The Next Generation of Tremolo and Vibrato Pedals

Around 1941, Harry DeArmond started producing the first ever guitar effect. The DeArmond Tremolo Control Model 601 passed an audio signal through a canister full of oil, vibrated by a motor that could be set at different speeds. Before long, tremolo circuits were integrated in amplifiers. Fender dubbing its integrated tremolo “vibrato” would help the two terms get confused for years to come.

The two effects are different but certainly part of the same family, with tremolo varying loudness at a set rate and vibrato doing the same but with pitch.

On the surface, tremolo and vibrato are basic concepts, but several of today’s pedal makers are proving that simple sounds can be a great source of innovation.

One of the most exciting chapters in the tale of tremolo and vibrato is being written right now. While the market is saturating further with new stompboxes nearly every day, we are taking the opportunity to look at those standout tremolo and vibrato pedals that do everything from recapturing classic sounds to charting new territory.

Throwbacks as Modern Classics

There is definitely something magical about playing a vintage amp with a built–in tremolo circuit. The sound is a wonderful mix of warmth and familiarity, depth and distance. If you want that vintage tremolo feel, the Strymon Flint will give you everything from swampy warbles to harmonic throbs. The Tremolo section is only half the pedal, with the Flint also offering three distinct styles of reverb.

Fans of ‘60s–style tremolo might also gravitate to the recently launched Supro Tremolo pedal, which aims to recreate the harmonic and amplitude shudders heard on Fender Brownface amps.

For vibrato, the Boss VB-2W Waza Craft has earned prominent placement in the library of modern analog vibrato pedals. The Waza Craft updates Boss’s VB-2 from the 1980s with new features like real-time depth control via expression pedal, a wide range of pitch, and fuller vibrato effect in its custom mode.

Tag Teams

Harry DeArmond didn’t just create the first ever guitar effect. He also made history with the world’s first dual effect: the De Armond Model 800, a tandem Tremolo Control and Model 600 volume pedal. That heritage continues today, with both tremolo and vibrato showing up in some perfect pairings.

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Walrus Audio Pedals, and the Janus is definitely one of the reasons why. The pedal features a tag team of tremolo and full–featured fuzz. Wait, did I mention both effects’ parameters can be manipulated in real time using a set of joysticks?

On the tremolo side, the joystick controls rate and depth. On the fuzz side, it changes fuzz aggression and tone. This setup gives guitarists a new way to control their sound, and makes the Janus a great toy for keyboard and synth players as well.

One of the most popular pairings with vibrato is chorus, with the Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl MKII leading the pack of these dual effect pedals. The Warped Vinyl blends true analog chorus and vibrato with a robust digital control set.

As its names suggests, the pedal draws inspiration from a warped record, but the tonal range offered by the Warped Vinyl is truly unprecedented. With its variety of dip switches and the ability to tailor both the beginning and end of a wave form, the Warped Vinyl redefines vibrato and shores up chorus’s curb appeal.

To Boldly Go Where No Trem Has Gone Before

At the fringes of the tremoverse, a budding legion of pedals builds on vintage tremolo techniques to open a new frontier of volume shudder.

The Malekko Heavy Industry Sneak Attack does the classic tremolo thing but shines when its attack and decay filter are optimized for twenty-five (yep, not a typo!) wave patterns that control your signal’s fade in and out. The rate can be set with external tap tempo switch, conveniently dubbed the Lil Buddy.

Lastly, there are two great pedals from Earthquaker Devices. Their long beloved Hummingbird is a “Repeat Percussion Tremolo” that produces a host of sounds from 1950s shudders based on Vox and Valco amps sounds to synth–like hard chops. Rate can be controlled by with an expression pedal and starts to sound like a bit–crusher when fastest.

Earthquaker recently released the Night Wire, a harmonic trem that takes the ball and runs with it. Its most satisfying feature may be the ability to control the pulse rate with the strength of your pick attack. There is also a second LFO that control's filter frequency, modulating the internal filter over the course of several tremolo pulses. The result is a musical tremolo that allows for a lot of expression without the player's hands ever leaving the guitar.

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