Best Tremolo Pedals -
Voodo, Joyo, Boss, and 3 more...
Chop that signal! Make it tremble, make it wobble, as if it was suddenly dragged through a black hole along unimaginable quantities and qualities of star dust, detritus, and toxic gas.
Well, that’s perhaps the most exaggerate and edgy form of tremolo. A good guitar tremolo pedal may be able to produce this effect, along with many others, such as soothing guitar textures, or a spacey near-reverb that sounds like the dream of a koala...
Here’s an overview list of each tremolo pedal we’ll review:
- Voodoo Lab Tremolo: Very straightforward tremolo, features a slope control for waveform tweaking. Usually $150. Check Current Price.
- BOSS Audio TR2 Tremolo Pedal: A classic and hugely popular tremolo effect- it's vintage, yet high-quality. Usually $99. Check Current Price.
- Electro Harmonix Stereo Pulsar: Check Current Price.
- Joyo JF-09 Tremolo Guitar Pedal: Check Current Price.
- Diamond Pedals Tremolo: Most expensive little guy on the list, features a tap tempo footswitch and several timing accents. Usually goes for $249. Check Current Price.
- Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1 Tremolo: Features a volume knob with an added 15 dB of gain, and extra switches to vary the speed. Goes for around $139. Check Current Price.
So what is tremolo for? Short answer? Anything you want! Just plug it to your guitar and amp, play around with the settings, then combine it with other effects, knock yourself out!
"6" Picks for Top Tremolo Pedals
These babies and boys are here mainly for their sound quality, durability, and brand reputation, but we’ve also considered pedals that are fairly easy to find online, regardless of which country you’re in, and that at an average price of $150 USD, certainly won’t break the bank. So here we go - the shoout out - the top six tremolo pedals we picked for you...
And to start with, we have a tremolo pedal by American manufacturer Voodoo Lab. This one also includes a photocell tremolo circuit, and pretty straightforward controls. You get an “intensity” knob, which is similar to “depth”, a “slope” which lets you alter the waveform (though it be cool it it included an actual drawing of which waves are at each end), the mandatory “speed” knob, and (good to soothe any volume drop paranoia) a good ol’ “volume” knob.
The aim with this one was to re-create the tone of tube amp type vintage tremolos, so it might be a good bet for thee if you fell in love with tremolo not because of the harsh helicopter-like effects we’ve discussed before, but for the dreamy and seductive tone of the tremolo some amps used to feature. Considering that, it’s a pretty straightforward, nostalgic sort of tremolo. Probably not as versatile as the other pedals on this list, but sometimes nostalgia is exactly what you need for certain tones or styles of music. Also, you can always tweak it within your effect chain, so the pedal is really as versatile as you want it to be. Example? The VL Tremolo sits with guitarists like Jack White, Dean Fertita from Queens Of The Stone Age, and Devin Townsend. Bottom line? It’s got a sound all its own and that’s respectable in any stomp box. The only thing I’m not a fan of is the design. I understand those grey lines over the black case are supposed to be waves, but to me it looks like a big footprint.
The Voodoo Labs Tremolo Pedal is one of the most popular pedals out there, and for good reason. This pedal replicates a vintage tremolo guitar effect played through a tube amplifier. When strumming it with a Fender Stratocaster, like in the video below, you can really hear how warm it sounds. Kind of reminds me of being in a hazy 60’s bar or something like that.
The pedal itself is fairly straightforward and due to its four control knobs it is really customizable to get a good sound and dial in the perfect tremolo sound. The four knobs control intensity, slope, speed and volume of the effect.
The speed and volume controls do pretty much exactly what you would expect of them, volume controls level and speed controls how fast the tremolo is. One thing to mention and something that we feel deserves praise is the range is for the speed function; it has quite a wide range so you can get a reaalllllyyy slow or extremely fast effect.
The intensity function controls how much of the effect is mixed in with the dry signal, the higher you go the more tremollo effect you will hear. Then there is the slope, which is a cool function as it changes the slope of the waveform. This enables you to control how sharp or round the tremolo will sound, when you dial in the knob to sound sharper, you can get some really cool helicopter type of sounds to occur!
Take a listen to the effect above in the video from our friends at Sweetwater!
Ahhhhhhhh… the Boss TR2, another strong pedal from the engineers over at the Boss shop. If you have read my reviews before you know I like Boss. They may not be the most unique pedals out there and some critics may be very harsh when it comes to these pedals (a lot of these critics will only buy non big name pedals, which are great if you can afford them but they are not for everyone). From my experience, Bosstr tremolo pedals are pedals that do not break the bank account, have a good sound and are really built to last… all good things in my humble opinion.
Now, perhaps it’s because the Diamond is a newer pedal and it has some catching up to do, but when it comes to guitar tremolo pedals that are used by professionals, the list for this one is just mind-blowing.
Who do you see there? Caleb Followill, Dan Auerbach, Billie Joe Armstrong, Noel Gallagher, Eric Clapton, Stone Gossard, Daniel Kessler, Graham Coxon, Tom Morello… jeez! It’s amazing that such a classic piece of machinery can go for $99, or even $70 bucks if found used and in good condition.
This vintage tremolo effect is probably that popular due to its ease in functionality. You get 3 super straightforward knobs. Just the rate one (how fast the chopping goes), depth, and two forms of waves, with the choice to find a sweet spot in between. The one on the left in Boss TR-2 is a triangle wave, which means that the lowering and upping of volume is gradual, making the chopping effect much more subtle (which is actually why Juan Alderete prefers the PN-2). The second wave is squared, so that makes the chopping effect much more harsh, since the lowering of the volume occurs all within a harsh millisecond. Playing around with these 3 knobs is super easy, and super fun, so even if you have to maneuver to the settings you want in the next part of the song while playing live, this little green guy makes it hassle-free. The only complaint people have about this one (and I can vouch by that) is that it does produce a bit of a volume drop when triggered. Now, the seasoned guitarists with a trick or two under his sleeve in terms of pedals will probably have some way of boosting the sound when engaging this thing. That might explain while, even with the volume drop ‘issue’, so many players cherish wouldn’t trade the Boss TR-2 for any other tremolo pedal.
The Boss TR2 is no exception, coming stock with the standard body shape of all Boss pedals and three dials to control the effect, the TR2 is a great tremolo pedal for anyone who is looking for a pedal that will last the test of time and produce a great sound.
The three knobs (rate, wave and depth) control the following:
· Rate: Speed adjustment of the tremolo effect
· Wave: changes the waveform from triangle to square
· Depth: strength of the effect
The EHX Stereo Pulsar is a solid pedal that creates a very rich, warm and vintage effect. I pretty much think of it as surf meets the bayou. I really like the look and feel of this pedal as well, really makes it seem as though the pedal is a vintage old pedal from back in the hey-day of psychedelic rock.
It is designed simply and the controls on it are fairly familiar to the previous two pedals we have reviewed. There is a rate knob, depth knob and a wave shape knob and a wave shape switch. The LED indicator light is tied to the rate knob that comes in handy as a visual way to see the rate speed.
The rate knob adjust the speed of the tremolo effect, the depth knob adjusts the amount that will be applied to your signal, just like the TR2. Where this pedal sets itself apart though is in its wave shape functions.
It has two ways of changing the wave shape; the first is the switch that is kind of like an override that changes the overall shape from triangle to square. Then there is the knob that will effect the type of rise and fall of the wave form, going from a slow rise and fall to a very intense rise and fall. Best heard in the video below:
The Joyo JF-09 would be a great example of the best cheap tremolo pedal out there. As you will read in a lot of the Joyo tremolo review, the JF-09 definitely does not break the bank account. However, since this pedal is a Tremolo, and we already discussed that these are so simple you can get away with a cheap tremolo pedal version, it is still a pretty solid option.
The pedal itself is extremely simple and has less customization options than the pedals we have reviewed above. It has two knobs, a rate knob and an intensity knob. Since we have discussed what a rate knob and intensity knob do then we won’t go into too much more detail then the rate knob is the speed and the intensity is the depth.
I would suggest buying the Joyo tremolo pedal if you want to test out this effect and have never played around with it before, or if you cannot afford the other pedals listed above - after all Joyo tremolo pedal would be one of the best guitar pedals under 50 you will find out there. Where this pedal lacks a bit is in its warmth, it is a bit more tinny then the other pedals but what can you really expect since it is a fraction of the cost.
If you’re like really serious about Tremolo, Diamond trem the really nice one, and probably the most complete, but that’s also why it’s the priciest. Diamond is a small Canadian manufacturer that aims to put sonic excellence on top of everything. They’re nearly boutique pedals and every item they put out is a rigorously crafted piece of machinery. The Diamond Tremolo is pretty much everything you’d expect from a Tremolo pedal. It’s got a speed knob, depth (which also determines how harsh the effect is), volume knob (great to avoid those famous volume drops), and– something no other pedal has on this list– a knob that lets you choose a bunch of different timing accents, creating rhythmic tremolo effects that you will not find in any other pedal. If that wasn’t enough, Diamond Tremolo also has a tap tempo footswitch, that can also be used to engage the “double speed mode”, just a way of switching to super fast tremolo at the tap of a foot. You can tell that a great deal of work went into making this pedal, so it should come as no surprise that it sits on the pedalboards of artists like Ed O’Brien from Radiohead, and Tycho.
Going into another boutique and very versatile option, the guys at Fulltone nailed it with this one by adding a mini-volume knob right next to the two big knobs.
Players have found that since the volume knob actually features a 15 dB boost, you can turn the two big knobs (“Speed” and “Mix”) all the way down and use this as a straight-up boost pedal.
Further, fulltone supa trem features a hard/soft footswitch which lets you choose between a sine-wave or a square-wave for a machine-gun like stutter.
Finally, a cool thing about the fulltone supa-trem is that it uses a photocell, which is a piece of technology that old tube amps used to use, so it claims to add no noise at all, while providing a very clean, crisp and analog tremolo pedal tone.
The potential downside with fulltone tremolo one is that it doesn’t feature a tap/tempo button, and it’s a bit hard to know where to set the “Speed” knob right to the setting you like. Some guitarists mention in fulltone supa trem reviews that you can set the “speed” and “mix” knobs with your foot, but how accurate can that be?
A very cool feature, however, is that the red LED light lets you see the speed of the tremolo effect at all times, even if the pedal is bypassed, so you can sort of make sure it’s the right speed before engaging the pedal.
Finally, here’s the list of pros that use the ST-1: It includes names like Joe Bonamassa, Jonathan Wilson, and Justin Vernon.
Now, since we went into details of each model which we consider to be the best tremolo pedal on the market, let’s take a look at some questions you might have regarding good tremolo pedals:
What does a tremolo pedal do?
Almost needless to say if you’re here, but Tremolo is a fascinating effect. For guitarists, it usually means the use of an electronic effect to rapidly turn the volume of a signal up and down, creating that trembling effect that gives it its name.
What is a tremolo indeed? The term goes back to the word “tremolando!”, which is Italian for “trembling”, a term that has been used from as early as 1617 to describe a natural effect produced when the players of bowed string instruments would move the bow back and forth, kind of like picking to produce the rapid repetition of a single note.
Of course, we discussed here the former term, which constitute some of the best guitar pedals! If you’re looking to add some of that shuddering effect to your guitar playing, or even bass tremolo, the above are the some of the top rated guitar pedals (not to be mixed with a vibrato pedal - to be discussed in a separate post!) we recommend.
A more educated answer would be that tremolo is typically used to give an additional amount of texture to guitars or keyboards, or even vocals, that is simply hard or downright impossible to replicate with natural playing.
You would need somebody to stand next to your amp and mute and unmute it repeatedly to even come close, and that person would need to have perfect timing, before the mute switch in your amp is eventually ruined, of course.
So tremolo is a great way of achieving that effect of chopping up the signal, whether it’s ultra harsh, as in, complete silence between each wave or just a more subtle up and down.
In this regard, most tremelo pedals will have some sort of “rate” setting, which is the speed of the effect, and a some way of controlling the wave shape, which will alter how harsh the chopping is.
Can’t I get tremolo from an amp? Or a multi-effects processor?
Some amps, especially vintage ones, might already include a tremolo effect. Do note that these will usually be ultra simple and, when using them, you don’t get to enjoy the convenience of having a little box unit to control the effect right at your disposal, near your feet.
Also, most multi-effects processors will include a tremolo effect. While these will vary a lot depending on the manufacturer and product model, you have to consider that what you’re getting in those instances is a digital version of tremolo, as opposed to analogue circuitry, which gives you that vintage betremolo vi, especially with the Diamond Head and Boss pedals on this list.
It’s also very common to feel that hitting the tremlo effect while you play results in a volume drop. While most multi-effects processors will have little or no ways to help you find some source of extra gain that can be triggered at the same time you engage the tremolo, some of the pedals we’ll see do feature a way of dealing with this. Namely, their own friggin’ volume knob.
What are some tremolo use examples?
One of my favorite examples, though performed on bass, is this video by Juan Alderete from The Mars Volta, using a PN-2 from BOSS (they don’t make em’ anymore), distortion, compression and some other effects to achieve an insane helicopter sort of sound.
Other good examples include “Bones” by Radiohead, “Gimme Shelter” by good ol’ Mick and Keith, and some guitar subtleties on “Child” by The Maccabees.
Just some clear examples. Blues and country artists do use this effect a lot, so you can probably name more.
How does this effect function? Presumably the most widely recognized and least complex (with current innovation) is to adjust input voltage by means of circuit. This is the way your ordinary Manager tremolo works. In this situation, a voltage controlled enhancer (VCA) alters flag adequacy with a particular waveform to make the tremolo sound.
These tremolo pedals frequently stable decent and work dependably, yet like listening to vinyl, there are numerous individuals who incline toward a portion of the flaws of other innovation.Different sorts of innovation includes a low-recurrence oscillator, which bolsters the flag again into the amp in-stage, bringing on a tremolo sound. The low-recurrence oscillator makes impact by controlling the speed and to the extent I know, just delivers a sine wave.
The tremolo is an effect that has been around for a very long time, dating back to the 1940’s. It was first manufactured by DeAramond which was also the company associated with inventing the guitar pickup. These guys weren’t kidding around when it comes to top inventions!
This pedal, known for its warm and round pulsating sound, is a very simple effect in terms of the electronics inside. This means as a guitar player you can get away with sourcing more affordable options. It is a an effect that is pretty hard to muck up, meaning the cheaper designs often are passable if not comparable to the more expensive designs. I don’t know about you but saving few dollars on new gear is definitely a big win for a hungry musician like myself!
The list above includes some of the most popular and best pedals on the market, including a cheap option (may be the best budget tremolo pedal in the market) that we think is pretty awesome! If you are building your pedal board, make sure to check out our articles on the chorus and reverb pedals as well, here and here. All three of these pedals pair really well with each other in our opinion, and from what we have heard, the opinion of a lot of players out there.
You got your pedal, now where do you put it?
Anyway, let’s say you went with one of these babies, now where does a tremolo pedal go in terms of an effect chain? Since the effect is quite subtle and sometimes, depending on your intention, you want it to really chop up the signal, the best bet is to put the tremolo at the very end of a chain, at least after your more notorious effects like distorsion, pitch-shifters, or compression.
TA-TA-TA-TA! Happy signal choppin’!