Tremolo is one of the oldest effects in music history. Some even believe that it originated in ancient times. This might be true, since first tremolos were created using bow instruments, which were present even in 900 A.D. A long time has passed after the first tremolo-like notes and the means of creating them have changed drastically. In a more modern era, tremolos were produced with the help of amplifiers. That was until ‘60s brought the abundance of technological discoveries, including effects pedals. Nowadays, creating the desired tremolo effects is easier than ever-your perfect tone is delivered right at your feet. The only thing left is choosing the best tremolo pedal. This article will assist you in that process and, hopefully, after reading it, you will know what to purchase. Good look my friend on your way to perfection!
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 10 Best Tremolo Pedals
- 1.1 Wampler Latitude Tremolo Deluxe Guitar Effects Pedal
- 1.2 Diamond Pedals Tremolo
- 1.3 Catalinbread Antichthon Tone-Generating Fuzz Tremolo Pedal
- 1.4 Source Audio SA243 Vertigo Tremolo Effect Pedal
- 1.5 Fulltone Supa-Trem Jr Tremolo Pedal
- 1.6 Voodoo Lab Tremolo
- 1.7 BBE Tremor Dual-Mode Analog Tremolo
- 1.8 BOSS AUDIO TR2 Tremolo Pedal
- 1.9 Mooer Trelicopter tremolo pedal
- 1.10 Fender Tre-Verb Tremolo/Reverb Pedal
- 2 Conclusion
Top 10 Best Tremolo Pedals
|1||Wampler Latitude Tremolo Deluxe Guitar Effects Pedal||(5 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|2||Diamond Pedals Tremolo||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|4||Catalinbread Antichthon Tone-Generating Fuzz Tremolo Pedal||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|3||Source Audio SA243 Vertigo Tremolo Effect Pedal||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|5||Fulltone Supa-Trem Jr Tremolo Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|6||Voodoo Lab Tremolo||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|7||BBE Tremor Dual-Mode Analog Tremolo||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|8||BOSS AUDIO TR2 Tremolo Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|9||Mooer Trelicopter tremolo pedal||(4.7 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|10||Fender Tre-Verb Tremolo/Reverb Pedal||(4.7 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
What is tremolo and how is it different from vibrato?
The music industry remembers many misunderstandings that happened due to inadvertent actions of companies or people. Things that start of as simple mistakes sometimes result in prolonged consequences. The case with tremolo and vibrato is no exception. Even big companies are guilty of confusing the two, misleading their customers. For example, in 1954 Fender brought to life the Stratocaster guitar. It featured mechanical bridge mechanism that was supposed to create certain movement (swooping effect) by allowing for string bends. This was a vibrato system at core, however, Fender promulgated it as synchronized tremolo system. Until this day many people still refer to those systems as tremolos. With that being said, I can’t help but wonder, what is the big deal and how are those two effects different from each other. I will provide the definition and technicality of both side by side, which will help us put an end to this nonsensical misunderstanding.
Tremolo is a modulation effect that relies on the fluctuation of volume or amplitude in the sound wave. This creates a pulsating signal, which can be described as “trembling” or “shuddering”. Vibrato, on the other hand, creates modulation by shifting the pitch of the audio signal. This creates a sense of movement, dynamics and rhythm, which add thickness to your sound. Even though the difference between the two might seem too slight to be important, when it comes to performance and overall tone, the distinction between them gets more noticeable. If you are looking for rhythm and notion in your sound, definitely go for vibrato – tremolo enables you to create more dramatic effect such as staccato stuttering.
Now that we have discussed the significant details that more or less have an effect on our music, we can move on to briefly addressing how tremolo pedals work, different waveforms and what should the best tremolo pedal have.
How does a tremolo pedal work?
Since the most essential part of creating the tremolo is altering the level of the signal without interfering with pitch, tremolo pedals require a circuit, which will allow for frequency fluctuation. It will react to the volume of the signal and produce the sound accordingly. You can adjust different parameters of your tones with Rate/Speed and Depth knobs, typical to almost every tremolo pedal. They let you set the amount of effect while adjusting the depth of volume dips. This means that you can create highest and lowest margins for your frequencies.
When you switch on the pedal, it’s circuitry starts producing a wave carrier signal, which tends to vary the amplitude of your dry signal. To put it more simply, the initial volume of the tone will decrease to its minimum and then intensify again. This is exactly how a wave is created. Depending on the features of the pedal, you can form sine, square, peak and many other waveforms (we will talk about this in depth below). Some pedals offer merely certain types of waves, while others provide you with the option of choosing between them.
Nowadays, there are multiple circuits that can create a tremolo effect. One of them depends on Voltage Controlled Amplifier. This lets the pedal modify the amplitude of the sound wave resulting in tremolo effect. This circuit operates as easily as it sounds and is quite reliable due to its stable nature. Everything fluctuates in this one except for performance.
Let’s move on to the next one. LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillator) circuit typically consist of high and low pass filters. It alters the phase of the signal and delivers amp-ready sound at the end of the chain. This alteration creates a tremolo effect. Many handmade pedals use LFO circuits that operate with photocell, meaning that the sound signal passes through a bulb, which causes other parts of the circuit to react. The wave you get out of this one is quite square.
In my book, this information is thorough enough for you to understand the basics of tremolo pedals. Since I want you to grasp your sound to its core, I will now discuss different waveforms and how they affect your sound.
Types of waveforms
Let’s start with the triangle waves. They basically create triangle-shaped forms when fluctuating. This means that when the level of the signal rises and falls, the peaks and lows are very pointy and defined. No matter how soft you play, the nature of triangle waves will always stand out. Such kind of waves slice through the music and create unique effect. To understand this concept more thoroughly, listen to “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James & The Shondells. You will come across triangle waveforms in BOSS TR-2 and Fulltone Supa-Trem mentioned above.
Sine waves are way subtler. They are created due to the modulation of the transistors or power tubes. They were produced with the help of small combo amps back in the day. The wave form itself is very smooth, since the gradation from peaks to lows is gradual without any harsh lines. This results in subtle performance and if you drive them to their limits, it will start resembling square waves.
Speaking of which, the latter is another form of wave. It creates squares, meaning that the sound can be completely on-off at some point. Square waves create a dramatic effect, resulting in heavy pulsating tremolo. This type of wave is often referred to as ‘chopped’ as well.
You might come across the waves labelled as sawtooth or sharkfin. The sawtooth resembles a triangle wave in a way, but ups and downs occur more frequently and are even more defined. Sharkfin is basically the same thing. Many pedals offer these additional waves in order to give you an array of tremolo effects.
The perfect tremolo pedal
From all the features discussed above, it must be easy to determine which of them are essential. In order to achieve full control over your tone, simple Depth and Speed knobs might not be enough. Let’s discuss in detail what makes a good tremolo pedal.
First things first, though it might seem like a very basic control, volume knob carries significant responsibility when it comes to tremolo. This effect tends to create an illusion that the level of your overall output is lower than it is in reality. You can easily tackle this problem by turning up the volume control. I am pretty sure you do not want your sound to be inaudible for listeners.
Moving on to waveforms. From the dedicated section above, you understand how much effect these little shapes have on your sound. Having the option of choosing between different waveforms will definitely be an asset when it comes to shaping your tone precisely. This simply makes it easier to achieve the desired effect without any limitations.
Last but not least, tap tempo. As with any other rhythmic effects, tap tempo will save you a lot of headache. This feature will allow you to control the speed of the tremolo with a tap of the footswitch, taking precision to a whole new level. Even though the concept is simple, it will change your game completely.
These are the features that turn a basic tremolo pedal into the best one. This does not mean that the pedals will suck without them. If you take another look on the pedals listed above, you will find that you can still achieve quality performance with simple controls. It all depends on the level of precision you want your sound to have.
To conclude all the things mentioned above, I will say that the best tremolo pedal is the one that complements your music in a unique way. How you play your instrument, what settings you experiment with or the signal chains you create, will have a great impact on your overall sound. The mission of a tremolo pedal is to serve you through anything and make your job easier. Tremolo pedals make a statement when it comes to performance and no one can argue with that. All you need to do now is to make a decision, buy your favorite pedal, plug it in and let the music speak for itself.