Component Suppliers

This is a list of the major parts suppliers that you’ll want to know about. I give a short review of each of them based on my own experience and the experience of others.

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Small Bear Electronics

Website: http://www.smallbearelec.com

Small Bear was the first parts store geared specifically toward DIY audio, and they’re still the best. Steve, the owner, is very active in the DIY scene.

What do they do best?
You won’t find a better selection of potentiometers, knobs, obsolete semiconductors, or parts for repairing vintage pedals. There are a lot of items that you can only find at SBE. Their inventory is incredibly deep and has everything you could want for pedalbuilding. They also have incredibly high standards for quality. You may be able to find some components for cheaper by shopping around, but you know you are never taking a risk when you order from Small Bear.

What are the downsides?
Shipping can be a little expensive, so this isn’t the place to go if you only want a couple of parts quickly. I tend to keep a shopping list for a few weeks and then make one big order at at time.

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Pedal Parts Plus

Website: http://www.pedalpartsplus.com

Pedal Parts Plus started out as a parts store, but in the past few years they’ve found their niche in enclosures. (More about PPP later in the Professional Enclosure Finishing section.)

What do they do best?
Enclosure finishing, hands down. They have a wide selection of sizes and brands, and they’ll handle the drilling, powdercoating, and printing. (They’ll even print single enclosures now for super professional one-off builds.) They have a huge variety of powdercoat colors and their quality is unrivalled. Their shipping costs are also exceptional. If their shipping estimator charges too much during checkout, they’ll refund you the difference when they ship. Customer service is top notch.

What are the downsides?
Very limited parts selection. They have pots and capacitors in a wide range of values, but as their focus has shifted to enclosure finishing, the parts selection has remained fairly stagnant.

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Tayda Electronics

Website: http://www.taydaelectronics.com

These guys are located in Thailand and were originally just a general components store, but the DIY pedal scene took notice of their insanely low prices and started spreading the word. They’ve begun to cater to requests and have begun stocking a lot of pedal-related components including 3PDT switches and germanium diodes.

What do they do best?
Rock-bottom shipping prices and wide selection of parts. Many components are far cheaper than you’ll find elsewhere (for instance, tantalum capacitors, potentiometers and a number of transistors). While they’re headquartered in Thailand, they ship from the US, so you’ll still usually get your order within ten days. Shipping prices are the lowest I’ve seen anywhere, though it does add up quickly if you order enclosures or other large parts.

What are the downsides?
Many of their parts suffer in quality, particularly the hardware. Their ¼” jacks and toggle switches are flimsy and I would never use them in a production build (though their 3PDTs and soft-touch momentary switches are great). Some of the semiconductors whose prices seem too good to be true are fake (J201 has been confirmed). However, they are continually changing their sources and suppliers, so what may be poor quality today could be excellent quality next month. If you’re thinking of investing in a large quantity of something from them, just make sure to order a couple of them ahead of time to evaluate. Then place the large order as soon as possible to ensure they haven’t changed suppliers.

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Mouser Electronics

Website: http://www.mouser.com

Mouser has been around nearly fifty years and is a staple in the electronics component business.

What do they do best?
Tons and tons and tons of parts, and everything is extremely high quality. They also have a fantastic search filter, so it’s not hard to find what you need. Prices are generally good, especially if you buy in bulk, but not always the best if you just need one or two of something.

What are the downsides?
Mouser’s primary customer base is large electronics manufacturers, so they don’t really care too much about the hobby pedalbuilder who may only spend a couple hundred bucks a year, and their selection reflects that. They don’t stock anything that is obsolete. But I buy all my resistors and most of my capacitors from them, and it’s the only place (on this list, anyway) that you can find SMD parts if you are interested in experimenting with that. (Tayda Electronics sells a wide assortment of SMD parts, but they’re 0805 package size which is too small for most people to solder by hand. Mouser sells a great variety of 1206 packages which is much more reasonable.)

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Mammoth Electronics

Website: http://www.mammothelectronics.com

Mammoth Electronics is the retail division of 4Site Electronics who manufactures pedal components such as enclosures, jacks and switches. Mammoth also distributes a wide variety of other components with a particularly good selection of semiconductors (ICs, transistors and diodes).

What do they do best?
Wide variety of parts—probably third to Smallbear and Tayda, but not by much. They also have a few niches, such as a wide selection of 3PDT stomp switches and DIY patch cables.

What are the downsides?
Some have complained about the quality of their enclosure powdercoating and drilling. I’m not sure whether they have corrected this or not since I get all my enclosures from Pedal Parts Plus. I have also been less than impressed with some of their house-brand hardware, such as the ¼” enclosed black plastic jacks. They feel very flimsy and I would not recommend using them for production pedals.

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BLMS

Website: http://www.bitcheslovemyswitches.com

Lawrence Scaduto is a pedalbuilder in New York City who specializes in bulk orders of enclosures and electromechanical hardware (stomp switches and toggle switches).

What does he do best?
Crazy prices if you need more than 10 of something. He usually will have it in the mail within a few hours after you order, and everything is sent priority so it’ll probably be in your hands in 3 days.

What are the downsides?
Mainly just the ironic-misogynist company name. Fortunately he ships under his own name so your mailman won’t look at you funny when he delivers the package. Some of his stuff can tend toward lower quality since he sources unbranded stuff from the Far East, though I haven’t had any issues with the namesake switches.

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eBay

Website: http://www.ebay.com

It may seem weird to include it here, but there are a few parts that I get exclusively from eBay so I wanted to cover it. It’s hard to speak in anything more than very general terms, though, since eBay is comprised of hundreds of thousands of sellers and your actual buying experience depends on them rather than eBay itself.

What do they do best?
eBay has created a ton of incentive for the “Buy it Now, Free Shipping” listing style, so you see those more often than auctions these days. And prices are usually very reasonable. If there’s a single part I need, and I don’t have enough else that I can justify paying shipping prices from SBE or Mouser, I’ll check eBay. More often than not I’ve found what I needed. Filter by USA sellers if you need it quickly. Also, eBay and PayPal have very strong seller protection, so if you do get burned then you can usually get your money back without much hassle.

What are the downsides?
There are a lot of fake parts coming out of Asia, especially if you’re looking for obsolete ICs and transistors. I do order plenty from Asia and have only actually gotten burned once. Just make sure to check the seller’s reviews if you’re in doubt.

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What about Europe?

All of these suppliers are based in the United States and I reviewed them from a US-centric perspective. There are a number of great European distributors as well. I haven’t used any of them before, but here are a couple I see mentioned frequently:

Banzai Musichttp://www.banzaimusic.com/

Das Musikdinghttp://www.musikding.de

Rapid Onlinehttp://www.rapidonline.com

If you’re from Europe and you’d like to contribute some reviews of these and other places, please let me know!