The Issue Of Pedal Cloning, Is It Getting Out Of Hand?

A number of boutique manufacturers claim to have been done over   14-Jan-13

The Issue Of Pedal Cloning, Is It Getting Out Of Hand?

Pedal cloning is a widely used term, for example, one can buy a pedal cloning kit, legitimately purchased from a company which allows you to buy the components of their pedals and put them together yourself.

Some pedal cloners operate without licence though, and they build copies of other companies' pedals and undercut the original manufacturers on the price.

These cloners are a small nuisance to pedal manufacturers, often they can send the amateur cloner an email, and request that they stop, and often they will. Most guitarists know to go to the original company for the best quality, and quality control.

But what happens if you run a boutique pedal company and you claim that a larger company or distributor has released a pedal that you feel is almost identical to one that you have previously designed?

This is what happened to Portland-based pedal designer Devi Ever, who said last week that JHS have ripped off her Hyperion fuzz pedal.

The claim came on a discussion on Pro Guitar Shop's Facebook page, Devi Ever said:

"PGS just posted a picture along with an announcement that they were carrying JHS pedals. I mentioned the fact the Astro Mess is a $200 Hyperion clone. A discussion began on which of JHS's pedals were clones... and then *poof* PGS deleted the entire post."

She added:

"Wouldn't want people finding out the truth, now would we? [...] Nah... it's cool. Why support local pedal makers when you can invest in companies from across the country who sell the same product for twice as much?"

The latter statement is made with regard to the fact that Pro Guitar Shop is based in Portland, Oregon, where Devi Ever operates her boutique business.

Her pedals have gained a reputation as being amongst the best modern fuzz pedals in the world, and her development of an open source cartridge-based multi fx pedal has been widely praised by guitarists and bloggers.

The Hyperion fuzz pedal has two control knobs, 'rock' and 'roll', which are gain and volume respectively. In the product description on Devi's website, an excerpt reads:

"The Hyperion is also the first pedal to have the honor of being stolen and cloned by another pedal company (and sold for twice the price no less!)."

JHS' description of the Astro Mess, a similarly sized fuzz pedal with two control knobs, reads:

"The JHS Astro Mess is the result of Switchfoot's Drew Shirley asking JHS to design him a fuzz pedal."

This seems like a dispute that won't come to any sort of conclusion anytime soon without some sort of legal fight, and the problem facing boutique pedal builders is that they often don't have the funds to take on people or companies they suspect of cloning their products.

With an ever expanding group boutique builders coming up with new products, new ideas, and new pedals, more of these disputes will happen.

But whether it's a guy in a garage cloning a big company's pedals, or a big company cloning a boutique builder's pedals, cloning cannot be good for guitarists and it can't do any good for the industry.

An employee of one well-known pedal company, who did not want to be named, said:

"Cloning is a huge problem for us. Very often, these cloners reproduce the visual design of our pedals so accurately, that they sell them on eBay without even stating that they are clones.

"The man or woman who buys the product thinks it's a legitimate product, and complains to us about the quality of it when it goes wrong.

"It's difficult to police it online, but you can often find these people as they make Youtube reviews of their own clones. When they turn out to be in countries like Russia or Brazil, it can make it even tougher for us to take action."

Try to avoid the temptation of parting with cash in exchange for a cheaper copy, and certainly try and support boutique pedal designers, as they often come up with the best ideas!


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12 Comments... Comments are closed while we transition to Disqus

Tony    Said...

I think it humorous that Devi would make such a statement. I imagine its a slow day trying to selling smashing pumpkin pedals.

Good to see Devi does not Clone. But the bit pedal is compared to a companion fuzz with a stronger gain. So either it's a clone with a minor change or it can only be sold as a comparison to another pedal.

Or is it acceptable for Devi to base a pedal on something no longer in production, can I clone or do minor alterations to the crackle fuzz

Maybe Devi needs something new to say besides used by Trent Reznor

As I thought for years Devi pedals come with a free added bonus. Sour grapes

I,d rather support guys like earthquaker devices. At least they can make more than fuzz box

15-Jan-13 04:48 PM

Tony    Said...

Actually, I that this back as I think this is not fair.

In fairness, every Devi pedal I bought I flipped on ebay after a week.

I won't buy another one of Devi's pedals again. Leave to the people lining up for them.

15-Jan-13 05:12 PM

Tonyisashill    Said...

I wonder how long Tony has worked for JHS?

15-Jan-13 10:42 PM

Tony    Said...

Thanks mate. Actually I don't like JHS pedals either.

16-Jan-13 02:50 AM

'Jim'    Said...

I agree at least about the cloak and dagger practices and the dishonesty - that's enough to give anyone pause. 'Alpha Drive'-style pedal building tactics aren't cool - that's putting it mildly. However, in the UK, 'boutique' pedal builder's pedals come with at the very least a direct dollar-to-pound conversion, making them (again, at the very least) 1.6 times more expensive in the UK. There are some retailers that then take the opportunity to add another £50 to £100 on top because of the 'boutique' label or brand that is being sold. More often than not, for a inexpensive fuzz or a modeling gain-based circuit (build quality aside). I don't have a problem with buying clones of these pedals where I can until this practice changes.

I also generally don't have a problem with the competition that clone builder's provide in the market to keep mainstream companies and boutique builders making pedals that are A) reasonably priced, B) innovative and C) a quality, well-made product, because THAT will be what keeps those companies in business in the long term.

Building clones allow for new local pedal builders to get the skills they need to become the next 'boutique' pedal brand - so what if they sell their clones to make rent in the meantime? Small price to pay for the next generation of boutique pedal innovation... the next Deviever, or whatever.

Aren't all these people clone builders and boutique companies, ultimately filling niches in the market that before their arrival the market was lacking? Stone Deaf effects gets by JUST selling a MPF-1 clone with a couple more options because the MPF-1 is out of production, and originals go for silly money.

And companies like mooer, joyo, biyang and so on are becoming more prominent because people are catching on that you don't *need* to pay £100 or more for a usable, durable and musical pedal. These companies keep big brands like Boss, Dunlop and Digitech on their toes.

Have Big Muff clones destroyed EHX's business? No. Why? Because, for one thing, they innovate and continue to grow and develop new exiting effects. Additionally, the market for 'Muff style pedals is significant enough for people to desire multiple 'flavors' of 'Muff... so to speak. EHX branches out, and so do boutique or clone builders as a result - in short, everybody's happy.

This article's message amounts to "clones are bad, m'kay", and THAT is not really well thought out.

Most penniless start-up musicians won't agree with the notion of having to spend more than they have to be inspired by their tools, or to create something inspiring from them.

There is something to be said from treating those buying these 'products' more than just their 'demographic' and 'target market' - companies that become this should just expect humbling experiences, like having clone-building occur. Maybe it'd help if the offended parties remembered that 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery', and keep it at that.

17-Jan-13 05:03 PM

Amped Editor    Said...

Hi Jim,

You raised a lot of interesting points. But the point of the article wasn't really about the little guys tinkering with clones at home.

It was about big companies cloning the little guys...

I hope you didn't think I was saying that all cloning is bad, because I totally agree that it's a necessary part of learning the ropes.

Although I will say that when somebody rips off a trademark (going one step further than a clone), that can be damaging for a company. Particularly if the cloner is still learning his/her trade, and their workmanship isn't so good.

Nobody wins in that situation. Otherwise I agree with what you are saying.

18-Jan-13 04:54 PM

Laugh    Said...

Didn't Devi get "her" penis ripped off?

01-Jun-13 06:07 PM

Kaku    Said...

Somewhat commenting to an old article, but looking a hyperion schematic and it does not seems to be something new. Two transistors in series. Like the fuzzrite and others but without the mix (tone) control. The hyperion looks like the "metal simplex" schematic actually.

10-Nov-13 03:27 PM

tonal    Said...

Precious Devi's pedals are about as good as her guitar playing...

27-Nov-13 04:54 AM

adffisifj    Said...

Devi clones her own pedals already. The SM, VFM, GZ, ZG, YOTR are all the same circuit with transistors swapped about a bit.also the TP aenima never drive and more are a separate one..i just built my own...with a switch...saves money, wonder why they weren't built this way......its not exactly guilt free...

30-Nov-13 05:07 PM

Zed    Said...

I have a JHS Supro Man that I believe to be a clone of Mad Professor's Sweet Honey Overdrive based on an article that I can't locate. However, I bought a Honey Bee from Bearfoot, and they are very similar sounding. What was most irksome is an inquiry to JHS pedals had the owner offering to trade me a hand made Supro Man straight up for a Supro Bolt that I doubt is hand made or as good. He would further provide almost no information. Interestingly, these go for more than the 200 dollar Supro Bolt he offered and he makes for less. Seems like he wanted a deal on getting a great pedal back. I hate Devi Ever.

20-Jan-14 10:15 AM

eh    Said...

cloning is as old as pedals themselves, how many fuzz face//tonebender derivatives we being sold at the same time in the 60's and 70's.....I have more of a problem with people not owning up to where the initial idea came from....there is as much room for tinkering in devi circuits as there is in tim Escobedo's circuit straight copy without putting your own stamp on something is just lazy.

06-Aug-15 02:51 PM

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