Creative tremolo pedal, and the most full-featured one on our list, the ZVex Sonar is for those that love to tweak & experiment. Not inexpensive, but well worth the investment if you want a pedal that's actually much more than a simple tremolo.
Like the Boss TR-2, the Stereo Pulsar is a fantastic tremolo pedal for the price. Some describe the sound as clinical or bright (opposite of the Fulltone Supa-Trem's warmth). A great & simple tremolo at a great price.
The Stone Deaf Tremotron features two analog tremolo circuits that can be independently controlled, tap temp, presets, and expression pedal compatability, making it one of the most unique and full featured tremolo pedals available.
The Chase Bliss Audio is an full-featured pedal that lets you control every aspect of your sound, but still feels accessible when dialing in your tremolo. It works with an expression pedal, has a tap tempo, momentary functionality, and more.
A tremolo pedal takes your guitar's sound and modulates it, altering the volume of it between loud and soft over and over again. The effect can be very subtle to the point you barely notice it, or extreme to the point where the volume cuts in and out completely leading to a stutter - or staccato - effect.
Don't confuse vibrato with tremolo. For instance, the "tremolo" arm on a guitar is actually misnamed; the effect it achieves is vibrato, which modulates the pitch of the sound higher and lower.
How to Choose Your Tremolo Pedal
Build quality, durability, and size: Guitar pedals are one of the few things in life you spend $100s on, only to smash on them harshly with your foot! Make sure the pedals you're buying can take some abuse. And of course, mind the pedal's size so that you can fit it onto your pedalboard setup.
Tap tempo: Since tremolo oscillates the amplitude of the guitar's signal high and low repeatedly, it can do so at a certain tempo. A tap tempo feature lets you tap a couple beats with your hand or foot to easily set the bpm on the fly.
Number of waveforms: A tremolo pedal can modulate the volume by following the shape of a waveform. If your needs are simple find a pedal with a few basic waveforms, otherwise you might need a more complex, full-featured pedal.
Perceived Volume drop: Perceived volume drop is what happens with some pedals when you switch them on, and they negatively impact the sound by causing a sudden drop in volume. If the tremolo pedal you choose is known to do this, make sure it's something you can live with.
The 10 Best Guitar Tremolo Pedals
Diamond Pedals Tremolo
The Diamond Pedals Tremolo is a great tremolo pedal from a boutique manfacturer.
The downsides? The hefty price tag. It comes in as the most expensive one on our list. Another downside? It’s rather large, so consider the room you have on your pedalboard. Now that we have the cons out of the way, just about everything else is a pro.
The Diamond is extremely versatile. It can do four waveforms: sharkfin, sine, square and chop. It’s extremely intuitive to use, and the build quality is top notch. Go ahead and abuse it, durability is not an issue here. It can even be used as a pretty amazing sounding clean boost. We love its tap tempo button, which when held down can either double the tremolo speed or cut it in half.
The spartan black box known as the Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1 is the next tremolo pedal in our list that comes very highly recommended by guitarists far and wide. We couldn’t get very far into our research without hearing users praise that fact that this pedal is used by the great Joe Bonamassa. The man knows good tone, so his pedal choices mean a lot to guitarists. If you want the evidence, take a minute to check out how Mr. Bonamassa uses the Supa-Trem ST-1, then come back and read more!
The Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1 gets lauded because it’s simply a classic tremolo, with a classic tone, from a well respected brand. Like the Diamond, it has a footswitch for half/full speed, and the volume knob lets you use this pedal as a clean boost. It’s built to last, and the big knobs - a well-loved feature of this one specifically - make it very easy to dial in the type of trem you want. You can go from an extreme pulse to a creamy, warm, smooth pulse (no, we’re not describing a blender for your kitchen, we’re still talking about this pedal). Note that the ST-1 does away with a waveform selector in favor of a hard/soft switch, which accomplishes a similar thing.
The sound of the Supa-Trem ST-1 is actually so smooth and creamy, that guitarists tend to leave it on all the time since it makes the entire signal sound that much better. The praise doesn’t get much better than that.
The Zvex Sonar tremolo pedal, aside from sporting the traditional Zvex killer looks, is one heck of a full-featured tremolo pedal. It comes in on the slightly higher end of the price range, but after reading our review you’ll see why it’s quite worth it.
You get four knobs to play with: volume, speed, duty, and delta. Holding down the Tap button turns the middle knobs into Attack and Release settings - a great “hidden” feature. Flipping a toggle switch from Clean to Machine activates the Sonar’s built-in distortion, which sounds gritty and great. The ramp up/down toggle is very unique, and does just what it says - ramps up or down gradually into the speed you have your tremolo set to.
The Zvex Sonar is probably one of the more creative tremolos around. The combination of controls and hidden features lets you do some really extreme, crazy effects that other tremolo pedals just can’t get to. Again, no traditional waveform selector here, but the speed range should be plenty to work with for most people. The ZVex Sonar gets lots of recommendations, likely because it’s much more than just a simple tremolo, allowing you to get very sonically creative. It’s not inexpensive by any means, so make sure the extra capabilities are something you truly need before going for this one.
Are you reading a guitar pedal buyer’s guide? Is a Boss pedal on it? Ok, all is well in the universe! The Boss TR-2 is a great no-frills, compact tremolo pedal with a relatively budget-friendly price tag.
You get the traditional tremolo Rate and Depth knobs, and a central knob to select your waveform; from triangle to a square wave. The most important thing a tremolo pedal needs to do is deliver a great sounding tremolo effect, and the Boss fully delivers here. Of the pedals that made our top 5 list, the TR-2 is the least versatile and customizable. Essentially, if the ZVex Sonar is on one end of the spectrum of sonic capabilities, the Boss TR-2 is on the other end. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
This pedal is tremendously sturdy and durable, which is something Boss pedals are notorious for. It also has a small footprint, so it can easily fit as your tremolo of choice on your pedalboard. One thing we noticed as we read user reviews is people cautioning the volume drop that turning it on causes. Some further research indicates that this used to be an issue with this pedal, but some time between 2006 and 2007 Boss fixed that for all units going forward. Still, many owners recommend going with either the Keeley or Analogman mods of the Boss TR-2.
The Keeley mod, for example, does several things:
Solves the volume drop issue (again, not a problem with this pedal starting 2007)
Upgrades the audio circuitry
Reduces unwanted distortions and noise
Makes it so that the Boss TR-2 can be used as a clean boost
Great sounding, dependable, affordable, and “moddable,” the Boss TR-2 Tremolo earns a solid place on our top 5 list.
The Electro-Harmonix Stereo Pulsar is another no-frills tremolo pedal, comes in at an even lower price than the Boss TR-2, and is a rock solid option that deserves a space in your pedal board.
Just like the TR-2, you get nice and big Depth, Shape, and Rate knobs. No hidden features here, the EHX Stereo Pulsar does exactly what it says it will do. It does have a triangle/square wave toggle, which together with the Shape knob allows for a very wide range of tremolo types. This thing can get really choppy.
Perhaps one con of the Stereo Pulsar is that some users describe it as rather clinical and bright, as opposed to the warm sonic characteristics found in some tremolo pedals (the Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1 comes to mind). The word “extreme” is used by quite a few reviewers of this unit. The again, this might be a very desired quality by some guitarists!
If you use both outputs, the tremolo effect is panned (hence Stereo Pulsar), which could work well if the signals are going to separate amps. The resulting effect could be good or bad depending on your particular amp setup.
While it’s not a pedalboard game-changer, given the price-point and legendary Electro-Harmonix reliability and quality, it’s hard to not recommend the Stereo Pulsar tremolo pedal.
The Stone Deaf Tremotron attempts to capture analog sound and digital control in one pedal. It does so by combing analog tremolo circuits with digital waveform presets and a tap tempo with wave sync.
The Tremotron has two tremolo circuits that can be layered or perfectly synced. The Depth, Rate, and Wave Shape controls give you the choice of how to individually sculpt each trem. This gives you the option of everything from traditional tremolos to the truly bizarre.
This is also one of the few tremolos with tap tempo, which can really be useful in creating some awesome sounds. It is MIDI capable, and can handle 128 presets, and works with an expression pedal.
Navigating the Tremotron’s functions is relatively straightforward thanks to the clever use of LEDs to indicate controls and preset banks. All these features do take power though, so note that the Tremotron draws 260mA and Stone Deaf recommends a power output rated at 300mA to make sure the pedal works as intended.
Stone Deaf makes the Tremotron by hand in Manchester, England.
The Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas is a full-featured tremolo from a builder with a stellar reputation for putting sound above everything and sparing no expense when designing pedals.
That philosophy continues to be apparent with the Gravitas. There is a drive knob, which mostly is a transparent overdrive or boost but can supply some gain when you really crank it. This pedal also features tap tempo.
The harmonic tremolo function, which changes frequency rather than volume, sounds shimmery and melodic.
However, it’s the more unique features we really love. With ModuShape, you can change the wave shape from a sine, to square, and even split between them, so the front of the wave is one shape and the back is the other. From there, you can change the center point at which the wave changes shape. This really lets you shape your tremolo is a unique and very satisfying way.
The Gravitas is also compatible with an expression pedal and has a momentary mode. You can create glitches that you can get lost in for hours.
By now you can probably understand how the Chase Bliss Gravitas is one of those pedals you can explore for hours and just get lost in because of how many capabilities it has. If you want an advanced tremolo that allows you to really dial in every aspect of your sound, the Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas is it.
The Voodoo Lab Tremolo pedal is an attempt to create a warm vintage tube amp trem. Here’s how Voodoo Lab summarizes the spirit behind the pedal:
The Voodoo Lab Tremolo re-creates the buttery, seductive tone of a vintage tube amp tremolo. This is accomplished by using the same lamp and photocell assembly found in many popular vintage amps.
The real magic behind the Voodoo Lab is the Slope control, which changes the waveform. This can change the sound from a smooth mellow sound to an abrupt stutter, making the Voodoo Lab incredibly versatile.
The Speed and Intensity controls are similar to other tremolos and have a good range. The Volume knob is also really convenient to help you avoid any perceived volume drop when engaged.
The Voodoo Lab features true bypass and is backed by a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty.
This tremolo is for those that want a hand built in the USA easy to use tremolo that delivers wonderfully smooth vintage sounds.
The Keeley DynaTrem is engineered to be responsive to your playing. Keeley really focused on picking sensitivity to make this tremolo dynamic.
The DynaTrem operates in three modes; dynamic rate, dynamic depth, and harmonic tremolo + reverb. The two dynamic modes respond by altering the variable you choose to your picking attack, adding a unique element to your playing. The harmonic tremolo mode turns the shape control into a reverb.
The wave shape selector also gives you a way to customize your trem. You have four wave shape options in the DynaTrem; Ramp Up, Sine Wave, Ramp Down, and Square Wave. This versatile pedal really covers a lot of trem sounds with these options.
There is also a level control, which is particularly useful on tremolos. This pedal is also quiet, with Keeley’s “integrated noise reduction,” to reduce common tremolo noise issues.
The DynaTrem is battery free, so it requires a 9V negative tip that supplies at least 60mA to work.
The DynaTrem is a unique dynamic tremolo that responds to your picking attack that sounds great and is loads of fun.
Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more