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060 | AmazonBasics Distortion: A Closer Look at this Inexpensive Distortion Pedal | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Hello and welcome to episode 60 of the Sonic Renegades Podcast. We're exploring renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. For today's discussion, we have the AmazonBasics Distortion Pedal. There's a lot of buzz online about these pedals. Some people love them. Some people hate them. And we're going to be sharing our thoughts on this episode. We'll see you on the other side.

Hey, everybody. Scott Schwertly and Eric Wilson of Siren Pedals with you today, and today we're going to be talking about the AmazonBasics Distortion Pedal. Now, Amazon actually just released a number of these a couple of weeks ago. Actually, they released... We're now in the month of November, but these actually came out in October. And actually released seven different pedals, everything from a booster to a compressor to delay distortion, et cetera. And today we're going to be talking about the distortion pedal that they have.

Lots of thoughts online about this. I've seen a fair share of YouTube videos. I've read a fair share of articles on these. Just a lot of different emotions and opinions about this. And we're going to specifically unpack this pedal and talk about what we like and don't like about it and let you make your own decision on whether you like these pedals or not.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I think I can sum up all the comments and everything that has been said about the whole Amazon line of pedals and Amazon getting into pedals in one phrase, everybody just calm down, because people are getting way too worked up about it. I mean, it's one of those things where it's like, yeah, they're selling $40 pedals, but it's like we can't sell $40 pedals. It's not even in the same ballpark.

Scott Schwertly:
No. It's not doable to actually obviously make something handcrafted, blood, sweat, and tears that go into it. There's no way. With parts and labor and everything else, $40 is insane. You just can't do it.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. It's like it's in a completely different category. People that are freaking out on our behalf, please don't.

Scott Schwertly:
I'm always going to encourage people like, obviously this industry that we're in, if you can, support your local mom and pop store. I mean, I know here in Tennessee where I live, I live in a suburb of Nashville, I try to support the local mom and pop stores. It's just being a builder and a manufacturer of these things. I mean, yeah, when you can, support those custom builders in those boutique shops. I'm all in favor of that. But I also understand that Amazon's a business and they see an opportunity, they're going to get into it.

I mean, you can't knock them for that as well. But again, we want to have that caveat that we do support and we do encourage supporting your local stores and builders first, whenever you can.

Eric Wilson:
Definitely. But I think the one thing is like people seem to view this as like... Some people online seem to be viewing this as like a threat to the pedal industry or a threat to higher quality pedal companies like Serge or Wampler or something like that. But the reality is is like for some kid who is getting their first pedal, their parents aren't going to spend $200 on a pedal for them, or they're not going to have $200 to spend on a pedal if they're working, doing dishes, saving their allowance kind of thing.

It's one of those things where these kinds of fit an interesting market where you can... It's almost like the old Danelectro stuff, like the plastic ones that were like $30 or something like that. They just kind of fit this category where it allows you to try a lot of different things to figure out what you like to graduate into better pedals and higher quality stuff.

Scott Schwertly:
Absolutely. I actually own... We actually covered that on this podcast, the Danelectro Fab Chorus. I mean, I think that pedal was like $25. This one that we're talking about today, this AmazonBasics Distortion Pedal is $25. And for me, yeah, I mean, I loved that Danelectro pedal. I still have it. I hate to admit this, but I bought a number of Donner pedals as well, and that was just when I was starting out. I wanted to know if this is something I would stick with. Is this something that I would even be passionate about?

What do guitar pedals even sound like? What do they do? As you just outlined, Eric, this is a perfect product as an entry point, I guess a gateway drug of sorts, to see if pedals are even something that you have an interest in or want to do or add in conjunction with your guitar.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, definitely. And something else to note is that these technically aren't even Amazon pedals. They're like white labeled for Amazon by a company called Nux who makes the exact same pedals and calls them something else and packages them a little bit nicer and sells them for a little bit more.

Scott Schwertly:
I've heard of it as like Nuex. I think they've either created other brand extensions, like Twin Note or Coco. Not to get into all the granular details of that, but yeah, I mean, you're essentially dealing with, as you mentioned, Eric, kind of like a white label that's just packaged under the AmazonBasics brand.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. And when we say packaged under the AmazonBasics brand, we literally mean just in a bubble mailer. There is nothing else in that bag or a box. There's no box. It's just a bubble mailer.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, it was pretty simple. I'm sure you guys have seen a number of... And if you haven't already, there are a number of YouTube videos where people do unboxings of these. It is simple. It's a simple package, a simple manual.

Eric Wilson:
More like unbagging.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, more like an unbagging, yeah. That's a good description. But the tone on these things it's not absolutely amazing, but it's not terrible either. Eventually here we'll get to the demo and give you guys a sampling what it's all about. But in this case, you kind of get what you pay for. Simple pedal, inexpensive price, and I guess mediocre tone.

Eric Wilson:
I mean, might as well cover the controls while we're here. But I mean, it's a distortion pedal. There's normally not much to it. There's a gain, a tone, and a level of control. And you can go from kind of a light crunch to very heavy gain. It feels to me like it's supposed to be some sort of like take on a RAT, but the tone control is not like a filter. That would be the main difference that I've noticed. But overall, it's kind of like that just heavy distortion rack kind of tone.

Scott Schwertly:
We'll let you guys kind of be the judge of it as we get things plugged in. I guess, Eric, any final thoughts before we get into demo? Because I mean, part of me is... I don't want to necessarily get into the whole big discussion because, again, I think some people are really almost emotional about these things. I guess our headline statement is, again, support the custom and boutique builders, wherever you can. We also understand there's a market for this type of thing. Great for beginners.

Great sort of entry point from that perspective. But is it going to be the best sounding thing ever? Not so much.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, definitely. And it's one of those things where it's like a company like Benson Amps isn't going to be threatened by Fender releasing another version of the Frontman. That's like a 10 watt solid state thing.

Scott Schwertly:
Exactly. You're dealing with two different markets. You're dealing with two different customers. From the Siren perspective of we're obviously a pedal manufacturer, am I threatened by AmazonBasics? No, I'm not. Again, it's a completely different crowd. It's a completely different customer. And heck, for some reasons, I can argue that I'm thankful for it because as we already have discussed, it gets people into guitar. It gets people into guitar pedals. It gets them into that world, where eventually if they stick with it, they will find Siren Pedals.

You can make the argument that it's actually good for us in the long run. I don't really feel like it's going to take our market share away.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, for sure. And obviously we're not here... We will not make a comment on the ethics of Amazon or whatever you want to get into with all of that, but I do think it's definitely one of those things where it does help people get into guitar.

Scott Schwertly:
And that's a good thing. You know? I mean, I've seen so many surveys and polls done by companies like Fender where guitar was kind of dying and what was the future of guitar. Good thing now... Not that COVID's a good thing, but I know the whole idea of quarantine and all that has been good for companies like Fender where I think this year 2020 has been one of their best years in guitar sales ever. It's nice to see this resurgence of guitar. And if things like this, like guitar pedals, are going to help feed that, then that's awesome.

I mean, I love seeing sort of this revival of the instrument. Things like this will just help get in front of more people.

Eric Wilson:
We'll go ahead and get this thing plugged in. So I'm going to go ahead and use the Les Paul for this one and then go into the Amazon Distortion into the Iridium.

Scott Schwertly:
Awesome. We're going to get that set up, and we'll see you guys on the other side.

Eric Wilson:
All right. That's the AmazonBasics Distortion. I mean, for 20 something bucks, you're probably not going to get a better veteran distortion pedal. You're probably not going to get any of this version pedal for under 20 bucks.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, it's hard to beat the price point on this thing. But again, as we mentioned, you get what you pay for. It sounds good. Again, if you're a beginner, this is a great pedal to have just to kind of get you into that world. But ultimately like anything that you buy that's on the cheaper end, you're going to probably eventually want to upgrade, whether things either going to break on you or just simply not last or you want to upgrade your tone. You'll probably be on the hunt for something better at some point in time.

So that's our two cents on the AmazonBasics pedal. All right. Join us next time. We're going to actually be taking a look at one of our very own. The reason why is this pedal just came out just a couple of weeks ago. It is our Magnar pedal, which we are super jazzed about. This thing has been in the works for several months now. So excited to actually have this one out in the market. Really what the Magnar pedal is, it's an overdrive pedal, and it's inspired by the discontinued sort of... It's inspired by the now discontinued Gorilla TC-35 amp of the '80s.

So if you love bands like Queens of the Stone Age and you're chasing that tone, then this is what that pedal is all about. Sort of that stoner rock, garage rock. It's got all that goodness all packed in in one stomp box. So super excited to be talking about that one in our next episode.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, that'll be great. I've been getting the chance to play that one a little bit more since I've been building them. And yeah, it sounds great and really does nail that tone.

Scott Schwertly:
It should be a fun conversation and excited to share what it's all about with you guys in the next one. Until then, have a great day, have a great week, and we will see you next time.

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