Poland was both trickier and yet eventually easier to rationalise than originally perceived. I have scanned through many a country now, and Poland seems to be the last of those with sufficient numbers of high calibre pedal builders to warrant a dedicated feature*. As noted before - these sorts of article take quite a lot of work to complete - and so this is the last of these I will be doing for a while.
* Note that USA and Japan are the leading pedal builders of the world still and too large for these individual country-focus features - most of the pedals in my collection are American or Japanese - as are most of those featured on this site - so this is more about giving exposure to some of the lesser-known brands!
It completes the cycle started with Best of British, then Canadian, French, German, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Danish, Swedish/Finnish/Norwegian - and now finally Polish - a nicely rounded 10 all told and sort of coincidentally European. When I touch on this sort of thing again I will likely do a continental or more global overview - listing less well known but still leading/interesting pedal innovators from further afield around the world.
The Polish overview is the first time I’ve included the same top 9 entry for a second time - Piotr Zapart of Hexe Guitar Electronics the celebrated Polish builder who now resides in Germany and was included at the top of that overview also. Those familiar with Josh Scott / JHS and the relatively recent Bonsai Multi-Screamer pedal should be aware of the somewhat now cult Exar brand. While followers of That Pedal Show will have come across the LongAmp Roxanne once or twice.
I own three of the pedals featured above, funnily enough all fuzzes - the AnalogWise Germanium Pocket Rocket, and Occvlt Amethyst Dope Fuzz and Sitek Pandora Fuzz - on the subject of the middle one mentioned - I have been enjoying Jackson Brooksby’s Dipswitch Demos YouTube reviews on the Occvlt range - although I had acquired my Occvlt pedal in advance of that particular review - but really cool pedals in any case.
I also had to make some judgment calls on who would feature in the Top 9 in the end, and Chaos FX / Chaos Custom Effects missed out by the most slender of margins. Their range justifies inclusion, but I went with my preference of a specific pedal - the Pandora Fuzz from Sitek. In fact it was kind of a 3-way tie between Chaos, G-Lab and Sitek - and 1 of those three unfortunately had to miss out - although of course all are top 10 material as such.
It’s interesting to see that a lot of brands are now just relying entirely on Reverb.com as their store front, and don’t have their own official website - but choose to spread themselves across social media instead. That said, there are some very interesting pedals here of all shapes and sizes - and right across the different categories - where I’m always impressed in particular when I review the range of LongAmp pedals available, and say AnalogWise pedals past!
Brands are listed in alphabetical order - first by Top 9, then The Rest:
I came across these somewhat quite be chance - and in the guise of the Mini Pocket Rocket Germanium Boost/Overdrive/Fuzz pedal. I had only relatively recently before acquired the superb Mini Mythos Pedals Golden Fleece which is also a kind of Fuzzy-Drive - although that is single knob and of slightly different / somewhat softer character. The 3-knob relic'd Pocket Rocket is just a really cool fuzzy-drive, and forms a part of the fairly compact current 5 pedal range for AnalogWise - who have quite an impressive roster of more historic pedals - and they are obviously Germanium specialists - with a number of previous Boost, Overdrive and Distortion pedals of that nature. They are one of many of these contemporary pedal boutiques for whom Reverb.com is their store front - and while some feature a permanent range and take pre-orders, AnalogWise just lists what it currently has in stock.
This started off as vaguely Boss derivatives brand with enclosure look somewhere between Boss, Ibanez and Maxon, but then developed in its own direction - particularly with a number of notable drive and distortion pedals. Model references are very Boss-like and very common sense and follow the sequence -1 = Series 1 (1989), -2 =Series 2 (1995), -3 = Series 3 (2001), -4 = Series 4 (2004), and -5 = Series 5 (2011) which I'm not sure any actual pedals were released as the brand signed out at around that time. My first acquaintance with Exar was courtesy of JHS Josh Scott and his inclusion of the OD-1 style circuit on his Bonsai Multi-Screamer pedal - it was/is actually my favourite voicing on that pedal. The range has a great many different distortions - many of them 6-knob with 3-band EQ, but I decided to select the most recent model of their very well-received 4-knob Super Fuzz which came out in 2004. For lovers of Boss pedals - this range is very easy to follow and pick up on, while it does not look like the Exar enclosures overall were built to quite as high a standard as the Boss originals - some great sounding circuits here though:
There are quite a few of these available on Reverb.com which influenced my decision to include here. Some of these boxes I find somewhat over-sized, but I appreciate the consistency of uniformity of design - black boxes with common layouts and graphics. There are some really interesting large scale pedals here - like the DVO Dual Vintage Overdrive and the GSC multi-footswtich Guitar Controllers. While I've selected the rather elegant and useful DR-3 Dual Reverb as the representative here. There's plenty of players who have two main flavours of delay and reverb - short/subtle and long/expressive - and this is perfect for that sort of player.
I've featured Piotr Zapart many times on this site and don't really need to go into too much further detail - he is one of the great pedal innovators and every one of his pedals is a worthy addition to a collection. I really like his Bitcrusher and reVOLVER pedals - both of which have been on my wishlist for the longest time now!:
I keep being reminded of what a great pedal builder LongAmp is - it reminds me of a sort of Polish ThunderTomate to a degree - aesthetics wise, and it has a really impressive roster of pedals on sale via its Reverb.com storefront. Fans of That Pedal Show will have seen the faithful EHX Electric Mistress clone - the Roxanne, but there is plenty more here besides to be excited about - some fantastic Delay/Reverb/Modulation pedals and amazing Overdrives/Distortions:
This is a rather more compact brand - and the alter ego as such of one Adrian Czarnecki - but there is lots to admire here. I do wonder how the brand is supposed to be pronounced - I always thought of it as just Occult with a V, but Dipswitch Demos guy Jackson Brooksby pronounces it Occ-Volt? In any case some great sounding Fuzzes and Distortions here. I already have and love the doomy sludgy stoner Muff variant fuzz which is the Amethyst Dope - essentially the Dope Fuzz with extra voicings as far as I can see. I may also add a Wolf Distortion to my collection at some stage - these are beautifully designed pedals though inside and out - and pretty much still mostly made to order.
I guess this is the sort of wildcard here, as many would argue that Chaos FX probably rather deserves the 9th spot, but I really like Sitek's versatile Pandora Fuzz - which warrants Sitek's inclusion here. Not a huge range, but somewhat reminiscent styling-wise of Red Witch Pedals - with its female figure outlines. This is a nicely uniformly styled range which is fairly vanilla, but has some very pleasant surprises in amongst the more generic examples.
Taurus is particularly well known for its floor-based Tube Amps - the 'Stomp-Head' range with separate iterations for Bass and Guitar. Some of those pedals are truly gigantic - and event though I selected the smallest of those - the Stomp-Head 1.VT 40W Vintage as the pedal ambassador here - it still has a sizeable form factor. Besides the Stomp-Heads Taurus also has White and Silver series of effects pedals - most different types of drives which follow the same high standard of engineering and design. I obviously just wish that all of these could be a little more compact! There's no doubting the quality though.
I'm not sure why or how I missed out Yankee when I did my piece on Clean Pedal Power - it is one of the 3 most innovative power-supply builders at the moment alongside Cioks and Strymon. And while the Cioks DC7/MaxPower has somewhat taken the adjustability angle to new heights - Yankee has its own smart take on that via digitally definably variable control as on the flagship HS-M24 pedal which is likely the most powerful power-supply unit currently on the market. My pick of the bunch though is the somewhat more compact HS-M5 which is a great alternative to the Strymon Ojai and offers slightly more adjustability. I had considered acquiring and HD-M5 for a while, but went for a T-Rex Fuel Tank Goliath instead at the time - which has a slight hum to it when switched on, so I will be most likely swapping for a Strymon Zuma at some stage (Note video demo above is of HS-M12).
This rather wide-ranging brand was actually unknown to me before this overview but has impressed with its largely uniform design, but more importantly wide scope of effect types targeted. We have a great mix of Utility, Drive and Modulation pedals here in a variety of enclosure sizes - but mostly compacts or medium. Depending on prevailing mood this could have pinned down the 9th spot in the Top 9 above, but lost out to my preference of the Sitek Pandora Fuzz - there was no one pedal in the Sitek range that captivated me to the same degree as that one.
The epitome of a boutique outfit - actually just two models in the current range - good looking but still fairly vanilla Fuzz Face and Klone variants - with also an older now discontinued TS808 clone.
An actually pretty decent range of pedals which covers quite a lot of ground - but could probably benefit from a slightly more uniform and stylised design approach.
Obviously a very high-end boutique amp maker - really beatifully design Amp Heads in particular. They also have a neat line of 5 Drive and Fuzz pedals all in distinctive medium-size enclosures, but not quite as impressive looking as those Amp-Heads. You can't fault the engineering or the sound design here though - definitely worth consideration, and Steve Lukather supposedly favours the flagship Vanilla Sky Overdrive here:
This seems to be a highly collectible range of 70's mostly Wah-style Treadle pedals - or essentially effects with built-in expression pedal as such. With the 'Beat' pedal series particularly popular.
You can't get more elegant than this - a single 4-knob overdrive pedal with 4 specific voicing modes as such - Classic Vintage/New Vintage/British Vintage/Root Vintage. Pedal looks really cool and simple to operate.
I'm not sure this brand is still active as there are no recent updates on their Facebook page and the official website is no more. A pretty uniformly designed range with some impressive fuzz pedals in particular.
Overall Poland has a pretty impressive roster of pedal-builders whether or not you include Hexe in the lineup. I really like what most of these brands are doing - with LongAmp being really impressive with their full range coverage. I will likely acquire a few more of these over the years - particularly from AnalogWise, Hexe, LongAmp, Occvlt - and probably Sitek too.
For hobbyists who enjoy the hunt I would recommend tracking down some of the rarer versions of the Exar pedals - you're obviously competing with Josh Scott here - but if you have contacts in Poland you might have an advantage, as plenty of these were made in their lifetime, and likely most are still to be found within Poland. There are always a number of Reverb.com too - where there is a SF-04 Super Fuzz on sale at the moment.
I'm always fascinated by cultural influence - and try to find patterns in application or design, while for pedals - it is night impossible to judge country of origin from look - and often the look and feel can be entirely mis-leading. I've covered off enclosure design, knob choice and use of graphics recently - and I still feel that the best brands retain a significant degree of uniformity across their range of pedals - but not always, and rarely entirely.
I'm always surprised too by just how many pedal-builders are out there - I'm sure there are many smaller Facebook-only hobbyist builders I've overlooked here, but pretty much every country - actually let's say most countries (bar Iceland currently alas!) have at least one builder of note - and those I've featured here have significantly more. If you were wondering where's USA and Japan? - well those are still the leading pedal builders of the world - and there are just too many brands involved, and too much competition to distil it all down to a Top 9 makers and also rans. You can see on this site that most of the pedals featured here are of USA and Japanese origin - but I do make a concerted effort to uncover and highlight less well known brands too that I've encountered.
I've had numerous conversations over the years with builders and I still try to emphasise how important degree and uniformity of design is - particularly for repeat purchases - but many here just like doing what they do and prefer to keep things as flexible as possible.
As always the purpose of these articles is to unearth brands and pedals you may not have encountered otherwise - to give you more opportunities to find your perfect pedal in each category. This is certainly not Pokemon - as there now far too many pedals out there to collect them all - and we're not just dealing with current active brands but recently discontinued or long-since defunked vintage brands also which still have some gems to offer if you seek them out.