Wampler Pedals claims Phillip McKnight is Uneducated Because his Opinion is Bullsh*t

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Contributor, Phil Smith is a gear industry veteran with nearly thirty years of experience under his belt, and he wants to share his thoughts and knowledge with the readers TheToneKing.com. So, we’ve given him a turn on the mic! Phil’s opinions might not always reflect ours, but we think you’ll be interested in hearing from him. Let him, and TheToneKing.com, know what you think in the comments!

From the Desk of Phil Smith: The Gear Industry’s Not-So-Secret Dirty Little Secret

On the whole, musicians are a pretty savvy bunch. We talk gear with our friends, watch Youtube videos, read forums posts, and check reviews and user comments before pulling the trigger.

That’s something I have been doing for approximately thirty years now. Before the internet era, I discussed ideas with band members, other musician friends, and local dealers I trusted. Today nothing much has actually changed, except now we can reach out to more people around the world much more quickly. I can check “stores” such Reverb or eBay and I can hang out with other musician friends across the globe on Skype, social networks, and forums and see what the latest reviews are of things I’m considering purchasing.

Companies naturally understand that good reviews and word-of-mouth boost sales. In today’s online environment, many companies have taken innovative steps to get the word out, enlisting The Tone King, Phillip McKnight, and other independent, trusted sources on YouTube in an effort to spread the news of their latest innovations. One of the reasons those members of the YouTube community have became “influencers” is BECAUSE they are independent. They don’t hesitate to tell it how it is, from their point of view, without filters and restrictions.

There’s really no secret that even independent reviewers receive compensation. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s some free gear. But the independent reviewers I’ve named are very open about not accepting every offer that comes their way, no matter what the proposed compensation may be. The compensation they receive barely covers the time spent on the review.

There are situations than can cause musicians to question that validity and honesty of the reviews they are reading. For instance, magazines survive mainly on ad revenue.  If they publish a bad review of a product from one of the advertisers, they could stand to lose significant ad sales from that advertiser. Therefore, magazines might feel pressure to avoid publishing negative reviews if it involves one of their advertisers. So if companies want a good review on their latest product they might buy couple months of ads, which will promote their product even more.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a free market and it’s perfectly fine (and legal) for a company to do all of that. You just have to keep it in mind and be aware of it when you’re reading or watching such reviews. They will only tell you what you need to hear to buy it, only the positive points.

Since not all YouTubers / demonstrators / reviewers are living off of their product demos / reviews they have no restriction on doing a completely honest, independent, and unleashed review or turning down an offer for a review from the start. That’s exactly what some companies don’t want, especially from channels with a large number of subscribers and followers. It could negatively influence the purchase decision of other potential buyers by providing them information they wouldn’t get from a paid demo/review that would only be positive about the product.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to things getting a bit ugly. Perhaps you know where this is going.

It all started when Phillip McKnight from the “Know Your Gear” YouTube channel did a review of the JHS Andy Timmons signature pedal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVOweWMViE0&t=4447s

During a live stream, Phillip did a poll with the chatroom to see what pedal he should buy and review. Phillip bought the pedal, a JHS Andy Timmons signature overdrive, with his own earned money; no pedal builder or store gave it to him, nor did one pay him to do a review/demo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMlr9zt-eCg

During the review, Phillip mentioned the good and the bad, just as any reviewer might. Amongst the bad, he mentioned that the serial number is hand-written on the outside of the pedal, something that could lead you to believe the pedal is hand-wired. But after he opens it we can see it’s actually not a hand-wired pedal, but instead it uses a PCB (printed circuit board) with SMD (surface mounted device), meaning the components such resistors and capacitors are mounted on the PCB, something that could generally be done by machine.

Phillip McKnight noted that a pedal made by using PCB does not have the same cost than a hand-wired pedal where someone has to solder by hand every components and wires, while in the other hand it could be done in the oven. In that case, you could still have it done by placing components manually on the board — but it could also be completely done by a machine (sometimes, only in just a couple of minutes). So don’t get all confused by manufacturers that use the term “hand-built”. To be honest, Hand-built means very little these days, unless we have all details. There’s nothing wrong with PCB construction (even Phillip says it in his video around the 6:00 mark), but it is a factor regarding the cost and value of a pedal or other piece of gear.

Phillip also mentions some good points, such for the power plug mount, that is not directly mounted on the PCB. Since it’s a cheap $1.5 part that can easily be abused over the years, it would be easier to change it that way if you have to fix it in the future. But he also mentions that he thinks there are other cheap parts and components such the switch or plugs and it’s very unexciting as a whole inside the pedal.

Phillip does acknowledge the fact that we can’t only judge a pedal by its components because there’s many other factors that come to play regarding pricing. However, he thinks the JHS Andy Timmons should be sold for $140, and not $219. Despite his misgivings about the price, he still comes to conclusion that it’s a good pedal, it sounds good, and he will keep it.

Like many people, I didn’t find anything in the video that would be controversial. And guess what? Even if it would be perfectly legitimate from JHS to answer to the video and then maybe bring their opinion on why they think Phillip is wrong, they didn’t answer (which is smart from them, IMHO).

Here’s a fact: we could perfectly make a case for why the pedal should be sold $219 and why it could also be sold for $140, and we could even make a case on why we think it could also be produced in China and sold directly for $60, all using the exact same parts. And none of us would be “wrong”. That would only be our own opinion.

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From what I saw, my own guesstimations is that there’s maybe no more than $20 to $25 worth of parts on the PCB. Depending on your method of production it could be done pretty quickly if you’re using a machine and couple of workers to assemble them (that probably wouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes). So when you add up development, distribution, support, store margin, and other things. I guess you could end up in the $150-160 price range, and with a $10-20 store discount, you would get it for the $140 price that Phil was talking about. That’s a possibility, though not the only one.

As a manufacturer you could also choose to not use any robot or machine at all and mount everything by hand (including the tiny SMD on the PCB)… and then it will take probably a complete hour or two and you might need more workers. A company can also perfectly choose to not “race to the bottom” to always make things “cheaper”, but instead try to pay their workers a little more, get them healthcare, bonuses, etc… Maybe even hire people that would otherwise have hard time getting work such elderly, veterans, disabled workers, etc… Again that’s perfectly possible too and no one would be “wrong”, it would just be a different opinion.

If you want to know more about JHS, they wrote an interesting article about their point of view — you can ready here: https://www.jhspedals.com/builtbyhand/

 

So there’s a lot of things many of us can’t really know for sure. But still it doesn’t change the fact that we can still all have our own opinion about it. That’s the whole point of the story here: Phillip gave his personal opinion that in regard of the material and building type, the pedal should be sold for $140. And i just gave you mine. And you probably have yours. There’s nothing wrong with that.

However, an employee from a completely different pedal maker which also happened to have made the other pedal being voted on by viewers, Wampler, saw this and decided to write a blog post openly attacking Phillip McKnight for his opinion:

From the Wampler Website:

“GEAR REVIEWERS.  A LITTLE RESEARCH WILL CUT YOUR BS OUTPUT BY UP TO 100% CONFIRMED!”

http://www.wamplerpedals.com/news/blog/talking-about-gear/gear-reviewers-a-little-research-will-cut-your-bullshit-output-by-up-to-100-confirmed

The Wampler employee called Phillip “uneducated” because his opinion is “bullshit,” “purest horseshit imaginable,” “total crap,” and other attacks I won’t quote here. I would lose my job if I would write those kind of words on a company’s blog. I just guess we don’t all live by the same standards after all.

But even if we set aside the “colorful language” that is already unacceptable in the first place. Not only Wampler is attacking a customer for his opinion, but then they also do misrepresent him to make their case. They claim that Phillip said PCB was inferior or bad quality. He simply didn’t! He pointed to the fact that it was not hand-wired but PCB and some parts were cheap, which is true.

Apparently this is not even the first time this employee gets angry at customers to the point to attack them or even invite his followers to massively “troll” them. But somehow, that seems like perfectly normal and ok for Wampler.

Brian Wampler himself did address this, at first in his Podcast #193 (around 45:00 mark) here: http://www.wamplerpedals.com/podcast

Here again, Wampler pretends that Phillip said PCB was not of good quality for pedals. That is a misrepresentation to what Phillip really said, and perhaps all in the goal to discredit Phillip and to ignore his point about the economy of scale and difference of cost between a real small boutique builder that do hand-wired pedals and companies that mass produce pedals.

This is what Phil addressed in his blog response here: https://knowyourgear.net/wampler-responce

In a second post by Brian Wampler, available here [http://www.wamplerpedals.com/news/blog/latest-news/in-response-to-phil-mcknight-and-the-controversy], Brian states “he want[s] them [his employes] to understand that the social media platform is groundbreaking” and that he “can’t share disciplinary actions”. But he also doubles down on Phillip’s misrepresentation claiming Phillip contradicted himself by saying we can “tell the value of a pedal by looking inside” and “you can’t judge a pedal by looking at it.”

But we can VALUE a pedal by estimating the cost of parts, the quality of some parts, how easily it will be to repair, or even checking if it’s a rare model that is collectable and might increase in value over the years. Then we still can’t JUDGE it by only looking at it — for that we need to try it, play with and listen to how it sounds. So both statements, as rightly said by Phillip in his original video, are perfectly correct. Yes, the use of PCB can be an indication of the VALUE. That’s not the only factor, but it could be one of them.

What Wampler did here (in my opinion) is confess that they don’t want independent reviews because they could be negative and that’s bad for their business.

When a company buys ads in a magazine or pays for a professional demos/reviews, they have the power to influence the influencers (such editors and reviewers). They don’t have the same power with the independent channels, though, so they lose their temper.

Wampler knows very well that they need to protect their business from increased competition, and they could definitely do that without attacking people. The reality is that musicians could probably get the EXACT same electronic board cheaper because it would be made differently and/or somewhere else, or in different conditions. A lot of those so-called “boutique builders” are trashing companies such Joyo, Mooer, Harley-Benton, Caline, Hotone, Kokko, Outlaw, Mosky and many others… but the reality is that some of those pedals are just as good as any of the so-called “boutique” pedals. Not all and not always, but sometimes they can be.

I’ll fully admit I think Brian Wampler builds some great pedals and until today, I already had few of them in my shopping cart. But after seeing how they handled the situation, it convinced me to never buy a Wampler pedal. As mentioned, there’s many choices out there, I will find alternatives. I might even get the JHS AT+ after all.

Maybe Wampler won’t care, but I’m amongst the people that live with principles and believe that, in a free market, consumers have the power with their wallets. I generally like to put my money where my mouth is and not towards people that attack customers when they lose their temper because they’re losing their power to influence the influencers.

So bye bye, Wampler –Phil Smith

And, we’re curious – what do you think?

In a separate story – Gibson sues Funko over Toys.  Read all about it here.

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About the Author: French by birth but Texan by heart, I had different careers in multiple areas that don’t really make sense when they’re all laid down on my resume. Amongst them I’m a former military officer (mainly confidential stuff I can’t talk about) — I’m a former network architect (the stuff with switches, routers, optical fibers, satellites and wireless things that allow people to be connected) — I’m a former R&D engineer and product designer (mainly for electronics instruments in the Music Industry) — I’m also a former sound engineer that worked in professional recording studios (but nobody cares about that anymore) — and I even thought once in my life I was someone almost important doing things almost awesome... Now I’m just a professional amateur spreading my 2 cents online about anything and everything to anyone with too much time in their hands — and if you’re reading this bio, you might be one of them that just wasted 2mn of your life you will never get back. Sorry...