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The Vagaries of Whimsical Waiting Lists and Small Batch Production Pedals

Abracadabra AudioAnalog.ManBitcrushing and Lo-FiBoostBoost and OverdriveCustom TonesDelayDigital DelayDistortionDriveDual-DriveFuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionGermanium FuzzGranular DelayHudson ElectronicsIron EtherKlone and Transparent OverdriveMarshall Style DistortionModulated FuzzModulationMontreal AssemblyMulti-DriveOddball DelayOddball FuzzOpAmp FuzzOverdrivePaul Trombetta DesignRat Style FuzzSilicon FuzzTone Bender Style FuzzToneczarTremoloTrue North Pedals+-
2018GPXWaitingListPedals700-min.jpg

Pretty much everyone is familiar with Mike Piera’s much in demand Analog.Man King of Tone dual channel overdrive - and the fact that if you want one you need to sign up to a waiting list - which means a typical waiting period of one year or more. I believe in extreme cases this has stretched to nearly 2 years, but my understanding is that most buyers get their hand-made pedal within about a year or so. The Analog.Man is still pretty unique in that it comes with a plethora of options - making it very much a custom shop style of pedal - and although the starting price is around $245 - it can quickly ramp up when you start adding options. I actually really like this model of business - it is ultimately fair and reasonable overall, and you do get some say in the pedal you put in an order for.

 

Most of the other pedals featured have few or no options at all - it’s just that hey are hand-made in rather small batches, which means only a very limited amount is available at any given time. The Abracadabra Audio Ayahuasca is another interesting one - which may or may not come with options on specific colourway - I was given a couple of choices on sign-up. The earlier runs of this pedal were strictly limited to USA customers only - so I felt quite lucky to get in on the action in the end. To get an Ayahuasca though you start by signing up to Abracadabra Audio - for a chance to put in an order for the pedal - as in it’s up to them to extend and invitation to you to participate as such. You first need to fill in a questionnaire - in essence stating why you feel you are worthy of the honour of owning such a pedal. At the same time you sign a statement of intent not to sell the pedal for more than you bought it for - preventing the sort of bun-fight scenarios you get with Spaceman Effects.

 

I could have included Spaceman Effects here, but I see them as somewhat different - as they do not have a waiting list, and for the recent launches they have released a few hundred pedals all at the same time - albeit in different colourway runs. Spaceman Zak does still do small batch runs which he auctions on his Reverb Spacelab Orbital Workshop store - which I also see as another thing entirely.

 

Of all these pedals featured here I have acquired two to-date - the Ayahuasca and Ethos TWE-1, and most of the others are still high on my wishlist. In fact I’m trying to pin down one of Michael Hudson’s Dual Footswitch Broadcast pedals right now - they’re currently sold out everywhere and disappear very quickly when they get into distribution. You can no longer order direct from Michael, so you need to get on the pre-order / waiting list of your nearest or next-in-line stockist.

 

There’s a couple of perennial wishlist entries here too in the shape of the Iron Ether Frantabit Bitcrusher and Montreal Assembly Count to Five Granular Delay - both of those have been on my wishlist for a while, but I’ve not got around to acquiring either yet. These are both small batch manufacture pedals - where runs are periodically released - and you need to be quick to react to snap up those available. In some cases you can pre-order, but mostly it’s just a case of waiting - ever-ready and poised on standby to pull that trigger. True North’s Tweed Drive is another of these kinds of small batch run pedals - that need to be ordered via the maker’s Facebook Book page - that maker is one Sheldon Ens of Waldheim, Saskatchewan, Canada - this will probably be one of my next targets.

 

Toneczar is one Californian Ed Rembold who’s been making quite expensive but very unique and super high quality pedals for nearly a decade and a half now - I really like the look of his Vault High Gain Fuzz - so that’s on the list too. As a huge fuzz fan, I’m also itching to get one of Paul Trombetta’s Bone Machine GTx’s or a fully loaded Mini-Bone GeSi - alas Paul has currently suspended his waiting-lists preferring to just make individual pedals which go on sale on his website as soon as they’re ready. To make matters worse, these are currently always accompanied by the legend ’Ships to US only’ - which is rather irksome!

 

As for the most celebrated waiting list pedal of all time probably - the venerable King of Tone, I’m not sure I want one - I’m more inclined to go for the single pedal Prince of Tone version - with exterior voicing toggle!

 

As to how many of these I will eventually get is anyone’s guess - there is of course a pecking order of priority / preference, and pricing is an impact factor as much as availability and waiting time. I do find this sort of system innately fairer though than super limited run batches which go straight to auction - as that is just silly inflationary madness. The added downside for us UK buyers is that most of these pedals are still made in the USA - which means we have to add often quite significant delivery charges, and very significant customs import charges on top of the final price! Some pedals you may consider worth this extra hassle - and some not.

 

Me personally - I kind of like this sort of micro-production, and that we pedal buyers can still largely buy pedals from anywhere in the world - understanding that the smaller outfits are just one guy in a workshop - who painstakingly assembles everything by hand - which of course takes a while. There are several more such pedals I have not listed here - like the McSpunckle Gnomeratron Fuzz - but I stuck with the more obvious examples of this type of thing. Frequently I cannot be bothered to wait, and choose something which is more readily available - which I guess is the same for most of you.

 

What I’ve noticed increasingly though is that even those pedal-makers with broad international distribution, are more and more starting to offer limited run specials on their own websites - either very specific colourways, or else modifications of the standard product run - as can be exemplified most recently by Keeley’s Retro Super Phat Mod - which yes I put in an order for ...

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand as usual:


Abracadabra Audio Ayahuasca Trem-Fuzz - $399

This is a wonderful addition / extension to Joel Korte's Chase Bliss Audio range - being devised and overseen by a separate collective of musicians and artists, even though still manufactured by Joel Korte's team, and comes in a black Chase Bliss Audio embossed / stamped wooden box. As I've noted before - this is the combination of the Gravitas Tremolo with a rather unusual Regulus VII style Fuzz - giving you a vast range of tones and textures - with all the usual Chase Bliss touches like Bounce Ramping etc. This proved a rather pricey endeavour for me - including delivery and customs charges, but I would still do it again - and hope to pick up further Abracadabra releases as and when they happen. The earlier batch runs of the pedals seemed to be available for US customers only this latest batch was available internationally to a few lucky buyers.

 

Waiting List = small batches, by invitation only, pedal shipped circa 30 days after payment


Analog.Man King of Tone Overdrive - $245+

In many ways the King of Tone is kind of the archetypal dual channel / dual drive pedal where you can stack the two sides together. The fiddly bit is that you need to access internal dip-switches to select either Boost, Overdrive or Distortion voicing per channel. I kind of prefer the single channel Prince of Tone which has the mode switch as an external 3-way toggle. I have plenty of Boost pedals already in my chain, so I don't necessarily need the dual channel version - if I did I might just prefer to have 2 Princes of Tone. I'm really not a fan of internal dip-switches - which is why all my Mini Xotic Effects pedals - EP, SL and SP are of the modified Alchemy Audio type with externalised toggle switches. Most know that the King of Tone / Prince of Tone started off as early Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal clones but have evolved somewhat since then. I have a Modified Snouse BlackBox V2 for that same kind of tone, and I'm also looking at a VFE Blues King - as well as the Prince of Tone of course.

 

Waiting List = typically a year to 18 months from order currently, occasionally as much as 2 years


Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1 Overdrive - $225

This Trainwreck Express amp clone has a rather unusual control topology, but is hugely versatile with a lot of bark, bite and some serious bottom end achieved by tweaking the various dials and switches. Custom Tones are most famous for their line of Ethos Dumble-style pre-amp pedals, so the TWE-1 is a very slight departure from that, and in a more compact form factor. I used to have a specific Dumble-style slot in my pedal-chain - it is currently occupied by this pedal! I decided last year that I would order it at the start of this year, and it took until the second week of April I believe to arrive - which is sort of per expectations. This is a great amp-like PreAmp style pedal - well worth the wait.

 

Waiting List = typically 3 months from order


Hudson Electronics Dual Footswitch Broadcast - £169

ichael Hudson's Dual Broadcast pedal is in very heavy demand right now. In fact such is the demand that this pedal is currently sold out worldwide - with not a single pedal available anywhere - not with any official stockist, not on Reverb.com or Ebay. I've chased up Michael himself who has indicated which stockists are likely to be re-supplied first. So the waiting list here shifts from the pedal-maker to the reseller - where you need to go on their pre-order / waiting list to be in with a fighting chance. This is a deceptively simple Germanium drive / fuzz pedal with plenty of range and the ability in the dual footswitch version to go from regular drive channel to fully saturated mode. This is a gorgeous sounding pedal with lots of lovely harmonic detail and should be well worth the wait. Depending on you local supplier, the waiting list could be anything from 1 to 3 months.

 

Waiting List = typically a couple of months or so currently


Iron Ether Frantabit Bitcrusher - $235

Iron Ether is one Taylor Livingstone who makes a great small range of innovative pedals - of which I have had several of his on my wishlist over the years. But the main one of his I'm after is the Frantabit BitCrusher which is batch-manufactured a few times each year. Of his range of 10 pedals only one is currently available. I've seen the Frantabit available several times, but each batch sells out very quickly and the gap between batches can be as much as 6 months. Bass players in particular are fans of Iron Ether pedals, but most of these work just as well on guitar - there's probably quite a few here I would like to add - including the FMeron FM Synth and Xerograph Deluxe Envelope Filter.

 

Waiting List = small batch manufacture with gaps of up to 6 months


Montreal Assembly Count to Five Granular Delay - $250

This is another small batch pedal builder - Scott Monk, who has built up legendary status largely on the back of the much loved 'Count to Five' granular delay. Scott also has the Your and You're Fuzz and very unique Looper/Sample Sequencer 856 for Zellersasn - moreover there is a great Schumann PLL 'PurPLL' pedal on the way. In any case none of these are available right now, but do appear periodically in small batches and get pretty much snapped up instantaneously. I've had the 'Count to Five' delay on my wishlist for a good couple of years now, but have always had another priority at the time and budgets already allocated - I will get this pedal eventually though - it really is that great!

 

Waiting List = small batch manufacture with gaps of up to 6 months


Paul Trombetta Bone Machine GTx / Mini-Bone GeSi - c$280

Paul Trombetta is a rather unusual case as it goes. He used to have extensive waiting lists for his beautifully hand-etched and hand-made pedals which I guess got rather too much for him in the end - looming deadlines and always there pressure to deliver. So of late he's suspended the waiting lists and taken to do just producing what he wants, when he wants - which means that a single pedal periodically appears on his website store and is of course immediately taken by one of the many Trombetta enthusiasts. The extended range of 14 pedals has many classics within it, but I am most interested in the multi-mode / multi-switch Tone Bender style kitchen-sink fuzz pedals - the Mini-Bone GeSi, and in particular - the fully loaded Bone Machine GTx - neither of which I have seen available for over a year now. Examples do pop up occasionally on Reverb, but usually not the more recent fully-loaded versions. To make matters somewhat worse - Paul usually posts up the legend 'Ships to US only' on his store - which is somewhat inconvenient. All in all this is a somewhat peculiar operation - but there is no doubting the quality of the finished pedals.

 

Waiting List = individual pedals made on a whim and put on sale on web-store when ready - typically around monthly or so, but you can have gaps of several months


Toneczar Vault High-Gain Fuzz - $395

I've mostly been aware of Ed Rembold's Toneczar pedals via watching demos on Dennis Kayzer's YouTube Channel. In the early years (established 2004) there was quite the buzz around a number of Toneczar pedals - including the Echoczar Delay, and Halophaze Phaser. Ed now operates solely from online orders - which means fairly lengthy waiting lists in particular for the Echoczar - of between 6 months and a year or so I'm led to believe. As a Fuzz fan, it's Ed's High Gain Vault Fuzz that I'm most interested in which should be available circa 6 months from order.

 

Waiting List = 6 months to a Year, longer for the Echoczar


True North Tweed Drive - $159

Sheldon Ens' True North operation is fairly new to me, but I do like the look and sound of his Tweed Drive pedal - which is made in small batches of 20 or so and sold exclusively through his True North Pedals Facebook page. This is currently the lowest cost of the pedals featured here - but note that UK buyers will need to pay more for shipping and customs charges - meaning that overall the Hudson Electronics pedals are the most cost-effective. I've kind of made my mind up that the Hudson Dual Broadcast is my next acquisition in this list, with the True North Tweed Drive not too far after.

 

Waiting List = small batch manufacture with gaps of 2 or 3 months on availability


Final Thoughts

I feel most of these pedals kind of fall within the luxury bracket of pedals - even the lower cost ones here - simply because of the difficultt of acquisition and replacement. A jobbing journeyman musician might struggle to have one of these as one of their main pedals - as things can and will often frequently go wrong - particularly when subjected to the rigours of touring. Which is why so many leading musicians rely on readily and widely available standard Boss, EHX, MXR and TC Electronic pedals or get someone like Johnny Balmer at Alchemy Audio to sort them out with a couple of backups.

 

As a result I think most of these end up on Home-players' pedalboards where robust reliability and servicing aren't key factors. There's also a certain luxury in being able to wait up to 2 years for a pedal - no way can that be your main pedal - as you need to have something else in place first. So these pedals are sort of the equivalent of weekend runarounds / sports cars that stay in the garage for large periods of the year.

 

In fact, much like with Vinyl Records - there is a sort of uglier profiteering side to this business where certain individuals buy those pedals simply to resell later on Reverb.com or Ebay at hugely inflated prices. Which is why I quite like the Abracadabra approach and mission statement. These are after all practical musical instruments meant for playing with and through. I feel that far too many Spaceman Effects buyers nowadays are simply buying the pedals for re-sale. You can already see the number of second-hand mint Nebula pedals up on Reverb.com. This unnecessarily inflates and keeps pedals out of the hands of those what would best use them. Overall I feel that the Analog.Man type of system is the fairest as there is always availability there - just a little out of reach on the time-curve. While other batch-type manufacturing examples can be very random and haphazard - most of us consumers want consistency, reliability and transparency - and you really get that with Analog.Man.

 

The reason why many don't bother to participate in this waiting-list malarky is that they simply cannot be bothered to wait for that long. I guess it depends to a large degree on budgets and what else you currently have in place on your board. There is such broad availability of pedals now from pretty much every country in the world, that there is no lack of alternatives and options. In fact there have been quite a slew of dual-channel / dual-drive pedals which provide some degree of competition for the King of Tone albeit not necessarily like-for-like - and example being the relatively recent Keeley D&M Drive.

 

Where I am within all of this is fairly haphazard - I myself don't really like waiting, but if it's really worth it then I am prepared to hold out a while. It's still for me a matter of priority, availability and price - which of course includes delivery charges and customs / import charges. Sometimes you're up for the wait and sometimes you frankly can't be bothered ...

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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