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."
"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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