As one of the original guitar effects, tremolo has a storied heritage as one of the most useful and unique guitar effects you can add to your rig. While it’s seemingly less popular than the effects that most guitarists covet, it’s been making a comeback in a big way, and there’s no better time than now to add a tremolo pedal to your rig.

From classics like CCR’s “Born on the Bayou” to The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” the tremolo effect is firmly rooted in rock history. Bands like The Black Keys have led a tremolo resurgence of sorts, and their song “Howlin’ For You” is one of the finest examples of tremolo you’ll ever hear.

If you’re ready to add a tremolo effect to your pedalboard, there’s some important info you’ll want to arm yourself with before you make a decision. We’re going to dive into all things tremolo, and then take a closer look at some of the best options on the market.

What is the Best Tremolo Pedal?

What exactly is a tremolo pedal and what does it do?

A tremolo pedal is a modulation effect that affects the volume of your playing. It’s always been closely tied to vibrato, and the two are often confused for one another, despite the fact they don’t have that much in common.

This misclassification can be traced back to Leo Fender. While Leo was no doubt a visionary guitar builder, he wasn’t a player himself. When he developed his first guitars that featured a floating bridge, he referred to the arm attached to the bridge as a “tremolo bar.”

But, this accessory that we affectionately refer to as a whammy bar today has nothing in common with the tremolo effect. A more fitting name for this accessory would be a vibrato bar, as it allows you to vary the pitch of your instrument.

Since then, these two effects have often been confused for one another. The fact is tremolo effects the volume of your guitar, sort of like someone was turning the volume of your guitar from 0 to 10 in quick succession. On the other hand, vibrato affects the pitch of your instrument, as if you were manipulating the whammy bar on a guitar.

While all tremolo pedals accomplish the same basic effect, there are several different ways that they can accomplish this effect, and each offers a slightly different tone and character.

Triangle-wave tremolos are perhaps the most popular, and the most widely available. Most tremolo pedals produce triangle-shaped waves. This effect takes inspiration from the large Fender amps of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s like the Twin, Deluxe, and Super. These effects use a photocell to produce their sound, and they offer a pronounced rise and fall that’s very rhythmic.

Sine wave tremolos use a transistor or a power tube to create their modulation, and it was first used in the small combo amps of the late ‘50s. This tremolo is characterized by a smoothness that you won’t find with a triangle-wave tremolo.

Square-wave tremolos are perhaps the most aggressive sounding effect of all. First found in the Vox Repeater, this style of tremolo is best described as “out there,” and while it’s not as musical as the other types, it’s a unique effect that can still be quite useful.

Finally, there are phase shift tremolos, which take their tonal inspiration from the classic Fender Brownface amplifiers of the 1960s. These trems feature a phaser-like modulation quality to them, and they’re a popular take on the classic sine-wave tremolo.

What makes a great tremolo pedal?

With so many different options on the market, picking the best tremolo effect for your playing can feel like a tall task. But, if you evaluate each pedal you look at based on the factors below, you’ll have an easier time finding the pedal that best fits your needs.

  1. Multiple Waveform Settings
  2. Versatile Controls and Options
  3. True bypass wiring
  4. Road-ready build quality

Multiple Waveform Settings

We just discussed many of the different tremolo variations that are available on the market and how each one produces a different tone and character.

In the old days, you got what you got. There weren’t as many choices, and you certainly couldn’t find a pedal that was capable of producing more than one type of tremolo effect. Thankfully, modern technology has made these issues a thing of the past. Today, it’s easy to find a tremolo pedal that can easily achieve many different tremolo effects.

The best tremolo pedals on the market give you the option to switch between waveforms and even styles. Some still feature photocells, while others can mimic that tone with digital technology surprisingly well.

If you’re only interested in one particular sound, there’s still plenty of options on the market that are less versatile but achieve that singular sound perfectly well. But, for guitarists who like to experiment, or who plan on using multiple types of tremolo, a pedal that allows you to switch between waveform patterns is indispensable.

Versatile Controls and Options

Piggybacking off our first point, the best tremolo pedals will also provide you with a versatile set of controls, and perhaps some additional bells and whistles for you to experiment with as you work to find your signature sound.

Basic tremolo pedals provide controls for rate (sometimes labeled as speed) which controls the tempo of the effect, and depth (sometimes labeled as intensity) which controls how much of the effect is mixed with your dry signal.

More advanced pedals offer a litany of other controls, including ones that allow you to set your output volume and the tone of the pedal. Some will even allow you to control additional modulation effects that you can add to your signal.

Beyond additional controls, some pedals provide guitarists with additional options that make the pedal more versatile. Some feature stereo inputs and outputs and have tap tempo switches that allow you to sync the effect to the exact tempo of your music.

Of course, if you’re just looking for the most classic sounding tremolo you can find, none of these additional bells and whistles will be necessary for you. But, for players who are looking to squeeze the most life out of each of their effects, these additions can be worth their weight in gold.

True Bypass Wiring

When it comes to effects pedals, there are two different build methods that manufacturers can use. Buffered bypass and true bypass.

Pedals with a buffered bypass send your guitar’s signal through a buffer, which functions as a preamp, amplifying your signal before sending it into the effect engine. Pedals with a buffered bypass are nice and quiet, and the effect they produce may be every bit as good as a pedal that doesn’t offer a true bypass.

So, you may be asking, “what’s the issue with a buffered bypass?”

The problem is that with a buffered bypass, your guitar’s tone will be affected whether the pedal is on or off. While it’s usually very slight, buffered pedals change the natural tone of your instrument, and if you use buffered pedals, you’re never actually hearing the authentic tone of your guitar through your amp.

So, how do you prevent this loss of tone? With true bypass pedals.

True bypass circuitry allows your guitar’s signal to completely bypass the effect engine when the effect isn’t engaged. This ensures that no matter how many different effects you’re running, the tone that’s entering your amp is the same tone that’s leaving your guitar.

With true bypass pedals, there are a few drawbacks. For one, they can produce an audible “pop” when the pedal is engaged. This sound is usually only audible when you’re using the drive channel on your amp. They can also cause some strange interactions with tuner pedals, so if you use one, you’ll want to make sure that it’s the first pedal in your chain.

If you ask me, these tiny caveats are worth it to ensure that your guitar’s tone is as pure and accurate as it’s intended to be.

Road-Ready Build Quality

The last characteristic you’ll want to look for when selecting the best pedal for you is how well the pedal is built.

When you think about it, your gear takes quite a beating over its lifetime. Amps and guitars get dinged, pedals get dropped, your pedalboard flies around the back of your drummer’s car as they drive double the speed limit to make it to your gig on time.

This is why it’s so important to select gear that’s going to be able to stand up to what the world dishes out.

Look for pedals that feature diecast steel or aluminum casings, and heavy-duty components like knobs, input and output jacks, and power plugs. A pedal that’s built with durability in mind will be able to stand up to the abuses of the road much better than an inferior pedal made from plastic.

Tremolo Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Source Audio SA243 Vertigo Tremolo

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

A thoroughly modern take on this classic effect, the Vertigo pedal features stereo inputs and outputs, three distinct tremolo modes, a shape knob to control the waveform of the effect, and it’s compatible with the Neuro app, which allows players to unlock even more functionality from the pedal.

  • Three different tremolo modes
  • Switchable true or buffered bypass
  • Neuro app compatible
  • Adjustable waveform settings

The Vertigo provides players with virtually everything they could ever ask for in a tremolo pedal. A mini switch on the front panel allows you to choose from an optical tremolo, harmonic tremolo, or bias tremolo, and a shape knob allows you to adjust the waveform of each mode to your liking.

Beyond that, controls from speed, depth, and level allow you to tweak the pedal to your liking. The Vertigo is also compatible with the Neuro Hub and features full MIDI compatibility. Players can also use an expression pedal to unlock additional functionality, including tap tempo.

The Vertigo works with Source Audio’s Neuro app, which provides a detailed editor for tweaking your own patches. It also allows you to download new patches from Source Audio’s exhaustive library of different tones and effects.

What Customers Like

  • One of the most versatile tremolo pedals available
  • Switchable bypass
  • Compatible with Neuro app and Neuro Hub

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t have tap tempo
  • Can’t run on batteries

Boss TR-2 Tremolo

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

Still one of the most storied tremolo effects after several decades, the TR-2 provides foolproof controls and a wave knob that allows users to tweak the waveform shape to their liking, which will enable them to unlock tons of sounds from a single pedal.

  • Wave knob allows players to switch between or blend two waveform shapes
  • Wider adjustment range on rate control than previous Boss tremolos
  • Bulletproof construction quality
  • Five-year warranty

If you’re searching for a classic tremolo effect with a bit of modern flavor mixed in, the TR-2 is well worth a closer look. Based on the popular PN-2 from Boss, the TR-2 provides an even broader range of effects thanks to its ultra-sensitive rate knob and wave control.

The wave control allows players to choose from a classic triangle wave sound, and a square wave sound, so experimentalists can rejoice over the “out there” tones this pedal is capable of generating.

While this pedal lacks the bells and whistles of more modern pedals, the TR-2 is one of the easiest pedals to use, and it provides a wide range of tremolo tones for under $100.

What Customers Like

  • Wave adjustment allows players to choose from two waveforms
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable

What Customers Dislike

  • Not as versatile as more modern style tremolos
  • Not true bypass

Wampler Latitude Deluxe V2 Tremolo

What Makes It Special?

A marvel of modern engineering, the Latitude Deluxe V2 provides features like tap tempo, multiple waveform settings, and even the ability to select the subdivisions of the effect. The Latitude also features more effect parameters than any competing tremolo on the market.

  • Four rhythmic subdivisions
  • Tap tempo
  • Three waveform modes
  • Switchable bypass

When you consider all of the features this pedal packs, it’s no wonder why it’s quickly become the most popular tremolo on the market. Simply put, this stompbox does things that other tremolos can only dream of.

One of the unique features of this pedal is its rhythmic subdivisions, which allow you to choose between quarters, eighths, dotted eighths, or triplets. This feature ensures that no matter the song or style you’re playing, your tremolo effect will fit seamlessly in the pocket. A tap tempo switch ensures that your effect is always on time with the band.

Players can select between square, triangle, or sine waves, which allows you to achieve the sounds associated with three distinct types of tremolo effects. In addition to classic controls for the speed and depth, the Latitude also adds controls for volume level, space, and attack so that you can dial in the perfect tone for any scenario.

What Customers Like

  • More versatile than any other tremolo
  • Tap tempo footswitch
  • Switchable bypass

What Customers Dislike

  • Expensive
  • Twice the size of the average stompbox

Danelectro Billionaire Filthy Rich Tremolo

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

Boasting bulletproof construction, simple and intuitive controls, and the classic tremolo sound of the 50s and 60s, the Filthy Rich tremolo is a perfect first pedal for beginners and students. A hard/soft switch allows players to effortlessly transition from the smooth sine wave sounds of the ‘60s and a more modern square wave sound.

  • Two waveform options
  • Classic car graphics and styling
  • True bypass wiring
  • Simple and intuitive controls

If you’re looking for your first tremolo pedal, who better to buy it from that the company that started it all? Danelectro developed the original tremolo effect in the ‘40s, and the Filthy Rich tremolo is a faithful recreation of the classic original.

This pedal stands out from the pack with its bold styling that’s reminiscent of a classic Cadillac. It features speed and depth controls for setting the effect to your liking, and a mini switch that allows you to switch between hard and soft mode.

The soft mode is a classic sine wave style tremolo similar to those popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the hard mode provides a more modern square wave style take on this classic effect. Made with a die-cast case and quality components, this tremolo pedal is perfect for traveling to and from lessons and band practices.

What Customers Like

  • Classic styling and tone
  • True bypass construction
  • Built like a tank

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t run on batteries
  • No feet on bottom of the pedal; slides around easily

Behringer UT300 Ultra Tremolo

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

By offering classic tremolo tone at a bargain basement price, Behringer fills a void in the market for great sounding and affordable guitar effects. Similar to the Boss TR-2, the UT300 provides controls for rate and depth and a wave control to switch between triangle wave and square wave operation.

  • Two waveform modes
  • Intuitive controls for rate and depth

Behringer is one of the best-known names in pro audio, but they also make some impressive guitar effects that are available for less than half the price of the competition. The UT300 is the perfect pedal for players who are looking for a tremolo to break out occasionally, or a workhorse pedal they can add to their board for about the same price as a burger and a beer.

The controls of the UT300 mirror that of the Boss TR-2, and you’ll be able to control the rate and depth of the effect, and switch between triangle and square waveforms, which makes this simple pedal reasonably versatile.

What Customers Like

  • Great price
  • Two waveform modes

What Customers Dislike

  • Mediocre quality components
  • Not as warm sounding as other tremolos

6 More Really Good Tremolo Pedals

TC Electronic Pipeline Tap Tremolo

The Pipeline from TC Electronic is arguably the best tremolo on the market, as it blends vintage tone with modern features, all at a price that’s significantly cheaper than most of the high-end options.

The Pipeline features classic controls for speed and depth, a highly effective level control for setting the output level, and a knob that allows you to set subdivisions for quarter notes, eighths, dotted eighths, and triplets. A mini switch enables you to switch between sine and square waveforms.

With those features, you already have a great tremolo, but TC Electronic didn’t stop there. This pedal also has tap tempo functionality, and it’s compatible with the TonePrint app, which allows you to add new settings and tones from top guitarists, and a growing community of TonePrint users.

Fulltone Custom Shop Supa-Trem 2 Stereo Tremolo

An instant classic, the Fulltone Supa-Trem 2 provides impressive modern features along with the classic vintage tone that most players search for in a tremolo pedal.

The Supa-Trem 2 features a mix control which correlates to the intensity of the effect, a speed control, and volume control. There’s also a mini control for phase correlation and a mini switch that allows you to select a square wave, sine wave, or a warble, which is a unique effect that brings some classic Uni-Vibe sensibility into the fold.

The Supa-Trem 2 also features true stereo inputs and outputs, and a tap tempo footswitch. It may be a bit too large for some players to add to their boards, but if you’re after vintage tone and modern features, you’ll want to give this pedal a shot.

Walrus Audio Monument Harmonic Tap Tremolo

 

This instant classic from Walrus Audio provides users with unparalleled control over their tone without losing the vintage sensibilities of classic tremolo effects.

The Monument features speed and rate controls along with a level control, subdivision control, and a wave control that allows you to choose from an impressive array of five different wave shapes. A mini switch on the front of the pedal lets users choose between a classic or harmonic tremolo sound.

A tap tempo footswitch adds even more functionality to this pedal, making it a serious competitor in the high-end tremolo space. Add to that it’s beautiful eye-catching graphics, and it’s easy to see why this pedal is quickly becoming one of the most popular high-end tremolos on the market.

Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird V4 Tremolo

An updated take on a classic effect that’s been mostly forgotten, the Hummingbird V4 is modeled after the “repeat percussion” style tremolo units that were found in vintage Vox amplifiers.

This pedal features three different modes: fast, mid-tempo, and slow, and each mode can be controlled with the rate and depth knobs. A volume knob allows you to control the overall effect level.

The Hummingbird V4 is also compatible with expression pedals, which allow you to unlock even more functionality and expressiveness from your pedal.

Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas Analog Tremolo

The Gravitas from Chase Bliss Audio is perhaps the most customizable tremolo on the market.

Users can choose between harmonic or classic tremolo modes, which can be controlled with the myriad of controls located on the front of the pedal. There’s also patented ModuShape controls which allow you to shape the soundwaves to your liking.

The pedal also features tap tempo, it’s compatible with most expression pedals as well as MIDI, and there’s a selection of different switches to control the pedals MIDI functionality located on the back of the pedal.

Despite the thoroughly digital components of this pedal, it manages to maintain a completely analog signal path, and it’s still capable of delivering vintage style tones that are heavily steeped in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

For players who are looking to shape a completely new and unique tremolo sound, the Gravitas is one pedal worth taking a closer look at.

Joyo JF-09 Tremolo

The Joyo JF-09 burst on the scene and instantly became one of the most popular tremolo units on the planet, thanks to its straightforward operation and low price.

The JF-09 features controls for intensity and rate so you can control the most essential functions of the effect, and it’s true bypass, allowing your natural tone to shine when the pedal isn’t engaged.

At under $50, the JF-09 is well worth a closer look if you’re a guitarist looking to add a classic tremolo sound to your arsenal without breaking the bank.

5 FAQ’s About Tremolo Pedals

How do you use a tremolo pedal?

Being as it’s one of the earliest guitar effects, guitarists have found many different ways to incorporate this effect into their playing.

Before we dive into the different effects you can achieve with a tremolo pedal, we need to establish one key factor. The speed or rate control on the pedal is incredibly essential, and you’ll need to manipulate it to match the tempo of the song you’re playing.

This is less important when you’re just jamming by yourself, but since tremolo is such a rhythmic effect, if the speed doesn’t match the tempo of the song, the effect will sound offbeat, and it won’t be pleasant. Pedals with a tap tempo feature are worth their weight in gold because you can just tap out the tempo to the song on the footswitch instead of dialing it in with the knob, which is less exact.

The intensity or depth control will control the amplitude of the soundwaves, and your settings for this are a matter of personal preference. The lower the rate control, the less profound the effect will be. Turning the rate control up will allow you to achieve a more dramatic effect.

Any additional controls you have on your pedal will allow you to add color and character to the effect, but the main controls from speed and depth will be where the magic really happens with your pedal.

When you’re getting acquainted with your new pedal, the best thing you can do is crack open the owner’s manual. Most companies provide some recommended settings in the back of the manual that sound great. We recommend dialing in some of these recommended settings and then making adjustments from there until you’ve arrived at the sound you like best.

Where do you place a tremolo pedal (in the chain)?

Believe it or not, the way you arrange your pedals in your signal chain can have a profound effect on your tone, and how different pedals interact with each other. When setting up your chain, there are some established practices we’d recommend sticking to ensure you get the best tone possible.

If you have a tuner pedal, you’ll want to place that first. Typically, dynamic effects would come next, like a volume pedal, graphic EQ, or compressor. But, the job of a compressor is to normalize the volume of your playing, which will seriously interfere with your tremolo effect. So, if you have a compressor, keep it to the side for now.

Next, place any filter effects you have, such as a wah pedal or envelope filter. Following that should be any gain effects you have, like distortion or overdrive. Next up is your modulation effects, such as chorus, phaser, flanger, and tremolo.

If you have a compressor, you can throw that in after your modulation effects to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with them.

Finally, you’ll place any time-based effects you have, such as a reverb or delay. You also may want to consider running your time-based effects through the effects loop of your amp to achieve a slightly different and sometimes more desirable tone.

What are the top tremolo pedal brands?

When it comes to tremolo pedals, virtually every major pedal manufacturer has thrown their hat into the ring. But, some brands represent the cream of the crop for this category.

Boss is one manufacturer that instantly comes to mind. They have a storied reputation for making high-quality pedals at middle of the road prices. All of Boss’ pedals are backed by a bulletproof 5-year warranty, as well.

Fulltone is another major player for tremolo effects. They’re a relatively new company, but they’ve been producing some of the best pedals on the market since 1993. Their Supa-Trem II pedal is one of the finest specimens on the market, and it’s loaded with features that top-tier guitarists demand to get the most out of their playing.

Newer companies such as Earthquaker Devices, Source Audio, and Walrus have been pushing the envelope concerning what effects are capable of, and their innovative takes on tremolo effects are some of the most desirable on the market right now. Players looking to unlock more functionality with their tremolo pedal will want to test drive the pedals from all of these brands.

How much does a good tremolo pedal typically cost?

WIth many effects, it’s easy to put a price on what you can expect to pay for a quality version. With tremolo, it’s a bit more complicated, and it boils down to how many additional features you need out of your pedal.

For example, some incredible sounding tremolos provide basic, vintage-style functionality for under $50. But, if you need some additional features, such as the ability to select different waveforms, or a tap tempo function, you’ll need to dish out significantly more scratch.

These higher-end models usually come in around $125-200, while the highest end pedals can inch towards $250.

Where can I learn more about tremolo pedals?

With such a storied history, there are a ton of different resources that will school you on all things tremolo. Below, you’ll find some of our favorites.

Reverb primarily exists as a musical instrument marketplace. While it’s one of the best sources for finding your dream guitar or amp, they also do an incredible job at providing musician’s news, useful tips and tricks, and informative articles. The link above is an excellent lesson on the different types of tremolo effects.

Fender is another excellent source for learning about the history of the electric guitar, amplifiers, and pedals. While they’re best known as a manufacturer of excellent guitars and amps, they go above and beyond on their website, providing tons of info and history on all things guitar.

Guitar World  has long been the favorite magazine of guitarists everywhere. From interviews with top guitarists to reviews of the newest and coolest gear to deep dives into the history of our instrument, the folks at Guitar World are one of the best resources around. Check out the link above about the early days of tremolo and vibrato effects.

Conclusion

A tremolo pedal is a cool modulation effect that every guitarist should have at their disposal. While it may be often misunderstood and underused by today’s guitarists, adding this effect to your pedalboard is a surefire way to add a unique and interesting flavor to your playing.

When shopping for a tremolo pedal, guitarists usually take a closer look at these effects, as well:

  • Vibrato
  • Chorus
  • Phaser
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