When you start searching the perfect volume pedal, the adjectives you encounter the most are active and passive. Experienced musicians will know the difference between the two, but novices might have a hard time figuring out what is what. The main distinguishing factor here is the power. Active volume pedals operate using optical sensors that require electricity. Meanwhile, passive units employ potentiometers that can be activated mechanically without any power. This does also affect the tonal outcome, which is why it might be hard to choose the proper one. Which one is better? – you might ask. Unfortunately, there is no correct answer to this question. But I have a good news too, today we are talking about a passive volume pedal, which means you will have the ability to get thorough information about the specifications of such devices. Mission Engineering VM-1 falls in the category of high-end stompboxes. It is quite pricey, but I think it might be worth it. You might not be willing to spend so much money on a volume pedal, but I am sure you will reconsider after this article. I will stop messing with you and begin our journey right away. Let’s see if this baby truly deserves our time and money!
From my lengthy introduction you already know that Mission Engineering VM-1 is a passive volume pedal that does not require batteries or an adapter in order to operate. But there is one thing to consider – some models have LED indicators that do require a battery in order to light up. This way, the unit will still operate without the battery, but the LED will be disabled. It is worth noting that this baby is specifically for instruments that have passive pickups. VM-1 is hand-wired and its whole body is built with high quality material. When you look at it or hold it for the first time you can actually feel how long it will last. It comes in four different colors, but the one I am talking about is in bright red that catches your eye and captivates your whole being. Furthermore, the potentiometer is sealed and does not require any maintenance, and promises to last through at least million operations (I have not reached that million limit yet). VM-1 is mono, i.e. you can only use one instrument with it. But it does have an additional output for the tuner connection. This output operates in conjunction with mute functionality. When you activate this mode, the OUT 1 is disengaged from the circuitry and the signal passes through the OUT 2 only. This allows you to tune your signal silently and avoid the loss of your tonal qualities. The flexibility of this pedal extends to the point where you can adjust the tension of the rocker and the sensitivity of the switch beneath it. What else would you need for tailoring this baby to your favorite feels? Nothing much, I guess. This thing is out of this world and there is nothing we can do about it (except for spending our cash on it).
I will be honest, with the majority of volume pedals this section does not even make sense. I do not mean that these units are completely untouchable and unmanageable. You do get some sort of control over your tone. It’s just that we do not have that much to talk about and that is a bit heart-breaking. However, there is nothing wrong with the simplicity of volume pedals and as a huge fan of fool-proof devices, I completely agree with the configuration that manufacturers choose to utilize.
Mission Engineering VM-1 does have the same pattern. But as this brand always strives to create usable and convenient products, this baby has an addition that you will not find in every volume pedal. I am referring to the Mute switch, located right under the rocker. You have to press the taper quite hard to trigger this mode and move on to the silent tuning. Of course, the main control is the pedal itself that changes the volume of your signal as you go from toe to heel position and vice versa. You have to dance and wiggle in order to create the desired effect and that is the best part about the tapered units in general. Though I did complain about the lack of controls, in reality I do not miss anything during rehearsals or live performances.
You know how musical devices have their own peculiarities, right? Well, they love high-quality materials and perform better with top-notch components. The huge part of the sound of VM-1 from Mission Engineering is that it is hand-wired. Though it is impossible to hear that in your signal, you can discern the elaborate effort that shines through each note. I do not think I can articulate this enough but this pedal sounds ethereal. It adds dynamics and dimension, and smoothly transitions between higher and lower volumes. Doing swells, amplifying the signal or overdriving dist boxes is as easy as falling off a log. Due to the adjustability and overall smooth character of the taper, you can unite with VM-1 and treat it as if it were your leg or hand. In other words, its operation is as natural as moving around the parts of your body. It does not steal any qualities from your sound, but rather it lets them shine. It is just a wonderful pedal with outstanding capabilities.
Mission Engineering is one of those brands that put a lot of effort in designing their products. Though they maintain high price tag, more often than not their units are worth every penny. VM-1 is easily one of the best volume pedals on the market. Its quality is displayed through each note you create. It has a special feel and touch that cannot be found anywhere else. It is not indispensable but it does come close enough. Hold it in your own hands, plug it in and start playing – the whole experience of VM-1 will truly astonish you in the best way. Good luck!
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