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The Hunt for These Inexpensive Arion Pedals is Heating Up

There are few players out there who swoon over plastic housed stompboxes. In most cases, they’re not worth the risk. There’s no doubt about it, when a manufacturer opts for plastic it’s about cutting costs. Yet when the interweb was nigh, Arion was a sleeper brand offering compact made in Japan pedals on the cheap.

There are few players out there who swoon over plastic housed stompboxes. In most cases, they’re not worth the risk. There’s no doubt about it, when a manufacturer opts for plastic it’s about cutting costs. Yet when the interweb was nigh, Arion was a sleeper brand offering compact made in Japan pedals on the cheap.

Arion effects was a Japanese startup born in the 1980s. As a reminder, these were the days when you couldn’t find a million reviews of a pedal within a click of a few links or have one shipped overnight to your doorstep. Also, this was an age when digital was all the rage and rack effects were in vogue. This had to be a tough market for pedal makers.

To contend with the established brands and undercut the pricey digital options in the market, Arion took a non-traditional approach. They designed circuits that were largely all analog and then tossed then in simple, plastic housings. The result? A pedal almost anyone could afford.

To get these items in the hands of players across the continent, they tag-teamed with major American music chains to release the pedals through catalogues. Back then the pedals advertised on those glossy catalogue pages were a bargain.

But you know what the strange thing is? They still are. Despite the fact that they’re now vintage, MIJ, and, in some cases, rare, Arion effects are some of the most economical buys on the used market today. Just how much of a good deal depends on the pedal, condition, and scarcity. Yet, in most cases, you’re talking about the same type of money it would take to get a new-to-you Behringer stompbox.

So if you’re thinking about poaching an old school, MIJ Arion pedal on the used market, here’s few top picks that are high on value and exceptional on tone.

Arion SCH-Z Chorus Pedal

This pedal existed in the shadow of the Boss CE-2, released in 1979. Yet as a pedal born and raised in the decade of chorus, the SCH-Z offers a period correct and easy to use option for modulation. With a switch for either vibe or chorus and even stereo outs, the pedal has some exceptional appointments for this two-digit price point. How about the sound? When played particularly at slower speeds, the sound of the SCH-Z is arguably thicker than its iconic Boss contender.

Arion SAD-1 Delay Pedal

The Arion lineup included a number of different delay options, both analog and digital. The SAD-1 is based around a bucket-brigade circuit and offers up to 300ms of darkening repeats. Like the above, its stereo outs let you hear the effect echo back to you in multiple dimensions. By dialing the repeat and depth knobs to taste, it’s possible to get a faux dotted-eighth note effect. For more experimental sounds, cranking the repeat and delay knobs in a moment of feedback will also set you off into analog 80s oscillation.

Arion MTE-1 Tubulator Pedal

Arion offered numerous and diverse gain and overdrive pedals in their lineup, from gritty blues to grinding metal. This pedal, however, was meant to take the sound of your likely solid-state amp and give it push/pull tube tone. With knobs for level, tone, and distortion, the pedal aims for that sweet spot of crumbling tube breakup. Whether it nails that ideal or not is up to you, but this pedal provides a different sort of sound to stack up against the much more famous (and pricey) vintage, Japanese Ibanez Tubescreamers of the era.

Arion Powered Pedalboard

Finally, no matter what Arion pedals you picked off the catalogue page, Arion was a full service company there to meet all your effect accessory needs. That’s right, they’d even sell you a pedal board for your plastic stompboxes. These housed between 4-5 of their standard sized pedals, included a centralized power supply, and the necessary connections to help you with quick and easy routing. You could go from catalogue browser to gig ready in an instant. Send money now!

While the plastic edifice might be off-putting to some, in our day of cult classic, vintage, made in Japan effects, you won’t find a better deal that checks off all those boxes than Arion.

Arion effects was a Japanese startup born in the 1980s. As a reminder, these were the days when you couldn’t find a million reviews of a pedal within a click of a few links or have one shipped overnight to your doorstep. Also, this was an age when digital was all the rage and rack effects were in vogue. This had to be a tough market for pedal makers.

To contend with the established brands and undercut the pricey digital options in the market, Arion took a non-traditional approach. They designed circuits that were largely all analog and then tossed then in simple, plastic housings. The result? A pedal almost anyone could afford and use.

To get these items in the hands of players across the continent, they tag-teamed with major American music chains to release the pedals through catalogues.

So what would you find on that glossy catalogue page for a two digit price tag pre-millennium?

One surprising thing about the Arion lineup was that roughly 1/3 of the effect options were stereo. That’s right, for less than the cost of dinner for two at McDonald’s, out on the used market today you’ll find Arion effects with tandem outs for delay (both analog and digital), reverb, phaser, choruses, and even a few confusing options, like metal distortion and compression.

Arion also optimized modulation effects that could serve up double effects in a single box. For example, their lineup included both chorus/flanger and delay/sampler pedals. This might not seem like a big deal today, but back then and at the Arion price point, it was pretty remarkable.

To ensure nobody was left out, Arion also included a fairly broad offering of bass effects. Options ranged from typical effects for bass, such as EQ, as well as chorus, flanger, and even distortion.

Finally, no matter what Arion pedals you picked off the catalogue page, Arion was a full service company there to meet all your effect accessory needs. That’s right, they’d even sell you a powered pedal board for your plastic stompboxes. You could go from catalogue browser to gig ready in an instant.  

While the plastic edifice might be off-putting to some, in our day of cult classic, vintage, made in Japan effects, you won’t find a better deal that checks off all those boxes than Arion.

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2 thoughts on “The Hunt for These Inexpensive Arion Pedals is Heating Up

  • September 22, 2019 at 12:43 pm
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    I got a Plastic Cased Arion Foot pedal Guitar Tuner. It was rugged and served me well. It also kept my Guitar in Tune. It was well worth the money

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  • September 22, 2019 at 9:44 am
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    The stock SCH-Z pedal did not have the Chorus/Vibe switch, that one shown is the modded version from EWS that had a true bypass switch added, plus the Vibe mod. I think the original switch only selected stereo/mono options.

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