Are These Pedal Prices Overdriven?
My first guitar pedal I ever bought was the extremely coveted BOSS DS-1. It was orange, fiery sounding, and best of all for 13 year old me: cheap. It didn't exactly give me the greatest 80’s rock distortion I had ever heard, but I’ll blame that more on my user error than the pedal’s schematic. As I got more experienced in playing I found a formula to make the DS-1 work for me. I put the tone at 9 o’clock, dist all the way down, and level to taste. This was the cheapest emulation of the edge of breakup tone I could create. As a young guitarist who was oblivious to the boutique pedal craze unfolding at the time, I was happy with my tone.
Fast forward 10 years later. I still own that little orange box, and have played and owned an embarrassing amount of other dirt pedals. They have varied in sizes, colors, prices, and tones. Some were unlikely favorites, like a clean boost or a cheap knock off. Others were crowd favorites that I couldn’t grasp the hype, such as a ts-9 or amp in a box style drive. Here’s the thing I know for sure: Price doesn’t make the tone. But sometimes it’s worth it. Let me explain.
In a recent video I demoed the 1981 Inventions DRV. This is a great pedal. It ticks off all the boxes of great pedal making in my opinion. It sounds great at many different settings, made my good guitars sound better, and made my bad guitars sound good. Every amp I played through worked with it. But the most important thing maybe is that it just looks so good (jk). Here’s the issue with the DRV: $250 in stock, and even more when it’s found used on the web. Pretty expensive for one dirt pedal.
Yes the DRV sounds amazing. Yes it’s expensive. So does more $$=more tone? Not quite.
Let’s go back to talking about BOSS. As I mentioned before my first pedal was the DS-1. Certainly the cheapest BOSS drive pedal, but there are other gems out there. My personal overdrive favorites from BOSS are the BD-2 and OD-3. They gave me the slightly dirty tones I was looking for in a bulletproof enclosure at an affordable price. They also sounded great at different settings, made my guitars sound good, and mostly worked well with any amp I was playing though. But at the $50 price point I bought the OD-3 at is a lot less than the $250 that the DRV costs. Do you know what type of tones you could achieve with five OD-3’s? The world isn’t ready to know. Yet that’s how many BOSS pedals you could purchase instead of one good looking DRV.
So are pedal prices overpriced? Is the value proposition there for these boutique pedals? I mean I hear that they just rip off classic circuits and slap a pretty piece of artwork on it and sell it for the price of a budget beginner guitar.
Are they worth it?
Yes.. worth it for me. And maybe for you. Or maybe not.
This new DRV pedal is one of my favorite drive pedals I have ever owned. And I also won’t lie to you about this, I can create my most used tone on the DRV with the Timmy and OCD (pedals made by Paul Cochrane and Fulltone). But at the end of the day the DRV was worth the dollars to me because it honestly inspired me. As cheesy as this sounds, that little grey box with a simple 80’s aesthetic made me want to play guitar all day long. And I did. When I got the pedal I rushed to my music room and played nonstop for an hour. And every time I step on the click-less bypass to turn on the pedal it makes me appreciate the great enclosure that houses this distortion circuit.
So yes these pedals are pricey. People who don’t play guitar will think you’re crazy for buying a little metal box that house an LED light and transistors and diodes. But if that pedal inspires you to write a riff, get lost in a your own guitar world for an hour, or even push you to start a new creative outlet where you even write about said pedals; then the cost must have been worth it.