9 Boutique Pedal Builders from the UK You Should Know

Recent years have seen an explosion in pedal-building in the UK, with newer outfits like Zander Circuitry joining the ranks of boutique stalwarts like Rothwell Audio's Andrew Rothwell. Today, the cottage industry of tone tweakers, modders, and rockers is roiling with innovative brands, great pedals, and new sounds.

So, whether you are in the UK looking for a little homegrown British boutique or a player anywhere around the world who wants the best of UK engineering, read on to acquaint yourself with the builders you should know.

Flattley Pedals

From the custom workshop of Paul Flattley in Gloucester come some of the best-sounding and most eye-catching pedals of recent memory. Bespoke chassis of paisley patterns or custom artwork house circuits that benefit from that same exacting attention to detail.

Flattley's creations include a three-in-one Wah Type 1 or the Muff-style Helstonbury fuzz, both with a blue halo light plate shining from below. As a custom shop, Flattley's pedals can be rare treats. But because he sells direct on Reverb, you can always find his latest and greatest creations at the Flattley Guitar & Bass FX Pedals Reverb Shop.

Zander Circuitry

Alex Millar and Maisy Tidey, a couple from Essex, are the dynamic duo behind Zander Circuitry—with Alex building the circuits and Maisy handing all the financial and administrative tasks. Even though the brand is only a few years old, it's built a reputation on top-notch effects and great illustrated designs.

Take a gander at its Tape Deck Lo-Fi Modulated Delay or its Cranium Dual Gain Distortion, and you'll see why so many doors have opened for the young brand since its launch.

Redbeard Effects

Likely the newest entrant to the UK pedal scene, Redbeard Effects launched just last week. The brainchild of Mikey Demus, its first effect—the Red Mist MKIV—just hit Reverb.

Many of you will know Demus as the left-handed ax-slinger from Skindred. In addition to his work with the band, he's an insatiable gear head. While the Red Mist is the lone pedal, we expect plenty more to be on their way. With an eye toward the future, Redbeard tells us, "Whether you're into blues, rock, punk, metal, ambience, pop, or making weird and wonderful noises—whatever your thing is, we're here to push the envelope of what a pedal can do for you."

Rothwell Audio Products

Rothwell Audio Products Hellbender Overdrive

Lancashire-based Rothwell Audio began as a hi-fi equipment manufacturer in 1989, but moved into making effects pedals in 2009. With robust boosters, overdrives, and distortions like the Hellbender, Heartbreaker, and Love Squeeze, Rothwell rose quickly to the top of the UK tone ranks.

It is no wonder these handsome little boxes adorned the pedalboards of rock gods such as Gary Moore, Dave Murray, and Billy Gibbons; they are assembled by aerospace industry certified technicians who design circuits from the ground up. This is top-shelf gear with no frilly marketing hype needed.

Stone Deaf FX

Another northwestern UK pedal company of note is Stone Deaf FX. The pedal that put Stone Deaf on the map is the Parametric Distortion Filter. The PDF-2 (an iteration of the original PDF-1) is the company's new and improved version of the fabled Moog-designed Maestro Parametric Filter.

This circuit was famously used by Alex Lifeson and later championed by Josh Homme. Like all great brands, Stone Deaf have continuity throughout the product range.

Both the vintage Marshall–inspired tones of its Trashy Blonde and the futuristic do-it-all Muff tones of the Fig Fumb are diagnosed with trademark Paracentric personality. Just expand any of its custom-built boxes by adding the EP-1 expression pedal and kiss the boring old wah and phase pedals goodbye.

Fredric Effects

Many fans first took notice of North London’s Fredric Effects for its Harmonic Percolator, Utility Percolator, and Perkolator Fuzz—its takes on the fabled Interfax Harmonic Percolator circuit.

While other brands have since released similar re-creations, Fredric's were some of the first modern versions: small, well-built, reasonably priced, and updated for the modern pedalboard—just like the rest of Tim Hulio’s ever-expanding range.

Fredric Effects has grown exponentially since those humble beginnings and now offers a smorgasbord of rare, resurrected, and perfected vintage circuits. They are tiny, toneful, and—unlike many boutique pedals—less expensive than many factory-made stompers. My Utility Percolator is on my board right now.

Magnetic Effects

Christian Livingstone is an experienced touring musician from New Zealand who has rocked out all over the world with The Datsuns—a fiery supercharged rock band that remind me of The MC5. When he is not melting faces live on a nightly basis, he makes tools for face melting from his base in South London.

Magnetic Effects represents everything that is cool about a successful boutique pedal company—handmade pedals using top-shelf components, awesome original and tweaked classic circuits, and last but not least: killer graphics.

My favorite box so far is the Double Feature, which is now firmly fastened to my board. It is essentially an adjustable fixed wah rammed into a harmonically rich ground-up-designed germanium distortion—notice I didn’t say fuzz. The tone is strangely both modern and vintage, which is very unique. I look forward to reviewing more from Magnetic Effects; this is a boutique company with a bright future.

ThorpyFX

The term “military-spec” is tossed around like a pin-less hand-grenade in this industry. There are very few pedal builders who can back this product specification up without it blowing up in their face. One such pedal builder is former British military explosives specialist Adrian Thorpe.

The pedals coming out of his Wiltshire-based ThorpyFX make bold sonic and aesthetic statements. The control knobs are recessed like soldiers in a trench ready to sniper boring tones with each engagement. The Peacekeeper, Gunshot, Team Medic—these are artisanal aural killing machines of the highest rank.

Nine of Swords Effects

Nine of Swords Tyrant Fuzz

Here is another DIY upstart that commands attention. Within The Fuzz Shack—deep in the East Midlands—gestates a range of “notoriously unpleasant sounding” pedals that are poised for birth in the agonizing death-throes of fuzz ripping horror. Engaging any of Nine of Swords' pedals is like switching on Satan’s walkie-talkie.

The unholy pilgrimage of sonic pain remains unyielding throughout the range. These unapologetically anti-social stompers sport graphics and tones not fit to be found on the boards of Elevation Worship players—unless they need to make a soundtrack to the Old Testament.

Fletcher Stewart contributed to this article.

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