Boutique Effect Pedals and Stompboxes

To Boutique, and, or a critique…

Everyone is in a uproar about what it means to be a boutique stompbox builder, and if you should even be one.  Some builders hate the term or implication, like Josh Scott of JHS pedals.  He thinks it can easily imply a whole host of bad attributes, excuses for poor production times, and even poor customer service.  Many even sneer at the term! I’d agree with them in many cases.  Here are my ramblings about the boutique pedal world.

Mast Effects

Organic, Free Range, Non GMO, Gluten Free Pedal Builders

Organic, Free Range, Non GMO, Gluten Free Pedal Builders

Mysterious hipster made effects.  We are the Odobenus Rosmarus of the pedal world. Assembled from single bedroom estates. We even silkscreen our own boxes and shirts. “Want a nice bottled water (I put that label on the bottle you know…) while you watch our aloof and quirky video?”  (We’re not really that PBR, it’s just the long lasting effects of Ritalin.)

So these lying clowns get caught…

I truly wonder what guitar players would say if they found out that their favorite brand was nothing more than a bunch of kids stuffing boards into cases.  No engineer, no person with God Endowed Ears crafting the sounds…just kids making videos…oh yeah..and silkscreening boxes for heaven’s sake!  I guess they are just going through their Milli Vanilli phase, Phases… we’re all going through phases…

Some hipster brands I like.  Old Blood Noise Endeavors.  Brady Smith actually built pedals!  Did for several years at my shop even.  …and, he silkscreens his boxes.  and makes rad videos…

And, first and foremost I don’t wish anyone ill will or hope for some pedal company to fail.  I just wonder if it matters to the end user much at all.  In fact I actually hope they all honestly succeed.  I do poke fun at some though.  They can handle it.

Keeley Boutique

A Silicon to Stompbox Effect Pedal Company!  Not.

Do we actually craft our own ASIC and form our own silicon wafers in which we pack artisanally blown code into?  Do we use capacitors soaked in electrolyte infused water? Do we use free range, gluten free, non-GMO solder? (Not hardly!) 😉

But we are boutique as witnessed here…

Yeah, but seriously, are you boutique?

Doesn’t that mean you have to hand solder everything or something like that?  Don’t you have to hand select parts or test each part first?  Don’t you have to silkscreen your own boxes for heaven’s sake?!?!?

We are boutique.  We hand build things in small batches.  Often custom or limited production runs that are not available to big retailers.  We even employ local hipsters.

Yeah, but don’t you do DSP?

You can’t be boutique if you have digital products!  They look like all the other ones though!  Four knobs and a three way switch.  Yeah.. thank you.  Peer through the fog of the hand crafted beer and flannel curtain my friends…

Keeley Hand Built Multi Echo

Keeley Hand Built Multi Echo

The new Keeley ME-8 Multi Echo has 8 original pieces of code and the hardware, the board is 100% built by hand.  Even the surface mount components.

Surely you you rip off code from forums or out source it to a guy like Jack DeVille right?!?!  Isn’t he like the only guy that really does it himself?!?!  Oh wait, you use SpinCAD!!!  Only like two guys do Spin stuff right?!?!

We hand code each piece of DSP in assembly language too. No SpinCad or any other gui either.  Hand Crafted Code.  (Will I move to a Sharc platform with fancy C complied software? Hell yes, not soon enough!) It allows us to create code that is ours and of our imagination.
I have a relationship with customers that allows me to implement their ideas into a pedal if they want it customized. The Jimi Hazel pedal is a perfect example. His ideas, small batch of 75 or so made. Locally sourced art, thanks Rick Sinnett! Dual Spin processor, fun machine!

Keeley Echo Phase

Jimi Hazel Echo Phase guitar effect pedal by Keeley Electronics

Our Spin boards are about 50/50 hand populated too. I wish more were pick and place machined, but we can’t keep up with demand so we build them by hand.

I’m still fuzzy…

Yes, we still build fuzz pedals, in small batches.  One, two and Three transistor varieties too!  We do runs of 15-30-45-100 pedals all of the time.

Keeley Blacktop Fuzz

Vintage Silicon – American Muscle – Keeley Engineering

More than half of our pedals are 100% hand built. We do about 2500 pedals a month. It’s still small time when compared to manufacturers.

I like this position. It allows for creativity and growth. It’s very rewarding creating pedals that have unique sounds. In small batches. Rolled our own way. By hand for the most part.

Are we a Silicon to Stompbox effect pedal company? No, but we are boutique.

2015-10-13 12.24.46
Robert Keeley