The two most common built-in effects found on tube amplifiers are reverb and tremolo.
While most are quite familiar with the concept of reverb, you may have overlooked the slightly less common effect of tremolo.
Or perhaps you’re painfully aware that your amplifier is missing this simple, but versatile effect and you’ve taken to the internet in search of the perfect tremolo pedal instead.
Whichever the case is for you, I’ve put together a list of the best tremolo pedals that do old amps justice, as well as push the envelope for this modulation effect.
Snapshot: Best Tremolo Pedals in 2020
- Ibanez Tremolo Mini (TRMINI) – Best Mini
- Kmise Tremolo – Best Budget
- Walrus Audio Monument V2 – Best High End
- Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo
- Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird V4 – Best Analog
- Empress Effects Tremolo 2 – Best Overall
Shopping for a Great Tremolo-oh-oh-oh
While compiling my list of top tremolo pedals, I wanted to showcase the versatility of the effect, from classic tube driven pulsations to modern day harmonized tremolos with all kinds of control over the effects parameters. I also had to keep in mind that not everyone can spend hundreds of dollars on a new pedal, or that not everyone is willing to take up a large amount of space on their board for tremolo.
Whether you just plan to add some classic helicopter chop like in The Rumble, or you need tap tempo and every wave form possible, I made it my top priority to make sure that every pedal on this list was of the highest quality within its price range.
Without further ado, let’s pick out the perfect tremolo for you!
The Best Tremolo Pedals On The Market in 2020
1. Ibanez Tremolo Mini (TRMINI) – Best Mini
Ibanez released their miniature series of pedals just a couple of years back and I consider them to be one of the biggest (or should I say smallest?) sleepers even into 2020. The Tremolo Mini is built like a miniature tank and delivers quality, classic tremolo sounds while taking up as little space as possible on your pedal board.
The most noticeable attribute of this pedal’s build is its size. Measuring in at 3.65 x 2.00 x 2.17”
The TRMINI will fit on any pedalboard. Upon closer observation, you’ll notice that the build quality of this pedal is top of the line. I’m a big fan of the angled bypass switch, which serves as a great first defense against accidental control kicks. However, Ibanez makes it easy to manipulate the Depth of the tremolo on the fly with the extra-large knob in the center.
The pedal features true bypass and can be found for under $100, making it an absolute bargain.
If you’re new to the world of Tremolo, the TRMINI is a great pedal to start with due to its simple control parameters. The following controls will be found on most tremolo pedals and are the bare bones for the effect, while allowing for a great amount of control and versatility.
The Wave knob controls the edge or sharpness of the wave form, with settings to the left giving a more sine wave sound, and settings to the right approaching saw-tooth sounds. The Speed knob controls the rate of the modulation and the large depth knob dials in the intensity of the effect.
The left side of the pedal also has a level trim pot so that you can adjust the master volume and combat any perceived volume drop that tremolos are notorious for.
This is a stock, traditional sounding tremolo that one might find on a great tube amplifier. This is great for those who just want a straight forward tremolo that sounds fantastic and won’t clutter up their board. That being said, the pedal gives you everything you need to do this effect right.
The level trim pot doesn’t add any extra noise to your signal and the Wave control is really flexible. Put me in a blind shootout between this and a classic fender tremolo circuit, and I’d be stumped.
- Effect Type: Tremolo
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: External DC 9 volt AC adapter
- Dimensions: 3.65 x 2.00 x 2.17”
- Features: True Bypass, Volume Trim Pot
Final Thoughts on the Ibanez Tremolo Mini (TRMINI)
The Tremolo Mini from Ibanez is a no-nonsense, well-built miniature tremolo pedal that is ideal for beginners and traveling professionals alike. If you only need tremolo for rare occasions, or you prefer traditional tremolo sounds, this gets the job done at a good price considering the quality of build you’re getting. Don’t overlook the Ibanez mini pedals, as the Mini Chorus also made it onto our list of the Best Chorus Pedals.
2. Kmise Tremolo – Best Budget Option
- Integrated Noise Reduction: Developed with the code to reduce noise swells common with Tremolo circuit, you get the quietest effect possible with this Tremolo pedal.
If you’re needing a Tremolo on the absolute cheap (that doesn’t play cheap), then look no further than the award winning Kmise Tremolo. With hundreds of positive reviews, this pedal has proven time and time again to deliver a great sounding tremolo effect without breaking the bank.
The Kmise Tremolo is another great miniature tremolo pedal, so this won’t take up much real-estate while deliver top notch sine wave tremolo. The pedals are made in China with an aluminum alloy chassis and plastic knobs, making it a lightweight and affordable pedal.
While the Kmise Tremolo doesn’t have a Level control, it comes with a built in boost that takes your signal just above unity gain, so it doesn’t sound like you’re losing signal. True Bypass switching means you have a clear signal always.
The controls on the Kmise Tremolo are as simple as can be, with knobs for just the Intensity (you can also think of this as the Depth) and for Rate (aka Speed of the effect). The pedal has an LED that pulsates at the rate you set the effect to, so you can see how fast it is going even on the darkest of stages.
If you’re looking for a simple tremolo that won’t bog you down with too many controls, this is a good option.
This is another example of a straight forward, amp-like tremolo pedal. The Kmise Tremolo only has one wave-form (Sine) that is soft sounding at lower settings, but is also capable of more choppy sounds the more you turn up the intensity and speed.
One common complaint I’ve noticed in my research is that the controls need to be turned up past noon to be audible, which looks to be accurate based on the demos I’ve watched. So, if you’re looking for a super fine tuned machine, this may not be the best for you. However, considering that the pedal costs under $30, I’m impressed with the quality of sounds you get (even if they have to be cranked up to be heard).
- Effect Type: Sine Tremolo
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: 9V (Adaptor not included)
- Dimensions: 3.6 x 1.7 x 2.1”
- Features: Flashing LED, True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the Kmise Tremolo
To put it bluntly, for bare bones you get bare bones with the Kmise Tremolo. However, rest assured the Kmise Tremolo offers good, sturdy bones. This is a great pedal to buy if you’re looking to try Tremolo out and don’t want to spend much money in doing so, or if you’re looking for a budget pedal to have on tour.
3. Walrus Audio Monument V2 Tremelo Pedal – Best High End Option
On the other end of the price spectrum lays the Walrus Audio Monument V2. In the words of the folks at Walrus Audio, the Monument V2 is a “Harmonic and Standard Tremolo inspired by the beautifully jagged, red-sand desert landscape of the Monument Valley”. Though I’ve never visited this region, if it offers beauty anywhere near what this pedal has to offer, then everyone should go.
The V2 of the Monument improves upon its predecessor in many ways, most notably in that it crams all the same features as the original (and then some) into a standard sized pedal format. It features a jack for adding an external expression pedal or tap tempo function in case you don’t want to use the onboard tap tempo switch.
The input/output jacks are located across the top of the pedal, making it a friendly pedal for even the most crammed-together boards. It has five different wave lengths to choose from and two modes, giving you a wide array of tremolo style effects all in one pedal.
The controls on the Monument V2 are comprehensive, without ever getting overwhelming. The Vol knob adjusts the overall output of the effect. The Div knob sets the factor in which your tempo will be multiplied (Quarter, Triplet, Eighth and Sixteenth).
Rate adjusts the speed of the LFO. The Shape knob is where things get really interesting, with five different wave forms to select from including Sine, Square, Ramp, Lumps, and a Random wave mode that is also known as the Monument Mode. The intensity of this wave is set by the Depth control and you can either voice the effect with a traditional sounding tremolo (Standard) or a harmonized mode.
Even the bypass switch has hidden features: Hold it down with the pedal off for momentary switching or hold it down with the pedal on for a Ramp-Up effect.
The increased number of wave forms (unique ones at that) and the two modes allow for incredibly versatile and rarely heard of tremolo tones. The harmonized mode is subtle to my ear and reminds me of a lightly set phazer pedal.
The inclusion of tap tempo means that you can set your tremolo to be in sync with the track or changed on the fly using an external expression pedal. The Monument is capable of reaching speeds of near in audible frequencies, giving your guitar an almost synth or broken cable type effect.
Whether you’re looking for luscious, traditional sounds, or more expansive tremolo tones, they are in this pedal.
- Effect Type: Harmonized Tremolo
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: 9-volt DC, Center Negative, 100ma min
- Dimensions: 4.77″ x 2.9″ x 2.3″
- Features: Tap Tempo, Expression Jack, Ramp Up, True Bypass, Momentary Switch, 5 wave forms, Harmonized Tremolo
Final Thoughts on the Walrus Audio Monument V2 Tremolo
While this is a top of the line tremolo pedal, the Monument V2 manages to come in at a very attainable price point. It improves on its predecessor in just about every way possible, making this a truly versatile tremolo pedal for those who want to take the effect to new places.
4. Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo
- 5 different tremolo waveforms: slow rise, slow fall, sine, square, harmonic
One of these tremolo pedals doesn’t look like the others. The Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo takes the effect in a whole new direction by turning the effect into an expression pedal style unit, giving you room for experimentation, as well as control and confidence on stage.
While all the other tremolo pedals on this list come in a more or less standard pedal enclosure, Ernie Ball reimagines the effect with their fully foot sweep able expression pedal tremolo. It has five different wave forms, including a harmonized tremolo, and a spring reverb circuit with its own level control.
The pedal is bullet proof and easy to use with its aluminum chassis and grip tape on the foot toggle. Not to mention, the pedal looks slick with its purple and gold finish. The Expression Tremolo runs on a standard 9V adaptor and features buffered bypass with heel tilted.
The expression pedal can be used to adjust the rate, depth, or reverb. Pushing in the knob for the rate and depth activates the dynamic expression control. There is a rotary knob that allows you to select between either Slow Rise, Slow Fall, Sine, Square, or Harmonic wave forms. The Reverb knob dials in the level of spring reverb and is further controlled using the expression pedal.
The Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo does a fantastic job of tipping its hat to classic tremolo sounds, while also giving it some new functionality. The slow rise and slow fall wave settings are especially unique sounding, and the harmonic tremolo sounds like a full-blown univibe pedal when the depth is cranked.
The spring reverb sounds as good as any other spring reverb pedal on the market, and having it housed together with tremolo not only makes it seem like you have a vintage amp at your feet, but it also helps make the real-estate investment more worth it. My only complaint is that the effect seems to shave off some low end frequencies when activated.
- Effect Type: Expression Vibrato/Reverb
- Signal: Mono
- Power Source: 9V Battery, or 9V Center Negative 100ma adaptor (NOT included)
- Dimensions: 7 x 3.5 x 2.6
- Features: Buffered Bypass, 5 Waveforms, Spring Reverb
Final Thoughts on the Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo
Having an expression pedal added to your tremolo is useful, but having a tremolo built into an expression pedal is pretty innovative. Including a spring reverb is genius and can quickly turn any amplifier into a Fender style amp from the sixties.
5. Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird V4 Tremelo Guitar Effects Pedal– Best Analog
- A choppy, sawtooth tremolo modeled on vintage 'repeat percussion' units
From classic “Bang Bang” guitar, to robotic synth tones, an analog, percussion tremolo can do wonders. No pedal does this type of tremolo better than the fourth iteration of the Hummingbird from the always impressive Earthquaker Devices.
The Hummingbird is based on vintage repeat percussion units and creates all analog saw tooth tremolo. The effect is housed in a standard sized, all metal chassis with top mounted jacks (I can hear your applause, large pedal board owners).
It also has an expression out jack for further control over the effect via an expression pedal. This pedal features true bypass when not modulating your amplitude and also comes with a built in JFET boost.
The controls on the Hummingbird V4 are simple and the likely suspects from most tremolo pedals. There are knobs for Depth, Rate, and Level to compensate for any volume loss from the effect. There is also a toggle switch in the middle of the pedal that allows you to choose from one of three rate modes: 1 (Slow), 2 (Medium), and 3 (Fast).
This mode control works in conjunction with the Rate knob to give you a huge range of speeds. This can be further controlled with an external expression pedal to change the rate on the fly.
Saw tooth tremolos are loaded with character and are not as subtle as a sine wave tremolo. The angular wave form makes the change in amplitude much sharper and more prevalent. I find this type to be especially cool sounding with synthesizers (many come built with them anyway). The rate of modulation on this pedal can get so fast that the effect is borderline inaudible, even ring modulation sounds.
It’s almost like playing your guitar into a fan on full blast. One cool trick is to turn the depth all the way down and adjust the Level past unity gain, turning the pedal into a fantastic sounding JFET boost pedal.
- Effect Type: Repeat Percussion Tremolo
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: Standard 9V DC Power Supply w/ 2.1mm Negative Center Barrel
- Dimensions: 4.75″ x 2.50″ x. 2.25″ with knobs
- Features: JFET Boost, True Bypass, EXP Jack
Final Thoughts on the Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird V4
Though not as versatile as some of the other pedals on this list, the Hummingbird lives up to its name by offering a tremolo that operates at insane modulation speeds. With some creative musicianship this effect can seriously alter your sound, whatever instrument you’re playing on. The fact that it is all analog is just that much more impressive.
6. Empress Effects Tremolo 2 – Best Overall
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Rounding out our list the is best tremolo pedal available today: the Empress Effects Tremolo 2. This pedal combines analog voicings with digital controllability to deliver the most versatile and excellent sounding tremolo possible.
The original Empress Effects Tremolo was one of the first ever analog tremolos to come with tap tempo. The second version of this pedal not only has tap tempo, but it is also MIDI controllable and can store presets. It has a wide array of custom rhythms that take the concept of tremolo to a whole new level. Combining analog signal with digital controls makes this the most powerful tremolo possible.
This pedal has quite a few controls to give you the most versatility ever found in a tremolo pedal. There are three modes (Tap Tempo, Knob, and Preset) that determine the speed of the effect. There are also three waveforms to select (Triangle, Tube, and Square). The four knobs across the center of the pedal control Depth, Rate/Ratio (in tap tempo mode), Rhythm, and the overall output.
There is a newly added Save button that allows you to store your presets. On the side of the pedal is a control port so you can control the Tremolo 2 via expression pedal, external tap tempo, or MIDI.
The three waveforms on this pedal all give lush, vintage sounding tremolo effects for whatever kind of gig you’re going to play. However, the most impressive aspect of this pedal’s sound is the Rhythm control, which gives you the ability to have heavier and lighter accented beats as opposed to all the pulses sounding the same.
This almost turns the pedal into a percussion machine as opposed to a standard tremolo effect. This is by far the most innovative and high quality sounding tremolo you’re going to find.
- Effect Type: Tremolo
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: 9V-12V DC Negative
- Dimensions: 2 x 3.5 x 4.5”
- Features: Tap Tempo, Presets, MIDI control, multiple rhythms
Final Thoughts on the Empress Effects Tremolo 2
Empress Effects took what was already a stellar tremolo and gave it even more power with the version two. This pedal proves that tremolo isn’t just used for helicopter chop sounds. It can make your guitar sound more lifelike and it does so with the best control ability I’ve seen on just about any pedal of any effect type.
Tremolo for Any Budget, Size or Sound
Helicopter chop, heartbeat pulses, or crazy modulations: it can all be done with the right kind of tremolo.
Tremolo is such an old effect that it was first introduced in old tube amps, but if your amp doesn’t already have tremolo built in, getting the best tremolo sound in pedal form is more than a guarantee these days. This effect has not only stuck around for decades, but it has continued to evolve.
I hope that this article has given you some options for the best tremolo pedal that is right for you no matter your playing style or budget.
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.