Goods electronics suppliers are the root cause of a good build quality for a pedal builder.
With my crowdfunding project, I have an intermediary position. I cannot order directly from manufacturers (because I would have to order thousands of units at least), but I can order from electronics wholesalers!
Already 95% of the components have been ordered, and I already received quite a lot of parts! Here is a picture of the switches I got this morning (more pictures will follow in a next post):
Here is a map of my suppliers :
In this post, I will present you the suppliers I work with, and list the pros and cons of each one! For the American readers of this blog, I am sorry, because most of the suppliers will be presented in a French/European prospective... If you have any remarks or insights, post a comment to make this post more relevant for American readers. Anyway, this post can be very useful if you ever wonder where to buy parts for guitar effects. Lets go!
Disclaimer: in this post, I list a few components "of low quality". "Low quality" does not mean that you cannot use it in guitar effects! They will work perfectly fine in a lot of circuits. However, they might have high tolerances, be less relevant for audio use or fail more often on the long term.
Suppliers specialized in guitar effectsSome electronics suppliers are specialized in guitar effects and sell specific parts for it. They are very nice when you start building effects, easy to use, and you can sometimes find things that are hard to come by elsewhere!
Das Musikding (Europe)
A classic in Europe, and good for beginners. They sell most of the components needed when you want to start building effects, and also cheap kits (low quality components, but good to start with!) They are based in Germany. I would suggest to ask them to ship your orders with Deutsche Post because it will then be handled by local post offices which makes it easier (at least in France).
Banzai Music (Europe)
Based in Germany as well, Banzai Music is another option as an European supplier. However, I would not recommend them because of the totally disastrous inventory management... There is an easy 40% chance that you will get at least one of your component backordered, even if the website was showing it "in stock"! Sometimes, backorders can take up to 2 months before you receive it (true story)! It is a pity because beside of this issue, this supplier has a broad choice of components and really nice pre-painted enclosures...
Mammoth Electronics (USA)
Mammoth Electronics are based in the USA and sell lots of different kits. They also offer a service to customize your enclosures: you can choose the color, drilling template and / or UV print the enclosure (even on the sides of the enclosure)! They are also really really fast, and ship the order the same day! However, components are more of the low end side. Customs can also be a problem if you do not live in the US.
Pedal Parts Plus (USA)
Based in the US as well. Do not be afraid by the a-little-dated-looking website. It is a great supplier for custom enclosures! They have a gigantic choice of colors, and very nice looking ones! They also offer a UV printing service for a minimum of 5 enclosures, which is quite low, and for a really affordable price. They also sell blemished powder coated enclosures for really low prices. Finally, the team at Pedal Parts Plus is really nice, great people! Components are sometimes interesting, sometimes not, it depends. However, the website makes ordering not so easy.
Tayda Electronics (Worldwide)
Tayda Electronics has a very clear strategy: low prices! They have a huuuge inventory at really low prices. They are based in Thailand, and manufacture themselves some of the parts they sell. I also guess that they have close relationships with Asian manufacturers that make them able to sell at these incredibly low prices. Most of the components are of low quality. However, for some components that are very standard like Alpha potentiometers, you can get insanely low prices. They are also very quick to process and ship the orders, that can be quite long to get to you because of their location. The traceability of the components is also quite good since you even have access to the components datasheets!
Smallbear Electronics (USA)
Supplier that is based in the USA. I heard a lot about them on forums like freestompboxes.org, diystompboxes or madbean pedals. However, I have never ordered anything from them so it is quite difficult for me to say something about them. If you have already order electronics at Small Bear, do not hesitate to leave a comment down there to tell me what you think and what you do not like and I will update this post.
Electronics wholesalersThey are better for big orders (at least above 65 euros, so shipping becomes free), but can be very interesting if you plan on making a small series of effect, or if you need very specific components and high quality components. They are huge electronics retailers that do not have always the cheapest prices, but have a very good traceability, a tremendous choice of parts, an impressive inventory management, and very high quality components.
Mouser Electronics is one of the biggest distributor of electronics worldwide, based in Texas in the US. They have more than 5 millions references, with datasheets always available! The selection is immensely vast, and most of the components are of high-end quality (you can find 7,000 US dollars switches there!) The inventory management is more than perfect, and the shipping costs and customs taxes and fees are paid by Mouser when you buy more than 65 euros from them. It is really a good deal if you plan on making a medium to big order. They are mainly intended for professionals, but it can work for individuals too. The only downside of mouser is that they have so many references that it is very hard to navigate and to find what you need on their website. You need to know the precise reference of the component you are looking for before even trying to look for it on the website!
Farnel Element 14 (worldwide)
Another big electronics retailer. I have never ordered from them so I am not really able to review it. They have quite a broad choice of components, maybe a bit smaller than Digikey and Mouser. They are based in Leeds, UK. They are also the manufacturer of the Raspberry Pi, which contributed a lot to their success I suppose.
I know it can be a bit weird to distinguish Chinese suppliers from others, however I think it is important. China is a nebula and ordering there is not always easy. You have very good suppliers with really low prices (good!), but also crooks and scammers selling counterfeits or goods that are delivered 3 months after buying it (not good!). However, it is a good way to buy things directly from manufacturers, especially as a lot of components are made in China today.
Do you use the classic blue 3PDT footswiches? Here is the original manufacturers of the chinese blue 3PDT! They sell these footswitches at really low prices if you buy them in bulk. They also sell really cheap kits (low end components), and aluminum enclosures (clones of Hammond enclosures). The shipping costs are a flat price of 9.9 dollars, but they use Fedex or DHL, which makes the shipping delivery time shorter. However, you will certainly experience customs taxes and fees.
Daier is a Chinese manufacturer that makes components for guitar pedals, and sell it on Aliexpress (we will talk about it later on). They make a lot of clones of common guitar effects components like switches, enclosures or knobs. They sell it one by one or as bulks for insanely low prices. Traceability is very good as you buy directly from the manufacturer! However, datasheets are missing. I know Aliexpress can be a bit scary, but this seller is very trustable. Shipping is through China Post by default (cheap but slow), but you can use Fedex, DHL or UPS to get your order quicker. However, you can be sure to go through customs if you use these carriers.
AliExpress is the Chinese Ebay / Amazon, and is the retail side of Alibaba. Contrary to popular belief, AliExpress is a trustable and secure website. Sellers can receive feedback like on ebay, and most of them want to ensure that you have a good shopping experience. However, like on ebay, they still are some scammers and not very trustable sellers. They are lots of counterfeits (look for electric guitars for instance), including electronics counterfeits. So pay attention and only buy from established buyers. Select buyers with high feedback scores and with lots of sells and rated products. Also look for the "Buyer's protection" logo that ensures that the seller uses the protection system from Aliexpress: if you do not receive your product or have any issue with it, you can open disputes like on Paypal. Of course, be really careful with super low priced products. Finally, delivery time can be quite long (China), and you can encounter customs taxes and fees.
SpecialHere are special "suppliers" that you can need from times to times. Not always useful, but in some situations they can really help!
Ebay is an international platform of retail. One of the biggest advantages of Ebay is that you can use Paypal, which gives your some safety when buying from international sellers. Ebay is very practical to find NOS ("New Old Stock": vintage components) components, and ordering a few parts that you need quickly. Indeed, you can find a lot of local dealers that will ship your order the next day. There are also many international buyers with huge stocks of NOS components, especially Russian and English sellers. They are great if you are looking for specific vintage germanium parts for instance! However, pay attention to the seller, only select high ranked sellers, as they are some counterfeits on the website too.
How to avoid customs fees and taxes?Let's speak a bit about customs! Indeed, customs can be really expensive when ordering abroad... In France, you should expect nearly 25% of the price, plus an additional fee linked to the carrier (around 15 euros per shipping!). It can thus be quite expensive and frustrating, especially for small orders.
It can be very tempting to avoid customs. I am globally against this. First, it is illegal practice, and customs exist to protect one country's economy against countrys that do not share the same rules about environment or working conditions. Typically, components made in China can be made in a very bad way regarding pollution. Of course, this is only my opinion on this matter, and no problem if you think otherwise!
What I do is I simply add the customs taxes and fees to the price I see online (so plus 25% and plus 15 euros), and then I compare to other suppliers. This is a nice way to do it, because sometimes you can find local manufacturers or suppliers that first seemed to be more expensive, but also, when you do not pay customs taxes and fees, it becomes a nice surprice instead of the other way around :)
If you want to avoid customs, here are a few tips, at your own risk:
- Under-declare the value of the goods. This is highly illegal, and the seller is responsible for it, so most of the sellers will refuse.
- Low value parcels usually do not go through customs, and you do not have to pay anything for it. So do not worry for little orders from China, usually you will not have any problem below 20 euros / 25 dollars.
- Professional carriers like TNT, Fedex, UPS or DHL systematicaly pass through customs. Avoid them and use local post offices instead (USPS, China Post...etc). Delivery will be slower though.
- Declare the parcel as a "Gift". Some sellers declare the parcel as a gift. However, almost every sellers from China do it, so customs officers will not be fooled by it.
When ordering, everything is about choosing the right supplier depending on your needs: do you need high quality components? Do you need cheap components? Or do you need them fast? With all the above informations, you should be able to choose the perfect supplier for your needs :)
For the crowdfunding campaing orders, I mainly ordered at wholesalers like Mouser and Digikeys, that are very good for providing quick delivery and high quality components. I also ordered a few parts in specialized suppliers, and some of them in China.
I hope that this post was useful to you!
If you have any remarks, questions or insights, post a comment! If you have found this post useful, thank me by liking the Coda Effects Facebook page for more!