The term ‘boutique’ is a term tossed around the guitar gear industry a lot recently. So what exactly are boutique guitar pedals?
Well, in this post, you will learn everything about boutique pedals. Are they worth it? Why are they so expensive, and are they reliable? Sound good?
Let’s unwrap this post with a short answer first…
Boutique pedals are high-end pedals produced by a handful of guitar pedal companies. Boutique pedals are often handmade and designed to provide the player with a premium sound and aesthetic design. The other difference is they are vastly expensive compared to affordable pedals.
5 Unique Boutique Pedal Effects (Watch Below)
As mentioned above, boutique guitar pedals are premium pedals manufactured by high-end companies.
They are regarded as premium because some are handmade and built to custom specifications.
The boutique category is also known for its excellent build quality, high-spec materials, and flashy paint job.
The tones they possess are excellent, with some that offer a unique sound to a crowded pedalboard. Hence that’s why a boutique pedal can cost anywhere between $150-$300 or more.
Some Boutique Pedal Companies
- TC Electronic
- Wampler Pedals
- JHS Pedals
- Keeley Electronics
- EarthQuaker Devices
Boutique pedals are considered prestige and carry weight and air of quality. They are also collectible and could be worth a lot of money if specific pedal sores in popularity over time.
Whereas companies such as Boss, Joyo, Berhingher, Mooer, Tone City, mass-produce their pedals in the far east in factories with cheaper materials. Hence they can retail their pedals at a lower price for the consumer.
With that said, some budget pedals sound awesome and provide value for money with such a small price tag. It allows players to expand their range of sounds with little cost.
Boutique pedals, on the other hand, are vastly more expensive. With some players debating, they are overhyped and not worth the purchase compared to affordable pedals.
This depends on personal opinion and the pedal in question.
In my opinion, some pedals like the Strymon Big Sky are excellent and innovative pedals worth the price tag.
Whereas some sound similar and, in some cases, worse than more affordable pedals. It depends on many factors.
Are Boutique Pedals Worth The Money?
Look at it this way! If a boutique pedal holds the key to an awesome sound in your head and is essential to your rig. Then yes, it is worth the extra money.
Secondly, if a boutique pedal possesses many flexible tone shaping options and provides more available sounds than a cheaper pedal.
Then yes, it would be worth the money depending on your requirements and tastes.
However, if you can achieve a similar sound with a cheaper pedal, then you should weigh up both options depending on your budget and the potential return on investment.
So is it worth splashing out $150-$300 on a pedal? The answer is… ‘it’s up to you.’
Expensive Pedal Buying Checklist
Here is my boutique pedal buying checklist. Answer these questions yourself before opening your wallet to an expensive pedal.
- Does the pedal have a better / unique tone to cheaper options?
- Does the pedal have better tone-shaping options?
- Does the pedal have better connectivity?
- Will the pedal improve your sound significantly?
- Is the pedal reliable based on previous reviews
- Have you tested the pedal out in person instead of looking at YouTube videos?
- Does the retailer provide good return policy?
Answering whether boutique pedals are worth the money is difficult to answer. Some players say yes, and others say they are expensive and overhyped. Every player has various opinions and tastes.
Just remember, some boutique pedals can be fantastic, some can be expensively terrible. Some budget pedals can be impressive, while some budget pedals can be awful. It just depends on the pedal and the brand.
This is why you have to try them out and give them a rigorous test before purchasing any expensive gear.
Why Are Boutique Pedals So Expensive?
Boutique pedals are expensive because they are a premium product. And premium usually comes with a higher price tag.
But when it comes to details, why are they so expensive?
After all, they are just a metal box with a few transistors, some dials thrown in, and a fancy paint job. So here is the reason why boutique pedals cost considerably compared to other pedals…
Top Reasons Why Boutique is Expensive
- Handmade pedals require more man-hours and human eyes for quality control
- Hand wiring requires more time for labor
- Usually manufactured in western countries costing more to produce
- Flashy chassis and cases made from expensive materials
- Some pedals have colorful designs and paint jobs
- You are paying more for a high-end brand name
- Companies try to make x3-x5 Profit on each pedal
- Some companies only create a ‘limited run’ of pedals
- Players consider them collectible
- Because people will simply pay the price for them
- To attract the ‘tone snobs’
As you can see, these reasons are why premium pedals are so expensive compared to more affordable pedal brands. It is up to your own judgment whether owning them is worth it for your pedalboard.
Speaking of Expensive Gear
Ever questioned why tube amps are so expensive compared to solid-state amps?
Then you must read my post…“5 Reasons Why Tube Amps are so Expensive”
(post opens in new tab)
Are Boutique Pedals Reliable
Boutique pedals are known to be reliable, which is what you would like to expect from an expensive pedal.
However, this can not be said for all expensive pedals because companies design their pedals differently.
Keep in mind, just because the pedal is expensive, it does not necessarily mean you are paying the extra dollar for reliability.
Some cheap pedals are built like mini tanks, whereas some have questionable wiring and flimsy plastic controls.
On the other hand, most boutique pedals are expertly manufactured and carefully put together by hand.
The only problem with this is that being ‘handmade’ allows for ‘human error’ to occur, whereas pedals that have been manufactured by machine removes human error from the manufacturing processes.
There is always an element of not knowing the reliability of any pedal. This is until you gig with it for many years and put it to the test.
The best option is to read countless reviews of any pedal before you purchase it to ensure that you are buying a gig-worthy stompbox.
But on the whole, boutique pedals are deficiently known to be reliable. Some companies put extra attention to creating a battle-hardened pedal worthy of endless gigging and punishment.
You should always take care of your pedalboard and ensure some protection with a hardened case for transportation.
Are cheap guitar pedals good?
Some cheap pedals sound excellent and an excellent option for players on a budget. Most budget-friendly pedals can also be very reliable and stand up to gigging and serve as an excellent backup. Cheap pedals allow players to expand their sound further while staying on a tight budget.
Did you like this post? You should check out my related post…
It is my excellent guide to the pros and cons of budget and premium pedals.
In terms of price, reliability, tone and how budget pedals can be best utilized.