When Exactly Did “Boutique Pedals” Become a Thing?

Not long ago, guitar pedals were made by larger companies with the machinery, infrastructure, distribution networks, and resources to bring them to market. The big players were names you know—like Boss, MXR, Ibanez, Electro-Harmonix, and others—plus a handful of outlier operations, and that was about it.

But guitarists like to tinker, and a lot of players took their devices apart, modified the circuits, improved designs, and conjured up innovative ways to craft tones. But tweaking pedals, or even developing new ones, is a far cry from launching a pedal company, and most aspiring builders did not have the wherewithal, or desire, to do that. Even for hobbyists, information was hard to come by. Schematics were difficult to find, and mentors—or even just brains to pick—were few and far between. Taking those factors into account, the idea of a boutique pedal scene was beyond most people’s imagination.

Then something wonderful happened. Although books and articles about simple electronics projects for musicians had been circulating since the early 1970s, putting that information online helped spawn a pedal-making revolution. Schematics, definitions of terms, innovative insights and tweaks, and easy access to experts to consult when you got stuck became commonplace.

If you have a soldering iron, a handful of transistors, good ideas, and a can-do attitude, the world is your oyster.

And as the internet developed, that only got better. Rare,…

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