At BeginnerGuitarHQ, it’s our mission to get your guitar tone sounding as good as your playing. There are a few steps to this, including choosing the right guitar and guitar amp, but once you’ve done that, you can start work on your pedalboard. The vibrato pedal is something that can add a really unique flair to pretty much any guitar sound.
Without leaving out any different budget restrictions or specific requirements, we’ll be covering a broad range of the best vibrato pedals on the market.
Look no further than this guide, if you’re on the hunt for a vibrato pedal.
First Things First
Before getting your hands on a vibrato pedal, you’re going to need to figure out exactly what it is you’re looking for.
What Is Vibrato?
The first thing to make sure you’re aware of, is the fact that vibrato and tremolo are not the same thing. Vibrato is an effect which causes a change in pitch. If you were to play a chord with a small amount of vibrato on it, it would gently move up and down in pitch either side of the actual note you play. Tremolo does something similar, but with volume. If you played a chord with some tremolo on it, the pitch would be exactly the same, but the sound with flutter up and down in volume.
The difference between vibrato and tremolo. Vibrato and tremolo graph by Aandroyd is licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Both are effects that are found frequently on guitars, but they have a long history of confusion, in which they are referred to in reverse. In fact, this has come so far that the guitar’s ‘tremolo arm’ (or whammy bar) isn’t creating a tremolo at all, but a vibrato.
Back in 1956, Fender made the Vibrolux amp, which first caused confusion. This was because it wasn’t creating a vibrato sound at all, but a tremolo. After this, the meaning in the guitar world switched, so that in almost all situations a vibrato effect would be referred to as a tremolo effect.
For simplicity throughout this article, we’re going to only talk about pedals that cause changes in pitch, not amplitude. This means that there could be times in which the pedals are confusingly named for an effect they aren’t producing, even though we will use the word vibrato to mean ‘vibrato’, and the world tremolo to mean ‘tremolo’ when discussing them.
There are a few scenarios in which you can get vibrato out of your guitar without the need for a pedal, so make sure that this is definitely something you need before exploring in too much depth.
The first, is finger vibrato. This can be created with your fretting hand, where you basically press down and wobble your finger around, which will gently change the pitch. The second is with the whammy bar (also known as tremolo arm, and, less commonly but more accurately, the vibrato arm).
How Do You Use It In Your Set Up?
If you’re sure that what you’re looking for needs to come from a vibrato pedal, rather than the more natural sources of vibrato, then you can start to look for a pedal that fits into your own pedal set up.
The main thing to remember is what order you want your pedal board to chain in. There are many creative options that defy typical ‘rules’, but we’ll look at what might be the most expected route.
You’ll start with dynamic effects such as a compressor. This is so that you can get the most consistent sound out of the dry guitar signal. Then you’ll have anything which is causing distortion to the signal, followed by your modulation effects. This includes the vibrato pedal. After that, you’d place things that cause a signal to repeat or sustain (reverb and delay in particular). Volume pedals will typically go last or first.
What To Be On The Lookout For
There are a few primary settings on a vibrato pedal that are basically essential, as well as a few things that you’ll want to make sure that are featured on your pedal to make it as high in quality as possible.
Rate is a rather self-explanatory setting. This tells you how quickly your signal will be shifted in pitch. So if you want your vibrato to be very subtle and dreamy, you might set a small rate so that when one note is played, it changes pitch very slowly. If you want something more dramatic and noticeable, then you’ll make the change in pitch much quicker.
Depth is also pretty easy to understand. This controls how much of a difference in pitch the pedal is going to create. If you have a small depth, then the pedal will modulate the signal by a very small degree that may just be used texturally. If you increase the depth, then the change in pitch will be much more dramatic.
The final feature you will commonly see is usually called rise, or rise time (or something else entirely sometimes). This is less important and is often subtle, but it is in charge of how quickly the vibrato sets in; basically, how long it takes for the vibrato to reach the depth you’ve chosen. This is the least important of the three, so don’t worry about it too much.
You’ll also be looking for the pedal to have a true bypass that means your sound won’t be impacted at all by the pedal when it isn’t on. It should also be rugged enough to survive being taken out on stage and stomped on every day. Some bonus features could include some pre-sets or specific settings that can make your life easier, and even some extra built-in effects. For example, many modulation pedals will actually bring chorus, flanger, phaser and vibrato all into one pedal.
As always, it is Boss who sit proudly at the top of another Beginner Guitar HQ list. Their ability to blend sturdiness and reliability with a great sound, a user-friendly interface and a relatively affordable price tag is second to none. This model is technically an updated version of a classic, very rare Boss vibrato pedal from the 1980s, but it gives you almost the exact same sound.
Their VB-2W remains totally analogue, allowing the classic vibrato effect to remain present. However, as this is the modern day, things have been taken to the next level somewhat with a few added switches and options.
This pedal is, as all Boss pedals are, equipped with a true bypass footswitch that ensures that when it isn’t active, it won’t be impacting your signal at all. It also has the expected features of rate and depth, which will allow you to customise how intense the reverb you want it. As Boss want their players to be able to use their pedals in both subtle and expressive ways, you can get quite the range on both of these settings. Rise time also allows control over the sound of the initial onset of the effect.
You’ll also notice a few switches on the upper right: ‘bypass’, ‘latch’ and ‘unlatch’. Latch mode is your standard, expected mode in which the effect actives when you click down on the footswitch. The unlatch mode is much more unique, allowing control over the pedal only when you’re pressing it, meaning you can apply vibrato in very specific, shot bursts if necessary. Finally, the bypass mode reduces latency when the effect is switched off.
The last thing to mention is the depth option underneath the input- this allows you to put your own pedal into this one and control the depth in an almost wah-esque way. This seems like something that would rarely be used in regular playing, but if you have specific need for vibrato then it could be a game-changer.
SONICAKE 5th Dimension Digital Modulation Guitar Effects Pedal
This SONICAKE pedal takes things in a very different direction. Rather than focusing on creating one pedal to house one detailed, high-quality effect, this pedal is a low-budget encapsulation of a variety of modulation effects. This makes it an incredibly good pedal for beginners who don’t need a high-end sound, while also providing a great entry point for those who might want the occasional modulation effect, but don’t rely too much on overusing any of them.
While the pedal boasts everything from chorus to flanger to tremolo to auto wah, the specific effect we’re focusing on is its vibrato. This can be selected with the very clear wheel in the middle, and activated by the true bypass footswitch at the bottom of the tiny pedal.
As with every pedal on this list, we have control over the depth and rate, which is handy, because these happen to be two of the most important controls in just about any modulation effect. Despite being so cheap, this pedal boasts two unique features that help it to stand out from the crowd. The first is its tap tempo rate setter- if you want your vibrato to remain in time with what you’re playing, you can actually tap out the tempo on the footswitch. This could be a huge advantage to a really specific sound. It also offers a mix knob that controls how much of the wet signal is heard in comparison to the dry. This can be helpful if you only want a subtle vibrato.
KOKKO Guitar Mini Effects Pedal Vibrato
This is another budget offering, but in this scenario, only vibrato is provided. The major advantages of this pedal are its price and size; you’ll be able it to your setup with very little financial issues, and it’ll slot right in. It’s the perfect vibrato pedal for someone who doesn’t use vibrato very often.
You have the standard control over rate and depth which allow you to customise your own sound, though the two don’t go as deep as many other pedals. This would be good for a guitarist looking for a relatively ‘normal’ vibrato sound, as you can’t stray too far into the depths of experimentalism. The ramp control in the middle is in charge of the switch between different speeds.
As mentioned, this pedal’s size is one of its major advantages for players, however, it is also very sturdy. It boasts an aluminium alloy casing that means you’ll be able to take it on the road without it succumbing to bumps and knocks.
Muslady Jimi Vibrato
This is another pedal that combines a few different modulation effects into one beastly, yet impressively cheap pedal. With the flick of a switch, you can bounce from a shiny chorus effect into a high-quality vibrato which is designed with a very specific classic sound in mind.
The likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour are known to incorporate a very shaky, wobbling vibrato into their guitar tone on occasion; this pedal even references Hendrix by name. You have access to all of the standard controls to make this sound your own, but the draw is this distinctive sound.
Many reviews have compared the sound this small, affordable pedal makes to the classic Uni-Vibe. Rather than through a standard vibrato approach, the original effect was operated by phasing filters, giving it that distinctive sound typically associated to the Leslie speaker. While this is certainly not a perfect emulation, it does emit an impressive attempt for such a low price, while offering a good chorus at the same time. The inability to use the vibrato and chorus simultaneously is a bit of an issue, though.
Even if you aren’t going specifically for that classic sound, you can still get a good vibrato that can be easily switched on and off with the true bypass footswitch.
Behringer UV-300 Ultra Vibrato
This Behringer pedal certainly looks like it takes vibrato seriously. There are no gimmicks in its appearance, no funny fonts- it tells you what it is and it gets on with it. The Ultra Vibrato name is an appropriate one, too, as it fully focuses on getting the most out of modulation without breaking the bank.
They seem to have learned a lot from Boss, offering the ‘unlatch’ and ‘latch’ switches, which again allow you to move between a consistent vibrato sound, and one can be controlled by holding down the pedal, operating the effect only when you specifically want/need it. This seems like a really valuable feature that more manufacturers should be making the most of in their output, so having it here already gives this pedal a leg up.
In terms of sound, they’re aiming for something retro. There is no real attempt to create anything new and ground-breaking here, but it means that you can a vibrato sound that reminds you of the brain-fogging music of late-60s Pink Floyd. At times, it can be like hearing a kaleidoscope.
With most of the pedals on this list, you have the option to edit your own rise, rate and depth, however, also like most of them, no specific values are given. Those needing a vibrato pedal for their rig probably have some level of understanding over the features they are manipulating. Rather than ‘min’ and ‘max’, give us the actual values of the rate and depth, so we know exactly what we’re working with.
Then again, at such a low price, this is an absolute steal even for professional guitarists.
Electro Harmonix The Worm Vibrato/Tremolo Pedal
This pedal from Electro Harmonix might be the most eye-catching on this list, so if visual appeal is something you value highly in your pedal board, then this could be a good shout. It’s rather square, making it pretty bulky and space-consuming, but it does offer up a multitude of very high quality effects.
The reason the sound you can get from The Worm is so good, is thanks to the engine that actually makes up the pedal at its core. It was specifically designed with oscillation and modulation in mind, which is why it can cover the wide range of wah, phaser, tremolo and vibrato all in one go.
This pedal simplifies the customisation ability of the vibrato setting somewhat by doing away with the ability to control the ‘rise’, but a good range is given in the range and rate settings, which also apply to the other presets on the pedal.
The higher cost, impressive durability and phenomenal sounds make this a pedal that would find a home in even the most high-end rig, but do remember that you can’t use two of the inbuilt effects simultaneously, which could lead to you needing to buy separate pedals anyway.
tc electronic Shaker Mini Vibrato
Tc electronic might be the most underrated brand in the music world. Their pedals are consistently miniscule, affordable and high-end. This bright orange contender might be small, but you’ll always be able to keep an eye on it in your board, and make a huge impact on your sound.
On the surface, we have all of the standard controls that allow you to delve into your own psychedelic landscape with this pedal. However, it offers something that completely sets it apart from the competition: ‘tone print’. This is a service that effectively allows you to get a hold of presets designed to imitate classic tones and performers.
The brand themselves actively point out the Leslie imitations they can provide you with, and the “fragile ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’-like sounds” that the pedal is capable of creating. This is arguably the pedal’s biggest strength, as it allows beginners to end up with world-class, recognisable sound with almost no work. If you don’t really know what elements of the vibrato setting you should be editing, then you can (free of charge!) download an almost perfect imitation of your hero and get started.
Mooer MRT1 Soul Shiver
The most mid-range offering on this entire list is the Soul Shiver vibrato pedal from Mooer. It’s incredibly thin and orange, like the tc electronics pedal above, while very rugged and sturdy like Boss and Behringer. However, it approaches things slightly differently to both.
Firstly, we have chorus and rotary effects built in alongside the vibrato, but secondly, the way everything is controlled is slightly different. The ‘speed’ option in the middle is, of course, a controller for how quickly the vibrato takes us through pitches, but the options above control volume and intensity. This means that you have the control over how loud your guitar is directly through the pedal, which reduces the need for a volume pedal on your set up (in some ways). The intensity setting regulates the depth, which is a little confusing. Again, this seems to be a case of oversimplification actually ending up a bit confusing- just tell us what it is!
Anyway, in terms of sound, this Mooer pedal is well-loved. Like some of the other pedals on this list, it is a retro late-60s feel that they are going for. This means warmth, and shimmering, shing sound. There is something almost comedic about it, but not to the point where it becomes over the top or distracting. In fact, it has one of the most impressively delicate and usable tones on this entire list. In terms of pure sound, this is one of our highest recommendations.
ammoon Electric Guitar Digital Modulator
As you can probably tell, this offering from ammoon is a budget entry into the market. Not only is it one of the cheapest in price on this list, it is also a relatively flimsy casing and cheap-looking knobs and buttons. Even more impressive is the fact that they have managed to combine an incredible eleven effects into this one pedal.
It’s just about every modulation effect out there (rotary, phaser, flanger, tremolo… the list goes on), which means this is not a pedal for a professional guitarist, and is designed with beginners almost exclusively in mind. The end result is that each effect is relatively un-noteworthy.
Having said that, the sheer fact that this pedal is so cheap and so all-encompassing means it simply cannot be ignored. The sounds are far from bad, the customisation is pretty much just as detailed as any other pedal on this list, and it is very easy to use. You can even control the wet-dry balance. Sure, there are issues (no way of changing preset with your foot, for example), but if you want a vibrato pedal that offers a vibrato sound with no frills and nothing exceptional, but for an incredible price with a lot of extra effects built in, then look no further.
JOYO Vision Dual Channel Stereo Multi Modulation
The final pedal featured on this list is JOYO Vision, and their incredibly detailed modulation pedal. It looks incredible, if a little confusing, so it’s a bit of a shock to learn that it’s actually rather affordable. Now, there is a very good reason why this pedal looks so confusing- it is the only pedal on this list where you can actually combine two effects at once. You’ll see that on the left you are given control over the speed, control and depth of the likes of chorus and rotary, while on the right you can control your vibrato’s individual settings too. Then, through the mix controls, you can balance them out. This means that any guitarist who actually needs to have two modulation effects at one time, then you can achieve all of that without a second pedal. That makes this JOYO Vision pedal like buying two in one go.
It doesn’t end there, though, as you’ll notice that the individual footswitches (which each control one separate effect- brilliant) say ‘hold for tap’. This means that, like just one other pedal on this list, you can even control the tempo at which your vibrato takes place, allowing it to slot perfectly into whatever you’re playing.
A vibrato pedal can give your sound a really unique twist. If you need the synthetic sound of vibration, then this is the only way you’re going to get it, and luckily, in many cases, it can be attained cheaply.
As long as your pedal has customisation options and doesn’t try to direct you towards a standardised sound that probably won’t work with what you need, then you’re good to go. If you think you might have a need for some extra modulation effects, then many of the pedals featured here have a lot of extra effects built in which can really help to shape your sound.