Guitarists, have you ever wanted to get a great quality pedal, like an overdrive or delay? But when you priced what seemed to be the best corporate branding had to offer, you were looking at anywhere between $150-$200 and upwards of $250 for “branded” boutiques?
Last week, I sat down with DIY boutique pedal-maker Walt Cannoy of Cannoy Pedals. He has devoted a lot of his time and research into what really makes famous branded pedals tick — from components to price — and set out to provide an economical alternative without sacrificing quality.
Walt believes musicians everywhere should have affordable access to signature sounds and all from a DIY methodology.
What inspired you to begin making pedals?
Walter Cannoy: There are things out there that I want but I can’t afford. I can’t afford to pay full retail brand name prices for everything. But I’ve also learned that — with a little bit of common sense and following directions — I can get a lot of the things I want by just making it myself.
I have a little bit of experience in a lot of things, as some people say, “A jack of all trades, master of none.”
Commercial pedal prices seem overinflated.
Retailers like Guitar Center, are trying to compete by manufacturing their own line of “cost effective” pedals from DeltaLab. It is not widely known that GC purchased the name rights to several brands like DeltaLab and Acoustic, but have no real basis for attaching themselves to the original products except by name only.
They outsource to an overseas manufacturer to make these products and only stamp the brand name on them. GC seemingly makes the most profit off their house brands like DeltaLab. Their sales people are encouraged to sell these products because of the profit margin, and it helps their commission.
How do you feel about this corporate practice?
Walt: I am not really familiar with Guitar Center’s line of pedals, but from what you say, it sounds like standard practice for a large company. Of course, Guitar Center isn’t going to just go out and open a production facility for anything they want to stick their name on, such as Mitchell Guitars. They certainly would contract out to another company.
I think anyone buying a house brand and not realizing that this is going on may be a little naïve. If you think you’re going to go out and buy quality just because someone put a name on it, there may be a little bit of naivety going on there.
When you think about commercial pedal prices, there are a lot of things you have to consider. Their price may not be overinflated. Anytime you have a large company producing anything (not just pedals) you have to pay for their building, electricity, their janitors, their office staff, all their executives, marketing, distribution network — and that’s all before it gets to the store! With that in mind, their 50% markup is pretty standard keystone.
So, as far as “overinflated,” if you’re talking about relative to the alternative products, yeah the prices are pretty high — but they are about right on with what you can expect from a large company in order to keep their CEO’s vacation homes paid for. (laughs)
What separates Cannoy Pedals from corporate-branded pedals?
Walt: When you have a corporation, the bottom line is the bottom line. They’ll contract it out to another company who is going to deliver an adequate product at their lowest and fastest price.
What a lot of boutique pedal makers do — I can’t speak for all of them, but specifically with Cannoy Pedals — you’ve got a lot of research devoted to finding a good balance between quality materials and components as opposed to just price. Then, we take it that info and put it with people sitting at a workbench and putting together components by hand — and that process is checked over and over throughout the build process, as opposed to a larger company using robotic automation.
It’s not always the cheapest guy who wins, it’s the most cost-effective guy who keeps quality who wins.
We etch each board one at a time and each gets hand-checked. It’s really hands-on work. The price is what it is, but our pricing goes back into materials and the person who sits down there and drills holes in the PCB, etches the board, and plugs components into it. Everything is hand-assembled and we hand-select all components.
The money we make? It’s not going back to some CEO for his new car or retirement fund, or funding a Christmas party or whatever — so that cuts out a lot of costs for the final price. And, honestly, that’s how we are able to make a better product for the same or less money. We don’t have all that extra crap that large corporations have.
For more information, visit Cannoy Guitars.
— Dana Presson II, Only The Dust Remains