Let's talk about all the cheap Chinese micro pedal clones.

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by Andrew May, Aug 2, 2016.

  1. Andrew May

    Andrew May SS.org Regular

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    It seems like every time I go on ebay I see a new "brand/rebrand" of TC electronic/Mooer/Joyo etc coming out of china for £20 a piece or less. There's always been more listed on US ebay than UK but they're listed here more and more now, that's not mentioning venturing onto Aliexpress etc.

    So far I've seen Tomsline, Rowin, Donner, Ammoon, Adack and plenty more, all looking like clones of clones or straight up rebrands of already cheap Chinese manufactured micro pedals "brands" that are on store shelves here.

    Are any of you guys using them at all? I've got a Mooer here that's just great, I can't see the even cheaper version being that much worse, I assume they're coming out of the same factory? They're solid little metal things not like the plastic casings of Behringer pedals (an established "quality" budget brand) and the PCBs can't be that bad surely?

    Can cheap pedals get any cheaper? Will we see a £5 brand new micro distortion in a year? A £20 Multi FX?

    I'm about to order a £20 loop pedal from Malaysia just to see what turns up....
     
  2. sharedEQ

    sharedEQ SS.org Regular

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    A large part of the world is not as wealthy as the west, yet they want to play guitar too!

    The components to build analog pedals is dirt cheap. When you take away the corporate overhead of a megacorp offering, it would be possible for someone to turn a profit selling these for 1/4 the price.

    They are not necessarily junk. I bet some are direct clones. The smaller casing is probably just to save money.
     
  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Well, there are lots of correct ways to look at this phenomenon.

    You can buy a transistor for a fraction of a penny, or you can buy a better transistor for a few pennies, or a really nice transistor for around a buck. Resistors and capacitors cost tiny fractions of a penny up to a few pennies.

    When all is said and done, you could build the circuitry for a nice OD pedal for about $5 USD in about 2-3 hours. Drop it in a $5 case and, for $10 USD in parts and maybe $30-40 in labour, you have a pedal that would retail for $100 USD or maybe a little more or less.

    But why stop there, you could hire a guy overseas to build the circuitry for 10% of the cost. And why stop there, since we are cutting costs, because those US made components cost 30-100 times more than imported components, and you are already outsourcing the labour. Let's pay $1 for parts, and $3 USD for labour and have a $100 pedal for $4.

    So, the statement that there is crazy markup on pedals is a true statement. The statement that some of the cheap imported pedals have dodgy quality is also a true statement.

    There's also the R&D aspect. When you want to make a new pedal, you have to prototype it out on some sort of breadboard, using a variety of different components to achieve the desired sound and layout. Whilst this might not seem costly, there is a large amount of overhead in comparison with the potential amount of profit. For old pedal designs, this is not an issue, but for anything innovative, there needs to be a series of design, prototyping, beta testing, etc., that budget manufacturers in China do not have a strong cultural obligation to do. I'm not saying China is a bad place to manufacture stuff, but I am saying that even though the companies there have a strong "can do" attitude and work ethic, they do not have as strong a culture in attention to detail as manufacturers in Europe, the Americas, or Japan.

    But as long as people are rushing to buy TS-9 clones and Big Muff clones, there should be a strong market from China in cheap pedals.
     
  4. Andrew May

    Andrew May SS.org Regular

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    The point I was making more specifically is that there has been a huge expansion in this market in the last 12 months riding on the wave of the "micro pedal" brands that have arrived in recent years. TC Electronics, Joyo, Nux and Mooer in particular have proven especially popular but it seems that a great deal of their product ranges have been straight up replicated in almost the same configurations, casings and set ups often with multiple "brands" making exactly the same pedals with sightly different graphics. Clones cloning clones, cloning clones.
     
  5. scottro202

    scottro202 I'm walkin' here!!!

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    Of course guitar pedals aren't the only product that's being copied almost directly by Chinese manufacturers. Cars, iPhones, jewelry, and all sorts of other crap has been copied by China for years now. "Patent Infringement" apparently has no Mandarin translation, if I may steal a joke I heard on Top Gear :lol:

    Like the fake iPhone or the fake Ray-Bans you can get over on that side of the world, the Chinese copy will probably get you 95% of the way there (sonically/visually/functionally, anyways). But that last 5% is where the Fay-Bans or the jPhone craps out on you after a week and you end up buying the real deal anyways. Or in this scenario, when you're at a gig and accidentally crush your Ts-"8" copy's plastic casing because you got a little carried away with your foot before a solo, you end up buying a used Digitech Bad Monkey on eBay for almost the same price (or just a little more).
     
  6. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Yeah, the same culture that brought us just about everything ever invented (except fortune cookies) has been reduced to being known for making knock-offs of everything.

    [​IMG]
    Pizza Huh?
     
  7. RustInPeace

    RustInPeace SS.org Regular

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    Chinese made knock offs of anything are a huge waste of time and money. Stop supporting these ....ty business practices!
     
  8. scottro202

    scottro202 I'm walkin' here!!!

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    While the straight-up copying of electronic components isn't exactly the most ethical thing to do, I'm not sure it's an awful practice from a strictly business standpoint. We in the "Western World" see it as shady and corrupt (most anybody who has the slightest concept of a patent would probably agree as well), but as far as the Chinese are concerned they are probably making otherwise inaccessible (read: too expensive) American/European goods available to a more impoverished Chinese population. Kind of like a shadier store-brand equivalent, if you will. (Not condoning it, just trying to put some perspective behind it).

    I say this because I'm sure if most people in China could afford them I'm sure they'd much rather have Pizza Hut over Pizza "Huh" and Ibanez over "Chibanez", but due to either geographical, economic, or political reasons they don't have access to them.

    So in other words nobody in America, Europe, or any other developed country should buy them due to the amount of options we have as consumers. Unfortunately the Chinese appear to be forced into buying the copies, for whatever reason.
     
  9. bhakan

    bhakan SS.org Regular

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    I feel like the pedal market has sort of screwed itself out of its own patents seeing as there are a billion different pedals by respectable American companies that are more or less straight copies of other pedals with a resistor or two swapped. I started building some pedals last year and was shocked to see how much copying their is among pedal builders. The chinese mini versions of a tubescreamer is about as different from the real thing as the $250 boutique tubescreamer with one resistor value changed.
     
  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Why not come up with their own pedal designs, though?

    I'm not sure how the people not being able to afford Pizza Hut there explains away why "Pizza Huh" has to rip off the logo for "Pizza Hut," aside from the fact that a culture has developed that sees no wrongdoing in copying other people's .....

    If I can't afford a Rolex watch, but I need to be able to tell time, maybe I should get a cheap Timex. If I end up buying a ....ty "Rollex" watch for 1/4 the price of a Rolex, yet still 7x the price of a Timex, then I'm a sucker. Additionally, if you saw me running down the street in my "Addadas" shoes and "Puna" shorts, listening to my "iPool", drinking "Dasini" water, then you would think I'm a tool. It's not about saving money, it's about blatant copying.

    I offer China a challenge to counter with the following:

    Make your own designs. Instead of Chibanez, Fakemachine, Pizza Huh, etc., how about something new? Make your own chinese-style pizza! If Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Detoroit, and Boston can do it, so can you! Pick an original snazzy name for it, too - don't call it Papa Jan's or Dimono's or Dijurno. Call it something outrageous, like "Number One Chinese Pizza," or something. How about a new guitar style that is totally outrageous and groundbreaking? Something no one sees coming, not just "hey look, it's like a Gibson Les Paul, but it has an extra knob, and we call it "Chibson Less Poll."" Better yet, build an amp that doesn't sound like a Marshall nor a Mesa - give it its own sound. If you have to copy something, try copying some aspects of other amps, but mix them up, like wire stage one like a Sovtek and stage two like an Engl, and then stage three having its own design. Most importantly, call it something you can be proud of, like "Hu Zai Ba Amplifier," not "Marshelle" or "Massa Boggy"...

    As for mini pedals, you know what, that's easiest of all: just swap a capacitor value to get better bass response, or whatever, make it better, not just different. Progress makes the economy happen, not plagiarism.
     
  11. mongey

    mongey SS.org Regular

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    I wouldn't buy one cause i am a self admitted pedal snob but I think its great there are cheap options that sound good for people who don't want to spend top $ on pedals

    in reality pedals aren't alien tech . they are mostly simple circuits that can be replicated on mass by anyone who knows the what they are doing and has the set up . there are exceptions of course

    most of the gear we have today is a product of people ripping each other off
     
  12. Spinedriver

    Spinedriver SS.org Regular

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    The thing with a lot of the more "basic" pedals is that, for example, an od/distortion circuit HAS to be designed a certain way in order for it to do what it's supposed to. These days, the biggest selling point of a lot of pedal makers is less about their design and more about what kind of parts they use. The Chinese pedals are considered "cheap" because they use either boards with smd components or just cheaply made components. Where in the US, some people charge hundreds for a simple od pedal because they hunt down "original" capacitors that were used in amps in the 60's and stuff like that. Given that they have similar features (ie: Vol, Tone, Drive), they might not sound all that different but to some, those components mean a lot.
     
  13. bhakan

    bhakan SS.org Regular

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    I totally agree with what you're saying. What I was pointing out is these Chinese companies aren't ripping off original designs any more by using cheaper components than the boutique companies are by using more expensive components. A lot of people are ripping on these Chinese companies for being unoriginal yet just about every pedal maker in the business has at least one or two pedals that are straight ripoffs of another pedal.
     
  14. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    So Chinese companies ripping off more pedals than US companies isn't ripping off any more than US companies?!
     
  15. vick1000

    vick1000 SS.org Regular

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    Electronic circuits have been copied and modified, then sold as proprietary since their inception. Especially in the music gear aspect, almost everything is a clone or modified version of something that came before it. Even the original amps were modified audio amplifiers.

    Now when you start ripping of layouts, and the hard work of engineers, not just copying schematics, an arguement could be made for unethical practice. Layouts and efficient manufacturing are key to a good piece of kit. Considerable time and effort are put into making a cicuit compact and efficient.

    In any case, I prefer stoutly built and quality controlled western built gear. But the Asian market is dominant in some areas for budget minded musicians, and there are some well built gear coming out of the Asian market. Not everyone can afford the premium prices of western made gear.
     
  16. Andromalia

    Andromalia Pardon my french

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    It actually does, it's "foreign patent infringement" that has no translation. In my field of work, for exemple, gold farmers for MMO who sell in occidental games have no trouble, but those who attempted to sell in China went straight to jail. It's all about bringing money in, really.
     
  17. Wolfhorsky

    Wolfhorsky Regular idiot

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    I love my Movall Plexi Troll aka Tone City Golden Plexi. It is great and quite cheap. If it would be avalible directly from the manufacturer via ebay, it would cost about 20€.
     
  18. thraxil

    thraxil cylon

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    Henning's video on pricing is spot on if you have the time to sit through it.

    There are a few different factors at play:

    * the Chinese government actually subsidizes global shipping, so it's now really easy and inexpensive to have stuff just shipped straight from the factory to the customer. That cuts out middlemen and eliminates a lot of markup.
    * some are clones of US/EU/UK/JP built pedals using cheaper components, surface mount boards, etc. Others though are essentially rebrands of the exact pedals whose "official" versions are built in those factories.
    * there's a tradition of sharing schematics/designs/dies/etc between manufacturers in China. There's a term for it in Chinese, but I'm blanking on it right now. It's complicated and subtle and comes out of China's history of socialism, but basically, despite IP law, there's a widespread notion that cooperation that enables more manufacturing is more important long term for the industry and the nation than strict patent/copyright enforcement.

    Personally, I've had mixed results:

    * Joyo TS clone: cheap, works, but had so much noise (static/hum) that it was basically useless. Sucked it up and bought an Ibanez TS mini instead.
    * Caline Reverb: fairly generic reverb, but not actually direct clone afaik. Sounded great but died after a couple months
    * Caline analog delay: again, fairly generic analog delay. Not a direct clone, but nothing terribly innovative either. So far so good.
    * ENO TC-13: Rat clone. I actually have a real Rat, but I wanted something significantly smaller for my board. Sounds great. No problems yet.

    So far, yeah, the vast majority of these Chinese pedals are clones. I think this is just the beginning though. The whole "mini pedal" thing already has arguably been an innovation and a reason to buy them other than "cheap". We're starting to see a bit more as well in terms of new designs (eg, Mooer's Devin Townsend delay/reverb/looper pedal that's coming out soon). Some of the Tone City pedals seem to be original designs (at least insofar as, eg, AMT pedals that try to capture the sound of various preamps are original). So I think in some sense, we're just seeing an industry bootstrapping itself into something really interesting (for better or worse).
     
  19. Spinedriver

    Spinedriver SS.org Regular

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    Joyo is probably one of the only companies I've seen that has made a "version" of the Tech21 "Character" pedals. I haven't tried them but I wonder how they measure up side by side.
     
  20. Thanatopsis

    Thanatopsis SS.org Regular

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    I've had a Joyo "Analog" Delay for a couple years now and am definitely happy with it. Sure there are plenty of much better delays out there but for the price I don't think it can be beat.
     

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