Boutique Guitar Amp/Pickups/Pedal makers

As some people know I’m kind of a guitar nerd, I love reading about tone, effects, pickups etc and in particular I love reading about handwound pickups, handmade guitar effects and handwired amps. So in this post I’m going to compile a list of boutique amp/pickups/pedal makers for those of you interested.

I personally use a few boutique guitar gear. I have handwound pickups by Rumpelstiltskin. I have a Swart Amp. And effects by Keeley, Xotic, Seymour Duncan, Catalinbread, RambleFX, Maxon.

What makes something boutique? One guy, a few guys or in general just a small shop, not a big company. Mainstream Amp/Pickup/Pedal makers employ hundreds or thousands of employees.

Mainstream Amp Makers
Line 6
Mesa Boogie
Randall Amps
Laney Amps
Traynor Amps

Boutique Amp Makers
Soldano Amps
Rivera Amps
Randall Amps
Orange Amps
Bogner Amps
Hughes and Kettner
Greer Amps
Blackheart Engineering
VVT Amps
Hiwatt Amps
Divided by 13 Amps
Victoria Amps
Blackstar Amps
Dr Z Amps
Headstrong Amps
Valve train amps
Trainwreck Amps
Tone King Amps
Swart Amps
Vintage sound amps
Milkman Amps
Friedman amps
Fuchs Amps
Matchless Amps
Bruno Amps
Two Rock Amps
Bad Cat Amps
65 Amps
Gurus Amps
Buddha Amps

Mainstream Effects makers
Dunlop / Way Huge / MXR
Electro Harmonix
BBE Sound
Morley Pedals
TC Electronic

Boutique effects makers
Teese Wahs
Mad Professor
Analog Man
Xotic Effects
Maxon FX
Voodoo Lab
Cornish Effects
Roger Mayer Effects
Wampler Pedals
Seymour Duncan
Myco Pedals
Greer Amps
Empress Effects
ZVex Effects
Dr Scientist
EWS Pedals
El Rey FX
Buddha Amps
Fuchs Pedals
Black Arts Toneworks
Red Witch pedals
T-rex effects
Death by Audio
Chase Tone
Dwarfcraft Devices
Daredevil Pedals
Earthquaker Devices
Petty John Electronics
Stone Deaf FX
Walrus Audio
Source Audio
Rainger FX
Thorpy FX
Solid Gold FX
Buffalo FX
Old Blood Noise
Love Pedals
Alexander Pedals
Rockett pedals
JHS pedals
Magnetic Effects
Shoe Pedals

Mainstream guitar pickup makers
Seymour Duncan
EMG Pickups
Lace Pickups
Fishman Pickups

Boutique (handwound) guitar pickup makers
Lindy Fralin
Bareknuckle Pickups
SD pickups
Amalfitano Pickups
Skatterbrane Pickups
Sheptone Pickups
Wolfetone Pickups
Novak pickups
Bill Lawrence Pickups
Don Mare Pickups
Rumpelstiltskin Pickups
Tonerider Pickups
Klein Pickups
D Allen Pickups
Creamery Pickups
Porter Pickups
Kent Armstrong Pickups
Leo Sounds
OC Duff Pickups
Harrison Pickups
BG Pickups
Jim Wagner Pickups
Van Zandt Pickups
Rio Grande Pickups
Bullock Pickups
Reilander Pickups
Arnsparger Pickups
SK Pickups
JS Moore Pickups
Lollar Pickups
Cats Whisker Pickups
Harmonic Design Pickups
Gemini Pickups
JBE Pickups
Electric City Pickups
Sliders Pickups


I’m an “audiophile”… and no one needs ultra HD displays

I play music for a hobby; I am a musician part time. As of now I have about 270 guitar/piano videos on my Youtube (which you can check on the media page on the side). So yeah, I care about audio alot and audio tone. The irony is that I care about audio more than I care about video. Mainstream consumers are the opposite. They love their 4K super high resolution displays and stuff, but for me, video quality has always been secondary to audio quality.

I remember when HD first came out (720p / 1080p) I couldn’t see much of a difference between that and 480p DVD quality videos. But maybe my eyes are just used to 240p/480p VHS/VCD/DVDs. All my computer resolutions have been 720p (that is, 1366×768) and lower, until this year. That’s right! It took me until 2015 to get a computer with a full HD resolution! so yeah no 4K for me for a while. I also don’t like 4K because I would have to redownload all my movies and tv shows and anime in 4K which takes up a ton of space. I would prefer just a FHD OLED display instead.

Now we have smartphones rocking 4K resolution. Which is absolutely ridiculous because 4K is questionable even on a flat screen TV. At the distance we sit from the TV I doubt many people notice the difference in resolution. Having super high resolution also impacts another big factor in battery life. I like my stuff with good battery life thats why I chose a regular 720p laptop which gets me 20 hours of battery life (thanks to the dual batteries in the Thinkpad X240!) and a regular 720p phone as well, the Sony Xperia Z3C which gets me 2 days of battery life. For my 17 inch gaming laptop I “only” have a full HD resolution. Having Ultra HD 3200×1800 resolution on a laptop will both kill the battery life and alot of windows apps don’t scale well beyond FHD anyways.

Anyways for me audio quality has always been more important, thats why I own tube amps and a record player and 180gram vinyl LPs. I listen to FLACs (lossless) whenever possible (My Sony Xperia Z3C has a built in walkman and support for high res and lossless audio), and have owned countless pairs of headphones and earphones. The irony is the average consumer doesn’t really care about audio that much. They are happy listening to their lossy MP3s, listening on their Mac or PC with a terrible built in DAC, or using cheap quality iPod or Beats headphones.

Let me take a head count here. How many of you have heard of these audio companies: Bose, Sennheiser, Fender, Marshall, IK Multimedia, Apogee, AKG, Beyerdynamic, Shure, Etymotic, Ultimate Ears, JBL, Altec Lansing, Cambridge Audio, Boston Acoustics, Polk Audio, Klipsch, Onkyo, Dynaudio, Denon, Pioneer, Philips, Creative Labs, Monster, Beats, Hifiman, Woo Audio, Linn Audio, Meridian Audio, Apple, Audioquest, Focusrite, M-Audio, SRS Labs, Jays, Dolby, DTS, Audyssey, Wave Audio, Grado Labs, Audeze, THX, Grain Audio, Audioengine, Master & Dynamic, Audio Technica, Skullcandy, Sony, Samsung, LG, Harmon Kardon, Bowers and Wilkins, Bang and Olufsen, Infinity, Sol Republic, Yamaha.

I even know most of the various amp, effects, and guitar pickup makers: Fender, ESP, Gibson, Jackson, Ibanez, Dean Martin, Epiphone, G&L, Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Kramer, Vox, Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Dr Z, Two Rock, Victoria Amps, Tone King, Line 6, Digitech, Orange, Crate, Boss, Behringer, BBE, Korg, Roland, Maxon, Dunlop, MXR, Way Huge, Xotic, Lovepedals, Keeley, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, Lace, Lindy Fralin, Bill Lawrence, TV Jones, Fishman, Electro Harmonix, Visual Sound, Teese, Fulltone, Analog Man, I could go on and on….

That’s a wide range of audio companies, from mainstream to boutique, from headphone makers to DSP and effects makers. But anyways you get my point; I know all these companies because I care alot about audio. I even made an article about the best portable bluetooth speakers, and the Best over ear headphones.

Here’s the audio gear I currently use:

Guitar equipment:
Swart Atomic Jr (Tube Amp)
Fender 60s Strat relic w/ handwound Alnico III/V single coil pickups
Martin OMJM acoustic guitar
Boho Moonshine guitar
Boss Looper
Digitech Trio
Lovepedals Dover drive
RambleFX Plexi Drive
Xotic compressor
Xotic booster
Maxon TBO9
Seymour Duncan 805
Keeley magnetic echo
Keeley Oxblood

Audio recording equipment:
Shure MV88 iphone mic
Shure MV51 computer mic
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface
IK Multimedia iRig 2
MXL 770 Condenser Mic
Shure SM58 Dynamic mic
Behringer XENYX502 Mixer

Listening equipment:
Philips Fidelio X2 open back headphones/monitors
Sennheiser Momentum closed back headphones
Master & Dynamic ME03 Earphones
Bose Quietcomfort 25 Noise-cancelling headphones
Creative Soundblaster E5 USB DAC/Amp
Creative Soundblaster Roar 2 bluetooth speaker
Audio Technica LP60 Turntable
Creative T4W Speakers (for connecting to anything including record players)
Klipsch R10B Soundbar

Not a bad setup. Unlike some people, I don’t have particular brand devotion to anything. Some people like to have all their equipment the same brand, but I actually embrace diversity of brands. I like experiencing difference. My TV is Panasonic. My phone is Sony and Apple. My tablet is Apple and Nvidia. My computer is Asus and Lenovo. My keyboard is Aorus. My mouse is Logitech. My microphones are Shure. My speakers are Creative and Klipsch. My headphones are Sennheiser, Philips, and Bose. My camera is Nikon and Canon. So yeah I am not a ‘fanboy’ of anything although you could say the closest I come to that is Sony. I have a Sony phone, Sony camera, Sony UMPC, Sony PS4 and Sony PS Vita. But even then.. I like to diversify.


Best Overdrive Guitar pedals

A while ago, I made a post about the best small handwired tube amplifiers, and what better to follow that up than with the best overdrive guitar pedals, both mainstream and boutique kinds. I’m going to look at ‘traditional’ overdrives, and not the crazy wacky ones with a million different settings. Let’s take a look.

Best overdrive guitar pedals

Boss SD-1W Super Overdrive

Boss SD-1W
Boss SD-1W

Amazon price: $149.99


Digitech Hardwire CM-2 Tube Overdrive

Digitech Hardwire CM2
Digitech Hardwire CM2

Musicians friends price: $99.99


Vox Straight 6 Overdrive

Vox Straight 6 Overdrive
Vox Straight 6 Overdrive

Musicians friends price: $159.99


Electro Harmonix East River Drive

Electro Harmonix East River drive
Electro Harmonix East River drive

Musicians friends price: $99.99


Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive

Seymour Duncan 805
Seymour Duncan 805

Sweetwater price: $149.99


Keeley White Sands Luxe Drive

Keeley White Sands Luxe Drive
Keeley White Sands Luxe Drive

Musicians Friends price: $199.99


Maxon OD9 Plus Overdrive

Maxon OD9 Plus
Maxon OD9 Plus

Musicians Friends price: $199.99


Wampler Pedals Clarksdale

Wampler Pedals Clarksdale
Wampler Pedals Clarksdale

Sweetwater price: $199.99


T-rex Diva Drive

T-rex diva drive
T-rex diva drive

Musicians friend price: $199.99


Way Huge Green Rhino

Way Huge Green Rhino
Way Huge Green Rhino

Musicians friend price: $129.99


BBE Green Screamer

BBE Green-Screamer
BBE Green-Screamer

Musicians friend price: $129.99


Fulltone OCD

Fulltone OCD
Fulltone OCD

Musicians friend price: $129.99




Musicians friend price: $129.99


Ibanez TS808HW Tubescreamer

Ibanez TS808HW Tubescreamer
Ibanez TS808HW Tubescreamer

Musicians Friends price: $349.99


So.. the options range from the relatively inexpensive EHX East River Drive to the $350 Hand wired TS808 Tubescreamer. I personally own the Seymour Duncan 805 and Maxon TBO-9 pedals, and they are great overdrives. Would love to hear some feedback about this list.