As reported elsewhere on this blog, I have something of a love-hate relationship with the venerable Spaceman Effects marque and its Reverb.com store-front - Spacelab Orbital Workshop. The latter sees alternating bouts of super limited special flash sales and slightly more leisurely auctions - as is occurring right now on Reverb.com and is the theme of this piece.
I was late to the party on Spaceman Effects, in fact taking a most unseemly hiatus from my teenage years through to just a couple of years ago when I rekindled my passions for everything electric guitar. I then kind of let my pursuit of the Spaceman Gemini III blind me - as its now circa £900+ Reverb.com ticket price - plus delivery and customs / import charges makes it something of a fool’s errand.
I’m not sure how many Spaceman pedals there are in Europe, but I was lucky enough to come across a mint condition Red Cyrillic Sputnik I in Italy - via Reverb.com of course - which made the whole acquisition somewhat more comfortable than having to add sky-high delivery charges and customs and import charges on top of an already inflated price. I was indeed lucky to come across that one, and then my Titan II winch came via a special limited time offer on the official Spaceman Effects site.
I’ve said before that I’m fine with Spaceman Zak making revenues any way he sees fit, although artificially constrained production kind of grates against my sense of justice and fairness at times (Zak can after all just wheel out a new colour scheme any time he likes - do a small batch and then step back and watch the ensuing bun-fight). My Scandinavian self won’t allow me to overstep certain thresholds of reasonability, and thus these auctions are kind of self-defeating for me.
The rarest pedal on sale is actually the lowest-cost one currently - the super-rare Blazar Reverse Noise Gate (7 units total) - which though may not be particularly useful for most (it adds white noise when you stop playing!). Then again the highest priced here is a sparkly purple edition of the sold-out Voyager Tremolo which had a maximum retail price of $499 when it came out in 2015 and there was limited stock of that available in distribution as late as 4th quarter 2017.
I have one feasible Spaceman target which is to obtain a decent quality Aphelion Harmonic Overdrive - which was initially out back in 2011, and which sort of dried up a few years ago - though examples do pop up quite regularly. What you will notice is that some of the second-hand pricing is plainly ridiculous, and the pedal condition can be misquoted several times also - so it’s very much a case of buyer beware. In most circumstances the affordable core editions tend to be raw or polished steel, or black. With the most expensive versions typically shiny Chrome and Copper editions. You need to look out for the limited run number which also acts as an indicator of collector desirability.
I generally go for the core editions, but when you’re late to the party you need to take what you can get. As far as the artificially constrained manufacture goes - Zak can keep on releasing unique colourways ad infinitum - whether they are wholly one-off, or one of a few.
As noted elsewhere I was recently ’invited to acquire’ an Acid-etched Ayahuasca Trem-Fuzz from Abracadabra Audio - as part of their terms and conditions you cannot resell the pedal for more than you paid for it - which I really rather like. For Abracadabra it is a matter of limited run batches, but there is none of that 1 of only 10 of this kind ever. Of course Zvex to a degree pioneered the whole unique individually painted pedals approach - while I would always go for the screen-printed Vexter versions - as overall it’s the insides that count! Even though we are frequently led by our eyes as well as our ears.
Analog.Man has another different limited edition approach where you sign up to a waiting list as long as two years in advance - for the King of Tone pedal. With both of those last mentioned approaches you don’t get as much unnecessary price inflation and profiteering. There are several more Spaceman pedals I would like to get my hands on, but pricing will likely prove prohibitive - this includes the very original Rumblefuzz Fuzzstortion, Gemini III Dual Fuzz Generator and Mercury III Harmonic Boost. As it is I am looking to round out my Spaceman trifecta of Sputnik I and Titan II fuzzes with a decent Aphelion which I hope I can eventually get for around £350-£400 - and hopefully from someone already in Europe.
I was tempted to bid for the 2 Aphelions in the auction but they are both likely to go for circa $600 at the final hour I estimate - meaning that with delivery and customs and import charges I would be paying the best part of £600 - which really can’t be properly rationalised against a market valuation of circa £400. Versus the Spaceman Aphelion on the UK side you also have the similarly harmonically rich ThorpyFX Gunshot at £185 including delivery - another one of my wishlist targets - I still need to complete the Thorphy trifecta too of Fallout Cloud, Gunshot and Warthog.
So as with everything in life - it’s all relative, and all comparative. I am largely a patient man though, and I will wait until the time is right and my conditions are met. Boy do I like these Spaceman pedals though - why do they gotta be ’unobtanium’!
Launched : 2016 (7 units) : Last time available - 2016 April Fool's Day
Original Price : $333
Current Ebay Price : N/A
Current Reverb Price : Only Availability in Auction
Current Reverb Auction Price : $200
Note -No demo video currently available
Launched : 2015 (circa 470 units) : Last time generally available - 2017
Original Price : $349-$499 (copper edition)
Current Ebay Price : N/A
Current Reverb Prices : Only Availability in Auction
Current Reverb Auction Price : $930
I use US $ Dollar pricing as it's easier to maintain pricing parity across sites and Spaceman pedals are of course made and mostly distributed in the United States. 99.9% of Spaceman Effects pedals on sale on Reverb.com are from US vendors. UK equivalent pricing is around £1,000, £1,300 and £900 respectively for the above 3 - meaning you really would not wish to have to buy and import from the USA above a certain threshold. As previously pondered, I feel that there are relatively few Spaceman pedals in Europe - and particularly so as concerns the earliest types.
I buy a lot of stuff on Reverb.com and yes, some rather expensive rare pedals too - but very rarely do I buy really pricey ones it must be said. I always talk of the 'Comparative Pedal Acquisition Process' which means comparing and contrasting all the different parameters that may be of importance to you - and obviously including overall pricing, availability and delivery.
The ugly side of being a Spaceman Effects fan means encountering lots of opportunistic non-musician hoarders - who are just looking at making a fast buck by reselling their pedal/s a few months down the road. It's that sort of thing which ruined Record Store Day for me - the real fans were being pushed out by the hucksters who had everything up for sale on Ebay just moments after purchasing.
I fear Spaceman entirely encourages this sort of behaviour which artificially inflates pricing very rapidly out of most people's reach. There is no doubt that the majority of these are really great sounding, as well as aesthetically pleasing pedals. Yet once you get into the upper echelon pricing it proves very difficult to rationalise on a cost to benefit basis - compared to other equivalent best quality component pedals.
Some of these pedals still do rather unique things - in that for me the Gemini III, Sputnik I & II, Explorer, Voyager and Wow Signal are all pretty special - while other varieties are somewhat slightly more vanilla. You have a strange offset between the purely sound and component engineering of someone like Mike Piera, versus the slightly slicker, better branded presentation of Zak Martin. I admire both of these pedal makers - I actually largely prefer Zak's output as I see it as slightly more innovative, but then again I stack that also up against someone like Joel Korte, who is probably my favourite of all those innovative boutique pedal-makers.
One thing Spaceman definitely gets right is desirability, and many long to have an entire pedalboard fully populated with just Spaceman Pedals - bar delay for now of course. In fact there is currently an entire Spaceman Pedalboard on sale at Reverb.com for a princely sum of around $5,700 / £4,330 - featuring mostly the blackout secret mission prototype pedals - as follows an per the above image:
All in all a fairly decent offering, but probably lacking the serial discount it needs to make it worthwhile for most. The pedalboard is a touch 'weathered' let's say but there are certainly several stellar performers here from the Spaceman universe.
For my own needs - the ones I really want are the Rumblefuzz, Mercury III, Gemini III and Aphelion - so it does not quite overlap enough - nor does it make sense for anyone outside of the USA to acquire this at this price leve - the import costs would be ridiculous. Part of me is still of course tempted though, but no - it's overkill really for what I'm after, and I buy my pedals to play them all, not as a collector, although there is still that tiny fragment that is completist.
It's all something of an enigma really trapped in an alternative universe.
Happy pedal-hunting in any case to all the true players.