Dreamed, designed, and created at our small batch distortery™ in Columbia, South Carolina.

FAQ #8: Why should I buy a $200 distortion pedal?

January 19, 2011

Dear Caroline Amalgamated Products Corporation: I treat your blog posts with a proper mix of grace and fear like a favored stuffed pet filled of male enhancement pills. With much respect, I forcefully demand of you why you charge this most exorbitant fee for your product when I can exchange my bank information with a Nigerian general for something much less expensive.

So here it goes – my argument for why a $200 distortion pedal is worth it to you.

5. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has an excellent inflation calculator that can calculate the Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustments over time. In 1970, a nice, handmade Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Fuzz pedal that you could play for a lifetime (like many players have) would have set you back $39.00. Sounds reasonable, right? Click here to visit the Fed site and play with the calculator to see what that would cost you in 2011 dollars.

4. You may say – “well, $39 still sounds all right by me, and I can buy some distortion pedal from [insert big box retailer] for $39!” Well, let’s play with the calculator again, and see what $39 in 2011 money was worth to people in 1970…somewhere between jack and squat! Any smart guitar player in 1970, if offered a fuzz box for that pittance, would suspect it must be some cheap piece of junk, and would most likely be correct.

3. How so? Because most modern $39 distortion pedals have more in common with the fake Converse All-Stars five aisles down past the books section than the Electro-Harmonix box mentioned above. In contrast to the built-to-never-fail ancestor, most cheap pedals are mass produced, soulless, bad sounding, poorly designed by someone who never played guitar, assembled by third-world machines, packaged by political prisoners who had the bad fortune of typing the wrong entry into a search engine, and sent on down the line. Sure they might sound okay for a bit while you try them, and they can certainly get you by in a fix -  just like wearing a cheap watch into an important job interview, rocking the spare tire the last ten miles of that long trip home, or crashing on a friend’s dirty old couch when you visited the big city. Yes, it can work…but is that any way to live every day?

2.  You’ve spent good money on your amp, guitar, cables, tubes, pickups, and other effects…but you’re going to go cheap on the overdriver? Your tone, your playing, your experience playing with and for other people – why would you think it’s not worth it? Why would you think “well, I know it sounds better, I’ll have more fun knowing I have it, enjoy myself more, assert myself better on stage…but I’ll get by for less?” That kind of thinking is toxic. “Yes, we could practice more and sound really fantastic together, but we’ll get by with less.” “Sure, we could care about how we look on stage, but we’ll get by with less.” “Yes, we could give them a great stage show with good lighting and great sound, but we’ll get by with less.” What kind of experiences, shows, existence, and life do you think you’ll be giving and getting if you’re always willing to get by with less?

1. You may wonder why I haven’t brought up our $200-something pedal yet. We took pride in crafting and making the best sounding distortion we can, and we thought it was great enough that we are busting our asses to make as many as we can and get them out there for you to play and hear. There are other high-end, American made boutiques that do so as well. Each of us has our own flavor and idea of what we think sounds great. Each of us has an actual person involved in every step, testing by a real musician, and personal warranty support and service that will run through walls to make things right if things ever go wrong. Over the course of your serious playing life, that price difference may work out to a nickel a day. Now ask yourself – would you trade the cheap junk for the thing you really wanted on the day/show/session/rehearsal it could really matter, for a nickel?

Okay, now why doesn’t every day matter? Buy the pedal you want. Fire it up. Now make the most of it. Write or learn the best songs you can. Practice like you mean it. Play together and have fun. Get the girls/guys. How are we still even debating this?