When creating music, the need to explore is constant. You want to see how deep you can go and the type of sounds you can create.
That’s why most guitarists go for guitar pedals. The melodies of the guitar strings alone are not enough for them, music is too vast to be stuck with a single sound, and one of the ways to explore with a guitar is through pedals.
However, the major drawback to using pedals is their cost. Some pedals cost roughly 40% of the price of a standard guitar, raising the question;
Why are guitar pedals so expensive?
Guitar pedal prices are high because of the cost of production materials, production costs, labor, and the market for guitar pedals.
Here, we’ll look further into these factors and how they affect the ever-rising cost of guitar pedals. We’ll also answer a common question amongst guitarists looking to buy pedals; are cheap pedals worth the risk?
Why Are Guitar Effects Pedals So Expensive?
Guitar pedals add a certain flavor to the guitar sound. Almost every guitarist wants to explore fresh sounds, so pedals are constantly needed. Here are some reasons why they are so expensive.
Market and Demand
Guitar pedals are like most products in the market. Once the demand for them is high, the prices increase. In 2020 alone, approximately 1.2 million guitar pedals were sold in the US. These companies know how much people want pedals and raise the prices because of the demand.
However, not every guitar pedal is in high demand. There are some decent pedals that you can get for a good price. They are not the most popular but can prove helpful to you.
Cost of Production Materials
The engineering behind guitar pedals is complex, and the materials used are mostly expensive.
Most of the components in the pedal are handcrafted, making them more expensive. When you combine the cost of these components, it raises the pedal price. To give you an idea of these components and their relative cost, we’ll share some examples.
Pedals in the 20 – 99$ range usually have aluminum casings with a base made of plastic. They don’t usually come with battery compartments, and their circuit boards are made from cheap materials.
These factors don’t mean that the pedals are of low quality; rather, it tells you where costs were cut. They might not even affect the pedal’s sound, just its durability, and longevity.
Pedals in the 100 – 200$ range still have plastic bases, but they have metal casings instead of aluminum. The circuit boards are made from more classy materials, and they have battery compartments made from cheap plastic or other cheap materials.
Guitar pedals above 200$ are handmade by skillful technicians who take the time to ensure everything is perfect. The quality of the materials is top-notch, and they can serve you for years if you use them properly.
If you check the effort put into sourcing materials for the pedals, combined with the amount of time they spend assembling these parts, it shouldn’t be a surprise that guitar pedals are pricey.
Cost of Manufacturing Labor
Guitar pedals take hours of concentration and dedication to produce. Any single mistake can lead to an entirely different outcome.
Technicians who spend hours assembling these parts need to be paid, and their efforts are reflected in the pedal’s price.
The Popularity of Boutique Pedals
The term boutique guitar pedals describe guitar pedals made from high-quality components. They are premium pedals, highly sought-after, and rare.
Popular brands make these pedals, which makes them very expensive. However, their price does not necessarily reflect their quality. Most of the boutique guitar pedals are of the same quality as the average guitar pedal you’ll buy in your local store. What sells them is their brand’s popularity.
However, when boutique pedals increase in price, other guitar pedals’ prices increase too.
Boutique pedals are way more expensive than other effects pedals. Unless you have a particular sound you want to create with them, they are not really necessary.
Are Cheaper Pedals Worth It?
You can never really tell if you’d like a guitar pedal till you try it. Music is subjective, and even when people are hyping up a particular pedal because of its sound, you might not like it.
Many people go for more popular pedal brands because of the already established trust and name. But some cheap guitar pedals are very good and can prove helpful to your sound.
So before buying any cheap guitar pedal, do research on it and read buyer reviews to know what people are saying about it.
Lastly, buying cheap guitar pedals is a gamble because sometimes you might like them, but sometimes you might not.
The Bottom Line
A guitar pedal is a tool that guitarists use to add effects to their guitar sounds. The work of a pedal is to collect the guitar signals and alter them, causing them to produce different effects the guitar can’t produce normally.
They are pretty common among guitarists, and the only downside is their high cost. But what makes them so expensive?
The production materials, cost of labor, and market demand are some of the reasons we looked at.
Also, if you’re on a budget buying a cheap guitar pedal is not necessarily a bad decision. You might find it fitting for your style and grow fond of it. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the guitar pedal is expensive or cheap; the most important thing is that you like it and it fits your sound.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to Statista, the average cost of guitar effects pedals in the US is $102.
Expensive pedals are generally lighter and more durable. There’s also a difference in the quality of sound.