wishlist until the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe came along. Also, when I acquired the Mad Professor Simble - it was kind of running neck-and-neck with J Rockett's The Dude - I got a better price on the Simble which is in part why I went for that choice - I still find The Dude excellent in sia category, but am also tempted to try the Mojo Hand FX Extra Special.
Robert Keeley needs no introduction really - he's best known as the 'King of Compressors' and for a long while has done very well out of that pedal category. Both his 4-knob versions and larger enclosure Compressor Pro have long been the industry standard, although I feel Origin Effects has somewhat encroached on that in the compact category, and Empress in the larger form factor. Yet Robert has quite a few more tricks up his sleeve - his Pink Floyd inspired Dark Side and Hendrix inspired Montery are simply genius, as are his medium sized Delay and Super Mod Workstations. I'm also looking to score a Filaments drive pedal at some stage. Considering how many great pedals Keeley has, its surprising that so far I've only got its Tube Screamer -modded style Red Dirt Mini. If I were to go for a compact compressor, I would currently most likely go for the 6-dial Cali76 Deluxe from Origin Effects. All the other pedals below I am hoping to get at some stage.
Young German brand KMA does some really innovative pedals - the 3 I really like the look of are the Astrospurt Phaser, Tyler Frequency Splitter and the Fuzz-edged High Gain Distortion called Wurm. This selection is all medium enclosure or above, which lessens my likelihood of acquisition. As I've said previously, I don't mind my Modulation, Delay and Reverb workstation pedals being large - If I did I could always shift a range - down to Source Audio Nemesis & Ventris + Eventide H9; or TCE Dreamscape, Flashback and HOF at the compact level. What I'm unwilling to do though is sacrifice a lot of pedalboard real-estate to an overly large pedal which is not a core regular use pedal, and does not have several functions.
Lovepedal is a pretty long-standing brand by now, most famous for its Hermida Zendrive Klon clones, Tchula Overdrive, Mini Bonetender Fuzz (Tonebender) and Purple Plexi Marshall-style pedal. For the Klon sound my favourites are the Wampler Tumnus or J Rockett Rockaway Archer, and I have various overdrive pedals still on my wishlist way above anything produced by Lovepedal - actually scratch that - I still also like the Lovepedal Amp Eleven - if we could have that in a vertical enclosure please. In fact, the only active one of these which is currently on my wishlist seems to be the fairly recently discontinued Bonetender fuzz. I would snap up an Amp Eleven if it came in a more PBF enclosure.
A fairly young Danish pedal brand known for its signature Soren Andersen Three Stage Rocket drive pedal and its 2 newer cascaded gain stage TrueOverDrive 1 & 2 pedals. If they were being really clever here, they should find a way to combine both TOD1 & TOD2 into the same compact enclosure - possibly with a second footswitch to either toggle between the two circuits or stack them!:
At one stage I had 3 of these in my active pedal chain - I still really like them, but they've all been pushed aside by more versatile pedals now. I've long aimed to get a Sweet Honey Overdrive Deluxe and may too still get a Snow White Auto Wah Envelope Filter at some stage:
Malekko have an excellent line of high quality Omicron mini pedals from which I acquired the Octave Fuzz. I also have my eye on the superb Scrutator BitCrusher. Beyond that they have a number of fairly quirky compact enclosure pedals which have yet to pique my interest really.
Michael Ibrahim is best known for creating very high gain amps, and his pedal creations initially evolved out of that - including his most famous and very aptly named Crunch Box series. I have and love the new V2 Super Crunch Box - never was there a crunchier Marshall-esque pedal, and it does an excellent Brown Sound. Based on the great experience I have had with that pedal I am looking to acquire the Blues-Driver-esque Super Blues Pro as well as the Super High Gain Megalith Delta Distortion at some stage.
This lesser-known pedal maker still has several great pedals to its name - I really like the look of at least 4 of the collection - right across the range - spring reverb, overdrive, fuzz and envelope filter, and the one I'm mos likely to acquire is the Extra Special Dumble-esque one.
Mooer is quite obviously King of Mini Pedals - with a larger and broader selection of minis than anyone else - I already did the 16 great Mooer pedals article and there are probably quite a few more than that I like the look of. For now, I have 4 of these, with probably twice as many fairly high up on my wishlist. These pedals are always great for adding a single flavour / texture or two where space is tight. For the longest time the Blue Mood was my favourite mid-gain pedal, until the Boss JB-2 Angry Driver came along with both Blues Drive and JHS Angry Charlie - giving me more versatility and range, but lacking the 'fat' toggle of the Blues Mood, which has meant a tweak to the ensuing EQ pedal. The Mooer's almost always sound really great, but they can rarely match the tone or versatility of a larger compact-size pedal.
MXR (part of Dunlop) is one of those leading pedal makers with a formidable range, and sort of right up there with Boss and EHX in terms of range and depth of pedals. For my liking - Boss has the pedals nearest to my own preferences, while beyond the single MXR Phase 95 pedal I have, there aren't too many MXR pedals that truly appeal to me for whatever reason. They're certainly the appropriate form factor, but largely I feel other pedal makers seem to have more of an edge on a comparison level in most cases. I'm guessing that the standard Carbon Copy analogue delay is probably their best-seller here, but it really does not do that much for me. I have frequently considered the EVH 5150 Overdrive pedal alongside the Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe - so that's a likely candidate. I also may acquire a Uni-Vibe at some stage, but there are plenty of very impressive competitors to that too - like the DryBell Vibe Machine and Dawner Prince Viberator.
Guido Kirsh is another one of those single category specialists - providing the industry-standard Leslie / Rotary speaker pedal in both regular (large) and mini (medium) varieties. I ended up picking the TEC 21 NYC Roto Choir for my needs, but it was between that, the Ventilator Mini and Strymon Lex in the end. If I were to decide to go for a larger pedal, I would no doubt go for the full-size Ventilator, but for now I'm plenty happy with the Roto Choir which has most of the settings you need and plenty of dynamics.
This pedal is much beloved in Nashville, and many tend to associate it with the Tube Screamer, although the ODR-1 has a slightly different frequency profile and timbre. Several players consider this their secret weapon, as the masses haven't really latched onto it yet. I will certainly acquire one of these at some stage - just as a cool and useful alternative to a Tube Screamer.
I know Old Blood Noise Endeavours best for their Haunt velcro-style fuzz which is right up there on my wishlist - I've had it in mind to get that for a while now. Typically OBNE make slightly unusual / quirky but very usable pedals - including the Procession Reverb and the very new hybrid Excess pedal which combines Distortion with Chorus and Delay.
This is another collaboration with Finnish sound-design genius Björn Juhl - this time mostly mini pedals which are made in Japan. I already have 4 of these and am probably looking to add a few more at some stage - including the Baltic Blue Fuzz, Golden Acorn and Rebel Red Distortion.
There are a few single category makers listed here - DryBell (Vibe), Neo Instruments (Rotary), Nobels (Overdrive), and Origin Effects specialises in Compressors. Their Cali76 Compact DLX is now the professionals' compression pedal of choice - seemingly having ousted some of the Wampler Egos and Diamond and Keeley compressors that used to rule to roost. I'm certainly considering this as a replacement for my Wampler Mini Ego - which still has served me well - with its 3 dials and 2 toggles. The Cali76 DLX allows you to exercise even more control over your signal output and sustain.
David Koltai's company has always been highly innovative, and several of their products are popular pro choices - like the Echolution 2 Ultra Pro Delay and Infinity Looper. And Pigtronix have totally hit it out of the park with their new Mothership 2 Synth pedal - which shrinks down to one third of its former size and pretty much keeps all the key settings - via 5 dual-concentric dials = 10. The only Pigtronix pedal I have to date is the really cool mini Disnortion - I would be quite happy to acquire all these other ones too - they're all excellent:
I'm a big fan of the original Rat pedal, but prefer it with a little more grunt and more volume - as many of the modded version have had. I actually have several rat-alikes - the BYOC Lil' Mouse, Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler, Foxpedal Wrath and Mooer Black Secret. I feel the slightly over-sized medium enclosure could easily be shrunk down to compact size, as many other pedal-makers have managed to do. If I had to buy a genuine Rat I would go for the 'Fat' variety, for the moment though my favourites are the Frazz Dazzler and the Wrath.
David Rainger is the epitome of the mad scientist pedal-maker. All his pedals look like they've come straight out of the lab, and are all very much an acquired taste. His most famous pedal to date is the original Dr Freakenstein Fuzz with its highly apt power lever. My preference is for the incredible mini Dr Freakenstein Dwarf Bleep version - which if anything makes the output sound even crazier, and gives you really smart control via different ports and a Touch-pad foot-controller named 'Igor'. David is one of the 3 most exciting pedal creators in the UK in my opinion - alongside Simon Keats of Origin Effects and Luke Hilton of Stone Deaf. The other UK pedal maker who has made a real name for himself is Adrian Thorpe of ThorpyFX - although for now, his slightly over-sized pedals have failed to make a suitable impact on me - there's something still a bit too old-fashioned about those enclosure for my taste. But those 4 together are the cream of UK pedal-makers for now.
This fledgling Turkish maker is a great example of just how widespread and nebulous boutique pedals have become. Furkan has just 3 pedals so far to his name - the Aqua Lung OD, Buffy Coat Buffer, and my favourite - the Mind Abuse High Gain Distortion. Alongside its typical 5 tone-sculpting dials, it has a 3 way voicing toggle for Modern, Classic or Vintage tone. You've most likely seen me mention this a couple of times previously on this site - an excellent sounding and very versatile pedal. The only thing that really holds it back currently is its lack of distribution. You can buy it direct from Turkey which is outside the EU though - so custom taxes will apply, and on Reverb.com you get a listing from its Australian distributor - which is even further away. I'm hoping Thomann or Andertons or similar - possibly Musik Produktiv even will pick it up some day soon.
This Japanese boutique maker specializes in Dumble clone pedals - some with an addition of boost footswitch and in a high variety of colourways. Shinichi Suzuki is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on Dumble amps, so his pedal reproductions are considered highly desirable by many pro-players. Obviously they are a little over-sized for my liking, and more than a little pricey - coming in Regular, Boost and 2-Channel versions. The last mentioned retailing typically at £700+. One for the connoisseurs I suppose - I'll probably just stick to my Wampler Euphoria and Mad Professor Simble for now - and I would frankly be more likely to add a Mojo Hand FX Extra Special than one of these - but it's nice to know these exist too - if you have some kind of windfall!
Looks like this pedal-maker started up in 2016 making mostly custom clone pedals on a one-by-one basis - it's my favourite of the many Athens-based boutiques. There are scant details on who this key individual is, but they certainly know how to assemble really high quality at really very reasonable cost. There are currently 4 pedals listed on their Reverb.com store - the Mocking Bird Delay, Il Mostro Overdrive-Distortion, a compact Zvex Woolly Mammoth 7 clone and an Oscillator Fuzz - so 3 original circuits out of 4, and I know Side Effect has also built clones of DBA Reverberation Machines in the past. For my purposes I love the sound of the Il Mostro, which I would think would make a pretty decent deputy for my Dr Scientist The Elements - and I'm also thinking how much I would love to have a decent clone of the Woolly Mammoth so both of those go on the wishlist.
Sonic Research is another single category pedal maker - in this case high-precision true strobe tuners - available in regular compact and mini size enclosures. These tune one string at a time, so lack the quick and easy ability of polytonic tuners like TCE's PolyTune. Unless you are incredibly short-sighted, I don't really see the advantage of the larger pedal format - I would go mini in this category every time, and if I ever decided to swap out the TCE PolyTune Mini Noir, it would be for one of these.
Source Audio make exceptional digital pedals - particularly the recent mid-sized Nemesis Delay and Ventris Dual Reverb - which I've long had under consideration. I was about to pull the trigger in that direction just before Empress released its EchoSystem, and Boss surprisingly launched its MD-500 and RV-500. As it is right now, I am very happy with my current trio of end-of-chain pedals and am convinced they are my best choices presently. As I've noted previously, if I wanted to go smaller I could go with the Nemesis, Ventris and possibly an Eventide H9 to cover off what I already have. I may also be tempted by an Empress Reverb if they launch a dual effect version similar to their amazing EchoSystem. I've also long considered the Programmable EQ - with its clever presets, although it's a lot more fiddly to set up than manual sliders. And Source Audio also does an amazing multi-device expression pedal - which is though just a touch too larger for my desires.
Zak Martin's Spaceman Effects is a curious operation - which makes boutique pedals in very limited editions. Unlike Analog.Man Mike Piera who does not artificially constrain limits - where the limit is merely on the waiting list and how long it takes to build pedals by hand. Zak does very strictly limited runs for specific colourways - and then that pedal type is discontinued. This means the only way you can get your hands say on a Gemini III or Sputnik I is second-hand via Reverb - at often twice or 3 times the original price. Pretty much all the pedals sell out eventually so it's a route that obviously works for Spaceman Effects. They are beautifully designed in a sort of 60's Space Age / NASA style - very solidly built, with sharp graphics and smart features. I particulalry like the Gemini III as it allows you to mix together the output from both Germanium and Silicon transistors. You will by now know how I really prefer the compact pedal enclosure - and Spaceman does a number of really great compact fuzzes. The modulation pedals are decent too albeit in larger enclosures. There are pedal collectors who collect these like stamps - which kind of makes sense from an investment perspective. I don't mind paying boutique prices - I do though mind having to pay twice or three times that
Luke Hilton is one of the most creative pedal-makers out there at the moment - all his pedals offer up something quite different to the norm and I have a number of them in my sights. I already have the exceptional Tremotron Dual Tremolo, and I'm likely to go for the Fig Fumb pretty soon too. These are an exceptionally controllable selection of overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals - which though relatively large in form factor make up for it through their extended feature sets - all pretty reasonably priced too.
In many ways this is still my favourite pedal company, even though I've just fairly recently relegated the Stryfecta - Mobius, TimeLine and BigSky from my active chain. I still use the Riverside and Sunset pretty regularly though, and would be very happy to own pretty much everything in this collection - with the possible exception of the OB.1 Compressor + Boost, and the Brigadier dBucket Delay. All of these pedals are digital with an analogue dry signal path - Strymon also do excellent power supplies. Everything about this company speaks quality - the website, guides, references etc. Only Empress really matches Strymon in its quality outlook - those two currently stand head and shoulders above all others and provide an example that all should really follow. I'm often disappointed with how poor Boss's manuals and references are in comparison to these two. The 2 pedals that have been on my wishlist for the longest time are probably the Flint and the Lex - they're still right up there even though they have been pipped by other pedals along the way.
This pedal-maker is best-known for smart digital pedals, particularly its Deluxe modulation pedals - Prometheus, Quasar and Starlight, as well as some clever fuzz / synth variations, and the odd drive pedal. I have yet to acquire any of the following, but do have designs on all of them - I'm not sure any of these would necessarily be my first choices, but they would all make exceptional occastional and momentary swap-outs.
John Suhr is best known for his Fender-style guitars, but he has build up a respectable pedal collection at the same time. Many rate his Marshall-esque Riot Distortion, but I'm more impressed by his slightly larger form factor Alexa and Eclipse pedals.
Even though Boss is of course still strong I see this in many ways as the natural heir to Boss's compact pedal dominance / leadership. TC Electronic has taken everything one step further with its TonePrint and now MASH footswitch technologies - where it's significantly the leading innovator in the digital pedal space. No one crams quite as much into its pedals and makes them stereo in and out. Where you would typically have gone for a Boss or MXR pedal previously, you will now likely find that TC Electronic has a slightly more feature-rich equivalent pedal - whether Delay, Reverb, Harmonizer or Tremolo - there is so much more tone-sculpting you can acheive with the applicaiton of TonePrint presets. TC has in effect 3 ranges - standard, mini and low-cost. Initially I had not seen a lot of worthwhile pedals in the low-cost range, but more and more are coming though which provide decent alternatives - both the 3rd Dimension Corus and Tube Pilot are really clever at that price - of course the former would benefit by being stereo like its original inspiration.
Tech 21 first found fame with its Analog SansAmp pre-amp style pedals and combination FlyRigs. It's also built up a sizeable range of more individual effects pedals - in a medium enclosure. I feel they have faded somewhat from popularity of late, I only came across them when doing research on Rotary pedals, and as luck would have it, the Tech 21 Roto Choir was the pedal which best met my requirements. It's by no means wholly perfect - as it lacks a brake function or a slow-speed setting. Yet it has 2 very clever button switches which give you an incredible range of dynamics. As I've said previously, I did not want to sacrifice real-estate for a large format pedal, so in the end it came down to a 3-way between the Roto Choir, Lex and Ventilator II Mini.
Best known for its 1 Spot power-supplies, this brand nonetheless has a formiddable yet compact range of multi-drive and multi-modulation pedals - in fact just 4 of them. They're all pretty decent for sure, but the one that stands out for me is the Jekyll & Hyde.
Seriously pricey brass-enclosure custom boutique pedals from Japan - mostly fuzzes and overdrives. The one that gets most of the hype is the Timmy-alike Jan Ray - at a good twice the price and then some - they all seem to be around £350/£400 which you could say is not much different from Chase Bliss, but these have nowhere near the technicality and feature set of those. That said, there are a couple of pedals here I really like the sound of - the Budi Boost and Shanks 4 Knob Fuzz. They occasionaly drop in price for sales, but are rarely seen much below £300. They're obviously built like tanks, and sound great, but they are undeniabley expensive - unless that's your thing.
For me Brian Wampler is really the King of Drive Pedals - no one has as wide a range of consistently great overdrive and distortion pedals and with that dynamic feel. I have acquired 4 Wamplers to date - the Mini Tumnus and Ego, then the Euphoria and Dracarys. Alas Dracarys's reign in the chain was rather short as it has limited versatility and that slot was take over by the Empress Heavy. Brian doesn't just make fantastic drive pedals - he makes excellent compressors and delays too, as well as a pretty decent Fuzz and Tremolo. For right now I have my eye on a Plexi Deluxe, Sovereign and Tumnus Deluxe.
Kevin Wilson is largely a Wah specialist but has built up quite a significant range of stomp boxes too - mostly overdrives and fuzzes. Most of those come in oversized enclosures as far as I'm concerned and I don't really see anything which suitably matches up with my parameters. The Wilson Mini Q-Wah though is a different story, and is probably the most full-featured mini-wah currently available. I'm not saying I don't still love my Dunlop Mini Wah - it's always nice to have some extra versatility.
WMD are most famous for their Geiger Counter series of crazy feature-rich bitcrushers - and we're all awaiting the arrival of the pro version of that. It also has an amazing large format super-tweakable distortion pedal in the Acoustic Trauma and extreme envelope filter in the Protostar. However, the WMD device that is most likely to be added to my chain is the Utility Parametric EQ - which I could occasionally swap out with the Boss GE-7.
The sister brand to EWS also makes its own excellent vintage-inspired line of guitars. For me it's all about the mini pedals - the EP Booster, SL Drive and SP Compressor - I have all three in both original and Alchemy Audio modded versions, and the EP and SL have been part of the chain for the longest time - the former only recently having been ousted by the Jackson Audio Prism. Xotic is mostly known for its Booster / Overdrive pedals, and there are 3 which I like the look of - as well as Xotic's rather sleek Wah - if only that was available in mini-size too.
A mini pedal company where pedals are designed in the USA by pedal industry legends and then built in China. Xvive are also responsible for manufacturing the new EHX MemoryMan bucket brigade chips - which can be found in their own homage to that - the E1 Echoman. I already have the excellent EVH Brown Sound - Golden Brownie, and would not mind acquiring an Echoman as well.
Zachary Vex has to be the King of the Fuzz Pedal - I've been listening to a lot of St Vincent of late, and she use Zvex fuzzes quite a lot, as do numerous notable bands looking for that super edgy fuzz sound. There's two flagship pedals with really rare transistors - the Fuzz Factory 7 and Woolly Mammoth 7 which have a very high ticked price, everything else is around $200/£200. I've never liked the landscape / horizontal format of most of the Zvex pedals, so it's good news that Zachary has started bringing out standard vertical formats too starting with the regular Fuzz Factory. In terms of my own pedal preferences - I would really like a Fat Fuzz Factory and Mastotron in the vertical format - and the mini Fuzzolo has been on my wishlist for a while - I'll snap it up once it goes back under £100. The Loog Gate is another really smart Zvex pedal that I have my eye on, but I'm not sure I would use yet!
So the following is simply a list of which pedal-makers got the most mentions - i.e. who have the greatest number of pedals currently on my lists. I include everyone at 5 mentions or more.
It's amusing to see the old master and young upstart right at the top of my tree.
Mentions in (parenthesis):
So purely by happenstance, not really design - and attributed to several random factors of course, the most numerous pedals I have acquired are from the following brands (alphabetical)
Note that I currently have 36 slots / placements in my active pedal chain, and I do frequently swap out pedals in each slot - e.g. Wah / Fixed Wah / Whammy Ricochet etc. - so the designated slot is of key importance - which is the principal pedal, and which the deputies / understudies!
I always carry both a written and mental wishlist of pedals I am likely to acquire next. There are a number obvious additions, updates and upgrades in the following list, but I can't really guarantee more than half will necessarily make it, as things move on so quickly - we discover new things, new priorities etc. right here, right now though it reads as follows (alphabetical):
I also tend to buy in the following order of preference: Drive (OD / Dist / Fuzz), then Modulation, then Utility so things get re-organized all the time and pretty much continuously...
Some of the following could be moved up to the former group or else be dismissed entirely for all the reasons I've previously stated, but this is the larger pool of likely imminent arrivals / considerations: