Here in Charleston, SC we have a local chocolatier that is heads and shoulders above the rest- Sweeteeth Chocolate. Everything they make is second to none.
Problem is- their average bar is $7, even at that price I gladly buy 3 or 4 at a time because I know that I’m getting is something special. Something made from the best ingredients by a guy in my neighborhood that has a passion for what he does and a funky aesthetic … and at the end of the day the flavors are perfect- FOR ME. Its not dumbed down to lowest common denominator. They aren’t cloning a Hershey’s bar. They’ve made a recipe that does not cater to the masses. If you like it, great, buy another and tell a friend. But if you don’t like it, I doubt that you would hurt anyone’s feelings.
When you launch a boutique brand, part of the equation is knowing that you simply can’t please everyone.
What does any of this have to do with boutique guitar pedals? Everything…. gimme a minute and I’ll get to it.
I recently picked up an older American Amp Maker X tube combo amp. Its got a great clean channel, but the distortion side wasn’t even a good Hershey’s bar clone. It was more like the cheap Christmas stocking chocolate. Given the era of the amp (early 90’s) I don’t think I have much room to complain. The amp was designed and built in an era not known for ground breaking tone. So, in an effort to appeal to as large an audience as possible, American Amp Maker X released something that, by today’s standards, is almost unusable. The same way Hershey’s bars are inedible by the standards set by Sweeteeth Chocolate.
The same holds true in the guitar pedal world.
How many mass produced import pedals have you plugged in to that sounded… just OK? Probably the vast majority. There are a few stand-outs. The Tube Screamer from Ibanez is one of those- but even as a stand-out there are people making a living by modifying it- hell I’ve done it myself! Now we just wrap the best of those mods into the Dead Horse Overdrive.
Are all of these mass produced designs bad? Not at all. Most of them are fantastic starting points. But things get lost along the way. When you design something with the intention of producing 100,000 of them- you want to sell all 100,000. To do that you have to make it as inoffensive, as lowest common denominator… as Hershey’s bar as you can. So you add things, or remove things, or tune frequencies out through part selection based on lowest common denominator.
What am I trying to say with all of this? I’m not sure anymore… but I think it had something to do with getting what you paid for. No, that’s not it. I guess what it boils down to is this: To get your own voice- expect to do/buy/make/invent something that isn’t mass produced. Just look at legendary tones of the past 50 years- most of them weren’t off the shelf. They we’re combined, modified, and tweaked to get THAT sound… that fingerprint you recognize with 1 note.
Don’t be afraid to invest in your voice. The vast majority of retailers, and boutique manufacturers for that matter, offer great return policies on the gear they sell. Take advantage it it! Experiment, find what works for you, as well as what doesn’t.
To make that investment even easier Pro Tone Pedals is bringing back payment installments! In 2010 Pro Tone made history by being the 1st boutique pedal manufacturer to offer payment installments… and we’re bringing em back! We’ll break your payments into 3 equal installments- the 1st payment gets your order into our build queue, the 2nd payment ships it out, and the 3rd will come after you’ve been rocking your new gear for a while. So its 66.6% lay-away and 33.3% credit.
Be sure to sign up for the newsletter (its in the left hand menu) to be notified when we roll the payment installments out.
As always- have fun!