This is the 11th in the Pedal Builders Country Series as such, although I’ve had to cast the net slightly wider as I currently don’t consider there to be enough top-tier / International-level builders in a single country here to satisfy the usual criteria. Brazil and Argentina come fairly close - with Brazil having significantly the most concentrated volume of builders of any Country in that part of the world. Generally Brazil, Argentina and Chile are particularly well represented.
I used 4 resources in the main - the excellent Effects Database, then Google, Reverb.com and Ebay - with various other forms of triangulation. What is fairly evident as is always the nature of Databases and Businesses in general - is that several of the listed companies are no longer active, and others have merged, evolved or transformed into something else or simply changed URL - all of which is distilled into this overview.
I obviously have my own specific criteria for selection - which is a mix of tangible and intangible criteria - and yes a lot of this is personal preference to a degree, but there is always science and methodology within this madness. On this occasion I scanned through 12 countries:
Based on distribution / accessibility, engineering / design / build / innovation, overall appeal and differentiation - I established a Top 9 per the above image, and then split the contenders into First / Top and Second tier - with the First Tier the one which already has some International cachet or is best predisposed to worldwide proliferation. As with Japan for instance - many of these builders target only local customers - you will note that shipping from Central or South America to the UK/ Europe typically carries a significant cost - which means that unless these are on Reverb.com or Ebay, or available via some sort of International distribution or delivery scheme - then many of these pedals will just be out of practical range for anyone this side of the pond.
The Top 9 was very carefully curated and I will explain in the country overviews also how I arrived at those 9 - some will be familiar to you, others less so. This overview is slightly different in format than before - which has a lot to do with the complexity and extent / range of the research - where I will do mini features for Top Tier brands, but otherwise just list builders with corresponding site URLs - some of which are solely based on Social Media.
THE TOP 9 :
These are fairly regularly available on Ebay and Reverb.com and are in the main reasonably priced with relatively reasonable delivery charges. I featured the Simulcast in my recent Glitch Pedals Overview, and the Polypus Tap-Tempo Tremolo in that respective category, while current favourite from the range is the very Daft Punk synthy sounding Orbit - which will likely be my first acquisition here - the newest version with the extra toggle switches. This is a fairly unique and extensive range of 21 pedals to-date - and there are several here worthy of consideration. There is a uniformity of design and application here - although the geometric nature of some of the graphics doesn't always make those pedals stand out and be memorable. These are well crafted and innovative pedals in the main though and I feel I could own a few of these eventually:
I featured the Pixel Guitar Synth pedal from this maker in my recent Guitar Synth Pedals Overview. Said builder has 12 neat mostly dual footswitch horizontal medium enclosure pedals alongside 4 'System' compacts. Obviously the Pixel here appeals to me the most - but these are consistently high quality design pedals that are worth a look-in - and they have some really great analog circuits here too. They just happened to be mostly in the medium horizontal enclosure - which is only my 3rd or 4th choice of enclosure format after compact, vertical medium and mini!
I've come across the Silicon Fuzz Face style BOG Fuzz (Jimi Hendrix 'Band Of Gypsies') on so many pedalboards over the years - that this was an obvious shoe-in here. Deep Trip offers a compact but supremely competent range of roughly medium vertical enclosure mostly fuzz pedals. I probably prefer something a little more compact for my own needs, but there is no doubting the build quality here or the authenticity of the output - a consistently great range of pedals - would that they were more compact!
This is probably the only truly contentious choice here as it was 50/50 decision between this and Brazil's Fire Custom Shop (Carpe Diem etc.). But I really wanted a representative for Chile which has a pretty significant number of active builders. I see the DSM Noisemaker Drive Maker actually as a more feature-rich and more modern alternative to the Carpe Diem as such. DSM only has 4 pedals to its range currently - but they are beautifully consistently high quality with several modern touches which render them sleek and modern.
I've featured a couple of Paradox's pedals on this site before - The Futura Multiparametric Enevelope Chorus and Terran Re-Voicing Low-End Overdrive - and while these are still sitting high on my wishlist - lack of distribution is a major disincentive here as although you can buy these on Reverb.com - shipping is £57 a pop which is just a non-starter for me - the ultimate disincentive. These really need to get into wider distribution to be properly accessible as there is much to like in this range of 8 compact and medium enclosure pedals.
I am somewhat surprised and delighted that Pedal Pal can fully function in Venezuela - considering the ongoing social upheaval there. They nevertheless make some of the very best Marshall Amp-in-a-Box pedals in typically 6-knob vertical enclosures. In fact 4 medium Marshall pedals and one compact Blues Breaker. The one that has lived on my wishlist for a while is the No. 34 Mod Night Overdrive or essentially Slash's Marshall drive tone - made from an authentic circuit replication with transistors in place of tubes. I was first introduced to these courtesy of Phillip McKnight of Know Your Gear fame, but Andy Martin of the Tone Report / Reverb.com further sealed the deal. The only problem really is that these are largely unobtanium - they are rarely available on the official Reverb.com store, and when listed have that really annoying "This seller has not set a shipping cost for United Kingdom." - for the shipping info. These are great pedals for sure that deserve to be on more pedalboards - they desperately need a dealer or two though.
I was introduced to this builder by a Sean Pierce Johnson article about his favourite pedal of 2018 - the Toxic Fuzz. Retrohead have a really cool small range of extended-range 'tweaker' pedals which numbers just 4 vertical style medium enclosures - all with multiple knobs and switches of course. Cosmic Phaser, Robotic Flanger, Shooter Germanium Octave Fuzz and Toxic Silicon Fuzz (Sub-Octave Harmonic Fuzz). Alas Retrohead is neither on Ebay or Reverb.com - so these are pretty unobtanium on this side of the pond - I'd imaging that shipping charges would be pretty hefty too - which is a real shame as I, as a fuzz fan - would love to be able to get my hands on these fuzzes in particular.
Many of you can't have failed to notice the Funky-Vibe Univibe doing the rounds recently - per Andy Martin's as usual fantastic demo above. These are superbly authentic circuit and component replicas of the very first original Uni-Vibes - and sound incredible, but are alas somewhat over-sized for my preferences. I considered featuring the Tiny-Vibe here instead, but that is not an authentic photocell/bulb style circuit from what I can tell - unlike it's much larger sibling - if only Sabaddius could compact this circuit to more pedalboard-friendly dimensions! That said their whole impressive range is available on Reverb.com and while shipping is high, it's not at Paradox levels of prohibition. Sabbadius specialises in vintage circuit replications - using old stock components and transistors - so the enclosure sizes usually reflect this dynamic too. There's no doubting the credentials and authenticity here, while I personally would prefer a couple more concessions to modernity! Besides the Funky-Vibe, the Triple Treble is actually really rather cool too!
This Brazilian builder has some reasonable distribution now - and is available via Reverb.com too with actually pretty reasonable shipping. I've featured two of its pedals on this site to date the Amp Germanium Treble Booster, and the Octopus Octave Fuzz - the latter of which is still pretty high up on my wishlist. There are just 8 pedals to the range and an amp - but a number of these are pretty innovative with extended range functions.
I featured all 3 of what I consider to be Argentina's Top Tier Builders - in my Top 9 above - i.e. Dedalo FX, Retrohead FX and Sabbadius Custom Shop. I was considering including BSQ Effects in the top tier too here, but it didn't quite pass all of my criteria - came very close though.
Other Argentinian Pedal Builders of Note include:
Obviously I included Deep Trip and Stomp Audio Labs in my Top 9 above and left out Fire Custom Shop in favour of Chile's DSM Noisemaker. Besides Fire Custom Shop I consider Monstro Effects to be Top Tier also, and should at least include mention here of Beetronics FX which is of course now based in Los Angeles, USA, but run by the Brazilian Pampuri family.
I really consider this an American brand now - otherwise it would get top-billing here - it's been featured several times on this site. Run by the two Brazilian Pampuri siblings and partners and based in Los Angeles now - this is one of my favourite Fuzz purveyors and I have 3 of their excellent pedals to date - the Royal Jelly Dual Overdrive/ Fuzz Blender Flagship, custom Octahive Octave Fuzz and brand new Swarm Hamonizer PLL Fuzz - all are exceptional - as is the design aesthetic and attention to detail across the whole range - fantastic pedals really - albeit possibly a touch over-sized to the slightest degree!
This one just missed out on a Top 9 listing per the above - obviously most famously the home of the Carpe Diem Overdrive which most of us have encountered courtesy of That Pedal Show. Units seem to be rather farther and fewer between nowadays - and the supply line does not appear to be as consistent - but there are some very decent pedals in this range.
This is a quite incredible wide-ranging selection of 56 pedals - all with beautifully consistent pop-art graphics. I had intended to do a Matamp Style PreAmp feature but struggled to find sufficient current candidates - while the Monster Bat Amp is obviously one of the best of its kind (Green Matamp) - I may still do that overview some day - we'll see. In the meantime 'Monster' has one of the most extensive ranges of pedals in South America - particularly in the are of Drives, Distortions and Fuzzes - well worth a look-in!
Other Brazilian Pedal Builders of Note include:
Much like I excluded Beetronics FX from the Top 9 here, I felt the same about Darkglass Electronics - which although it is run by Chilean Douglas Castro - I consider it very much a Finnish brand, and included it in my recent Nordic Countries overview. So as with Beetronics I will mentioned Darkglass here, but wanted to give prominence to local brands - which is why DSM Noisemaker was singled out in the Top Tier - as above.
Darkglass is obviously mainly a bass pedals and amps builder - and it's really only the Duality Dual Fuzz Engine and Hyper Luminal Hybrid Compressor which interest me here - so just the briefest mention of said builder here, and DSM Noisemaker is obviously featured in the Top 9 above.
Other Chilean Pedal Builders of Note include:
I could not find evidence of too much activity in Colombia - just a couple of internally-focused builders:
Research into Costa Rica revealed alas not the existence of cloned dinosaurs or too much pedal activity - the sole local effects builder I managed to unearth was eQ.Circuitos:
The Dominican Republic is home to one of the great unsung pedal innovators - Copilot FX - as featured in the Top 9 above. It also has up-and-comer Baldera Pedals - whose aesthetic approach at least reminds me of Bearfoot FX - some interesting pedals in development there:
There does not appear to be too much activity in Ecuador either - I could only find DFZ Pedales who solely have a Facebook page by way of representation - but some interesting graphics along the way though. This brand could develop into something formidable.
I really expected Mexico to be more active in the pedal stakes - particularly considering its size of population and rich musical heritage. But this has not translated fully into guitar electronics yet - although Mexico is home to the very impressive Paradox Effects - featured in the Top 9 above - they just need to improve their distribution!
Other Mexican Pedal Builders of Note include:
Not too much activity found in the land of the canal either - all I found active here was up-and-comer Belatone - which currently solely has a Facebook page and by the looks of it just a couple of guitar effects pedals to its name to-date:
This is the one anomaly here - despite a sizeable population I was unable to find any active pedal builders in this locality? The ones generally listed in directories seem now defunked and long gone. Would love it if someone could contribute something of note here - but looks like Peruvian pedal fans are compelled to buy imports for now!
There's nothing Top Tier in Uruguay yet although we do have up-and-comers ManecoLooper the switching specialist, and more generalist MB Electronica. Both of these need to make some concessions to the International market to move up a step or two here - but are obviously serving their local market well:
As mentioned above I'm really surprised that Pedal Pal can function, let alone thrive in a place undergoing such political upheaval and civil unrest - hyper-inflation etc. It's a testament to ingenuity and tenacity that these builders can survive even in some of the toughest environments in the world. I've noted that supply here can be haphazard, and currently nothing is listed for sale on their Reverb.com store - but per the above Top 9 feature - Pedal Pal well deserves its placing here. Like several others on this list - I just wish they had better deliverability and distribution.
As always, it's likely I've inadvertently left one or two out of the mix here - if anyone feels that I've overlooked someone - please send me a note. I do feel though that this is a decent representation of the Pedal Building activity currently happening in Central and South America.
No doubt some would promote other brands over my own Top Tier selections - but we all tend to apply slightly different criteria in any case. I still feel my choices stand up well enough to further scrutiny.
I've noted several time here that the most significant hurdle or challenge in pedal acquisition here is lack of distribution / shipping arrangements - or when present - just impractically costly to make the process worthwhile. I myself acquire pedals from all over the world including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore which are about as far away as you can get from the UK - these territories though all seem to have fairly reasonable shipping costs.
As is the case also with smaller builders - you often get long waiting times from order as pedals are made individually and no inventory is maintained for ongoing sales typically - just a few are produced in batches and sold until none remain - and then you may need to wait a month or two for order fulfilment.
I have yet to decide which territory/ies to cover next - this one was always on the cards, but I'm not quite sure which remaining country/ies would be best suited for this ongoing series - possibly Australia and New Zealand - at last count there weren't enough Top Tier players for full single country features, but they could work well together. Please let me know if you have any preferences in this area!