pedal building cost?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by retitled, Jan 1, 2005.

  1. retitled


    Feb 13, 2004
    forest hills
    how much would it cost to make a pedal? if it depends ont eh pedal type, can u specify an average for a type of pedal?

    plus does anybody here know how to make them?
  2. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    A whole lot more than to buy one, plus it looks like homemade junk when you're done, assuming it even works.

    Modding or repairing effects is cost-effective. Building them from scratch just plain isn't, even if you're a skilled electronics assembler (which I am). The cases, switches, pots and jacks alone will just eat you up, never mind the actual circuitry.

    Modern effects - as opposed to old-line stuff like Tubescreamers or DS-1s - are extremely complex devices typically involving subminiature surface-mount technology. You can't easily homebuild this stuff.

    I wish this wasn't true, but unfortunately it is.

    This doesn't stop some people; they're known as "terminal geeks." :)

    You'll be money ahead buying used or at long discount new. I buy mint used stomps for a fraction of what I could ever build them for. They look good and they work.

    If this hasn't stopped you in your tracks, go ahead and search for the Geofex homebuilt site for some good circuits.
  3. RyanHelms


    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    You need to break it down, man.
    -typical Hammond aluminum enclosure - $10
    -decent 3PDT footswitch for that true bypass *and* LED - $7
    -input/output jacks $2
    -control pots (we'll say a minimum of two, depending on the effect) - $2
    -parts (that's a tough one. quantity buying, circuit parts count, etc.) we'll say $5 for the sake of argument.

    So far you're looking at under $30, but how about knobs for those pots? And a battery snap and holder? How about a blue LED for 5x as much any other color? Oh yeah, can't forget the sockets for the IC's and transistors. Perfboard to put the parts on? Or maybe etch some PCB's (that means blank boards, developing solution, and etching solution) Maybe a new soldering iron, solder, and hook-up wire while you're at it.

    Yeah, DIY *seems* like a way to save $ but can sink ya.

    On the other hand,
    -plugging in to your new, handmade by you pedal and using it? And it works? Priceless. :cool:

    You need to look here.
  4. mikeboth

    mikeboth The last thing you'll ever see

    Jun 14, 2002
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Operator: prophecysound systems
    Not all of them .... ;)

    The 'actual' circuitry is a very small proportion of the cost in just about all effects. Building from scratch IS cost-effective as long as you don't value your time much; in most cases you would be better off finding a 'real' job for that time, working to earn money, then spending that money on an effect. However, if you just don't have the bread OR (more significantly) you want to build things 'your way' then DIY is a good way to go.

    Untrue - just about all modern analog effects do NOT use surface-mount technology and can easily have equivalents made using through-hole parts at home by DIYers. Even surface-mount assembly isn't that hard with a steady hand and a fine tip on your soldering iron. Digital effects we'll ignore completely due to the steep learning curve and costs with DSP etc - for now. :)

    I think you've been a little too negative on the DIY aspects of pedal building. True, it shouldn't be seen as a way to save money, UNLESS you really want to get stuck into building things that sound more like the way YOU want them to sound and not the way they come stock. Also, having some basic DIY construction/soldering skills gives people the confidence to maintain and repair their own gear, as well as improving knowledge and understanding of what happens to the audio signal once it leaves the pickups. This knowledge can be priceless.

  5. You’re going to do DIY because:

    a] you’ve got nothing better to do with your time [i.e. it’s a hobby]
    b] you want a unique set of effects.

    It takes time, patience and money but can also be a lot of fun and very rewarding.

    I built up all the pedals [follow link in my sig – pic is about 1/2 down the Music page] on my board with a buddy except the Pigtronix [that one I did the industrial design and had manufactured in China] last winter. We built up 2 [sometimes 3] of each circuit and were able to do them for around $40-$50 CDN per pedal through the economies of scale. Gearing up for one pedal would be totally cost-prohibitive. Because the Hammond boxes look cheap but are actually quite expensive, I opted for the super-ghetto ammo cans – they cost around $9 and don’t pretend to look good – besides, they make a great conversation piece and get tons of respect. Enclosures can be the single most expensive part of your pedal followed by jacks, switches and power.

    If you plan on DIY, do it for the fun of it. If you’re trying to save money I’d suggest you follow the advice of some of the previous posters.
  6. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    I have never seen a homebuilt that had decent presentation.

    Not one, and I've seen hundreds of them.

    I've seen some (and few) that looked about on par with an old ProCo Rat, but none that were up to the standards of a modern new pedal. The DIY boxes are crude, relatively flimsy stampings with improvised graphics barely better than Dymo tape.

    There's no reason why they can't be adequate looking, but for some reason they never are.

    On a primitive distortion effect, the PCB is $8-$15 (even simple breadboard is around $3) and the on-board components can be anywhere from $3-$20 or more, depending on whether exotic vintage ICs, hand-selected obsolete germanium device or some other exotica is required.

    I don't see how. I can't imagine spending less than $30 on parts for even a very primitive device, and I can't remember ever paying more than $30 for any effect I own, either off of eBay on on sale at MF, GC or other retailer -- and I have a bunch, some of which are fairly high-end units. All of them are better-looking, better-working and more durable than improvised homebuilt stuff. If you don't have a line on a wholesale source for your parts and have to go local retail through someplace like Radio Shack, the cost will probably be about twice that.

    You are right that in some cases you may wish to build something you can't find ready made, such as this filtered power supply, but that's probably only because I have all the major parts around here.

    The last two analog effects I bought had at least 100-125 subminiature components on relatively small boards, along with multiple switches and jacks. Even if someone could get the right PCBs for such a device, not one musician in a thousand could pull of the construction of something like this in a month. Nobody can: These are machine-built boards. With through-board components, these effects would be at least the size of shoeboxes -- if you could get a schematic to work out a conversion.

    I think I've been pretty rigorously realistic, and that's based on my past professional experience as an electronics assembler of high-end PTP audio gear.

    Wait, you're backtracking now!

    Again, note that I said it WAS a good idea and very cost effective to MODIFY existing commercial units. It only takes a couple of bucks to do the $80 "brand name" conversions of various common stomps.

    Or at least valuable in a pinch.

    That's not the same thing as saying it's a good cost-saving idea to scratchbuild stompboxes.

    Modding and/or repairing commercial units is a much less frustrating and expensive way of getting some of that experience.

    Otherwise, you're money way ahead to shop hard on commercial units, as I do.
  7. elros


    Apr 24, 2004
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    In my experience, there isn't money to save on building FX pedals yourself; unless we're talking about vintage stuff that sell for insane sums of money...
    If you want an MXR or EH or Dunlop something-or-other, it's cheaper (and often better) to buy the thing than to DIY - unless you happen to have the parts sitting around.

    DIY stuff is good for building stuff that can't be bought.
    I built myself an EH Bass µsynth some years ago when they weren't available from EH.
    I''ve also built the phaser from the Quadra synth - great stuff.
    Not to mention the Frequency Shifter... but that one was a huge project.
  8. I have seen a few nice looking ones, but the looks don't really matter anyways imo.

    Honestly, that's plain nonsense, a simple breadboard usually costs less than $1 (if you make your own pcbs the first one might cost $15, but when you have the etching chemicals and stuff, which usually come in packages suficient for ~50 pcbs, it only costs as much as a blank which should cost ~$1.50) and the ONBOARD components, even for complex effects rarely surpass $6 (and just about never reach $20, digital might be a little different, but let's ignore that for now). About the exotic parts: Vintage ICs - Stay away from them, no matter if they are in a certain effect, there are better ones available -- hand-selected germanium transistors - If you think you absolutely *need* them, banzaieffects sells handselected pairs for $6.50 (if you select yourself you could probably get some even cheaper), but you should remember that just about no effects builder (except perhaps boutique builders with pedals for $200+) will use that kind of stuff -- miscellaneous exotica - usually there is a way to replace them with something else without any audible difference

  9. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    Please, links! I would really like to see them.

    It's go/no-go for me. I don't want ugly stuff associated with what I do musically. It personally depresses me and degrades my presentation in front of others. I don't want to have to look at or be seen with homemade crap. It sticks out like a sore a jab in the eye with a dirty stick.

    Most people feel the same way, if not as intensely.

    I spent some time trying to develop true pro graphics methods for homebuilt gear, but never got a chance to try it all out before dismissing homebuilt effects as hopelessly uneconomic anyway. I shopped component sources for about two months, and even with the longest deals and counting my time as worth US$0.00/hr. I just couldn't have it make any sense at all compared to shopping hard for deals on real effects. :meh:
  10. RyanHelms


    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH

    Yeah, you're right - these all look like junk :rolleyes: C'mon man. Not to mention that l0calh05t is right, the point of DIY is doing it yourself (as the acronym implies, ha, ha) but you *can* get them looking good with a little love.

    Hammond boxes look cheap but are quite expensive Verne? You can put most any pedal circuit in a 1590BB at $10 a piece - some sanding , a few coats of your favorite automotive color from a touch-up spray can or hammertite finish and they look as good as any MXR box.

    And another thing - why spend $300 on a boutique pedal when you can clone it for $30? Maybe, just maybe you might need to find some matched germanium trannys (easy) or a not-so-available opamp for example (couple extra dollars) but you're still coming out ahead.

    I'ld encourage anyone interested in building analog effects to give it a try. That being said, one of the first things mentioned in the FAQ over at is something like "if you're after a DOD/BOSS/MXR type circuit that's commercially available, go ahead and buy it"...probably trying to spare the fair weather curiosity types from ending up with an incurable case of DIY-itis :D
  11. Nice looking pedals. Where I am [Canada] a mid-size hammond runs around $35. If I ordered something from the US, by the time I deal with exchange, shipping, customs and taxes, I'm paying about the same. Besides, they're STOMP boxes - they're meant to be stepped on, have beer spilt all over them and otherwise be abused to death. Way I figure, with all the wars going on, they'll be lots of used ammo cans around real cheap for a long time to come. :D

    But this thread does raise the whole "image" thing. Some people are in this for the music and fun, others like to pose. Why else do all those expensive axes sell so well? Sure there are subtle differences, but as the guy's in luthiers corner are [very] quick to point out, you can string up and mount a set of pups on a piece of concrete and get about the same sound as from a hi-quality piece of crafted "boutique" wood. [don't get on me about this, it's what they seem to be saying down there].
  12. If that's $35 canadian it's not that bad, but you should check shop around some more usually you can get them cheaper (in germany, some shops sell them for 25€ others for 10€, you just have to find them)

    Anyways, ammo cans should work as well.

    Actually, the harder the wood (ebony anyone?) the more similar it will sound to concrete, but concrete is usually a bit heavier :p
  13. RyanHelms


    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    You got that right... I've heard of/seen other guys using ammo cans - where do you find'em? How do they hold up? Do they drill easily? Cooler vibe I think than RACO boxes, though there *is* a certain industrial thing going on what with the knockouts and open corners ;)

    BTW, I found those pedal pics online, they're not mine. Nice builds, all.

    So basically, to get back on topic, DIY cost comes down to a few things:
    -how complex/exotic the circuit is
    -whether or not you're etching your own boards
    -how pretty you want your box.

    For that matter, you can put a single transistor gain stage together on perf, add diode clipping to make it a simple fuzz, mount it in an Altoids tin with the cheapest jacks/switch you can find, and come in around $10...
  14. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Can I see a pic of a DIY in an ammo can?
  15. mikeboth

    mikeboth The last thing you'll ever see

    Jun 14, 2002
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Operator: prophecysound systems
    Look harder - there are *many* DIYers that make great-looking boxes. And not everyone cares to make them look good, either, especially as the player is generally the only one who gets to see it up close. With DIY, you have the choice.

    I don't know where you get those prices from, but from my experience in pedal and audio manufacture a 'primitive distortion effect' PCB would run a few bucks max for 100+ quantities. Just about all components are $1 or way, way less (like a few cents), the exceptions being BBDs or similar exotica.

    Which effects were these? I still stand by what I said - just about all analog effects are through-hole constructed. I guess your perspective will vary with how many different effects pedals you get your hands on or repair. Most currently produced effects are easily able to be replicated by the average DIYer; the simplicity of effects pedals circuits, in general, is a huge boon here.

    My opinion is based on my past experience at designing and producing pedals both in small and medium quantities - and besides, it's a moot point, as many DIYers are happily doing all the things you are saying are impossible! :) BTW, by PTP do you mean point-to-point and hence then NOT PCB assembly? Hmmm...

    As for back-tracking - once you've got a few units under your belt, the ability to be able to build almost any pedal or audio device AND tweak it to be pretty much exactly how you want it is priceless beyond measure. And it's pretty darn satisfying to DIY!

  16. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    Of the ones shown above, only the top one looks remotely pro, but this is a side issue that I brought in when we should have been sticking to the original point - which is cost effectiveness. If you want to look at crappy homemade stuff, that's OK with me. I don't.

    I was referring to the ready-made PCBs for the more common stomp projects. Anyone would have to be crazy to make a PCB for a simple project like that. You could handwire five of the circuits in the time it took to make one PCB.

    Try a Wasabi OA-1. Or a Dime wah.

    These are machine-made analog effects. The Wasabi probably has close to three hundred components or more on several boards, at least a hundred of which are so small you can barely see them. You would not be able to identify them without a low-power microscope.

    This effect would be impossible - impossible - to hand-build, and all it is is an analog overdrive...The best one I've used so far for what I'm doing. As I said, if you could make it with through-hole components of the sort you see in old effects like the old-school DS-1 or a Grunge, say, it'd be the size of a microwave oven. The cost doesn't even bear thinking of.

    Oh, and I bought it for US$28.99, new, at Guitar Center. The Dime Wah was US$19.99, new, at Guitar Center. Both were factory-sealed units.

    These are old effects. This is 2005 and effects are becoming hugely more sophisticated.

    Yeah, high-end, zero-defects PTP audio handwiring. I did it full-time and did it well. I can do PCB stuff in my sleep. It's nothing.

    It is and you'll note that I've never disputed that in this thread, although I am beginning to think that the days of the simple first-generation effects are over. As I've pointed out above, even analog stuff is passing the point where it can be hand-built, never mind digital.

    The original point was cost-effectiveness, and I think it's pretty clear that DYI effects are not cost effective for someone who is starting from scratch, especially considering the constant turnover of barely-used equipment and loss-leader sales and closeouts.

    Spend your time shopping instead of scratchbuilding. You'll be lightyears ahead.
  17. Your fault for asking...


    The 2 in the back row are NATO M80 cans. Most army surplus stores will have a bunch kicking around. They are tough as nails and a bit hard to drill out but once they're together you can drop a tank on them and they won't break. The tops [towards the back in the pic, they are laying on their back] have this neat pop-top mechanism so you can easily get inside without a screwdriver. The mini-booster is in a standard hammond box and it was around $35 CDN [ammo cans were around $9]. We don't have much choice for suppliers out here. Most have either gone out of business or moved back east. But we get day at a time... :D
  18. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Wow, those look nice! Thanks Verne!
  19. RyanHelms


    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    Yeah Verne, props on that pedal board!

    It just occured to me that the original post makes no mention whatsoever of the question of cost effectiveness, just "how much does DIY cost?".

    Besides, prophecybass is right. DIY-ers will keep on doing it, regardless of the cost factor, probably because the hands-on factor outweighs it.

    This is quoted directly from the top of the schematics archive page over at - where you can easily find a schem for just about anything that you could think of to build. I'll leave it at that.

    "I encourage you to purchase pedals in production. If it's currently in production and you can afford it, buy it."

  20. Uhm, yeah... right...