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RoHS Compliance: How will this affect the UK guitar industry?

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RoHS Compliance: How will this affect the UK guitar industry?

RoHS isn’t the most common acronym emerging from the lips of the everyday guitarist, but it’s more than likely to establish itself as a swear word over the coming months.

…It will become increasingly difficult for UK guitar stores to source boutique pedals & amps unless the overseas manufacturers toe the line with EU guidelines…

RoHS (pronounced “Rose”) stands for the “Restriction of Hazardous Substances”, an initiative implemented by the European Union in 2006.

In layman’s terms, it means the restriction of the use of six materials in the manufacture of various types of electrical equipment. These substances include:

  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Hexavalent chromium
  • Polybrominated biphenyls
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ether

Being brutally honest, I can’t even read the last 3 substances on the list above, let alone understand what they are and how they’re used in the manufacturing of electrical goods! A Google search later, it seems these substances are potentially life threatening. Having said that, have you ever Googled when you have a headache? Don’t – Google will convince you that you have less than 24 hours to live.

Allegedly, UK businesses were given a 4-year window to rectify any practices in manufacturing or selling goods that conflicted with RoHS compliance. As 2011 looms upon us, the process of scrutinising numerous UK businesses has begun, with the EU/British Government clamping down extremely hard on manufacturers and retailers who do not comply accordingly with RoHS compliance; this involves hefty fines (£1000’s) and in some cases, prison sentences.

How does this affect the UK guitarist community?

How will vintage guitar dealers manage with the RoHS compliance?

How will UK vintage guitar dealers adapt to the RoHS compliance?

Are you a fan of using boutique pedals? Do you collect or trade vintage guitars and amplifiers?

If you can answer “yes” to either of these questions, it’s more than likely you’re going to be very disappointed and frustrated over the coming months.

The boutique and vintage guitar market (especially boutique products manufactured in the USA), potentially utilise the use of materials restricted by RoHS compliance; with various paints, PCB’s, solder joints, batteries & metal components all containing elements that are frowned upon by the EU.

It will become increasingly difficult for UK guitar stores to source boutique pedals & amps unless the overseas manufacturers toe the line with EU guidelines.

This leaves me pondering;

  • Will US based companies change the components and methods used to create their products in order to comply with EU ruling?
  • Is the EU/UK trade even that lucrative for US based boutique manufacturers?

I really don’t know the answers to these questions. However, UK based stores such as Vintage & Rare Guitars who specialise in selling boutique effects pedals, amplifiers and vintage guitars (most of which I would presume are sourced from the USA and overseas) are going to face very challenging times as the EU enforce RoHS compliance.

It’s going to be interesting to see how international manufacturers address the frustrations felt by UK/EU businesses and how retail outlets such as Vintage & Rare can evolve with the changing times.

As a guitarist, I’m left feeling slightly raw by the EU legislation; I love walking into stores such as Vintage & Rare, viewing the amazing collection of items for sale. It’ll be a shame if legislation hampers our love of all things vintage and boutique. After all, I’m not too familiar with many reports covering the Rock ‘n Roll deaths of guitarists who spent their evening repeatedly licking the lead-based solder joints of their favourite boutique pedal.

What are your thoughts on RoHS compliance and the impact it’s going to have on the UK guitar market? Please add your comments below.

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Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.


  • I think the restrictions will have big implications, but only for a limited group of products. I believe any modern manufacturer should be able to fully comply with ROHS, provided that their designs don’t rely on:

    *Germanium Transistors
    *Certain Transformers
    *Certain Tubes
    *Other NOS Parts

    Even with the above aspects there are common exemptions if you can show that your parts cannot be replaced by a ROHS approved replacement. ROHS solder has greatly improved in quality, most all components are becoming obsolete in favor of ROHS equivalents daily. I see no reason that this will put any dedicated builder out of commission.

    BUT, I have thought of one interesting side effect of the ROHS measures. At what point will inspectors wonder if “gooped” pedals are hiding non-ROHS parts? I can easily imagine further regulation barring the concealment of the circuit. Interesting ramifications for those builders that “goop” to hide the circuit from the DIYers.

    In general, the regulation is somewhat of a stretch for our market anyway. To be barred from importing a ’59 Les Paul with lead on the pots, because you might throw it into the landfill? It would seem that regulation like this either won’t be applied or won’t last intact. Yet, in the computer market, or disposable toys category, we might fully welcome, or even demand these protections.

    In the end, I think the protections will do more good than harm. As long as there’s a few rockers in the inspections game, things will slip through…

  • Just a footnote: Our pedals have been ROHS for years.

    Sayer Payne – http://www.heavyelectronics.com

  • Interesting stuff. As a US custom pickup maker, and one who has pickups available through this site, it’s interesting to see how things like this might effect not only my business, but countless others who sell and ship to the UK.

    I think US companies will change things to accommodate this, but it also might be difficult on smaller companies with lower incomes.

    For me, it may possible to change some things about the pickup building process, but others might not be so easy. If one wire type on a pickup model contains a non ROHS compliant coating on it, it won’t be easy to find one that isn’t that way, and with different wire types and coatings it GREATLY effects the tone of the pickups.

    I’ll have to spend some more time researching some of the components of the pickups, but I would assume most of what we do is ok.

    It’s unfortunate about some of the vintage guitars, amps and boutique pedals. There may be nothing that can be done about those.

  • TwinStomp pedals have been RoHS compliant since their launch in 2007 – http://www.twinstomp.com.

  • Just noticed this informative list on the Digitech website which I thought was good:

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