I came across a thread on Reddit, The Gear Page or similar where the discussion was around notable British pedal builders or pedal-makers as I like to call them! Soon after that I came across a Tone Report article titled ’8 Kick-Ass Pedal Builders From Across the Pond’ from 2015. Both these events encouraged me to seek out my own favourite British Pedal Builders / Makers, and see how many pedal makers there generally were to be found. The following is not necessarily an exhaustive list by any means, but its the ones I could track down, and that still has some sort of active presence. Several more had defunct websites where domain registration has lapsed etc. So I took to recording and reviewing what was around and currently active.
Of the 9 pedals / companies featured in the above visual, 8 were pretty much a dead cert, while the 9th was sort of a wildcard to a degree and I decided to go with Manchester-based SSD Devices in the end after a very tight head-to-head of lightly suspects. There are of course heaps of British builders who still trade on earlier reputations - after all Britain was the spiritual home of the Fuzz in the 60’s, and even though an American invention (Maestro) - most of the best known fuzzes in the heyday - Fuzz Faces, Tone Benders et al came from these isles - until the Americans took control of Fuzz again in the 70’s with the Big Muff. So there are lots of old-school Fuzz replica makers making out-sized old-fashioned boxes - which really aren’t my thing at all.
There’s also a number of very important Heritage brands like Roger Mayer and Pete Cornish - but these again tend to make slightly out-sized boxes which lack the modern touches I’ve become accustomed to. It’s no surprise really that the following are my favourite 9 British Pedal-Makers - alphabetical, and as per the above image. I already have 5 of the 9 pedals featured and fully intend to get the other 4 at some stage. I limited my selection to the best pedal I believed that maker had created so far.
Peter Hamstead's company is best known for its beautifully tuned cream-coloured amps with Reverb and Tremolo onboard. In fact so good is the Amp tremolo that much like with Supro, they released that tremolo tone in their first signature stompbox pedal (now alas retired). I though got properly involved when they released their really cool Odyssey Intergalactic Driver Multi-Drive - with numerous clipping options alongside pre- and post-gain EQ options. It bumped aside the venerable Fulltone OCD from my pedal-chain, and has held its place since. It can deliver that sort of really Crunchy OCD Drive tone, but offers a lot more besides including fuzz / fuzz-drive voicings and harder distortion voicings. I acquired one of the very first pedals released in that first batch. It's a true all-rounder multi-drive pedal.
I was put off the original Broadcast model as I thought its real estate a touch large for what it delivered, but here we have the newer dual footswtich version which allows you to stomp between lower and higher gain channels - which have separate Level dials, but share Low Cut and Trim dials. There are also two internal trim-pots which allow you to further tune the amount of gain each Channel has. Internal trimmers are a kind of pet peave of mine, but I'm prepared to let it slide considering how fantastic this Germanium transistor pedal sounds. It's definitely in the Fuzz-Drive spectrum of overdrive and distortion with a lovely warm and harmonically rich fuzzy quality. Hudson currently has 4 pedals to its range (plus several discontinued models), and the only one I was really interested in is the one pictured - which is alas currently sold out everywhere but supposedly due back in stock in August! Having heard the recent That Pedal Show episode featuring the Sidecar Germanium Clipping Overdrive - I really like that one too! In fact I'm a convert - I like pretty much every one of Michael Hudson's pedals - which seem to be very largely Germanium transistor based and largely in the Fuzz category too.
Christian Livingstone of 'The Datsuns' fame has run this London-based pedal company for a few years now. The runaway success here has been the super versatile White Atom Fuzz - just recently updated to Version 2 - and recently snapped up by me also. I had that pedal on my wishlist for a while and it was obviously good karma that I held out long enough for the new and improved version to be released. These are superbly made pedals at a very reasonable cost, and I have half a mind to get the Solar Bender Fuzz (Tone Bender) too at some stage. There are currently 6 pedals to the range, but special limited editions pop up every now and again.
As with many a boutique pedal builder - Matt Warren is based in the middle of Somerset somewhere at an undisclosed location where he makes everything himself in his own workshop. There have been a tonne of wooden-boxed prototypes advertised on his website for a while - which are all still 'Coming Soon!' in fact a veritable conveyor-belt of 14 effects. As it stands though only his original masterpiece is currently available - the mid-sized enclosure 'Judder'. In fact a sample/hold repeater with various stuttery, oscillation and modulation effects - for next level noise disruption. I originally featured this in my piece on unique and unusual effects, and this is perfect for the more experimental crowd. I fully intent to get this eventually, I just have had slightly more vanilla priorities to deal with first. The 'Judder' though is a pretty special effect, and the kind of thing you might expect Adventure Audio or Dwarfcraft to come up with - so it's nice to have something so unique yet playable made on UK soil.
The current Kings of High-End Pedalboard-friendly compressors - hitherto worldwide renown for their range of Cali76 Compressor Pedals, and in particular the Compact Deluxe version of that - which yes I have still to get and fully intend to get - it's one of the things on my priority list. One thing even better than that is the fantastic new RevivalDrive proper amp-in-a-box pedal which produces the best solid-state emulation of Fender, Vox, Marshall and even Dumble -style Tube amps. And while the Cali76 engineering was sort of impressive, the RevivalDrive is next level stuff. I practically leapt on this and was one of the first to place an order when pre-orders opened up back in March. There has never been a pedal before which delivered quite this level of harmonic richness across so many different core tone types. Yes it's a ridiculously expensive pedal, but for anyone lucky enough to own one - totally worth it! There are just 5 pedals that make up the range across the two categories, with 4 of them being compressors. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Simon and his team create next - let's hope it's an all-round fuzz pedal which covers off all the essential British Fuzz Types!
David Rainger is likely our own mad scientist, who comes up with some pretty leftfield creations in his lab. There is no space for anything vanilla here - every take on an effect type is unique and different. Of course the pedal that started it all was the Dr Freakenstein Fuzz with that cool Frankenstine machine style lever and accompanying Igor expression pressure pad. I always considered that pedal a little over-sized, but it is undeniable cool - particularly in its now discontinued limited Black and Orange editions, I keep a lookout for a second-hand one of those on Reverb, but no dice so far. There are currently 10 pedals in the range, with several really appealing mini pedals - liket the Dr Freakenstein Dwarf Bleep and Reverb-X Digital Reverb - with nearly all pedals being accompanied by those cool Igor expression pressure pads. Definitely worth a look-in.
There's not much detail at all about this tiny Manchester-based pedal-maker, but they do make some pretty tasty fuzz and drive pedals. There's not a lot of pedals in stock at the moment, and of the 5 or so in the range, only 3 currently have availablity. The one I like the look of the most is the glitchy EVA Fuzz, but the Transmission Killer Distortion and TMK Fuzz look pretty cool too. I will be hoping that the EVA comes back in stock someday soon so I can add one of those to my Fuzz tone library / spice rack!
Stone Deaf are another sort of Manchester-based maker, in fact Oldham really, and Luke Hilton has been delivering the goods for several years now - both with a line of very formiddable tube amps, as well as a really decent range of stompboxes. There are at least 3 world-class pedals in the range - the Amazing Tremotron Tremolo, formiddable Big Muff style Fig Fumb Fuzz, and new smart Analogue Modulated Delay - Syncopy. There are currently 7 proper pedals in the range. and all are pretty stellar really - while I am hoping that the Fig Fumb comes down to the smaller Tremotron / Syncopy style enclosure - to make it easier to live with and fit on your pedalboard or pedal-chain. In fact for quite a while I had Stone Deaf down as my favourite all-round pedal-maker until I got properly to grips with ThorpyFX.
The UK has a handful of world-class pedal-makers currently, and however excellent the above 8 are (and they are), ex-Army-Major Adrian Thorpe puts the others firmly in the shade with the number of awards and accolades his trifecta of Fallout Cloud Fuzz, Gunshot Overdrive and Warthog Distortion have garnered to date. I currently only have the exceptional Fallout Cloud - probably his signature pedal - but fully intend to round out that trifecta. The 8 pedals in the current range - including the forthcoming Team Medic Boost, Buffer and EQ are all phenomenal really, I find the Veteran Fuzz a touch large, and for some of the categories - say Compression I may prefer the Origin Effects one, and for Tremolo I am more in the Tremotron and Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas camp, but it's nice to have such quality choices.
So beyond the current big 8 and wildcard SSD, I have scoured the interweb far and wide to come up with this list of nearly theres or just passed it - depending on your prevailing perspective. Most of these have 1 or 2 decent offerings, although the product design and graphics or lack thereof often leave a lot to be desired. I've probably overlooked a few, as every reasonably sized town likely has a budding pedal modder or builder - If you think I've left out someone of note - please let me know and I can add them to this list:
A small but notable UK made-to-order maker (aka Daniel Holmes), largely because of the extremely photogenic and iconic Flux Capacitor Delay, but he also makes rather excellent Fender Tweed and Klon Centaur clones too, as well as OCD, Tube Screamer and the excellent Hendrix-esque Gypsy-Vibe. The range extends to near 30 different pedals and Daniel is amenable to most types of customisation if you ask nicely supposedly. This was one of my frontrunners for the above 9th slot taken by SSD Effects in the end - as I could not decide on a 4114 pedal I really wanted. I am generally more of a pedal-tweaker, so like as many voicing toggles and dials as possibly, and all within a compact enclosure. That said - I really like the look of Dan's 'Tweed' Twinulator Compact and Mini pedals - with the last mentioned the most likely acquisition of all of these.
I unwittingly overlooked this one on the first couple of sweep, even though I have watched Audio Kitchen featured on That Pedal Show a couple of times. One of those times Dan was using one of their highly regarded 'Chopper' Amps - the Big Chopper if I recall correctly. They have a Big, Little and Base Choppers as well as a Combover Combo - with amps I guess being their main product line. They also have 3 rather sizeable pedals - the Valve-powered Small Trees Boost and Big Trees Floor-Amp / PreAmp, as well as the other product featured on That Pedal Show - the undeniably hefty The Flying Squirrel Harmonic Drive / Fuzz. Audio Kitchen are obviously purveyors of high quality tone machines - but pedal-wise they do tend to take up a lot of real-estate - which isn't particularly ideal for my own 40-slot rig / pedal-chain.
I inadvertently left this out on the first sweep - this is essentially a Laney Amps Custom Brand - currently just used for the Tony Iommi Signature Amp, Cab and Boost Pedal. There's obviously some ingenious magic circuitry inside this pedal as it makes pretty much everything sound better - as recently demonstrated by Henning Pauly. You have the usual Drive, Volume, Lows, Highs dials, alongside a two-way Mids frequency toggle switch. This pedal is also very reasonably priced, and on my imminent acquisitions list!
Initially fairly unassuming and plain simple analogue pedals, but with smart side-illumination via perspex layer sandwiched between pedal housing and base. There are currently 8 fairly vanilla pedals in the range - kind of updates on fairly basic yet classic Boss-style modulation pedals, alongside Klon and Tube Screamer clones. It looks like a decent proposition and the pedals are mostly reasonably priced, but I'm not sure the video demos do them sufficient justice, or whether they come across as better than actually buying second-hand versions of the pedals they emulate. I'm a tweaker by heart so these are generally too vanilla for me, and yet if I wanted a Boss CE-2 style Chorus - would I not just buy the fairly recently reissued Waza Craft edition of that surely - I can get that for around £160 and it is likely to hold its value a lot better - easily covering the £10 differential in price?
Another boutique vintage fuzz / boost / overdrive replicator. BPC splits its range in half with a very traditional looking large enclosure set of the usual Tone Benders and Rangemasters, while the Players Series is a slightly more modern mostly medium enclosure selection of the same assortment. I really find it incredible how many different clones you can have of the same types of pedals. As previously noted - I prefer the more modern builders who try to improve on these circuits to make them more practical for pedalboard use. Then again these guys have distribution agreements for their pedals all over the world - which indicates there has to be still a reasonable market for these sorts of things - question is for how long? I forgot to mention that BPC also has Special Edition pedals featuring super rare Mullard Transistors for instance, and those pedals can go for as much as £399. Also when you see the insides of these pedals - they have tiny hand-wired boards on the and just acres of space - there is no reason why these circuits could not be in more practical sized enclosures.
An interesting mix of large and medium enclosure dual and triple effects pedals mostly based on fuzz and drive tones, as well as a range of various Big Muff, Fuzz Face and Tone Bender clones. There's truly a huge range on offer on offer here - so much that I had almost immediately onset options paralysis. It seems like this pedal-builder (Mark Mills?) really know his stuff, but his website could do with some better organisation and focus. It's kind of hard to know where to start really, In fact for my I just became a little overwhelmed by it all, and could not decide where to look. I think it's important that you indicate at least some degree of specialism - e.g. Robert Keeley and Compressors, and Brian Wampler and Drive Pedals - and then you can categorise the other elements around those. Being flexible certainly has its advantages, but it may make many a potential customer go look for answers elsewhere. I fin the best pedal site have great product pages with details, guides and video demos all on the same product page - that's how to really win over customers as far as I'm concerned.
It's pretty obvious that this company specialises in Loop-Switchers as I like to call them - to avoid association with the other sort of Sample Looping pedals. Here we have True Bypass, Programmable and Midi Switchers with varying numbers of input loops. I would typically look to brand like Boss and One Control, or TheGigRig even, but now that I know about this site it offers me several slightly industrial looking but seemingly decent alternatives! The only thing I would say here is that the website looks like a Maplin style components parts directory - making the individual pedals here seem rather unappealing from the listings.
Stuart Castledine is a well respected builder of classic vintage style effects in those larger styles of vintage enclosures that I don't particularly get along with. You have the Magical Mystery Box Amp-in-a-Box, Supa MKI Fuzz, Supra Vibe, Standard Wah and The Wizard Distortion. These are all faithful and great sounding replicas of the vintage inspirations, yet for me these are all too large really. Modern pedal evolution has been about miniaturisation, more control, more voicings and more versatility - characteristics that most of these older pedals just did not have. Many use sensitive components which limits their placement within your pedal-chain, and many have odd power requirements - 24V AC and similar. I certainly thing there is still value in these for the more vintage-minded out there, but for me I prefer the more modern compact alternatives.
I've come across Tom George's company a few times and I always admire the aesthetic of his pedals when I see them - they have a lovely 4 way colour scheme of brushed aluminium with red, white and black dials, and really crisp and clear black and red text. I feel he needs to sustain a higher level of marketing somehow, as it's so easy to become forgotten nowadays when you see how much competition is out there. There are 9 pedals currently to the range - including some for Bass guitar too. I always gravitate more towards compact enclosures, so some of these are a touch oversized for me, although I admire the use of dual and triple footswitches. The Mini Takin Fuzz is the most interesting one here for me, I might have considered the Mini Analogue Octave, but I've fairly recently acquired the newly compacted Mu-Tron Octavider, and am not looking to bump that any time soon. I think there's lots of promise here, but Tom needs more exposure as I've not seen or heard anything about Cog Effects on any of the pedal forums and discussion groups recently.
I see these in the window of the Macaris store most Saturdays when I walk up Charing Cross Road towards Denmark Street - lots of mostly 60's vintage 2 and 3-dial Tone Bender style replicas in what I consider old-fashioned and slightly over-sized enclosures, and being sold for £200, £300 or more. Yes these can sound fantastic, but they are just literally hugely impractical nowadays with the kinds of pedalboards that are doing the rounds. I feel that there are smarter, equally great sounding vintage-tones fuzzes being made by more modern companies like Basic Audio, Monsterpiece, Skreddy Pedals and ProAnalog Devices to name but a few. Macaris should strip out those premium component circuits and stick them in more compact standard 9 Volt enclosures - that's my 10 cents on that!
Another classic British Amp Maker who has a compact range of 4 pedals - 1 medium enclosure Germanium Fuzz and 3 large 2 and 3 footswitch pedals - a TM Boost (Treble+Mids?), Overdrive Special, and Distortion. They all have elegant satin / brushed steel enclosures but are all rather larger for my taste. The one pedal here which kind of justifies its size is the triple footswtich, dual channel + boost Overdrive Special - so that's my pick to the bunch.
D*A*M are one of those now somewhat legendary vintage infused largely fuzz-pedal specialists, who also took over the previously defunct but vintage legendary Sola Sound. Both divisions here pride themselves on using the very best vintage components, and while the Sola Sound replicas are still largely in line with Marcaris' Colorsound versions, the D*A*M marque does in fact build a number of exceptional compact enclosure fuzzes too, but they are mostly quite price and difficult to come by. I'm not sure their Stompboxes website really helps either - it's akin to getting lost in a dusty furniture-strewn basement. I believe D*A*M deliberately tries to cultivate some air of mystery about it, but it seems largely lost on this generation's music fans. I featured the D*A*M Model:AA Maestro clone in my recent Maestro Fuzz Roundup. There's no doubt that the D*A*M and Sola Sound Fuzzes sound great, I still think they could do with a touch more modernisation though?
I feel there is some parity between Boo Instruments and DRW - both do a series of fairly vanilla effects at a pretty similar pricepoint. Here the 10 pedal range covers quite a few fuzzes, some modulations, compression, an overdrive and a rather interesting dual 12AX7 Tube-powered Pre-Amp / Drive - which is currently undergoing redevelopment. DRW also make some interesting looking Amps. As a Fuzz fan, the most interesting pedal I see on this site is the Germanium Fuzz Ace - I have so many other decent Germanium Fuzzes though - including the really special Spaceman Sputnik I - so it's difficult to get excited by something which isn't a bit more out of the ordinary. I have no doubt that players looking for a decent Germanium Fuzz Face will be well satisfied here, I'm just always looking for something a little bit more nowadays.
Dickinson Amps reminds me somewhat slightly of Effectrode - which is funnily next on this list. There are currently just 4 products in their range - the interesting looking steel chassis MKII Combo Tube Amp, the tube-loaded large enclosure D1 Overdrive and P1 Pre-amp, and finally the compact-sized Lo-Mo Boost Pedal. All highly distinctive and interesting for sure, but not really for me. I don't mind having tubes in amps, but these semi-exposed tubes on floor-based stompboxes just make me nervous. When I hear how good the Origin Effects RevivalDrive sounds, I'm pretty sure that some clever solid-state transistor circuitry alongside a pristine transformer can deliver the same sort of richly harmonic and slightly randomly analogue artefact sounds of these over-cooked lightbulbs. That takes nothing away from Dickinson who marry beautiful product design to their harmonically rich tone machines.
Another classic vintage boutique type maker with exceptrional sounding tube-powered pedals. Their best-known flagship product is the triple-tube loaded SR-71 Blackbird Preamp whose ongoing popularity means it's almost always out of stock - as it is now. It's a rather vast old-fashioned pedal with a very signfican footprint - we are easily into Custom Tones Ethos Pre-Amp and Van Weelden Royal Overdrive Territory. Again when you compare with the really more versatile and signifcantly more diminutive RevivalDrive, you can't help but feel that the days of these big-box tube pre-amps are numbered. I do see Effectrode and builders like Simon Jarret of Kingsley Amplification, as well as BK Butler going for quite a while as there is still a generation around that loves those sounds and that form of technology. The young braves coming through the ranks though are either compact pedal warriors, or have gone down the full-fate digital modelling Helix or Headrush route. At the end of the day, practicalities count, and it's not always the highest fidelity format that endures. Pretty much all the 8 Effectrode pedals are tube-driven - including the DT-2A Tremolo Panner, TD-2A Tube Drive and TV-5A Tube-Vibe.
This is a more modern pedal-builder which is much more to my liking - with 15 pedals available for guitar and 9 for bass, and including the cool Darth Fazer Phaser - which I've seen on a surprising number of pedalboards. These are definitely largely more interesting pedals than the majority of ranges out there, with modern dynamic metal colours and vibrant and interesting graphics, as well as and most importantly - cool sounding, practical and versatile compact pedals with multiple tone-sculpting and voicing options! Besides the Darth Fazer, I also like the look of the Reaper Distortion and The Boss Overdrive. I've already noted that they're at this September's UK Guitar Show at Olympia - so I will be checking them out then. They were another contender for the ninth slot above alongside Cog and SSD.
I've seen these pedals in quite a few place - including at Andertons and at Regent Sounds on Denmark Street - but they never quite grab my attention. I don't know what is is about them - the overall aesthetic or graphics, but this rather significant London pedal-maker with its 25-pedal range has somewhat managed to pass me by? As a fuzz fan, part of me should like this as there are several fuzzes on offer here and at very reasonable rates. Yet when I look at each of those pedals I immediately think of a comparative version which I prefer. Looking at all 25 pedals together on the website is strikes me that apart from the enclosure style - and the occasional wolf motifs which get largely overlooked - there is not sufficient brand continuity here - either by way of colour scheme or graphics to make these stand out in any discernible way. I'm sure these all sound perfectly fine, but something about them just doesn't draw me in - with perhaps the possibly exception of the Dresden Synth Fuzz, which will be my one redeeming factor here.
West-Midlands based Jonathan of The Fuzz Shack, the main agitator for Nine of Swords and purveyor of fine and doomy, occult fuzzes. The whole website experience is a little Blair Witch, but there are some interesting prospects on offer here, and I like the look of the Twin Earth Deluxe Fuzz - the others here are too simple or too large for my liking really.
Birmingham builder specialising in clones of classic 60's and 70's vintage circuit Fuzzes, Overdrives and Treble Boosters - with a large number of pedals in particular under the Black Country Customs moniker - with choice Germanium and Silicon Transistors. Nearly all of these are in somewhat oversized enclosures as far as I am concerned - not quite as antiquated as Colorsound and Sola Sound, but slightly in that direction. There's lots of amazing fuzzes in compact enclosures - surely it's time to shrink these enclosures down to something a touch more pedalboard friendly and practical?
That Pedal Show's Daniel Steinhardt's day job is at the head of this Rolls Royce of Midi-based, programmable loop-switchers. Obviously his flagship product is the very formidable industry standard G2, with the QuarterMaster relay a solid deputy for simpler pedal-chains. The diminutive Three:2:One and ABY Baby switchers are really cool too. I'm thinking possibly the G2 should have been one of the 9 above, considering what an amazing pedal it really is, but then again, I'm not really in the market for a Loop-Switcher currently, and frankly find Fuzz pedals somewhat more interesting - so that's settled then - also the larger relative size of the G2 would have skewed the proportion of all the other pedals featured, so this really deserves a place at the head of the table, but is being sidelined for technical displacement reasons!
Scottish pedal builder that uses interesting graphics and reminds me just a touch of Magnetic Effects above. There are 14 pedals to the range here of all shapes and sizes, several compacts covering several fuzzes, an oddball fast Tremolo, Tubescreamer and Distortion. All the usual subjects really, but beyond the somewhat cool graphics I'm not sure there's a whole lot of different going on here. These are largely fairly simple / vanilla effects as far as I can apprehend.
Which came first - EHX's Turnip Greens or the Green Carrot Pedal Company? There's only 5 vegetable-themed pedals to the range - a large dual Pumpkin Pi Muff clone, Purple Maize Analogue Phaser, Cornstar Plexi, Dirty Radish Clean Boost, and Fuzzy Pickle Astrotone style Fuzz - possibly with the last mentioned having some degree of appeal. I'm not convinced by the branding here or naming convention - it does not particularly seem to gel or mean anything beyond the obvious Pumpkin Pi reference?
Although Simon Jarrett has been based in the USA fora a while, he's a Brit through and through - so I'm including him in this selection. His tube-driven pedals are much loved by Dan in particular of That Pedal Show fame, and I even considered getting the Jester a couple of years back before I decided that tube-loaded pedals weren't really for me - regardless of how fantastic they can sound! Most of the 14 pedals are tube-driven PreAmp or overdrive pedals, and most of them sound spectacular. The pedal enclosures have been reduced somewhat fairly recently, but they're still a touch too large for me.
Cardiff's Michael Grindle bases himself on Facebook and Reverb.com - nothing wrong with that I suppose, although it gives you less of a canvas to build your brand image. There's currentl not much on offer either - a Pale Spectre Tremolo Boost, Awkward Breed and Dream Left Behind Fuzzes, with both also offered as a dual fuzz deal! The first mentioned is a sort of dying battery spattery fuzz, while the latter is a single dial take on a Muff circuit - which famously used 3 dials to get the most out of the 46 or so components? For a custom builder I'm a touch disappointed here in the lack of details provided - no indication of what type of circuit is employed here - IC? Transistor? OpAmp? When you are buying into a somewhat unknown brand - it's surely the little details that count?
Another brand I inadvertently left out in my first sweep which should though get a mention. There are currently 8 Chinese-made compact pedals to the range - Bluesbreaker II Drive/Boost, Echohead Delay, Edward The Compressor, Guv'nor Plus Overdrive, The Jackhammer Distortion, Reflector Reverb, Regenerator Modulation, and Vibatrem Vintage Vibrato/Tremolo. The general consensus seems to be that the original classic quartet of BluesBreaker, DriveMaster, The Guv'nor and ShredMaster are where the smart money's at. The Bluesbreaker circuit especially being the root of numerous more modern pedal successes like Analog.Man's King of Tone. While many players actively seek older Guv'nor pedals in decent condition. There are however modern players like Dave Simpson who make good use of the current Jackhammer and Guv'nor Plus in particular - so I would probably recommend all the older ones and the current 3 drives - although results may vary!
A minimalist / reductive, deliberately industrial looking, relatively low-priced London-based pedal-maker whose 'The Primitive' Maestro-style fuzz I featured in that category roundup. These are pretty much all decent fuzz clones but with very little to separate them from each other visually. I've touched on how important visual identity is - the ability to identify and single out. I don't mind the minimalistic aesthetic, but there are quite a few of these sorts of brands and this is really no branding at all - for a cool minimalist industrial aesthetic - one should look towards Canada's Fairfield Circuitry or Industrialectric boutique pedal brands - for North Effects - option paralysis sets in too quickly as they mostly kind of look too much the same.
I foolishly left this brand out in my first sweep for some reason - I guess I just always associate them more with their Amps than their pedals - but they do have a number of pretty decent and even innovative pedals on offer. There are currently 7 mini, medium and larger pedals to the range, of which I find appeal in 5 - albeit the Bad Bangeetar sort of PreAmp/EQ pedal is a touch large. The Amp Detonator is billed as the world's smallest active, fully functional, buffered ABY pedal - while in a Medium enclosure, so not sure about that. Also I think there are far more versatile and tone-fun drives out there than the Getaway Driver Overdrive. For my money - the Fur Coat Octave Fuzz, Kongpressor Compressor, smart OMEC Telepathy Audio Interface, and Two Stroke Boost are all worth a look-in.
A tiny Mancunian boutique business run from Martin Owen's mainly effects repair shop looks like. There seems to be only one bespoke pedal currently in circulation - namely the Space Charge Distortion - a kind of old-fashioned 70's style looking effect in over-sized enclosure, and powered by a single 12AX7 tube - yes another sort of old-school PreAmp pedal - most likely along similar lines to the BK Butler, but that looks slightly neater. This one is fairly reasonably priced, but for reasons stated previously in this listing, does not hold a great deal of appeal for me personally.
Legendary Technician Pete Cornish, the Godfather of the Pedalboard and probably the most influential person in transitioning players from single to multiple effects units. He build up a very close association with David Gilmour and Pink Floyd in particular and was everywhere in the late 70's and early 80's. Where pro guitarists are more likely to approach TheGigRig's Daniel Steinhardt nowadays, Pete was The Man in the earliest days of pedalboards and he built both the boards and the effects and made sure everything worked seamlessly together. Those pedals exist today in two different Series - Deluxe Black and more Industrial Grey. The Deluxe Black pedals are all between £500 and £600 each while the Grey series has some units that go as low as £248, but are still mostly around the £450 to £550 mark. I feel that to a degree Pete is living off his reputation - there's no doubt that these are great pedals, but they are now mostly over-sized and mostly way too expensive compared with what else is out there. It's a wonderful snapshot of musical history, but at the same time Boss and MXR were pushing the Compact Pedal form factor and rapidly taking over the pro player's pedalboards and rigs. I feel the whole of this range needs miniaturising, modernising and tidying up somewhat - but then again there are probably enough vintage loving older duffers out their to keep Pete in beers for a while.
This boutique builder runs his shopfront courtesy of Etsy - obviously very reasonable rates! Some excellent directional graphics in use here alongside suitable naming conventions to match these crazy full-on Fuzz and Distortion sounds. All pedals are what I deem to be over-sized or very specifically large enclosure in this instance. There's quite a few interesting pedals here, in particular the Mega-Berkatron robotic chaotic fuzz. The pedal is alas far to vast to be of interest for me - I would seriously consider ti though if they only managed to shrink it down into something like a mid-sized Dwarfcraft style enclosure.
Mechanical / Electronic Engineer Steve Williams is well placed to produse super high premium fuzz pedals using the very best vintage NOS components available. He used to make the older larger style traditional enclosures, but has really moved with the times and now seems to produce most pedals within standard compact enclosures. He sells via Joe's Pedals too which I am very familiar with. Currently on Joe's Pedals there are two out-of-stock pedals based on the Burns Buzzaround - the more standard 'Party Favour', and slighly enhanced 'Omolon'. On his site he has a solitary MKIII Tone Bender style JuJu fuzz for sale. Most of his pedals sell for north of £300 and many are based on the different classic types of Tone Bender - a touch pricey for sure, but you are paying largely for those super rare transistors onboard.
Hastings-based boutique maker who is sometimes available on Joe's Pedals, and makes vintage replica Fuzzes and Treble Boosters - in those over-sized traditional enclosures. No doubt superbly engineered with premium components, but somewhat unnecessarily large for my tastes. There are plenty of builders successfully reproducing these circuits in more pedalboard-friendly enclosures - I thinks using the original-sized enclosures is somewhat anachronistic now and a touch unnecessary. So more for vintage-style collectors, and pretty reasonable pricing really.
Southend-on-Sea based pedal-maker whose styling brings to mind both Bondi Effects and Greer Amps - but is actually probably best known for its Game Boy styled Super Fuzz Boy and the Soda Drive overdrive of course. There's a good range of fuzz, boost and overdrive pedals here, but also vintage-styled chorus, reverb and tremolo. Most of the pedals are compact enclosure much to my liking, and their are several here which catch the eye.
Roger Mayer was there with Jimi Hendrix right at the start of the stompbox revolution, and he carries on his legacy through a number of mid-boxes enclosures, including of course his iconic rocket-shaped fuzzes. Probably still best known for the Octavia Octave Fuzz there is plenty more here besides. Roger has definitely tried to move with the times and even has compact enclosure stompoxes available unlike most of his peers. The rocket-shaped pedals look cool, but are awkward to tweak because of rear knob placement, The mid-size boxes here are probably your best bet overall. Possibly a little more modernisation is required here, as Roger Mayer is not much discussed these days on the various pedal forums and discussion groups.
Rothwell seems to have fallen off the radar recently, but they make really decent high-quality boost, compressor and drive pedals. Their mostly highly polished enclosures look appealing and deliver harmonically rich output, even though somewhat vanilla in layout - with mostly 2 and 3 knob control variations. I think the Hellbender and Switchblade are still the two most renown here. Problem is that there are lots of more prominent alternatives available - brands really need to keep themselves in contention to still be current and viable, yet a lot of these more established pedal-makers are fading somewhat nowadays.
Interesting Lincolnshire-based boutique builder who largely goes their own way and doesn't really concern themselves with the usual classic clones. Some really decent boost, drive, fuzz, tremolo and vibrato pedals here - possibly needs a touch more design harmony / consistency for the brand to gel. There are several pedals here that catch the eye, but the one for me is their Fall of Troy Fuzz.
I've already touched on these under the D*A*M reference above, Both Sola Sound and Colorsound are now made by the same company and are your totally faithful reproductions of those classic 60's Tone Bender Fuzzes - right down to their old-school over-sized enclosures. You will see a tonne of these for sale at Macaris on Charing Cross Road - all priced at around £300 or more. I really don't see the point of those over-sized enclosures any more - but there still seems to be a market for them.
Innovative Cambridge company still best known for their super feature rich Voluum and Wahoo pedals. They really take the kitchen sink approach to those pretty traditional rocker / treadle style pedals and give you everything you would ever want to do with Voluum or Wah. They produce all manner of smartly engineered high quality audio equipment. I've featured the Voluum om this site at least once or twice before and included in my Volume pedals roundup - really smart and innovative product design. I do wish they could bring it down a tad in size as these aren't particularly pedalboard friendly currently!
This Cornish boutique business is actually mostly about designing and building Amp Speaker Cabinets and has a number of distinct and high quality wooden cabs on offer. They currently only have a single stompbox available - the large enclosure Halzephron Fuzz-Drive - kind of on not too dissimilar lines as the Hudson Electronics Broadcast whose format I sort of prefer, while the Halzephron gives you more dials and clipping switches for enhanced tone and voicing control. I will of course become instantly more interested when and if they choose to compact the pedal design further, but it's a really decent offering even in its current larger size enclosure.
Weirdly I thought that Stuart Tate was American somehow - he's mostly associated with his single knob Silicon Fuzz Face style Fuzz - 'Raise The Dead', but has a couple of other decent pedals in the range - like the Rat-style BMB Overdrive. Looks like there are currently 5 pedals in the active range with one additional discontinued one 'Power Amp Distortion' listed on Reverb.com also.
This would seem to be a more all-round worskhop and retailer of Electric Guitar Gear - who do though have a custom pedal department which currently does a number of somewhat mismatched pedals of all sizes, colours and design - Mini, Compact. Medium and Large. It; hard to gauge an overall response here although there are the usual Big Muff fuzz clones, boosts and buffers, but also some interested reverbs. It seems these pedals have been derived in a somewhat adhoc manner, as there are few unifying or thematic elements here which make the range gel as a whole. These seem rather interesting side-notes rather than intriguing must-haves.
Vein Tap bill themselves as the most awesomest and stylish pedals this side of Valhalla, and while I'm not sure that's entirely true, these are most definitely a modern outfit with a number of interesting pedals in their range. I'm not entirely sure of the significance of their colour scheme, but I like the look of the hourglass icon and the two tone fade of the Dark Times Delay and Dark Triad Overdrive - I feel that they should bring in a more consistent category-classification colour scheme with common branding imagery, but they're definitely along the right lines here.
I woefully left out this legendary brand in my first sweep. Of course it should get a mention as the originator of the Wah Pedal - the one that Jimi supposedly liked the best too. There are 4 different versions of the Vox Wah available with each new version seemingly larger than the rest. The 845 and 860 are the newer and prettier ones, while I would probably go for the improved-inductor V847 version. In fact I wouldn't actually because I prefer the more compact form factor of the CryBaby Minis - there's not doubting the pedigree or fidelity here though. Vox also does a number of reasonably priced workstation type pedals - DelayLab, Dynamic Looper, Lil' Looper and StompLab Series - those could probably all do with a facelift / modernisation, as the only one I've seen at all regularly on boards is the actually still pretty decent DelayLab, although there are quite a few more competent Delay Workstations in the marketplace. I'm not sure what to recommend here, as there is nothing here that I would acquire or use for myself, but the Wah pedals certainly speak for themselves - and if you don't mind the larger form factor - you should definitely give them an audition.
I really love the aesthetics of this largely Mini Pedal specialist - who has got the industrial design spot on, and creates some really cool mostly diminutive stomp boxes like the A/B/C Boxx (Mini), Dinky Bøøøst, Dual Killswitch, Shoegaze Løøøper+ and Søøøper Happy Mini Muff (w/Mids Switch). In fact there is pretty much every type of Utility pedal here you might want in every type of configuration - and all at very reasonable prices - really like these guys.
Nick Williams is another of those vintage circuit replicators - Tone Benders, Maestro and Super-Fuzzes, as well as Treble Boosters. These are slightly more modern replications - in more modern and square enclosures - but still a touch over-sized for me bar the compact treble boosters. There's lots of high quality fuzz pedal builders who fit amazing vintage-style circuits into more compact enclosures and I think that's definitely the way forward. Nevertheless Nick's pedals are fairly priced, and there still seems to be a market for these slightly larger enclosures.
This up-and-coming British pedal-builder is the poster-boy to fledgling boutique companies for how things should be done. It gets pretty much everything right as far as I'm concerned - both the content and the appearance - these are not the usual clones at all either. Great graphics, cool colour scheme and innovative pedals. Even though I am more of a compact pedal fan there is so much I admire here and several pedals I really like the look of. Zander was neck-and-neck really for the #9 slot at the top of the page - I though went with my usual preference for compact enclosure pedals and picked SSD Devices - but it was really close - also - the EVA fuzz really stood out for me, but there are 4 brilliant pedals here I can't make up my mind between:
The British pedal-builders landscape is very intriguing for me at the moment - you have the upper echelon peers - per the above who are getting all the attention, while at the same time you have upcoming upstarts trying to move up the scale while many of the classic old-school brands are failing away from public awareness.
It's clear that there has never been more competition, and there's an obvious game plan to be had from those pedal companies which are doing really well at the moment. Yet too many of the smaller brands here are somewhat disorganised and lack sufficient brand identity and direction.
I've said before that it's important to excel at one or two things and then use that as a springboard for the rest of your range. The main business model here for most seems to be clones and replicas of all the usual suspects. That's why I am so happy with companies like SSD and Zander - who are genuinely trying to do something different. Zander though has the edge when it comes to identity. Cog Effects, Flattley and Wee Lush FX are also really strong.
I think most of these companies need to be doing something a little more different - don't just build a standard Tubescreamer, Klon or Tone Bender clone - add oscillation, feedback, octave and different clipping options. Make your pedals more pedalboard-friendly smaller, universal 9V centre-negative power-supply etc.
I think it would be interesting to do a quick snapshot check 5 and 10 years from now and see who's left and who's thriving. I see all my favourites continuing to do well at home and abroad - other ambitious pedal-makers must emulate the sorts of things they are doing. If you compare Origin Effects, Stone Dead and ThorpyFX they all have very different brand identities - with very distinct enclosure styles that are attributed to them alone. Small batch builders don't have the same R&D departments as some of the bigger companies, but they can get smarter in how they operate - by working on their product design and brand identity. If you have to use standard enclosures, then at least select interesting knobs and LEDs - and pep up with strong colours and graphics.
You can see that the more successful companies typically have an immediately identifiable house-style. You need use everything you have at your disposal and that does not involve significant investment - to give you a distinct advantage and cutting edge. There are currently far too many unsuitable and confusing websites out there that don't do their brands any favours. I cite as an example Pete Cornish - who charges between £500 & £600 for his pedals, but whose website does not really justify that level of pricing. Compare that for instance with how Origin Effects portray their own very price RevivalDrive pedal.
As I've said before you've never had more competition before with great builders arising in every country now - Croatia, Germany, Greece, Turkey and Russia - and via Reverb.com you can easily buy pedals from anywhere. With this playing field every detail counts now so you have to get things right if you want to continue to win business. It helps also if you are the only one doing something in a very specific way - there's just way to many different yet indistinguishable clones out there - not all of those can survive.
I am heartened to see just how many good British pedals there are here though that I would be delighted to add to the tone-rack someday!