Vintage and Counterfeit Parts

Scarcity of vintage parts and the abundance of counterfeit and fake parts have become very big problems.  Demand for vintage parts long out of production remains relatively strong, even in spite of the high prices quality vintage components can fetch.  Demand for scarce products seems to bring out the worst in some people who see it is an opportunity to make money by defrauding buyers.  Fake and counterfeit parts are much more available than quality vintage parts in many cases.

In many cases, vintage parts do contribute to the sound of the effect, but often in a negative way.  The effect can usually be built with more available parts that yield a better-sounding effect.  However "better-sounding" is both different and subjective.  Some will continue to prefer the vintage parts either due to familiarity with that specific sound or fear, based on hype of old parts, that using newer parts will somehow be a "bad thing", or wouldn't "sound right".  Rightly or wrongly, that's fair enough.  If it matters, it matters.  But it is becoming more difficult and expensive every day to get certain vintage chips, transistors, and diodes.  Builders have been scouring the planet looking for stashes of old parts for many years, decades in some cases.  It's harder and harder to find more stashes hidden away.  People that have them have also found out that they are worth a lot of money and demand high prices for untested parts.  Many of them have already been picked over for pieces with the "right values" and in good condition.  If you do find some, they may not be usable.  We know this because we constantly hunt for them just like other builders do.  Even when we can pre-screen them, a large portion of what we purchase is not usable, which just increases our costs (and wastes our time).

Keep in mind that in older effects, builders and designers were limited to very few choices for parts.  They had to use what was available.  Much of the time the parts selected were nothing special - they were simply available and low cost.  If they had our more modern components available, they would very likely have used them instead.  We rarely recommend spending money on expensive, rare components.

We have spent time finding more available substitutes for many old parts, and updating designs to use them.  In some cases, we think the circuits with the newer parts sound the same as the ones with the older parts.  In other cases they sound very close or only slightly different, arguably better in most cases.  In most cases, you can request original/vintage parts in these older circuits.  It can be expensive, but if we have them or can get them, we'll do it.  But we suggest you consider substitute parts instead.  Eventually that is all we'll be able to offer for some circuits.

The higher prices vintage components bring create a big motivation for counterfeit and fake parts.  For reasons difficult to imagine, even extremely inexpensive, widely available components are also widely counterfeited.  We're not going to give anyone ideas about how to build fakes, so we'll stay away from the details of how the fakes are made and how you can detect them.  In some cases the fakes are done so poorly that they are easily spotted and you can't imagine anyone falling for such obvious fakes.  They may not even be functional.  In other cases the fakes will actually work OK and are very difficult to detect.  I've seen even some of the well-known builders end up with fake parts in their products.  It could happen to anyone.  We've certainly bought our share of fake/counterfeit parts. 

This is mainly only a problem for older out-of-production parts, whether they are rare or plentiful.  Parts that are still in production can be purchased from authorized dealers that buy parts directly from the manufacturers, minimizing the problems with counterfeits.

We are as careful as we can be when sourcing out-of-production parts from secondary sources.  We're getting better at spotting counterfeits and making sure they don't end up in our circuits.  We've also developed relationships with trusted vendors which further reduces our odds of ending up with fake parts.  If something slips by us, we would replace it, of course.