I’m somewhat of a pedal snob. I’ve owned dozens of pedals since I started playing guitar, and I’ve settled primarily on a small handful of boutique pedals. On my board right now I have a Wampler Clarksdale, a Fulltone ’69 fuzz, an Earthquaker Devices Hoof Fuzz, and a Paul C. Timmy. I also have a Wampler Euphoria that I swap out with the Timmy and/or the Clarksdale sometimes.
Mark from Spartan Music in the UK kindly offered to send me a few of the pedals that he sells, which are, in general, Chinese import clones of classic pedal designs. I was curious to hear how these pedals compared to the pedals that I typically use.
The pedals that I had a chance to review are the Biyang Fuzz (a Fuzz Face variant), the Biyang OD-8 (a Tubescreamer clone), and the ENO Myomorpha (a RAT clone). I don’t have an actual RAT, but I do have a Tubescreamer and a Fuzz Face-type pedal to compare these to.
Overall, I found the import pedals to be noisier than the boutique pedals in my pedal chain. That is, when engaged, there was a definite, albeit slight, hiss that I don’t get when my other pedals are engaged. This wasn’t an issue when I was actually sending a signal through the pedal, but it’s something that I noticed. However, at roughly $50-60 compared to around $200 for boutique pedals, that may be a trade-off many people would be willing to make.
The build quality of these pedals is good. I didn’t feel like any of them would crumble under use, but I also can’t say how well they’d hold up to any kind of regular gigging. I wouldn’t think durability would be a huge problem, but again, these pedals are about 1/4 the cost of boutique pedals, so I also wouldn’t necessarily expect them to hold up quite as well as more expensive pedals with continual heavy use.
Tone-wise, I thought the pedals provided usable tones, though not quite as nice as the more expensive pedals I compared them with. For example, my Fulltone ’69 Fuzz was much warmer and smoother than the Biyang Fuzz. However, the Biyang Fuzz does offer a switch to toggle between “Bright”, “Normal”, and “Warm”, so at least the Biyang is tweak-able. The OD-8’s overdrive tone is fairly smooth, but not quite as pleasing as my Ibanez TS-9, which is probably my favorite pedal. Around this price range, I’d probably get a Digitech Bad Monkey overdrive over the OD-8, but the OD-8 was usable and also offers the ability to swap chips, which is an interesting feature.
My favorite of the three pedals was the ENO Myomorpha. I can’t say how close it sounds to an actual RAT pedal, but I did find that it had thick tone that was quite tweak-able. For heavier gain sounds, I think this pedal would work very well. It was also a very small pedal, so it doesn’t take up much room on a pedal board. The downside to this size, however, is that there is no room for a battery, so you have to use AC power. This is not really an issue for me since I power all of my pedals, but it could be an issue if you don’t already have a power supply.
I still prefer my boutique pedals, but I feel like for beginners or people looking for respectable tone at a low budget, these import pedals would be a good choice. If you’re looking at pedals in this price range, another pedal maker to look at is Joyo, which have been good enough that at least one unscrupulous American builder has re-housed them and sold them as boutique pedals at high-end prices.