Over the years, simple devices with analogue circuits have been used to alter the tone and character of a guitar. These are called pedals or stompboxes. Every guitar player has come across guitar effects pedals at one point in their career. Pedals can be stacked with each other to produce unique and exciting sounds to truly emphasize a riff or solo and capture the attention of the audience.
There are some pedals that many consider as top-tier – these are referred to as “boutique” pedals. Because of their fantastic sound quality, high-quality electronics, and excellent build quality, boutique guitar effects pedals may be more expensive than your average stompbox but will elevate your guitar’s tone. Here are the top 7 manufacturers of boutique guitar pedals:
1. Keeley Electronics
Many guitar players may have heard of the name “Keeley” because of the renowned Keeley Katana boost pedal – which is, in my opinion, the greatest clean boost pedal you can get today. However, Keeley Electronics has even more great pedals to choose from that offer great sounds to take to your next gig. Keeley Electronics was founded by Robert Keeley. Keeley has done a lot of pedal modifications throughout the years and is known to provide artists and customers with high-quality modded pedals as well as his original ones. Some of the most excellent pedals from the Keeley lineup include the wet-dry Compressor Plus, D&M drive, Keeley Katana, and the Caverns delay. When it comes to modified or original stompboxes, Keeley Electronics has done a great job of satisfying even the strictest tastes in guitar tone.
This Southern California-based pedal manufacturer has made its name in the production of great-sounding digital pedals. Many professional artists can be seen with Strymon pedals in their rigs, and for a good reason. Strymon has a wide range of high-performance pedals including their Big Sky pedal and the Flint tremolo and reverb pedal. Their circuits are one of the best in the industry, and the tones you’ll be getting from their pedals are well worth the price.
3. Walrus Audio
Since being founded in 2011, Walrus Audio has gotten a steady growth in the boutique pedal industry. With their reputation getting built by their Warhorn overdrive pedal, Fathom reverb pedal, and the ARP-87 delay, Walrus Audio has made their way into the boutique pedal brand status and secured the spot as one of the trusted brands among guitar players looking for high-quality stompboxes. Their pedals are known to have great artwork done by commissioned artists and will surely be enjoyed by those who love building pedalboards that not only sound great but look impressive.
Wampler has built its reputation with a reliable connection to many guitar players online. While engaging with guitar players to find what want or look for in a pedal, Brian Wampler has come up with some of the best original pedals and clones that you can find when it comes to “grail” tones. The brand is known for its amazing Tumnus overdrive, which is a clone of the much-coveted Klon Centaur transparent overdrive. With other stompboxes such as the Ego compressor and the Ethereal delay, Wampler has provided guitar players with great-sounding pedals that have top-tier electronics and build quality. Plus, owner Brian Wampler is an absolute monster at playing the guitar and is an expert when it comes to tones. When it comes to pedals that are tastefully designed for versatility and excellent tone, Wampler is one of your best bets.
5. Fulltone Musical Products
Michael Fuller of Fulltone is one of the most recognizable people in the boutique pedal market. Based in Southern California, Fulltone pedals can be seen on rigs of professional musicians and touring artists because of intuitive layouts, great controls, innovative implementations, and excellent sound quality. Fulltone has some of the most iconic boutique pedals ever made, such as the OCD pedal, which is sought after by many guitar players. The Full-Drive is also one of the greatest overdrives, featuring two footswitches for the main overdrive and a boost. Their pedals are also known to have high-quality electronics that offer great versatility when adjusting effect parameters.
6. Morgan Amplification
One of the more underrated boutique guitar pedal brands is Morgan Amplification. Founded by Joe Morgan, Morgan pedals are known for their innovative and interesting pedals. Morgan pedals have very intuitive and minimalist layouts, but pack a huge punch when it comes to tone. Some of the best include the NK275 fuzz pedal and the OD drive. Using discrete circuits and great electronic components, Morgan pedals deliver some modern and experimental effects that lean more towards “futuristic” rather than classic and vintage. Because of this, Morgan pedals are popular among artists trying to experiment with various music genres and elevate their tone with truly unique pieces of art from this Californian manufacturer.
7. JHS Pedals
Founded by Josh Scott, JHS pedals are well-known and well-loved by guitar players and tone hunters around the globe – including myself. With a team of 25, the Missouri based manufacturer is known for being very active on the JHS YouTube Channel providing pedal reviews, tone tips, and general guitar-related talk. With amazing pedals in their lineup, JHS has made a solid reputation in the industry.The JHS Bonsai, is a very good clone of every Ibanez Tubescreamer you could ever want to use such as the TS808, TS9, and TS10 – all in one stompbox. The brand also has a Klon Centaur clone called the Morning Glory, which is an excellent transparent overdrive. When it comes to top-tier sound quality, build quality, electronics, and features, JHS is one of the greatest brands out there.
With all these boutique pedal manufacturers, tone hunters and guitar players have a wide range of pedals to choose from among the lineup of all these great brands. No matter what effect you’re after, you surely won’t be disappointed picking a pedal from any of these trusted and reputable pedal makers.