Tremolo is one of the oldest and most popular effects ever created for guitar. First used as a built-in effect for guitar amplifiers in the 1960s, the iconic “wobble” and pulsating rhythm that tremolo provide made it an indispensable effect on many players’ pedalboards.
In the modern day, tremolo is just as popular as ever, across a wide range of styles. If you’re looking for an affordable way to inject some lush, wavy sounds into your rig without breaking the bank, a tremolo pedal is for you.
For the best tremolo pedal on the market, we’ve picked the Boss TR-2. This pedal has set the standard for tremolo effects since its introduction, and it’s a favorite among pro players on live pedalboards because of its amazing sound and outstanding simplicity.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth pedal, models like the Earthquaker Hummingbird or TC Electronics Pipeline might be up your alley. These pedals feature more tweakable knobs to help you shape your sound just the way you like it.
For players on a tighter budget, we’ve also included affordable tremolo pedals from makers like Behringer and Mooer. These designs emulate famous tremolo effects, without making a dent in your wallet.
Ultimately, tremolo pedals run the gamut from simple and stripped-back models for live playing to complex, knob-filled digital units that provide ample depth for tweakers and pedal nerds. Of course, you might also want to check out some of the best VST plugins to find other tremolo options for your studio.
No matter what type of tremolo you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find one of the best guitar pedals to suit your needs in our guide! Let’s get into it and break down the pedals now.
- 1 Top Pick: Boss TR-2
- 2 EHX Stereo Pulsar
- 3 Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird
- 4 Fender Tre-Verb
- 5 Source Audio Vertigo
- 6 Behringer UT300
- 7 Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1
- 8 TC Electronic Pipeline
- 9 Best mid-tier tremolo pedal: Wampler Latitude Standard V2
- 10 Mooer Trelicopter
- 11 Walrus Audio Monument
- 12 Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo
- 13 Joyo JF-09 Tremolo
- 14 Buyer’s guide: What is a tremolo pedal?
- 15 Conclusion
The Best Tremolo Pedal Effects Reviews
If you’re looking for your first or next tremolo pedals, there’re a few things you should know before you invest your money.
The first thing to understand is “LFO,” which stands for “Low-Frequency Oscillator.” It’s a circuit that generates frequency signals. In other words, it modulates the volume of your guitar.
LFO has a couple of controls that might be separated from the tremolo controls. If you’re an experienced player looking for extra versatility, keep in mind these options. Otherwise, the rate and depth will be enough.
For the extra control, you could see a waveform shape knob. Determining the wave behavior is the best way to tweak the sound. The wave can have sine, square, and triangle shapes:
- Sine: it accelerates or decelerates the sound.
- Square wave: it sounds choppy as it jumps the volume level abruptly.
- Triangle: volume changes happen linearly.
Some pedals have a knob, a toggle, or a button to blend different waveforms. It’s the best option for those who know what they are doing.
Traditional pedals like the Boss TR-2 can change between triangle, sware, and round shapes. More advanced pedals can as
Aside from the controls, you need to pin down the kind of sound you want. The best you can do is check the video demos to decide for yourself.
Notably, some pedals have options to replicate the ‘60s and ‘70s tube amps. You would find these options on digital and multi-effects models. For example, the Optical sound from Fender amps is fairly popular on tremolo pedals.
Other characteristics to look for are:
- Wet & dry knobs: it allows you to set the amount of distortion going into the signal.
- Tap tempo: it’s a button that helps you set the exact tempo of the vibrato
- Stereo split: the pedal effect can send the sound forward as left & right
Top Pick: Boss TR-2
As we mentioned in the introduction, the Boss TR-2 is simply the best tremolo pedal on the market. This classic effect provides great tone, solid flexibility, and legendary Boss durability — all at an amazingly low price. It’s built to take a lifetime of punishment in the studio and on the road, with the traditional Boss metal enclosure.
On the face of this pedal, you’ll find three knobs: the two large ones control rate and depth, while the middle knob controls the waveform of your tremolo. This control fluctuates between a sine wave on the left side, and a square wave on the right side.
Sine wave tremolo shapes sound like a vintage amp-style tremolo: smooth and wavy, with a bit of “wobble” and movement. Square wave shapes, on the other hand, drop up and down in volume rapidly. This makes them more abrasive and rougher sounding, but also great for more experimental uses. Square wave shapes also work great for pronounced effects during a song.
The rate and depth knobs are very straightforward: the rate affects the speed of the fluctuations in volume, while the depth determines how pronounced the volume differences are. Together, these dials give you access to a plethora of different sounds if you want to play with the knobs, but they also make it easy to dial in a great sound quickly.
There’s really not a bad sound on this pedal — all you need to do for a stage-ready tremolo effect is dial in the rate and depth between 10:00 and 2:00, and shift towards the sine wave side of the wave knob. Then, for extra emphasis it’s easy to switch quickly to a choppy square wave effect or adjust the rate and depth with your feet.
Considering the package on offer, the TR-2’s low price point makes it an exceptionally attractive pick for many players. The Boss pedal allows you to get studio-quality tremolo sounds without needing to spend hundreds of dollars on a “boutique” tweakable tremolo.
If there’s one downside to the TR-2, it’s the lack of a tap tempo circuit. Tap tempo is a rare feature on pedals in this price range, but including it would make the TR-2 even more useful than it already is. Thankfully, tap tempo isn’t necessary to get a great sound quickly from this pedal. No matter what style you play, the simple rate and depth knobs make it easy to dial in.
EHX Stereo Pulsar
While the EHX Stereo Pulsar might look simple on the surface, it offers a lot of depth beneath the three control knobs on its face — particularly for such an affordable unit! Like the Boss TR-2, the Stereo Pulsar includes three dials for rate, shape (which controls the waveform), and depth. There’s also a switch on the face to alternate between sawtooth and square waveforms.
The sawtooth waves are similar to the sine waves that you’d find on tremolo pedals like the TR-2, but they retain a bit more attack, edge, and pulse. That makes them great for both rhythm and lead playing, because they have a slightly more upfront sound than the softer sine waves.
With the switch to determine the waveform of the pedal, you can use the whole “shape” dial to focus on the shape of one waveform, rather than only having half the sweep of the knob dedicated to that waveform. This setup gives you much finer control over the shape of your tremolo wave, and makes it easy to dial in the exact sound that you want on the fly.
Along with those classic features, the Stereo Pulsar’s main selling point is its stereo inputs and outputs. Unlike mono tremolo pedals, this means that you can send your signal from the Stereo Pulsar into two separate amps. Then, if you engage the effect, your tremolo sound will spread to the two amps and help them interact with each other.
In practical terms, this means that one amp will be rising in volume while the other amp might be falling — or shut off entirely for a split second. This creates a full immersion soundscape, and makes your listeners feel the pulse of the tremolo effect in their bodies as they listen to your music. That’s a powerful upgrade over all of the mono tremolo pedals on the market.
With a price point that’s easy for nearly every player to afford, there’s almost no reason not to try the Stereo Pulsar out. It’s definitely one of EHX’s best pedals, so give it a spin and see how many classic and experimental tremolo sounds you can come up with!
Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird
The Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird provides exceptional vintage tremolo sounds, based on the tremolo effects found in Vox and Valco amps from the 1950s. However, like most Earthquaker units this pedal provides a lot more than just an ordinary trem. If you want a versatile trem pedal that can do wacky sounds just as easily as classic ones, this is a great pick.
The core of the Hummingbird is built around three classic knobs: rate, depth, and level. At the center of the knobs lies a “mode” switch, which controls three different rate modes: slow, mid-tempo, and fast.
At high speeds, the Hummingbird’s tremolo sounds almost like a synth, or a ring mod setup — considering Earthquaker market the pedal as offering “repeat percussions,” the extra attack and wide rate sweep fit right in.
The Hummingbird offers a pretty wide tonal spectrum, with plenty of different sounds on both the “smooth” and “choppy” sides of the equation. With the speed set to slow or mid-tempo, it’s great for relaxed rhythmic playing, without too much attack upfront. If you dial the speed up higher, you can get aggressive, wacky tremolo sounds that get up to high “hummingbird” speeds.
However, the square wave setting still keeps it more aggressive than other sine wave or sawtooth tremolos. Many guitarists like that “pulsing” effect in the background — and if you want a more subdued tremolo effect, the level control lets you dial back the prominence of the effect to get a smoother, more subtle feel.
One of the best features of the Hummingbird is its expression pedal input. This is a rare thing to find on tremolo pedals (unfortunately), but it’s a very thoughtful addition in this case. With an expression pedal plugged in, you can control either the rate or the depth of the tremolo with your foot — the perfect way to create all sorts of wild shifted tremolo sounds on the fly.
The Fender Tre-Verb captures the sound of Fender guitars played through vintage tube amps.
Fender’s unique Tre-Verb pedal nails a vintage tremolo sound, but it also gives you a reverb pedal combined in the same package. If you love amp tremolo sounds from the 1950s and 1960s, this pedal is the perfect way to get a Fender amp reverb and tremolo sound in one affordable stompbox.
The Tre-Verb is built with two separate circuits, one on each side of the pedal. The distinct circuits and foot switches allow you total independence to turn on whatever you want, at any time. With stereo inputs and outputs, you can also split your signal to two different amps for true “3-D” tremolo goodness.
The tremolo circuit is patterned after the tremolo sounds in Fender’s “blackface” and tweed amps of the 1960s. Between tube and solid state amps, these amplifiers are revered among expert players because of their stunning clean tones and warm, responsive tremolo sound.
The Tre-Verb features three different tremolo voicings (optical, bias, and harmonic vibrato) which capture the best aspects of those amps while offering you more variety than any one amplifier tremolo ever could. Together, you can get sounds ranging from clean and pristine choppy sounds with the optical trem to warm and wobbly “vintage” tones on the bias setting.
With rate, depth, and level knobs it’s easy to control the sound of all three voicings. You also get a tap tempo setup included in the package — just stomp on the footswitch in time to set the tremolo to your desired tempo.
The Tre-Verb is also a bit more expensive than many other tremolo pedals that you’ll find on the market, which might make it difficult for some players to get their hands on one. However, with a full-function reverb pedal included in the same housing, this kills two birds with one stone for any player’s arsenal. If you love the best tube amps and Fender combo amp effects, the Tre-Verb is a no-brainer buy.
Source Audio Vertigo
Source Audio’s Vertigo tremolo pedal offers reliable, flexible tremolo sounds with plenty of additional digital features. The core of this pedal is its three voicings. These voicings are similar to other tremolo pedals like the Fender Tre-Verb, but the execution of the modes sets the Vertigo apart from the competition.
The Vertigo features choppy, “thumping” opto tremolo (branded as “normal” tremolo on the pedal’s enclosure), along with bias tremolo that incorporates overdrive in the preamp for a more punchy yet musical sound. This is great if you’re working on your strumming, and want a punchy, percussive attack that’s great for classic rock guitar, punk rock guitar, and grunge guitar.
There’s also a smooth harmonic vibrato tremolo setting, which swaps between boosting low and high frequencies for an effect that sounds a bit like a phaser. This sounds great for playing solos, easy riffs, or smooth legato licks to jazz up the rest of a song.
The controls on this pedal are pretty straightforward: the knobs control depth, speed, and level, with a fourth knob handling the shape of your chosen tremolo effect. Unlike some other models, the shape knob can switch between sine waves, square waves, and sawtooth waves. The extra modes open up new possibilities for rhythmic and experimental tremolo sounds with one pedal.
Finally, the central switch on the face controls which mode you’re playing in. Beyond the face of the pedal, though, you can also access Source Audio’s One technology. This interface, downloadable as an app, allows you to upload presets to the pedal, tweak a variety of extra parameters, and combine the pedal with some hybrid modulation sounds from online.
These additional effects make the Vertigo one of the more versatile tremolo pedals that you’ll find. No matter what tremolo sound you have in your head, the One interface will help you unlock it. You also get a tap tempo, which makes it easy to specify the perfect tempo, and stereo outputs for a fuller sound.
The downside to this pedal is the layout of the One app. While it’s not difficult to work in, the app requires you to open your phone in order to control pedal dials or save and switch between presets. If you’re playing at a jam session or gig, this can take up a lot of time in between songs. And you can forget about switching to a different tremolo sound in the middle of a tune!
Ultimately, though, the flexibility and functionality of the Vertigo make it one of the best tremolo pedals on the market. It’s hard to top everything this pedal offers, and particularly at its accessible price point. Make sure to check out a Vertigo if you want both vintage simplicity and modern adjustability in one box.
Even budget pedals can help you rock out on stage.
For guitarists who need an ultra-low budget tremolo pedal, the Behringer UT300 is one of the best options on the market. It’s a clone of our top pick, the Boss TR-2. That means that the UT300 provides a nearly exact replica of the sound of the TR-2, at a fraction of the price.
Like its “older brother,” the UT300 includes knobs for rate, depth, and wave. These function exactly the same as they do on the TR-2: rate and depth control the speed and severity of the tremolo effect, while the wave knob switches your tremolo sound between sine and square waveforms.
Whether you’re in the studio or playing live, the UT300 provides plenty of vintage tremolo sounds that can sit great in any mix. It’s one of the simplest pedals on this list, and one of the most versatile as a result. It’s not the most adventurous pedal, but the square wave side of the “wave” dial can provide some pretty experimental effects for players who are interested.
When set to “sine” wave settings, the UT300 excels at providing warbly, calm tremolo that sits great as a rhythm effect. The lighter settings in particular (with the depth knob relaxed) sound smooth and glassy, with plenty of dynamic response and touch.
The square wave settings, on the other hand, can get pretty choppy and jerky. While some guitarists might shy away from those effects, they’re an outstanding alternative tremolo effect for players who need a “changeup” sound. They probably won’t be your favorite always-on settings for a tremolo pedal, but having the square wave functions there is an exceptional feature.
For such a shockingly low price, the UT300 is also a fantastic bargain for pairing with some of the best rock guitars. It’s difficult to beat the combination of quality and affordability on offer with this package.
The one major downside is the plastic housing. While it’s not as fragile as some reviewers might lead you to believe, it’s still a liability on stage and in the long term. Because of the possibility of their pedals breaking during a gig or jam session, many players choose to save a couple bucks more and opt for the TR-2 out of the gate.
Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1
Fulltone effects are known for their rock-solid, classic effects that provide modern updates to vintage pedals and styles of effects. Their Supa-Trem is no exception. This pedal provides a warm, smooth amplifier tremolo that sounds like it comes straight from the 1960s, with the added benefit of a super useful clean boost in one pedal enclosure.
The key to the Supa-Trem sound is its AnalogMan JFET op-amp. JFET op-amps provide warm, buttery sounds that mimic the tones of vintage tube amps particularly well. They’re the best ingredient on the market for getting an accurate reproduction of 1960s amp photo cell tremolo, without actually putting glass tubes in a pedal circuit.
The front of the pedal uses two knobs and a trio of footswitches, along with a smaller knob to the right and a few LEDs. The two main knobs control rate and depth (labeled a “mix” knob), like every other tremolo pedal on the market.
The central footswitch is the main switch to turn the pedal on and off. The switch on the right flips the pedal from “soft” amp-like mode (a sine wave tremolo) to “hard” mode (a square wave). As seen on some other pedals, the square-wave setting provides a harsher, choppier attack that’s great for staccato accents and machine-gun passages.
However, things get more interesting with the auxiliary controls. The left footswitch automatically halves or doubles the speed of your tremolo, which is a great tool to get sounds like a Leslie speaker in the middle of your live performance. It’s also a cool extra touch for emphasis during certain passages of songs.
The red LED displays the speed of the tremolo (even when you have the pedal bypassed) so that you can see your settings at a glance. Finally, the smaller knob is a volume control, which is helpful to ensure unity gain — but it’s also great to turn the Supa-Trem into a clean boost! If you want a tremolo that can pull double duty, the Supa-Trem is the perfect pedal for you.
Players loved to use previous versions of the Supa-Trem as a light, always-on clean boost. That way, they could get the benefit of the pedal’s JFET and give their tone some vintage warmth, even when they didn’t want to use the Supa-Trem for its tremolo.
In the ST-1 version of the pedal, Fulltone added a lot of extra gain into the circuit: 15 decibels in all! This makes the clean boost function a lot more useful, and makes the pedal a lot more versatile as a whole. If you want a fantastic reproduction of amplifier tremolo but don’t know if you’d use it enough to justify the price, the clean boost makes this pedal a much better value.
The Supa-Trem’s sound provides a great combination of vintage appeal with modern amenities. The sound is unmistakably vintage — in fact, at lighter depth settings it’s so soft and warbly that it sounds an awful lot like a Leslie speaker. Of course, flipping to the “hard” mode provides a punchier, more in-your-face sound without losing its watery warmth.
However, it’s the other upgrades to this pedal (in both the footswitches and the clean boost capabilities) that make it a truly special tool. It’s a much more versatile tremolo pedal than a lot of the other stompboxes that you’ll find on the market, and it achieves that versatility without sacrificing any of its unique vintage appeal. It’s hard to find a significant downside.
The Pipeline recalls vintage Fender surf tremolo sounds, with a whole lot more in store.
TC Electronic Pipeline
Classic, straightforward tremolo pedals are fantastic. But, sometimes you just want a pedal that you can go crazy and explore. In those cases, the TC Electronic Pipeline is the perfect model for you.
Along with the classic tremolo features, the Pipeline offers the unique ability to pick different subdivisions for your tremolo effect, along with TC Electronic’s Toneprint technology. This online interface gives you the freedom to pick from thousands of user presets, all of which nail one exact tremolo sound. The options are practically endless, and almost all of them sound great.
The Pipeline’s control knobs set the speed, depth, and volume of your tremolo effect. These knobs are pretty standard, and are easy to set quickly. The main distinction is the fourth knob, which offers seven different subdivision settings — including the ability to adjust up to four of the various subdivisions for a custom rhythmic sound.
Combined with the Pipeline’s tap tempo feature, the subdivision control makes this pedal one of the best tremolo pedals around for rhythmic playing. Few other pearls come close to the level of rhythmic flexibility that you get in this package, and almost no other pedal makes it this easy to adjust the subdivisions of your tremolo effect without going online in some way.
As far as the sound of the tremolo goes, you get three different choices with the switch on the face of the pedal. The upper mode is labeled “vintage” mode, which TC Electronic has built to replicate vintage Fender combo amplifier tremolo sounds. The lower “square” mode provides a square wave instead, which gives you choppier, more blunt tremolo effects.
Finally, the Toneprint setting lies in the middle of the switch. This lets you create any tremolo preset you want on TC Electronic’s app (or choose from the others that users have already made), and send it directly to your pedal to get the exact tone that you prefer. In a practice routine, this is great for variety from the best amps, and it sounds fantastic in a variety of settings.
The major downside of the Pipeline is the inability to shift the waveform of your tremolo sound directly from the face of the pedal. Of course, this feature is accessible through Toneprint, or you can flip the switch to jump between one and the other — but if you want to slowly sweep from a sine wave to a square wave without going on your phone, the Pipeline is a wipeout instead.
Best mid-tier tremolo pedal: Wampler Latitude Standard V2
The Wampler Latitude Standard V2 is an American pedal that offers balanced tones, gorgeous sounds, and full textures.
It mixes sweet vintage tremolo effects with the modern whoosh sounds of advanced multi-effect pedals.
It’s an expensive but great-sounding pedal. However, it’s not as flexible, as it only works with a sine wave.
Still, you have depth, speed, and volume controls for a straightforward experience. Particularly, the volume control allows you to balance the tone further. The volume knob can protect the subtleties of the tremolo.
Lastly, the pedal has a special circuitry, a signal path, that allows the effect to keep its entire quality across the entire signal path.
Rounding out our list of the best tremolo pedals on the market, the Mooer Trelicopter is another budget option that provides optical tremolo tones that sound like they cost way more above its price range.
Along with the outstanding sound, the Trelicopter also takes up just half the size of a standard pedal, which makes it great for players who need a flexible tremolo but don’t have enough space on their board for a standard sized pedal enclosure.
The Trelicopter’s mini enclosure features one large knob to control the speed of your tremolo effect, along with two smaller knobs towards the top of the pedal. These dials adjust the depth and bias (waveform) of the effect. Turning the bias knob counterclockwise produces a glassy, liquid sine wave, while moving clockwise brings up a percussive square wave sound.
Together with the depth and rate knobs, the bias knob gives you everything you need for a trusty tremolo effect that won’t break the bank, or your pedalboard layout. It’s hard to beat the value and sound that the Trelicopter offers for such a lower price.
While the mini format of the pedal is a major advantage, it does have a couple downsides. The primary drawback is the size of the secondary knobs. Without having these in perfect light and being able to take some time with them, it can be very difficult to adjust the depth and bias knobs.
This makes adjusting the dials on a dark stage a nightmare, especially in the middle of a set. If you want a tremolo pedal that provides the same straightforward aesthetic but is much easier to tweak during a performance, The Boss TR-2 (our top pick) will be a better alternative for your needs.
Walrus Audio Monument
Those seeking amp-style wobble will consider the Walrus Audio Monument as the best option.
It’s an expansive pedal that has harmonic and regular tremolo options. The harmonic option is chewier and follows Fender’s “brownface” series. The latter delivers a traditional amp-like wobble.
The Audio Monument model has other tricks onboard as well. That includes an individual tap tempo footswitch, a bypass feature, a wave control (sine, square, lumps, and ramp), and a “random Monument Mode.”
Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo
The Ernie Ball Expression Pedal is the best for live presentations. As it comes with an expression pedal, you can control the sound easily and quickly as you play.
You can adjust rate, depth, or both via its treadle. That makes it particularly versatile.
Also, the stompbox features five waveforms (slow fall, slow rise, sine, harmonic, and square). Additionally, it has a built-in spring reverb you can control with the treadle.
Aside from its on-the-fly control, the Ernie Ball model sounds amazing. Also, the pedal is rugged, durable, and lightweight. It uses EB’s reputed volume pedal formal with a smoother operation and a non-slip grip.
Joyo JF-09 Tremolo
The Joyo Tremolo is the lowest you can go for the effect. Joyo is a Chinese brand that creates copy-cat pedals, but most of them offer an incredible amount of quality. In fact, telling the difference between a Joyo and a “true” model is difficult.
This particular model uses a photoelectric tube circuitry to create the effect, just as old-school tubular amps did.
For controls, it has Rate and Intensity knobs to adjust the vibe and the tone, respectively. It gives you a fair amount of versatility, but the sound does lean towards old-school feels.
Another feature is a true bypass switch, which is common on most pedals but rare on cheap models. It allows the pedal to work without interference from other pedals or the amp.
Lastly, the Joyo Tremolo pedal has a LED light that pulses with the effect’s rhythm. It’s a way to set the speed before you start playing.
No matter which one you pick, tremolo pedals can help level up your guitar playing.
Buyer’s guide: What is a tremolo pedal?
In essence, tremolo pedals create periodic volume variations in your guitar’s signal. It spans an array of chops and wobbles for otherworldly sounds, often hard to tame.
Guitar players often rely on a “tremolo arm” or a “vibrato arm” on the guitar to vary the pitch. Both the arm and the pedal create similar rhythmic effects, but they work differently. However, both options are tough to master; you’d need to have some experience beforehand.
Tremolo pedals create dramatic sound signatures. Players like Marc Ribot, Johnny Mar, Johnny Greenwood, Tom Morello, Duane Eddy, and Dan Auerbach use these pedals a lot:
How does it work?
As I said, a tremolo changes the volume of your signal, and it does so with rhythm.
It can happen in various ways, but it always works via a Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO). The LFO creates a waveform that turns the signal up and down.
A classic tremolo effect creates “triangle” or “sine” waves. Sine waves are waveforms with a rounded form. They deliver strong and lush sounds.
Triangle waves create peaks and valleys, where the sound goes up and down. This happens because a triangle wave has linear rises and falls.
Naturally, there’s a way to control the LFO, so the volume changes happen with the rhythm and strength you like.
That said, tremolo pedals have at least, two controls:
- Depth: it sets the volume loss limit, from subtle to exaggerated.
- Rate or speed: it lets you sync the effect to your song’s tempo.
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You can find tremolo effects in analog pedals, digital pedals, and multi-effects pedals. Digital options offer additional wave types such as square waves. A square wave alternates the signal on and off for the most dramatic effect.
If you’re serious about the effect, consider that the volume change can be extreme and disruptive if you don’0t use it carefully. High settings may result in your guitar’s sound disappearing from the mix as you play live or in the studio.
That’s why some tremolo effects also feature an extra volume knob. It increases your guitar’s level to compensate for the signal loss.
Built-in tubular tremolo
Original tremolo sounds come from a precise waveform and a precise LFO built inside a tubular amplifier. In particular, it uses a sine wave to vary the strength of the vacuum tubes.
Every player has preferences, and there are options for all tastes and budgets. However, many professional guitar players prefer the original tubular tremolo effect.
“Rebel Rouser” by Duane Eddy is an example of a Fender built-in vibrato effect. He used a mid-depth setting to create a lush texture that goes along the rhythm of the song:
After the original built-in tremolo, Fender creates a new circuit for their tubular amplifiers. They called this system “optocoupler,” “photocell,” or “optical tremolo.”
Within this circuit, the LFO turns a light bulb on and off. It varies the resistance to turn the signal up and down. The result is a smooth effect with a lopsided wave. We hear it as a pulsating tremolo, oftentimes very pleasant.
We can hear the effect on The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now:”
Stompboxes come with extra technologies for user convenience and versatility. Guitar tremolo pedals can engage in various times of waveforms and LFO settings.
Additionally, they can use optical circuits, just like classic tubular amplifiers. It gives you the ability to get vintage and smooth sounds.
You could also replicate different types of classic tremolo sounds with the advantages of modern electronics.
Either way, you can hear a modern tremolo on many Radiohead songs. Guitar player Johnny Greenwood tends to use smooth tremolo sounds to create small synth-like textures.
How to use a tremolo on your guitar rig?
You should take precautions before setting the tremolo on your pedalboard. In other words, practice the sound at home before you test it at the studio or live.
The tremolo’s place on your pedalboard should be near the end of the chain, as it needs to vary the volume of the entire signal. After tremolo pedals, you can place either volume pedals, noise gates, or similar.
Similarly, you should never put it before a compressor.
Overall, there are plenty of great tremolo pedals on the market today. No matter what you’re looking for — whether that’s smooth, amp-like photocell tremolo or choppy, biting square wave sounds — you’re sure to find it with one of the pedals on our list.
If you want an all-purpose machine that’s great for the studio and touring alike, you can’t go wrong with the Boss TR-2. If you want a step up to a more boutique option, you should also check out stompboxes like the Fulltone Supa-Trem ST1 and Fender Tre-Verb.
Players on a budget might also appreciate the extra features and lower prices of pedals like the EHX Stereo Pulsar and Mooer Trelicopter.
But ultimately, no matter what exact design you’re looking for, there’s a pedal for you on the market. Make sure to check out all the pedals on our list, and you’re sure to find one that works great for your needs!