As I assumed per my first couple of recce’s - Spain was going to be a tricky territory to cover/feature compared to all the others that came before it - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Greece. None of the current Spanish builders have yet attained wholly global recognition as of the moment - unlike a number of brands from the other featured countries.
Probably the most significant Spanish builder to-date has been Roberto García and his ThunderTomate brand - which shipped over 6,000 pedals to the world, but was disbanded some years ago now. Another well-received but disbanded brand is El Músico Loco - set up by American in Spain - Chris Bradford.
We have a notable trio of up-and-comers in the guise of Aclam, my friend Guillem Vilademunt at Decibelics, and Thermion - all of whom are increasingly active and building up significant momentum. Then there are a number of ’drifter’ brands - who are still around but are not necessarily actively engaging with the global audience right now - brands like Ananashead, Don Poniz, Effectivy Wonder and MegaBeat Audio.
I’m obviously a big Decibelics fan - particularly of the Mini pedal versions - and have and love both of those, and I also spent a long time tracking down an El Músico Loco Wee Beaver Fuzz - in the end finding a suitable one in Japan! In terms of further acquisitions - I really like the Don Poniz Piccolo Fuzztotum Gold as featured, and will be trying to track down some of the more notable ThunderTomate pedals - which kind of prove their quality by being singularly unobtanium at the moment - I could not find a single one for sale on any resource!
It seems Spain has had a somewhat checkered past in guitar pedal effects - and I sincerely hope this new age of Pedals will usher in some more sustained success.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand:
Aclam is of course best known for its 'Smart Track' system of Pedalboards - with clever fasteners/mini-clamps to secure your pedals to the board in an easy and extremely flexible manner. A couple of years ago they decided to start making their own pedals too - which include the fasteners within the chassis of the pedal. There are obvious pros and cons to this - which I highlighted at the time of the first pedal - the Cinnamon Drive (60s/70's Tube amp tone). The pedals are somewhat larger than they need to be with an open aperture for the clamp screws - which to my mind are just unnecessary dirt traps. I'm not sure this was the right decision here as it will put customers off who don't have an Aclam Smart Track board, or don't like their pedals quite so over-sized. If this feature absolutely had to be there - which I question, then it should have been more of some sort of fully enclosed thumb-screw which solely protruded from the side of the pedal. So in short I feel this line of pedals has been somewhat compromised by this enforced form factor. I feel the pedals would likely be better received globally without the fasteners in place. What is not in dispute though is the quality of the manufacture or circuits deployed - and both the Cinnamon and DR Robert pedals sound great. The stunning and detailed original artwork by 'Revolver' artist Klaus Voorman and 'Mach Schau!' boost detail make this Vox UL730 replicator a real collector's item. I really like the pedal despite what I consider something of a handicap. As I said before you can't fault the quality or intentions of Aclam, I just feel that some of the considerations/decisions made along the way have been somewhat flawed:
I do seem to come across this brand every now and again - probably more by accident than design. They have a pretty decent range of mostly dirt pedals - boosts, drives and fuzzes, along with a single modulation in the guise of the BJTrem. There's a number of pretty great sounding fuzzes in the range - which of course pique my interest, but my pick of the bunch is the GT73 PreAmp/Overdrive - an excellent pedal replica of the well loved 1973 Matamp GT120. As with many ranges of this ilk I feel branding / identity and uniformity could be stronger - but these are obviously well designed and built pedals (Note that above demo is of larger older pedal version):
Regular readers of this site will be very familiar with my admiration for Guillem Vilademunt's output - and his mini pedals in particular. I actually came across the Golden Horse Mini quite by chance initially - via some post to the Facebook Pedalboards of Doom group - where an early fan of the pedal was showing off his collection of several Decibelics pedals. That alone piqued my interest, and upon further research I found that indeed I somehow preferred the Golden Horse to both my well-loved Mini Tumnus and Tumnus Deluxe pedals. I am typically a 'pedal-tweaker' where the more dials the better typically works for me - and I did not think it was possible for a mini 3-knob pedal to displace my then favourite Tumnus Deluxe. But something about the Golden Horse somehow captivated me - in terms of the amazing standard of engineering employed and the precision and range in each of those 3 metallic knobs. I have said before that the tone control here is genius - but the Volume and Gain knobs are just as precise and wide-ranging. I still feel that the Golden Horse is THE brand ambassador for Mini Pedals - and is the benchmark for how well things can be done in this format. Of course the brand new Angry Swede is no slouch either - and is the perfect pedal for you if you're looking for as exact a replica of the original as possible. The diminutive form factor is just another bonus here. The power of delivery and the output Volume in particular seem all the more impressive for it. It is no doubt the perfect HM-2 clone and for all budding Death-Metallers out there - it makes ultimate sense to spring for one of these rather than a pricey second-hand Boss original of questionable provenance. I so like the Golden Horse that I won't even deign to look at the larger sized alternatives here - which do both benefit from additional internal clipping dip-switch. I understand why some players might choose to go with the Little Big Clone. I still don't understand those though that prefer the somewhat over-sized original chassis - I personally will always aim for the most compact pedal with the best combination of features and tonal output!
Before doing this research I truly was not aware of the Don Poniz brand of pedals - which currently has no official site, choosing to connect with the world solely via Facebook page and YouTube Channel. I assume you email Don Poniz direct and he issues a PayPal invoice or similar if you wish to buy one these mostly Fuzz pedals - which seems to be dominated by the Fuzztotum series - which suits me just fine as a fuzz fanatic. I thought it apt to choose one of the Fuzztotums as the pick of the bunch, and the Golden Vox Tone Bender style one is the one that appeals to me the most here:
I first came across this brand courtesy of its Winona Ryder / Winona Driver branded TS808 style pedals. I fear they skirt quite close to litigation territory, but get around it by making these solely as custom orders to a customer's preferences. The Winona Driver, Stranger (Things) Fuzz, Adventure Phaser etc. can only be made to order - and are actually internally quite vanilla, while there are also more technical pedals here like the Black Hole PolyChorus (My pick of the bunch), Cy-Vorg Warp Sound, Doomsday Machine Stereo Fuzz, FG3 3-Band Formant Generator and Juno Stereo Chorus. There are lots of smaller fledgling mostly custom pedal builders that utilise pop-art graphics and themes which would have to be properly licensed if they ever hit the mainstream. So there is obviously a healthy dose of associative nostalgia and novelty which underlines much of this line of pedals - but there are some gems here too - I of course would prefer them to be in slightly more compact enclosures too!:
Electronic Engineer and Musician Chris Bradford re-located to Denia, Spain and initially started making pedals for friends before launching El Músico Loco in circa 2010. The first pedal was the Honky Dong Booster and then the various fuzzes etc. just followed on naturally. I've come across the Wee Beaver Fuzz on numerous occasions - a really fierce sort of Muff-style fuzz which totally belies its tiny dimensions. I've actually been trying to find one of those for a very long time - before I tracked down a suitable example in Japan - courtesy of Ebay actually on this occasion. The business seemingly did not take off for whatever reason, but has left a quite wonderful legacy of uniformly appealing etched/engraved steel enclosure pedals - many of which are still available on Reverb.com.
This is a bit of a wild card listing here as I was struggling to pick a 9th significant Spanish builder/brand. MegaBeat has a very small range of pretty much utility pedals, but I really like the idea of their Darth Fader. The newer version is yellow lettering onto black enclosure - slightly more refined than the above, but I was unable to source suitable photography of the newer one - so I feature the V1 here - which is also actually the one in the demo video. You get 3 knobs to set degree of fade out/in the mode knob sets Out/Both/In, then you have 1-40 second duration and degree of fade in decibels 10-60. Finally you have 3 onboard presets and appropriate coloured LEDs to reflect status. So a sort of Fade / Volume Swell Pedal as such - which I feel could be significantly improved with more features and modulations. Also I question whether you can do Fade In/Out as well as Out/In - I guess it just depends where in the cycle you start, but I feel you may have to set it in a certain way in advance - meaning possibly that you would need 4 In/Out/InOut/OutIn options I suppose. In any case - this neatly enables you to circumvent faffing around with a volume pedal!:
Principally an Amp maker, I have watched this brand somewhat rise in prominence of late with a compact but capable range of drive/distortion pedals in particular, a really neat compact delay, and a well-featured Rotary Speaker style effect. I spotted them at the relatively recent Birmingham Guitar Show, but at that time could not instantly recall the brand. Overall I feel the range is well thought out and relatively harmonious - while the branding could be slightly more prominent for more impact and association. I was always likely to select either the Breakthru or Heartbreaker as my pick of the punch here - and I settled on the sparkly Blizzard of Nails Vox style tones of the former:
I am somewhat sad that this tremendous brand seems to be no more - as I consider Roberto García's ThunderTomate brand to be the preeminent Spanish Pedal Brand to-date. Despite superior aesthetics and tones, and universally positive reviews/reception - all that seemed insufficient to sustain the longer-term viability of this brand, or Roberto let it go for other unknown reasons. I actually only came across it some years after its dissolution - when researching Brian May Vox style tones and encountering the various Dani/Danny Gómez Signature pedals by ThunderTomate. Daniel Gómez being Spain's representative for Brian May guitars, as well as an extraordinary Brian-May-Style player himself. Besides the Vox-like Tube Amp Emulators, ThunderTomate is particularly well known and regarded for its Analog Delay and Phil Hilborne Fat TB (Treble Booster) which used to be available on Phil's site until very recently. I feel that pretty much everything was right about this brand - aesthetics, control topology, enclosures etc. and of course 'Toanz'. So I am somewhat surprised it is no longer around. I've been looking out for ThunderTomate pedals for the best part of 18 months now - and still not encountered any in the wild as it were - even though more than 6,000 are out there somewhere. My pick of the bunch and the one that I want the most is the earliest Dani Gomes AC30/Vox pedal with effects loop and tone control on the boost - it was a forerunner to the T.A.E. series, and I consider it the best of the bunch - but I guess only very few were made (Note that above video demo actually features the T.A.E. V3 with UK Brian May guitar specialist Jamie Humphries):
This seems to be a somewhat fledgling brand with the main website undergoing re-design, and just a couple of official pedals in the range so far - the Dr. Fuzz (FF?) and Dr. Screamer (808?). Not that much more to report at the moment as there are very few references on this brand to-date:
DAGPedals seems to be another fledgling pedals with several in the works and being finalised - including a series with Skull motif. This is pretty much entirely a Fuzz and Drive pedal specialist with some intriguing offerings for sure - a little early days though for a full verdict - file under encouraging!:
Delcam Audio is principally a boutique amp manufacturer - they make beautiful amp heads with carved / etched wooden facias and complementary Cabinets of course. They also have 3 dual footswitch medium enclosure pedals in the range - A Dual Channel Boost/Overdrive/Distortion - The Nameless King, Distortion + Boost - California Doom, as well as an Octave Fuzz - Mr Fox MK2. The Nameless King is firmly in KOT territory - sort of Bluesbreaker/JTM45, the California Doom is based on the Sunn Model T, and the Mr Fox is your classic sort of Octavia with separate Octave footswitch, along with clipping and fat-tone-shaping toggle options. As I already have the all-singing and dancing JHS 4-Star Modded version of the KOT and a tonne of cool Octave Fuzzes, my pick here would likely be the California Doom with its 3-band EQ and additional gain stage options. A very good looking and well-made compact range of pedals:
Faustone AKA Fausto Pérez has been going for a while, but the Amp and Pedal business has become less important in Fausto's life of late where his life is evidently moving in a different direction. He does though have a couple of semi-active projects and is open to the very occasional build - which tends to be rather sporadic nowadays, and is not really for anyone in any hurry! He has a couple of what I consider somewhat over-sized traditional style pedals listed - the vintage style Fuzz Unit and Tube-powered Valve Klipper - and you would need to contact him though his site and negotiate/bribe as appropriate!
This is principally an Amp builder with a pretty significant range of Heads, Combos and Cabs, and just the one medium gain Drive Pedal. That one drive pedal being the GTA AcePow which allows you to switch between two gain settings and has a sort of 'Pow' boost toggle - hence earning its Double Overdrive moniker:
LME do a mix of mods and own-line pedals with a variety of custom finishes. They very much sit in the usual Boost/Drive/Fuzz kind of territory, and while there are some interesting aesthetics here, there is not much else for me at least to single these out as particularly distinct or unique:
A pretty decent traditional looking range of pedals many with vintage hammerite style finishes. Typically 2 and 3 knob affairs - apart from the very interesting looking Bass King - which is a dedicated Bass guitar pedal - and thus not really for me - but really the pick of the bunch here!:
Massive Unity seems to straddle both UK and Spain, and has something to do with Dani/Daniel/Danny Gómez mentioned in the ThunderTomate feature above. Being a fan of the ThunderTomate T.A.E. I sprung for the newer Massive Unity 1964 TAE PreAmp assuming it to be some sort of derivation - which still took me a while to track down, but which I ended up being somewhat disappointed with as it's no way near as dynamic as my Bearfoot FX Emerald Green Distortion Machine - which also seems to have more range and oomph to it. I'm not sure if I'm somehow using the 1964 TAE wrong - I've made several attempts to get on with it, but I cannot get it to perform to even Catalinbread Galileo levels, let along EGDM's peak prowess. I find the enclosure somewhat over-sized and awkward - just not sure about this pedal at the moment - but I'm still giving it a chance to persevere and come good!
This simply put is the Spanish BYOC - you can buy these pedals in both Kit and Assembled form - at various levels - just the circuit boards even if you wish. They are all very obviously named and typically very anonymously branded. This is quite an extensive range of clones - less so Boss for whatever reason, but several replicas of BJFe, DOD, Keeley, Lovepedal, Mad Professor, MXR, Xotic and Zvex pedals etc. By all accounts a decent proposition at a fair price, but surely some of the naming is skating well onto thin ice?:
Javier Rubio is a Spaniard transplanted to Offenbach, Germany so I originally just included the Servus! Pedale entry under Germany - where I've now decided it should sit here too after a few said that I really should include it under Spain. As mentioned previously I believe Javier is best known for his Yodelmaster / Yodelino Delay & Echo Pedals - but he also has the really cool GLAM Programmable Analog High Gain Distortion and A Sound Odyssey Programmable Reverb - the range is developing nicely:
A range of 6 Boxing-themed pedals - drive, fuzz, tremolo and delay. At one stage I was considering the Punch Drunk for one of the 9 featured slots - but failed to find suitable product shots, and then decided that the MegaBeat Audio Darth Fader was probably a little more significant / appealing. Nonetheless a decent range of well-designed pedals with an appealing feature set:
So Spain was a bit of a struggle in several ways - with a certain lack of information and transparency in many places, and a lack of references / usable product shots etc. I did though persevere and feel I've produced a pretty decent overview of Spanish pedal-builders.
The above listing has quite a lot of 'Vox' in it with the Aclam Dr Robert, Thermion Breakthru, ThunderTomate AC30/T.A.E. and Massive Unity 1964 T.A.E. - There is also quite a lot of Fuzz which is usually the case with many of these smaller brands - they mostly tend to be about Boost, Drive and Fuzz pedals - with perhaps a coupe of modulations - a Chorus or Phaser and Delay!
I find it slightly odd that Spain's pedal prominence is relatively weak compared to most other populous European countries - especially say compared to Greece. There is no Spanish brand that comes anywhere close to Crazy Tube Circuits, JAM Pedals or Tsakalis. I feel every country should have at least one brand of International renown - and most seem too.
I of course encountered a number of the usual 'solo workshop brands' with somewhat inconsistent designs and branding, but that is entirely understandable in the circumstance. There are of course a number of up-and-comers which may be quite significant in the years to come - I'm really looking forward to seeing those brands expand and thrive.
As for the mystery of ThunderTomate's demise - I would love it if someone could clue me in on that - and what happened to Roberto García - where he ended up. I would love to see some sort of revival there.
As per usual I like all the pedals that go into my top 9 - and for sure I will be trying to pin down a ThunderTomate or two, otherwise I really like the Dr Robert - just not in that enclosure! While the most likely additions are the GT73 and Breakthru.
As always - this type of article takes a heavy toll on this author - I feel I can do a couple more on this theme before I need to move along with slightly more straight-forward fayre! Although I'd quite like to get this series to 10.