This is where I’d normally reveal that actually, once upon a time, the brand name was tripping off every other guitarist’s tongue, but in this case that would be untrue. Vestax / Vesta Fire was always pretty low-profile. A price-conscious brand, distributed in the UK by Arbiter, but nevertheless always struggling to compete with the likes of Aria, Frontline, Ibanez, Tokai, Yamaha, DOD, etc, and not even stocked by a lot of big dealers, let alone advertised. Both Vesta Fire and Vestax brandings were used on the pedal range, and you can see in this post's ad pics (from early 1991) that the two marques are in use at the same time. This, however, was not a transition situation. 1980s matter also alludes to both Vesta Fire and Vestax pedals, so they simply co-existed.
The Vestax / Vesta Fire FX pedals range at the time of the 1991 ads included…
- OVD Overdrive
- SLF Stereo Flanger
- CMP Compressor
- SCH Stereo Chorus
- DSX Multi Distortion
- DST Distortion
- DDX Digital Delay
- FLCH Digital Chorus/Flanger
- MDX Digital Delay/Modulation (subtle chorusing and flanging capabilities)
- RVX Digital; Reverb
I deliberately chose the phrase ‘price-conscious’ over and above ‘budget’ or ‘entry-level’, because these units were not dirt cheap, or necessarily for beginners. They did undercut Boss in some areas, but not all, and they certainly weren’t in the rockbottom league of Frontline and some of the Aria stuff. In the late ‘80s, for example, the Vesta Fire SCH Stereo Chorus cost about £60. The Boss equivalent, after its production shift from Japan to Korea, cost £59.
Vesta Fire did sometimes bundle multiple FX into single pedals (as with the popular MDX Delay/Modulation), or they’d add extra controls not normally found on rivals’ pedals. Tone knobs on the CMP Compressor for instance. This kind of thing could give the perception of better value, but the range really wasn’t cheap enough across the board to raise its own profile.
The range didn’t get rave reviews either. Whilst Eddie Allen, reviewing for Guitarist magazine, was “disappointed” with the FLCH Flanger/Chorus, other reviews tended to fall into the “Yeah, not bad” category. There was nothing wrong with the pedals per se – but they didn’t seem to set anyone’s world alight. Paul White did describe the effects offered by the Vestax RVD902 Digital Reverb/Delay as “very competent and eminently usable”, but he tempered that by saying “the effects aren’t as good as I have heard from some current products”. And that kind of summed the picture up really. There was always a “but…”.
I suspect that part of the rather muted character of the reviews was down to the brand’s failure to really hit the magic price points. Had all the units been 30% cheaper I’m sure it would have been a different story. A “Yeah, it’s alright” at £40, would have been an “Incredible for the price!” at £28. Even if only over a finite period, Vestax / Vesta Fire should have taken those margins down, as Boss did in 1988. Once you've established the reputation, the prices can creep up, but if you don't get the word spread and increase the brand profile in the first place, it's very hard to compete with the big boys.
With that said, though, Vestax / Vesta Fire pedals definitely did sell. The Vestax Digital Delay ranked as the 14th best-selling effect of 1988 in the Making Music dealer poll for that year. Given the low profile of the brand in dealer ads and other literature, that was a remarkable achievement. It beat both the Boss ME-5 and the Boss DS-1 Distortion, and came only one place behind the Rat pedal!
I mentioned in my Vesta Fire Multitrackers post that the brand seemed to peak in the late '80s, and then fall into an abyss as the early '90s progressed. Today, it's exceptionally difficult to get information on this range online, so hopefully this post will provide the general background that's been missing to date.
Since most people don’t really know what these pedals are here in 2015, they can go for exceptionally low prices when up for sale. They’re certainly not rubbish, so if you spot one going cheap then it should serve as a perfectly good product – particularly as the units were ruggedly built out of die-cast metal and likely to stand the test of time. Some of the specific complaints relating to these pedals include complexity (can take time to get the best sounds), and headroom (effect strength doesn’t go up to 11, so to speak), but for normal use in familiar situations neither of those issues would be a problem. With a Vestax / Vesta Fire pedal you’re clearly not going to get a vintage classic, but I doubt you’d have much to complain about.