How to Buy Effects Pedals on eBay

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How to Buy Effects Pedals on eBay

For any guitarist looking to invest in a new effects pedal, this guide is intended to inform and advise on both the right unit to choose, and how to make an online purchase. As the Internet becomes an increasingly popular platform for buying all manner of electronic goods, it has never been easier to find a good deal on many items. As well as detailing many of the most popular effects units on the market, there is a step-by-step walk-through demonstrating how to find the perfect item on eBay, at the end of this article.

What Is an Effects Pedal?

Effects pedals are small, self-contained circuits which allow the user to manipulate any sound which is played through the device. From subtle compression to the most elaborate synthesised tones, effects pedals are intended to enrich and refine the tone of a guitar. Effects pedals will typically allow for one specific style of audio manipulation, which can then be switched on or off using a large robust foot-switch on the top of the unit. For this reason, effects pedals are often referred to as stompboxes.
Any guitarist looking to achieve a unique tone, or hoping to take their performances to the next level, will usually require one or more effects pedals.

Types of Effect Pedal

Effects units for guitars are as varied and numerous as the styles of music they are used to play.

Equaliser

An equaliser alters the loudness of individual frequency bands. Whereas an amplifier typically includes three basic high, mid, and low bands, an equaliser effect pedal may have 8, ten or even more frequency bands, allowing for precision changes which pick out specific sound details.

Compression

A compression unit can be set to increase the basic gain of an audio signal, whilst compressing the loudest sounds of the signal. This gives the sound a thicker, more even volume, and prevents loudness spikes across certain frequencies.

Overdrive

Overdrive is a specific type of distortion. The original audio signal is boosted so that it produces clipping. Overdrive units allow the user to set the input gain as well as the level at which clipping occurs. In this respect, the effect is reliant on the input signal being a certain volume before it is activated. Because of this, overdrive pedals can preserve the original guitar tone, and some level of dynamic range, if the input remains below the clipping point. This makes overdrive a versatile, and subtle, form of distortion effect.

Fuzz

Fuzzboxes are a more extreme form of audio distortion. A fuzz effect pedal alters the waveform of the input signal regardless of its initial loudness. Fuzzboxes typically allow for some adaptability in the output waveform shape and its settings boost the signal overtones and harmonics to create a thicker sound.

Reverb

Reverberation units generate a persistent sound which creates an effect of spaciousness in a guitar tone. Many amplifier units have an in-built reverb effect, but standalone effect pedals offer more adaptable features.

Delay

A delay effect takes the guitarist's input signal and plays it back after a pre-selected period of time: usually from fractions of a second up to many seconds in duration. Usually a delay effect will allow the player to select not only the delay time, but the feedback length and the mix of the original audio with the delay effect.

Harmonizer

A Harmonizer is a sophisticated effect which can be programmed to add additional notes to those played by the guitarist, in real time, during a performance. A harmonizer pedal can be programmed for a specific key and mode, and the harmonizer will add notes from the correct scale as the performer has selected (for example a major 3rd, 5th etc).

Flange

Flange effects are a type of sound-wave modulation which produces a swirling, filtered guitar tone most closely identified with psychedelic music. A flange pedal duplicates the input signal and delays the second sound wave by a small amount, many fractions of a second.

Chorus

A chorus effect unit replicates the input signal many times and changes the pitch by a small amount. Each replicated signal is then recombined into a single output signal. The result is a very dense and dramatic tone.

Wah-Wah

A wah-wah pedal is a controllable filter which distorts the input tone in such a way that it imitates a human voice. The wah-wah filter boosts a narrow frequency band, which can then be swept between high and low frequencies. This is either programmed (autowah) to fit a specific number of beats per minute (bpm), or it is controlled by the guitarist, using an expression pedal compressed by the foot. Whereas expression pedals may not be present on all effects units, nearly every example of a wah-wah pedal will feature an expression pedal.

Key Functions and Attributes

Each pedal may be designed with one specific task in mind, or it may house a number of different effects. There is a natural compromise between ease of use and versatility when deciding between a single effect or a multi-effect unit. This is a personal decision based as much on individual preference as the technical specifications of any item.
The operational interface of the unit is the one aspect that every musician must be comfortable with. Pedals require direct interaction, and a performer must be at ease with his or her effect unit in order to utilise its fullest potential. The following table lists some of the main considerations concerning the construction of popular effects pedals.

Single Effect (Stompbox)

Easiest to use during performance, and to programme. Typically cheaper and easier to maintain.

Lacks versatility: only provides one effect type.

Multi-effect

Versatile. May offer any number of individual effects, which may be combined and re-ordered to produce unique tones. Generally cheaper than buying multiple separate effects pedals.

Multi-effects pedals usually rely on many moving parts, including on/off foot switches, dials, buttons, and expression pedals. This means multi-effect pedals have a steeper learning curve to use, and have more parts susceptible to damage.

Metal Casing

Robust and durable. Metal casings withstand shock and impact, making them ideal for long-term use in live performances.

Metal casings are more expensive than moulded plastic, and tend to be used on pedals with a mid- to high-end price.

Plastic Casing

Cheap and lightweight, plastic casings are ideal for home and studio use.

Plastic casings are likely to sustain general wear and tear, and are not ideal for live performances, where even minimal damage to the expression pedal, on/off switch, or the mains power socket may prevent the pedal from being used.

Analogue

Analogue circuitry utilises vacuum tubes and transistors (solid state electronics) to manipulate the audio input. Analogue circuits can be very complex with many parts, and their method of assembly means an almost unique sounding result. Some analogue effects are highly limited, sought after, or collectable, thanks to the standards of workmanship they contain.

Analogue effects pedals may be hand-assembled and soldered, and the high quality is matched by the price of such a unit.

Digital

Digital effects pedals process audio input via a pre-programmed microprocessor, which digitally reshapes the sound waves. These units are often highly versatile, and very good value for money

Some experts believe that it is possible to hear the difference between analogue circuitry and digitally-processed audio. As the cheaper solution, digital effects will often produce a sound with less finesse and precision than an equivalent analogue circuit.

Expression Pedal

An expression pedal is a long, usually rectangular paddle which pivots on a a central axis in a similar motion to a see-saw. The guitarist can manipulate the expression pedal with his or her foot whilst performing, allowing effects to be applied and adapted on-the-fly.

As an expression pedal is essential for many effects types (wah-wah), a weak expression pedal that wears out or breaks can render an entire effects unit unusable if it sustains damage.

Finding Effects Pedals on eBay

One of the quickest ways to find effects pedals is to use the online marketplace eBay. From the homepage, it is easy to find guitar effects pedals by following the links in the site menus. On the left-hand side of the page, highlight Sport & Leisure, then click the Musical Instruments option on the pop-up menu. A new page of options will be displayed, each showing multiple subcategories below main headings. Find the Guitars heading, and then choose the first option, Accessories. Clicking the accessories link will load the auctions listing page, with many items for sale. Along the left-hand side of this screen, there are several further choices to help fine-tune a search. The first of these is Item Type. Select the Choose more... option below that heading, and in the new menu, check the box next to Effects Pedals and press Go. All of the effects pedals currently available on eBay will now be displayed.
Sometimes a vendor will categorise an effect pedal differently, for instance if they are selling multiple items in one auction. It is often possible to find a real bargain, by searching the Wholesale & Job Lots category, and purchasing many effects pedals at once.
eBay is designed to offer the customer the best online experience for any product, and this is equally true when shopping for guitar effect pedals. Using the eBay Deals page can reveal substantial savings on some of the top items available. Similarly, using the Advanced Search features can fine-tune a search in seconds.

Conclusion

Every musician knows that finding the perfect effect pedals for performing is a personal decision. Sometimes, only one specific brand or model will be acceptable. Shopping on eBay saves time and money when it comes to tracking down that one specific item.

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