5 Best Volume Pedals & Expression Pedals: Turn It Up
When we set out to find the best guitar volume pedals, we thought it would be fairly straightforward. After all, volume pedals don't really have a sound of their own. They simply serve to modulate the volume, and they do so using a very simple mechanism. Well, it turns out there is MUCH more to a volume pedal than meets the eye. There's a pretty hefty amount of jargon around volume pedals, which unfortunately can make things a bit confusing for beginners. Potentiometer, passive, active, high impedance, low impedance, signal chain, buffer, optical, mechanical, tone suck... and that's just to name a few.
If you’re a beginner looking for your first volume pedal, or you’re an experienced guitar player looking for a new volume pedal, or you simply want to put our knowledge of volume (and expression) pedals to the test, we invite you to read our guide! We put in many, many hours of research, gathered the opinions of multiple experts and play tested several pedals to help you navigate and understand what to look for in a volume pedal, and tell you what we - and many other musicians around the web - think are the best ones.
|Image||Guitar Pedal||Summary||Check Price|
|Boss FV-500H||Big, sturdy, and built like a tank. The Boss FV-500H doesn't require batteries and has adjustable tension. Volume adjustment is progressive and smooth, and if you can get past the fact that it's rather big and heavy, this is the one to get. Best of the Best||Amazon|
|Ernie Ball MVP||The Ernie Ball MVP is buffered, which makes it very versatile but also means you'll need to power it. Dedicated tuner output, min volume control, and a gain knob are amongst the stand-out features. The string assembly is a weak point, but nevertheless this is a versatile and affordable volume pedal.||Amazon|
|Ernie Ball VP Jr.||The Ernie Ball VP Jr. is popular, compact, and versatile. Some users report the dreaded "tone suck" (unless you use a buffer before it). The string assembly is also likely to break after prolonged usage. Those flaws aside, for a budget-friendly price you can get one of the best selling volume pedals of all time.||Amazon|
|Signstek Guitar Stereo Sound Volume Pedal||Simply put, this no-frills volume pedal is cheap and good. It's not the most well-built nor the most gig-worthy, but it works like any good volume pedal should and includes a min volume adjustment. If you need a capable volume pedal but don't want to spend an arm and a leg, this is it. Best Bang for Your Buck||Amazon|
|Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X)||A very worthy competitor to the Ernie Ball VP Jr. The durable steel-band drive does away with breakage issues, and the DVP3 Volume (X) can double as an expression pedal. There are also no tone loss issues. The Ernie Ball VP Jr. is a better deal, but the Dunlop is a slightly better volume pedal.||Amazon|
- What a Volume Pedal Is, and What It Does
- What To Look For In A Volume Pedal
- What About Expression Pedals?
- How Did We Pick the Volume Pedals?
- The 5 Best Volume Pedals
What a Volume Pedal Is, and What It Does
In this guide we’re going to primarily cover volume pedals for guitar and bass, both electric and acoustic. You can of course use a volume pedal for any electronic instrument, like a keyboard or synthesizer.
A volume pedal is often classified as a ‘dynamics’ pedal, and basically you use it to control the volume of your instrument by increasing or decreasing the aptitude of the audio signal. Conceptually, it’s pretty simple! The complication actually happens when you have to decide which one to buy, since it makes you realize how many factors are at play in the various volume pedals available today (luckily we’re here to guide you through that journey). Most volume pedals share the same form factor as a Wah pedal. It’s a large-ish surface about the size of your foot (with grip on it so your foot doesn’t slip), and you place your foot on it and “rock it” back and forth - either back on your heel, or forward with your toe. The “heel down” position is minimum volume, and “toe down” is maximum volume. 95% of volume pedals operate like this.
So, as a guitar or bass player, you already have one or more points of volume control. Your guitar probably has a volume knob, as does your amplifier. A dedicated volume pedal offers a different type of control, and many would argue more control. Depending on where you place your volume pedal, and of course your style of play, you can achieve different effects. In the simplest case, you might prefer a volume pedal to the volume knob on the actual guitar, so you can manipulate the gain of your guitar without having to change the position of your picking hand. To use it more as an interesting effect, you can utilize a volume pedal to create “swells” and ambient textures, especially used in conjunction with reverb and delay. You can gradually fade your notes in and out, almost like you’re playing a violin.
A volume pedal also has the more utilitarian use of evening out the volume of your rig relative to other instruments, in case you play live or in a band. If your volume pedal has the ability to set the minimum volume, you can use that for normal rhythm playing, and go toe-down on the pedal when you need to boost your volume for a solo, or achieve overdrive/distortion.
The fact is that lots of guitarists never realize how essential a volume pedal is to their setup until they try it (it can be a guitar rig game changer, much like a compressor pedal can be).
What To Look For In A Volume Pedal
We mentioned that volume pedals can be rather complicated little pieces of gear, and after reading this section hopefully you’ll be convinced (and much more knowledgable)! We’re big fans of lists, so we’ll make a list of what you need to consider and the knowledge you need to arm yourself with.
Sound and transparency: The best volume pedals are transparent, that is, they don’t introduce any of their own “character” to the sound coming out of your setup. With some pedals it’s important that their “personality” shines through - not so with a volume pedal. If several reviewers mention a volume pedal colors their sound, that’s your cue to steer clear. Which leads us to…
No tone loss: The dreaded “tone loss” or “tone suck” issue has been known to plague some of the more popular guitar volume pedals out there - even ones that are widely considered to be the best. The Ernie Ball VP Jr. in particular gets a bad rap for this. Your guitar signal, which in itself is a weak signal, can get split into two by a volume pedal that has a dedicated tuner output. In layman’s terms, you take a weak signal and weaken it further by splitting it, which robs the high end of your tone. Not all guitarists seem to be affected, and everyone’s signal chain and tolerance for “imperfections” is different, so your milage may vary. But it’s definitely something to be aware of.
Passive vs. active: A passive volume pedal usually doesn’t require power (through a battery or an adapter). This is convenient and simplifies your setup, but a passive volume pedal is more sensitive and finicky. You have to pay more attention to where you place it in your signal chain (beginning, middle, end) and what instrument you’re using it with. Passive volume pedals, especially ones with a tuner output, can be the cause of the tone loss we mentioned above. For a passive volume pedal, you need to pay attention to its impedance (measured in ohms). In fact, several passive pedals come in two flavors, high and low impedance. An electric guitar like a Tele, Strat, Les Paul, etc has passive pickups, so a passive volume pedal between 250k and 500k ohms will work well with it. An impedance mismatch does not make your volume pedal useless, but can adversely affect your tone. An active volume pedal needs to be powered, and you don’t have to be as careful at where in your signal chain you place it. It’s not susceptible to the “tone suck” issue.
Build quality: This is important for any piece of gear you buy, but particularly something you’ll use as often as a volume pedal. What mechanism is responsible for adjusting the pedal? Do reviewers say it is prone to breaking? Is it easy to fix? In terms of the pedal’s housing, look for one with metal construction from a brand known for building durable gear. The budget volume pedal recommendation we make in this guide is the only one on our list that is housed in plastic, not metal. Whether or not this is ok for you depends on how hard you are on your gear, how heavy your foot is, how frequently you gig, etc.
Stereo vs. mono: This is definitely lower on the list for most people shopping for a volume pedal, but we’ll mention it just in case. Most guitar chains are mono, so that will suffice. If you want a volume pedal you can also use for a stereo instrument like a keyboard, look for one with stereo capability.
Tuner output: Several volume pedals have a tuner output separate from their main output. This is so you can connect your tuner pedal to it, and silently tune, which can be massively handy during a gig in between songs. As we mentioned, be careful if you’re using a tuner output and your volume pedal is passive, as you might be sacrificing some of the high end of your tone.
Adjustability/versatility: Some volume pedals are dead simple - you can rock the pedal back and forth and increase/decrease volume, and that’s it! Some are more versatile, letting you adjust the minimum volume level, the tension/torque of the pedal, the taper (i.e. how the volume curve behaves as you step on the pedal), etc. More features generally means the price increases. This is also where we’ll include the feel of the volume pedal, meaning, if the amount the pedal travels and how it feels under your foot suffices for your needs.
Pro player usage: We as musicians are all unique snowflakes, but sometimes looking at other pedalboards helps our decision making process, particularly when those pedalboards belong to the pro musicians we love. Have a look around Equipboard at your favorite artists’ gear setups, and look at the volume pedals they use. We’ll mention some famous users of the pedals on our best-of list within our reviews.
What About Expression Pedals?
Volume pedals often get grouped together with expression pedals. Simply put, an expression pedal is a variable pedal manipulated with the foot that changes some aspect of a guitar’s sound. This includes wah and volume pedals in addition to auxiliary pedals used in conjunction with an effects unit like a delay, vibrato, or a multi-effects unit like the Zoom G5n. Just keep in mind that when someone says “expression pedal” they will generally mean the latter type that is used with a pedal or multi-effects unit, as both volume and wah pedals are generally referred to as a volume pedal or a wah pedal for clarity’s sake.
Some volume pedals double as expression pedals. They have an Expression Output, which you can connect to another effect, and use the volume pedal to control some parameter.
How Did We Pick the Volume Pedals?
When using a guide like this to make a buying decision, it’s important that you know where the information is coming from. It’s not enough that we here at Equipboard are music gear junkies. There’s no way we could own every volume pedal ever made, much less use every one of them for years to test for pros, cons, and durability.
Instead, we try to present the opinions of musicians all across the web. We spend hours and hours pouring over forums, communities (reddit for example), and music stores with reviews such as Amazon and Guitar Center. We tally up every time someone makes a volume pedal recommendation based on their personal experience, and we make a note of their interesting comments (we mostly look at discussions and recommendations from 2014, 2015, and 2016, though we don't exclude older threads if they contribute nicely to our research). The more we do this, the more complete of a picture we get of what the “best” pedals are. We realize best is highly subjective, and best to someone with a $300 budget means something different than to someone with a $50 budget. We take the most highly reviewed and recommended volume pedals, look at the top handful, and go to our local music store to test them out ourselves. For those with discerning taste and a higher budget we make a Best of the Best pick, and we also mention the Best Bang for your Buck. We realize some readers may be puzzled that some very high end, exclusive, boutique volume pedals (like Hilton) don’t make it on our guide. That’s simply because fewer people can afford them, so there are naturally fewer user recommendations and reviews going around.
The 5 Best Volume (and Expression) Pedals
Hopefully this was a good primer, and you have a good idea of where our best volume pedal recommendations come from. Without further ado, let’s jump into the top 5!
In our hunt for the best volume pedal on the market, the Boss FV-500H received the highest number of recommendations and the most positive reviews across the web. It just barely edged out the Ernie Ball MVP, which we’ll talk about next. There are actually two versions of this Boss volume pedal - the Boss FV-500H, where the H stands for High Impedance, and the Boss FV-500L, where the L stands for Low Impedance.
When deciding what volume pedal to buy, this impedance and buffer stuff can cause some confusion. Basically, the FV-500H is designed for high impedance signals, such as that coming out of the output of your electric guitar. The FV-500L is instead designed for low impedance signals, like a keyboard, preamp, etc. To put it simply, if you intend to place this volume pedal at the beginning of your pedal chain, go with the FV-500H version. In fact, we recommend you go with the H version regardless; it’ll work both ways, since you can use it with low impedance signals as well. You should get the FV-500L version only if you’re certain you want to use this pedal in your amp’s FX loop, or later down your chain with a buffer before it (i.e. any Boss-like active pedal). If your guitar has active pickups, that’s another reason to go for the L model.
Alright, with that jargon out of the way, let’s talk about what makes the Boss FV-500H such a fan-favorite, as well as its one or two shortcomings. Firstly, it’s impossible to read any discussion or review about this volume pedal without reading comments about how big and sturdy it is. It is in fact quite a large pedal, and in true Boss fashion, it’s built like a tank. Just for fun, go to the first page of Amazon reviews and do a search for the word tank - we counted it seven times! Trust us when we say this thing is BIG, kind of bulky, and somewhat heavy... to the point where it might not be the best choice for a smaller pedalboard setup. On the plus side, it looks really nice, and appears quite sleek with its black and aluminum color scheme. A benefit of this volume pedal’s heft is that it will stay put. More so than any other pedal we tested, this pedal feels like it will never slip, which is also a testament to the high quality rubber grip that will meet the underside of your shoe atop the pedal.
The Boss FV-500H volume pedal is passive, meaning it doesn’t require batteries, or chaining power to it. A feature owners of this pedal rave about is the adjustable pedal resistance (a.k.a. tension) via a screw in the bottom of the unit. We found the adjustability very handy - it’s not drastic, but you can definitely feel it getting stiffer or looser, whichever your preference is. The FV-500H also has a Minimum Volume knob to adjust how much volume you want when the pedal is in the lowest “heel down” position. Other features include being able to use the FV-500H as an expression pedal which is great, and a Tuner Out jack to connect your tuner. Here’s a quick tip from a user regarding the input jack:
The input jack on the front of the pedal works better with a straight rather than an angled cord due to the design of the body of the pedal. If using an angled cord be sure it's pointing up or it can work its way out of the jack and interrupt the connection. Minor design flaw when daisy chaining effects
We are pleased to report that after scouring the web for reviews, and testing out this pedal for ourselves, there is no discernible “tone suck” with the Boss FV-500H. The volume adjustment is progressive and smooth throughout the range, and we didn’t notice any strange cliffs or jumps. Pair this with the adjustable torque, and you pretty much have the ideal volume pedal on your hands (or feet, rather).
Bottom Line: Whether used for swells or kicking from rhythm to lead, the Boss FV-500H volume pedal delivers massive results. On the downside, the large size of the pedal might turn away guitarists with very tight and compact setups. Another thing to be aware of it that the volume potentiometer is sealed off, meaning if it gets dirty and starts to crackle, it’s a little bit harder to access to clean it with compressed air. Luckily, this complaint did not get brought up very much (however, if you’ve found this to be an issue in the past with your volume pedals, you might want to look at the Ernie Ball MVP). If you can look past these flaws (and honestly it’s difficult to call the pedal’s large size a flaw per se), there’s a reason the Boss FV-500H volume pedal is a mainstay on pro pedalboards, from Matthew Bellamy, to Keith Urban, James Bay, and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien. Based on reviews and recommendations from guitarists across the web and our own play testing, the Boss FV-500 wins our Best of the Best.
Ernie Ball MVP Most Valuable Pedal
Coming up right behind the Boss FV-500H in our lineup is the Ernie Ball MVP “Most Valuable Pedal”. The name is fitting, as this pedal does a lot of things that other volume pedals don't, and does them quite well. It’s a heavy duty buffered volume pedal, with minimum volume adjustment and gain boost, includes a tuner output, it’s in a rock solid enclosure, and is offered at a reasonable price-point. There’s a lot to like here, with only a couple drawbacks. Let’s break it all down.
If you read our review of the Boss FV-500, you’ll recall you have to make the choice between the High Impedance and Low Impedance models, each suited for different setups. The Ernie Ball MVP is a bit more versatile, since it’s a buffered pedal, meaning it works with active and passive audio signals and can be placed anywhere in your signal chain. Place it at the beginning, middle, or end of the chain - the MVP doesn’t care and will work equally as well. Because of this, this pedal requires power in the form of a 9V DC power supply, or a 9V battery (which can be installed in the battery slot underneath the pedal). As you can see, there are pros and cons here. While the MVP’s versatility means you don’t have to think about ideal placement, buffers, and impedance, it’s nice not having to worry about powering yet another pedal. Unfortunately you’ll need either a battery or an available 9V DC output from your pedal power supply. In terms of power requirement and current draw, this is what we found from the FAQ on Ernie Ball's website:
The consumption may vary due to use, but the MVP uses less than 3mA, which equates to between 200-300 hours of use with a standard 9v battery.
One of Ernie Ball’s most popular pedals is the Ernie Ball VP Jr., which we’ll also cover in our list. As popular as that pedal is, unfortunately many users report “tone suck” or “tone loss” if you plug something into its tuner output. With the MVP, this problem is resolved. The tuner output on the MVP can be used with any tuner, at any volume, and because it’s completely isolated from the rest of your signal chain you’ll experience no high frequency tone loss. We got the chance to test both pedals, and can definitely attest to this issue being resolved. This reviewer puts it very well:
They took the most popular mod to the VP Jr. (the buffer and no tone suck feature) and incorporated it into this unit.
Another standout feature is the inclusion of two useful knobs to alter the Ernie Ball MVP’s volume settings. The Minimum knob is just like the one from the Boss FV-500H, and is useful to control your signal’s minimum amplitude when the MVP is in the “heel down” position. Furthermore, you get a Gain knob, which controls a 20dB gain boost. This boost is a nice touch, as it’s always handy to have some gain on tap if you need it. Using these knobs in conjunction makes the MVP one of the most versatile volume pedals on the market.
Look and feel-wise, we’re fans of how the Ernie Ball MVP looks. The brushed aluminum look is sleek and rugged. The build quality is top notch and definitely inspires confidence, even if it’s not quite as “tank-like” as the Boss FV-500. It's a tad smaller than the Boss, but not by much. In terms of the pedal action, it rocks very nicely, and the volume sweep feels fairly smooth all the way through and tapers nicely. We read a couple reviewers complain that the final couple millimeters of the pedal’s movement command too much volume increase, but we didn’t find that to be the case. It’s likely just the nature of a logarithmic taper (which is exactly what you want). Unfortunately, the pedal resistance is not adjustable, so the Boss FV-500H gets some points over the Ernie Ball MVP is that department.
As “industry standard” as the Ernie Ball volume pedals have become, one gripe that comes up again and again is the durability of the string that controls the volume potentiometer. As wear and tear sets in, the string can snap, and if you’re particularly unlucky it can happen during a live show. In many cases this is enough of a deal breaker for people to steer clear of Ernie Ball, and instead use Boss or Dunlop volume pedals. We haven’t used the MVP ourselves for enough time to comment on this, but definitely wanted to share our findings. On the plus side, if the pot itself gets dirty, it’s not too difficult to access and clean yourself with minimum effort.
Bottom Line: Ernie Ball took everything good about the VP Jr. volume pedal, fixed the shortcomings, and put together a great product in the form of the Ernie Ball MVP. For something as simple as a volume pedal, it’s amazingly versatile. Our favorite feature is the fact that it’s buffered, so you can use it with active or passive pickups, and place it anywhere in your effects chain. That way, you can focus less on impedance and jargon, and more on finding your perfect tone. The isolated tuner output is also a big plus. The Ernie Ball MVP is not inexpensive, though we’d say it’s priced rather fairly, more or less on par with the Boss FV-500H.
So, which should you get? If you’re certain of your pedal placement and have room for a large volume pedal, we say go with the Boss. Likewise go with the Boss if you want to use your volume pedal as an expression pedal. Otherwise if you want the versatility and are able to provide power for an extra pedal, opt for the Ernie Ball MVP.
Ernie Ball VP Jr. Volume Pedal
While it did not come in first place on our list of best volume pedals, the Ernie Ball VP Jr. is without a doubt one of the most popular, most reviewed, and most used volume pedals out there today. Ernie Ball is a very trusted name when it comes to volume pedals. In fact, they have about seven different variations, and that’s not counting all the mods available. There’s a reason the VP Jr. is so well loved - it’s simply a good, functional volume pedal with a smaller footprint from a very reputable brand, and it’s offered at a great price. No volume pedal is perfect however, and there are a couple of drawbacks you should know about before spending the money on this one.
One of the nicest things about the Ernie Ball VP Jr. is that as far as volume pedals go, it’s nice and compact, hence the Jr. in the name. It’s about 3.5 inches wide, and 10 inches long, thus making it ideal for more compact pedalboard setups, or if you’re simply running out of room. It’s also lighter than other volume pedals we tested. Like its big brother the Ernie Ball MVP, construction of the VP Jr. is nice and solid, the chassis definitely looks like it could take a beating and survive unscathed. Aesthetically it looks nice as well. The pedal surface has a sandpaper-like grit to it, which ensures your foot won’t slip when operating the pedal.
Before we go any further, you should be aware that there are two available versions of the VP Jr., and you need to make sure to get the right one for your setup. One is the Ernie Ball VP Jr. model 6180, which features a high-impedance 250k ohm potentiometer suitable for passive instruments (as an example, your standard electric guitar pickups are passive). The other is the Ernie Ball VP Jr. model 6181 with a low-impedance 25k ohm pot, and is better for active instruments. This is also a passive volume pedal, meaning it does not require power to operate. Just know that if you go for the Ernie Ball VP Jr. model 6181 25k version, make sure you put it after a buffered, always-on pedal like a Boss tuner for instance to match the impedance of the volume pedal.
In terms of feel, the glide up and down of the VP Jr. feels very good. We were also unable to discern any sound leak when the pedal was in the 100% “heel down” position - when it’s off, it’s off. In short, it works just as a volume pedal should, no complaints here. The VP Jr. has the added benefit of being able to select between two volume swell rates, using a switch located behind the input jack under the footplate. This is a nice inclusion and adds to this volume pedal’s versatility.
No Ernie Ball VP Jr. review is complete without mentioning the dreaded “tone suck” issue reported by many current and past owners of this pedal. Now, as a disclaimer, in our testing of the pedal we did not experience any drastic negative effects on our tone. However, we want to help you make the wisest choice possible when it comes to the best volume pedals available today, so we’re reporting what we uncovered during our research. The folks at JHS explain the issue quite thoroughly, but the gist of it is this: Your guitar’s output is a high impedance signal, i.e. it’s weak. If you plug directly into the Ernie Ball VP Jr. without a buffer in between, your weak guitar signal is getting split between the volume pedal’s main output and its Tuner Output. This supposedly causes an undesired loss of high end sparkle in your tone, and is made worse if you actually hook up a tuner to the VP Jr.’s Tuner Out jack (due to the impedance drag).
Now you’re probably thinking, is this an issue I have to worry about? The answer is maybe. Between one third and one half of user reviews for the VP Jr. mention this “tone suck” or “tone loss” issue. Keep in mind this means the majority of users either don’t experience it, or it’s simply not a big enough issue for them. Luckily, many mods exist to fix the issue, and for a small fee you can send the pedal off to various manufacturers and/or technicians who will alter it for you. JHS for instance does a popular Active/No Loss Mod, and in fact you can purchase this pedal already modded by them (with that mod, the VP Jr. will no longer be passive, so you’ll have to provide 9V power to it).
Another downside we read several mentions of is the tendency of the string assembly to break after prolonged usage. Many users recommend buying a spare string (luckily it’s only about $4), since it’s a matter of when it breaks, not if. The procedure to replace the string gets mixed opinions, with one user claiming, “replacing these strings is a nightmare”, and another saying, “it is really easy to replace the string assembly if it breaks after many years of wear and tear.”
Bottom Line: Don’t let the downsides and supposed “tone suck” of this pedal scare you off. If the sheer number of reviews and ratings the Ernie Ball VP Jr. receives are any indication, it’s one of the best selling volume pedals on the market. It certainly is one of the highest rated volume pedals on Amazon, as you can see here:
If you don’t care about being able to set a minimum volume setting and are looking for a lighter and more compact volume pedal without spending an arm and a leg, you should strongly consider the Ernie Ball VP Jr. If you find you’re being affected by the “tone loss” issues, it’s quite easy and inexpensive to get the appropriate mod to fix the problem. With pro users such as Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Steve Morse, and Kevin Shields, you’ll be in good company by having the VP Jr. on your pedalboard.
Signstek Guitar Stereo Sound Volume Pedal
The best volume pedal discussion tends to be dominated with page after page of forum discussions and reviews comparing the merits of Ernie Ball, Boss, Dunlop, and Morley. An interesting budget-friendly pedal that frequently sneaks into the mix is the Signstek Guitar Stereo Sound Volume Pedal. This is a passive, stereo volume pedal with a minimum volume adjustment knob, and it’s offered at a price that’s almost too good to be true. We were surprised at how many users opted for this budget option on their pedalboard, frustrated with the high prices and drawbacks of volume pedals from the more renowned brands.
“Cheap, but good.” This seems to be the consensus of the Signstek Volume Pedal. After all, not every musician can (or should) spend $70-100 on a volume pedal, and this pedal comes in at less than half the cost of an Ernie Ball VP Jr.!
This is a no-frills volume pedal - the enclosure is plastic, not metal like the other pedals on our list. It glides fairly smoothly, although we detected a slight mechanical grind noise when operating it. It admittedly does not feel very durable, which is a sacrifice you have to be willing to make at this low of a price point. If you gig or have a lead foot, you might want to go for a volume pedal with a metal enclosure (Ernie Ball, Boss, Dunlop, etc). The surface atop of the pedal unfortunately does not provide the best grip. You might want to experiment with some way to increase the “grippiness” so your foot doesn’t slip.
In terms of functionality, we’re happy to report the Signstek volume pedal just works! From zero volume to full volume, it works like a volume pedal should. We did not encounter any crazy issues. The inclusion of a minimum volume adjustment is a welcome feature, especially at this low of a price. While in our brief testing we didn’t encounter issues, based on the reviews from other users, some have reported some noise from the pots after some time. This is a common problem with any potentiometer-based volume pedal, and luckily pots are easy to clean. Perhaps most surprising was nearly zero mentions of any “tone suck” issues when using this pedal! Keep in mind this is a passive pedal, so no power is required. The pot impedance is 100k ohms. It’s also a stereo volume pedal, which is handy if you want to use it with a stereo device such as a keyboard.
Bottom Line: As we mentioned, “cheap but good” is a very apt way to describe the Signstek. This user review sums it up nicely:
Overall this is a really good volume pedal, and it's been on my board for almost a year now. It doesn't change the sound of the guitar or kill any tone at all. Super easy to use, and it has a nice incremental increase that's easy to control for subtle changes, huge swells, or just to mute the guitar when you need it.
We particularly like the viewpoint of the following user, who expressed frustration at spending money on Boss and Ernie Ball pedals, only to have them eventually malfunction:
I'd seriously suggest buying cheap with volume pedals, and then only upgrade if you feel like the cheap one is unusable. Otherwise you can waste a lot of time and effort and definitely money. Thing is a volume pedal doesn't have it's own "sound" so it's not like you need to spend a lot of money to get intelligent algorithms or high quality capacitors or whatever. It works just like any volume pedal should.
While it would be a stretch to call this pedal heavy duty, it’s certainly a good entry level volume pedal. Seriously, at this low of a price you might as well just buy one as a backup no matter what your primary volume pedal is. This is absolutely the Best Bang for your Buck.
Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X)
Rounding out the winners circle for our top 5 best volume pedals is the Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X) pedal. Along with Ernie Ball, Boss, and Morley, Dunlop gets lots of mentions and recommendations when it comes to the volume pedal game. The DVP3 is an evolution of Dunlop’s DVP1, and is truly a fantastic pedal. Owners seem to agree it does most things right, which is a big part of the reason it landed a spot on our list. It’s largely considered the biggest competitor to the Ernie Ball VP Jr., so we’ll mostly compare these two. Let’s dig in.
On the front of the unit you have one input, and three outputs for Expression, Tuner, and regular Audio Output. The Dunlop DVP3 is both a volume and expression pedal. The audio output is a 250k ohm audio taper (this is also known as logarithmic, which just means the volume increases more slowly at the beginning of the rotation and more steeply at the end), while the expression output is a 10k linear taper. It’s a passive volume pedal, meaning no power is required.
We’re big fans of how the DVP3 looks and feels. It’s a very attractive all-black unit, feels solid as a rock, and the tread at the top looks like a car tire. This look might not suit everyone, but we dig it. The grip under our feet feels nice and secure, and the unit has good heft so it doesn’t feel like it will slip and slide even if you don’t secure it to your pedalboard. In terms of size, it’s a good bit smaller than the Boss FV-500H; very “pedalboard-friendly.” The pedal’s action is very smooth, and it offers a lot of travel. If the stock tension doesn’t suit you, you are able to adjust it to your liking. Several owners of the Ernie Ball VP Jr. who experienced string breakage opted to switch to the Dunlop Volume X, as its steel-band drive seems to be much more durable.
Another issue that drives people away from the Ernie Ball and to the Dunlop is the apparent lack of “tone suck” on the DVP3, even when using the Tuner output. We confirmed this in our testing, as the high end of our signal sounded crystal clear to our ears both with and without using the Tuner out. And while a volume pedal doesn’t have its own sound per se, we did notice the DVP3 has a pretty wide sweep, which enables you to achieve some long ambient swells.
If you’re looking for a volume pedal that can double as an expression pedal with no hassle, look no further. This user from reddit put it best:
It's been through a couple of shows now with no issues (I think it's steel band operated so no strings) and the volume range and adjustment feels good to me. The main reason I bought it over an Ernie Ball is because it has an expression pedal output which operates on a different internal potentiometer. This allows me to throw the volume pedal in a loop and use it for both volume adjustment and external pedal modulation.
Bottom Line: The Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X) pedal gets a lot of things right, and in a few ways is superior to its chief rival, the Ernie Ball VP Jr. Users who have owned both swear by the DVP3 over the VP Jr., but it just seems like the Ernie Ball wins in a popularity contest and is found on quite a few more pedalboards. Perhaps this is due to marketing, or more pro guitarists opting for the Ernie Ball. We actually slightly prefer the Dunlop Volume X, as we don’t have to worry about tone loss or string durability issues. Several reviewers like this one agree with us:
just bought a Dunlop Volume X and sold my EB VP JR. it’s so much better. sturdier, smoother sweep, no noticeable tone suck and it looks awesome!
Unfortunately, you’ll have to shell out a bit more cash for the Dunlop… possibly enough to not make it worthwhile. If this pedal hovered in the $80 range, it would be a clear winner. As it stands, the Ernie Ball VP Jr. is simply a much better deal.