All right. Enough watching everyone else on Youtube create their amazing swells and washing soundscapes. You want to try it yourself.
And so you begin your hunt for the best selection you can get for your money.
Depending on your style of playing, the selection you make may become one of the most well-used parts of your kit. It is used heavily by professional players for everything from worship music to metal.
Unlike some boards and controls, you have to learn how to play the volume unit. The foot control required is extremely precise and most musicians who add it to their kit spend a lot of time practicing with the it until they get the sound they want.
Not only does the control need to be precise, but you also want to start or stop the volume during a certain part of a note, and you have to train your ear to work in harmony with your foot.
But the sound control is worth it.
The end result lets you prolong those notes. Not the same as a sustain, but create prolonged hovering, airy notes. Or, you can set the minimum volume to a perfect volume for playing with the band, and then step on when you need to solo. Or when you want to overdrive your sound into pure distortion.
Pedals also let you immediately silence your guitar for more clean and distinct tones.
Most use a “pot” or potentiometer to control your sound. You turn the volume knob all the way up on your guitar and send the feed to the pedal. Now all of your control is at your toes and your hands are free to do the really important stuff.
All but one brand uses a mechanical potentiometer. As with any guitar part, there is considerable debate in the forums surrounding every piece of these pedals. Are mechanical or optical better?
Well, there is one optical and a bunch of mechanicals on the market and they all work pretty dang good. We’ll get into that more here in a second once we start reviewing pedals for you. Make sure you take your time before you buy. These top-rated picks are worth reading about, but if you just jump into a purchase you may end up with more frustration and learning curve then you are prepared to take on.
1. Our Top Pick: Morley PVO+ Optical Volume Plus Pedal
This piece is not only an economical option but also our top pick.
Whether you are looking for a solid pedal for beating around the house or a performance-level model, the Morley PVO is a great one to look at.
You will find that this option does not color the signal, affect the tone or introduce noise during use and there is no loss of response when it is in the signal chain.
Overall you will find that this production is very simple and easy to figure out and use.
The minimum volume control knob provides the player with extra control over switching between backup and rhythm volumes and lead volumes. And when the knob is turned off, you will find that it will work just like any other standard unit should.
The transition between the backup/rhythm and lead volumes when using the minimum control knob is very smooth. An added bonus is that you can use the hands-free option and bypass the main volume control completely by using the foot switch to swell volume for solos and then notch it bThis is.
This is much quieter than its Potentiometer-based competition. The quality of this piece is very impressive and it is well finished, rugged, durable and sturdy, and — thanks to its optical action — has no moving parts that will wear ou
The action is wonderfully smooth and as a whole, the piece is very aurally transparent. In order to get the best sound put it behind the distortion in the effects change.
The audio taper feature on this pedal hands the player much more control.
This creates a more even volume swell distribution across the pedal’s heel to toe sweep, in contrast to the linear taper found in something like the Morley Little Alligator in which the entire volume swell occurs within the last ten percent of the toe down position (you know exactly how frustrating that can be).
This unit is battery operated – to avoid draining the battery you will want to be sure to unplug the output cable every time you are done using it. Another option would be to get an adapter so that you don’t run through batteries. You will find the battery compartment is very easily accessible.
Because of the optical aspect, this option will give you years of clean, trouble free use as there are no pots to wear out.
This is a very affordable option and for any serious performer, it is hard to imagine a better option for the price.
2. Fender FVP-1 Review
Guitar effects pedals started out pretty simple and then evolved into something that has become a very important part of guitar world and the music industry as a whole. It’s fair to say that we wouldn’t have some of the most popular songs we know if it wasn’t for effects pedal.
They come in all different shapes and forms and serve a wide range of applications. From distortion and overdrive pedals to modulation pedals, and finally delays and similar stompboxes.
With that said, sometimes the simplest effects can make the most impacting change in your tone. Volume pedals have been around for a while, and even though they have a very basic purpose, they are still a very important tool in any guitarist’s toolbox. The one we are going to look at today is the Fender FVP-1, and it’s definitely among the best ones on the market. Let’s dig in.
Unlike most of its counterparts in the same price range, this awesome little pedal features a heavy duty all-metal body that is more than capable of withstanding the abuse of frequent live performance. The design is simple, and reliable which is what you definitely want to see. The actual potentiometer switch under the expression is a high-quality unit. It was designed to offer prolonged use without impacting the signal in any harmful way. There is no crackling or tone disruption, even after prolonged use.
The pedal comes factory set with a certain amount of resistance. If you don’t like this setting, you can change it to something that is more comfortable for you. One thing to be attentive to is that it is a passive pedal, meaning that there is no additional power like batteries or adapters required. All of the inputs and outputs are on the front side, including a tuner jack that allows you quietly tune your guitar during a live performance.
Once you set a comfortable amount of resistance, you will find this pedal to be more than enjoyable. It pretty much does it all. The circuitry inside ensures that there is no tone quality loss no matter what settings you choose. Doing swells is extremely easy and satisfying with this pretty little lady. As a matter of fact, it’s far better at delivering great swells than Morley PVO+ Optical Volume Plus Pedal.
The action of the expression pedal is smooth but takes some getting used to. Learning this unit is like figuring out a friendship. It is sometimes accused of being too steep in terms of how fast it goes from silence to full volume, but this becomes a non-issue once you develop a feel for this pedal.
Fender FVP-1 is a perfect example of how simple solutions can bring the best results. There’s a lot of active volume designs on the market, some of which come with pretty advanced ways of volume attenuation, but they often times have pretty big flaws. One thing for sure, it gives you the old school performance that is consistent and delivers when you need it to. When it comes to volume units in this price range, this is without a doubt one of the best.
3. Ernie Ball 6181 Junior Size Volume Pedal-Mono, 25K VPJR
(for Active Pick Ups)
This pedal is one of the best-built expression and volume controls on the current market.
With this choice piece, you will find that you can easily achieve very smooth operation and it allows immediate reaction from your stomp box, with absolutely zero lag.
It provides a wonderfully smooth transition from zero sound to full sound and also switches seamlessly between rhythm and lead volumes.
The feature that is perhaps the most helpful on this beauty is the tuner output. By running a ¼ inch power cord from the input of a tuner to the tuner output, it is possible to leave your tuner on all of the time. This lets you discretely re-tune after dropping a face-melting shred session on your adoring fans.
This option is by far the most useful when on stage for a performance, but is still a very welcome convenience even in a private practice or bedroom jam session.
This pedal also has an adjustment switch that allows the user to take it from a long sweep option to a more abrupt swell option. Although it works really great as master volume pedal if you are looking to use this baby primarily for swells, this piece is built with nonlinear sweeping, providing swells that are much less robotic and more musical to the ear.
There’s a reason it is recommended in the Eventide manual. It is ideal for use with any Eventide Stompbox and hooks up easily requiring only one mono patch cable from the expression in jack on the stomp box to the out jack on the pedal.
Constructed with a cast aluminum exterior, this piece has good bearing surfaces and countersunk machine screws making this is a very high-quality piece. Although it is lightweight it is still tough as nails – extremely sturdy and well crafted despite the fact that this pedal is mass produced.
This piece is slightly pricier than many other pedals, but only by a little and it is well worth the extra expense. After all, what are a few dollars saved, when the overall quality and output is worth so much more than the difference in price?
If you are looking for a high-impact, small-footprint option, this is the perfect solution for you. As one of 2017’s top rated models, it is truly a great accessory for guitarists of any experience level.
4. Ernie Ball 6180 Junior Size Volume Pedal-Mono, 250K
(for Passive Pick Ups)
The EB 6180 pedal is potentiometer-based. Most pedals are built to function this way. The downside to this design is that pots do eventually wear out over time resulting in uneven performance and scratchy sound.
The only option for avoiding this inevitability is to be willing to shell out the higher cost for an optical, which is designed to function without the pots which eliminate this problem altogether.
Having said that, the 6180 is one of the best of it’s kind.
This pretty thing is very well built and musicians especially appreciate the fact that it isn’t a tone sucker. It uses a Kevlar cord rather than gears or optics for altering the potentiometer and it will not affect gain through the effects loop.
This piece provides wonderfully precise control and feels great under your foot. It has complete volume sweep and you can easily achieve an organ type swell by adding in a little delay which is a really cool effect to be able to accomplish.
Overall, for swells and other ambiance, this pedal is a perfect fit. The tuner out option is great, allowing you, the performer, to leave the tuner on throughout your gig without it cutting your sound out.
That said, you might find that it drops your volume slightly to leave the tuner plugged in, but there are plenty of mods available on the market to remedy that if it’s truly a problem for you.
This pedal is very affordable and a great deal for anyone. As indicated in the name, this is a ‘jr’ model meaning that it’s a little smaller, so it takes up less space on your board and is also more lightweight than others.That lightness is a very big plus if you are a traveling musician.
Despite its light weight, this unit does not lack for a solid feel and delivers super smooth action.
5. Dunlop GCB95 The Original Cry Baby Wah Wah
This iconic piece of equipment is one of the most legendary guitar effects pedals that was ever made. It was first designed back in 1966 by Thomas Organ Company, which sold the rights to Dunlop once they lost interest in further production. Dunlop took an already great design, made it a bit better and the rest is history.
Today you can get this one in what can be called its original form, although a lot of variations are available with different features. The materials and finish are different but at its very core, it is still the same pedal.
Just how much of an impact this particular guitar effects pedal had on the history of music is very easy to describe. Legends like Hendrix, Clapton and David Gilmour used this very model extensively and based a lot of their sound around it. Today we are going to look take an indepth look and see what the old Cry Baby has to offer today.
The first thing you notice as soon as you take the Dunlop GCB95 out of the box is the build quality. This thing is a tank. Die cast heavy duty metal parts everywhere ensure that you can use this pedal for countless hours without worrying about its reliability. The Hot Potz potentiometer is probably as widely known as the pedal itself. You can count on it to deliver 100% performance at all times. This unit does need external power to operate, which some find to be a nuisance. However, that is the case with most effects pedals these days.This means that you will either have to use a 9V battery or a dedicated power supply that is available separately.
Dunlop Cry Baby, the original one, was the first pedal to introduce this type of effect to the market. To this day, it’s still the best. The way it cuts off certain frequencies is pretty unique. Sure, there are others on the market that provide a similar effect, but not quite like this quintessential original. The travel is smooth and very articulate which allows you to be very precise.
When you press the pedal completely, you cut off the lower frequencies while the opposite gives you more bass. The space between these two positions gives you a smooth transition that creates timeless effects. Compared to something like a Jim Dunlop DVP1 volume pedal, this piece gives you a completely different effect and one that definitely gives you more versatility.
This is a unique effects pedal that has changed the modern guitar tone in a way that no other did before. Despite being such an old design, it’s still the best in its class, which it created by the way. Every guitar player should have this timeless classic in their collection, especially since it’s definitely among the affordable pedals on the market. Good stuff, a major thumbs up from here!
All in all, the Keedox is very reasonably priced compared to its competitors.
Where In The Setup Should You Wire The Volume Pedal?
Most players will set up their pedal as the first piece (or the first piece after a buffer). This is especially important for swells and overdrives.
However, some people also like having a pedal or volume control after all of the effects and right before it feeds into the amp. That way if you are finishing a piece with a lot of sustain, you can quickly truncate the sound and move into the next piece.
However, for this second volume control, a lot of artists opt for a simple knob instead of a foot control. But you can even set up a pedal on the front and the back (and the middle, if you want). It’s all up to you
What About The Tone Suck Problem?
Yeah. That seems to be a regular complaint.
For most pedals, it is not enough to notice. And, it has improved as the years goes by and new designs are invented. There are some pedals out there where tone suck is virtually non-existent. We’ll include them in the lineup, too.
For this review, we are looking for durability. We are looking for quality sound control. And an acceptable amount of tone suck.
There are also some cool features that you can look for. Like the Ernie Ball lets you adjust the sweep to customize the swells to your taste. And many of the pedals offer tuner outputs to let you silently tune — handy for onstage performances. Nice little upgrades for the serious player.
You ready to get into this?