Epiphone’s new multi-effects pedal sure looks like a rebadged Joyo unit from 2020

The Epiphone Power Players Multi-Effects Pedal cosmetic similarity to Joyo’s TC-1 has proved hard to ignore for some guitarists.

Epiphone is, presumably soon, going to announce a multi-effects pedal, as early dealer listings indicate. While there’s no official word on it yet, the existence of those dealer listings, photos and marketing copy suggest that this is a real, new product from Epiphone.

Except… it maybe isn’t. New that is. And there’s an argument to be made that it might not really be that “from Epiphone” either. Confused? Well, take a look at this image, this image and this image of the Epiphone Power Players Multi-Effects Pedal, currently still listed on Sam Ash’s website. Now look at this image and this image of the Joyo TC-1 Tone Chain.

The livery is different of course, but the actual design of the casing – the shape, plus the locations of the footswitches, knobs, inputs and outputs – are pretty much identical just with a different paintjob. While we can’t speculate as to the internal similarities, it’s pretty striking that both of these units have the same casing, the same effects, the same I/O layout, even the same knobs. So what’s going on?

Well, what seems likely is that Gibson wanted an affordable compact multi-effects unit, and so ordered the same unit from the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer – tech speak for a company that produces items that are then sold by a third party as their own) as Joyo, and gave it Epiphone branding. The OEM might even have been Joyo itself – after all, there’s a precedent for Joyo pedals being sold under different brands – just look at the Joyo American Sound compared to the Harley Benton American TrueTone.

This is absolutely legal, and very common in the world of cheap consumer electronics – from mp3 players to electric razors to, yes, guitar pedals. It is distinct from copying or counterfeiting, as the OEM retains the design rights, licensing them out to the brand which the product is being sold under.

It’s not a new practice, either, as this lengthy deep-dive from Josh Scott shows – pedal-makers have been doing this since the Big Muff was introduced. Scott demonstrates in that video that for a while in the late ‘60s the Guild Foxey Lady fuzz was the exact same pedal as the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff – same production line, same parts, just a different name slapped on the front.

Nor is it limited to effects either – remember that embarrassing story where Squier shipped a bunch of Strat-O-Sonics with Epiphone-branded tailpieces? Fender blamed the error on the OEM company it sourced the bridges from. But this story was a reminder of how using OEM products can make a lot of sense: when making affordable guitars, you don’t really need to reinvent the wheel with the hardware. On a sub-$400 guitar, a bridge is a bridge.

But for guitar products, pedals are where we see rebadged OEM products most. Indeed, if you’ve ever gone budget pedal shopping on Amazon, you’ll have quickly been confronted with scores of identical units with different brands stamped on them. For example: the Getaria Guitar Multi Effects Pedal, is seemingly identical to both this LEKATO pedal and this Cube Baby unit.

In many ways, this is an inevitable consequence of products being available at such absurdly cheap price-points. Developing original products costs time and money. That’s why when Amazon itself created its own line of AmazonBasics effects pedals, people discovered the NUX logo on the PCB – because you simply can’t design a new pedal from the ground up, sell it for less than $30 a pop and make any kind of profit.

But while that’s true of Amazon – who wanted to make pedals because it makes everything – or budget brands like LEKATO, it feels a bit different when you’re talking about the world’s second most famous guitar brand, which brings us back to the Epiphone Power Players Multi Effects Pedal.

Because while Epiphone is of course the budget arm of Gibson, it’s still a brand with a huge amount of historic cachet itself – Lennon, McCartney, Gallagher, Marr… and so why is it seemingly putting itself alongside the myriad anonymous companies selling generic mini-pedals for peanuts on Amazon? Even at the absolute beginner Power Player level, it would feel like a strange decision to say the least.

Compare this with how Fender moved into the budget end of the effects market last year with the Hammertone range – each of which was housed in a completely unique enclosure and, according to Fender, were designed from the ground up by the Big F’s in-house pedal guru Stan Cotey.

Given that Gibson also has in-house pedal-design experience with the recent Maestro revival, you would expect a company with that level of prestige and investment in the guitar industry to take a similarly ‘ground-up’ approach to its Epiphone pedals.

Instead, the only notable difference between the Epiphone unit and its Joyo cousin – without getting a look inside at least – appears to be the price. Some dealer listings priced the Epiphone at $70 more than the Joyo when it launched in 2020 (this price dropped across the product’s lifetime).

Of course, Guitar.com can’t confirm that the similarities are more than cosmetic, and updated internals may indeed justify a higher price tag. But even so, it would be quite an unusual thing for a major guitar brand to be seen doing. Gibson did not respond to our query as to whether there are any technical differences between the Epiphone Power Players Multi Effects Pedal and the Joyo TC-1 Tone Chain.

In the meantime, we’ll await the official launch of the product from Epiphone, and hope that it will bring some clarity to the situation.

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