why are guitar pedals so expensive

EXPLAINED: Why Are Guitar Pedals So Expensive?

Everyone wants to play guitar with high-quality effects, but the expansion of pedals has created a conundrum.

No one wants to pick up their instrument and be unable to perform due to sub-par equipment.  But sometimes, guitar pedals are expensive!

Why are guitar pedals so expensive?

To answer this question, we’ll look at the market for guitar pedals, the cost of materials and labor, production costs, and more.

The Market For Guitar Pedals

The purpose of a guitar pedal is to add effect and tone to your guitar. As such, the market for guitar pedals and effects has exploded over the past twenty years. This has created a thriving market for pedal companies, but it has also led to prices that sometimes don’t reflect the level of quality in the pedals.

Luckily, not all pedals are overpriced.  Some are actually very reasonably priced and give a lot of bang for the buck.  The pedals available today are incredible sounding and perform like amazing instruments.

Cost Of Materials

There are a lot of materials in a pedal, and each one is expensive.

These costs add up quickly.  To give you an idea of the cost of the materials in a pedal, consider that they need to be carefully hand-manufactured and tested before they can be sold.

There are no economies of scale when manufacturing guitar pedals! This means they all have extra costs attached to them, from the hundreds of thousands or even millions for very complex pedals.

Here are a few examples of the cost of materials in a pedal from different price points:

  • $99 and below:  A guitar pedal in this price range will typically have a cast aluminum casing and a plastic base.  The circuit board will be cheap and made from cheap components, and the battery compartment is often not included. The potentiometers (knobs) are made from plastic, and the switches are stamped metal. This isn’t necessarily indicative of the pedal’s quality, but it does make it clear that costs need to be cut somewhere.
  • $100 to $200: Pedals in this range are more likely to have a metal casing, but the base is still usually plastic.  The circuit board can be made from any material, with some high-end boards being milled from solid billet of wood.  The potentiometers are still likely to be plastic. If the battery compartment is included, it is often made of cheaper plastic or has a cheaper feel to it.
  • $200 to $300:  Cast aluminum casings, metal enclosures, and durable German-made potentiometers and other quality components.  Switch housings are made from metal or plastic, and internal potentiometers may have higher quality capacitors. The internal switch components are made from better quality metals, but they’re still cheaper to produce. Switches get a little more sophisticated.
  • $300 and up:  These pedals may be cast from billet aluminum and machined from solid blocks of metal.  All components are hand-manufactured and hand-assembled individually by skilled technicians with expensive components. Every detail is considered and quality is built in to every part of the pedal.

All of these parts need to be bought at a reasonable price as well, which adds cost as well as time to the manufacturing process.

Labor Costs For Manufacturing Guitar Pedals

The investment in the materials in a guitar pedal is quickly matched by the investment in labor.  A well-made pedal will take several hours to manufacture, regardless of price! This means that regardless of cost, production takes time.

The more costly pedals are crafted by hand, which means that they are still being hand-built to this day.  These pedals are carefully opened and inspected before being sold to the customer.

Are Expensive Guitar Pedals Worth It?

Based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s a lot of work that goes into making a guitar pedal.  It takes time to build, it takes money to buy materials, and it requires skilled workers to assemble the components into something that works!

Some of the most expensive pedals are sold for around $1,000 or even more.  Do they really justify their price tag?  Here are some things to consider:

  • Price is only one factor in what makes a good guitar pedal.  The quality of the sound and the performance of the pedal are also important.  If you’ve already got a solid guitar, amplifier, and skills, then a more expensive pedal might be a great choice for you.
  • Some of the most expensive pedals offer features that aren’t available on cheaper pedals. These include performance features that can be customized to fit your specific style of music or playing style. This increases the value you get from the pedal despite its increased price.
  • The experience and skill that goes into building a pedal is something that can’t be measured or duplicated by a machine. This gives you a lot more freedom and control over the sound and feel of your guitar pedal. Sure, some pedals may sound great out of the box, but these will lose their sound as soon as you use them as intended!  A pedal with the same components as an expensive one might not have the same quality after repeated use.

Some Expensive Guitar Pedal Examples

Here are a few pedals that will make fir a very expensive guitar pedalboard setup:

  • Klon Centaur

Also check out – Why are Suhr guitars so expensive?

Conclusion

There is no right or wrong answer to this question.  You should decide whether an expensive pedal is worth it based on your own needs and preferences.  Many guitarists who have great skills and a great knowledge of how to use their pedals choose to spend money on high-quality equipment in order to get the best performance and the best possible sound.

However, you can find some great deals on older pedals that were not as expensive when they were first released.

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