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12 of the Best Compact Tremolo Pedals - Updated

BossChase Bliss AudioCoda EffectsCopilot FXFlower PedalsJHS PedalsModulationRed House ElectronicsStone Deaf EffectsSuhrSuproSwindler EffecsTC ElectronicTremolo+-
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Note - Updated post JHS Kodiak pedal release.

 

When I started down the pedal route - the Tremolo effect was probably may favourite modulation and I did a whole load of research before landing on my preferred tremolo pedals. I kind of over-did the tremolo in those earlier days, but it still remains high in my affections - and I dip back into the category every now and again to see what innovations may have taken place in the interim.

 

In doing my original 9 Best Tremolos overview - I included a wide range of different enclosure sizes and price-points. While here I’m only really interested in the compact form factor ones. There are of course some fabulous tremolos outside the regular size, but this is where most of the action is at!

 

Three of these are already in my collection - I acquired the Stone Deaf Tremotron first - following an impressive demo by Stefan Fast over at Pedal Zone. Next came the Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas, and last one in was the Boss TR-2 dual speed + volume Alchemy Audio mod. Ideally I like all my tremolos with tap-tempo or some sort of easily switchable speed option - in fact the only exception to that here is the Supro Tremolo which is here on the merits of its superb tones and Harmonic tremolo option. In fact there are 3 pedals here which have the Harmonic Tremolo option - the aforementioned Supro, Chase Bliss Gravitas and Flower Pedals’ Dandelion.

 

As mentioned, my preferred control topology is to have dual footswitches with separate tap-tempo - there are 7 here that fit that profile exactly, while the Suhr Jack Rabbit and TCE Pipeline have press and hold tap-tempo. Where the modified Boss TR-2 has a second x2 multiplier footswitch to allow you to ramp up your speed, and the JHS Honecomb Deluxe allows you to set 2 separate speeds which you can footswitch between. The Jack Rabbit also has a ’strum-tempo’ feature. (JHS Honeycomb Deluxe has been swapped out for JHS Kodiak).

 

 

I still feel the Chase Bliss Gravitas and Stone Deaf Tremotron are the most unique and most capable ones here - so no change there. But there are some interesting additions by way of the stereo and onboard presets functions of the Swindler Effects Red Mountain, and the cool easy controllability of the trio of Coda Effects Montagne, Flower Pedals Dandelion and Red House Electronics Heat Wave. The new JHS Kodiak joins the latter trio as a cool tap-tempo alternative.

 

The most likely acquisition here is the Red Mountain - because of its stereo potential - meaning I could place that tremolo in various different parts of the chain - i.e. after delay. Yet I also have a soft spot for the Coda Effects Montagne, Flower Pedals Dandelion and Red House Heat Wave (and JHS Kodiak is cool too). I don’t think any of those would defeat the Gravitas or Tremotron in a head-to-head. Right now, it is the Gravitas that is pride of place in my pedal-chain - but that can always change. As mentioned in another post - I am considering bumping my Chase Bliss Spectre fort the EQD Pyramids, so it’s perhaps time that the Tremotron got rotated in again. It does involve some shifting around of pedals and a minor power-supply challenge - but it’s all doable.

 

Right now I’m sort of undecided as to what to do next here - we’ll see how I feel at the end of this piece.

 

Note also that the EarthQuaker Night Wire and Malekko Sneak Attack just missed out on being featured - I felt that the 12 currently in place were the best balance of what is currently available, but some may prefer either of these too. The Malekko Sneak Attack deserves a mention at the very least for its 5 x 5 wave shape combinations - it alas relies on an external Lil Buddy tap-tempo footswitch - if only Malekko could build that into its pedal like most of the others have done here, it would definitely be in the running.

 

Pedals listed alphabetically per brand as usual:


Boss TR-2 Tremolo Alchemy Audio Mod [dual speed - x2) - C£120 (Reverb.com)

This was my most recent tremolo addition and followed my coming across a YouTube video of JHS's Twin Speed TR-2 Mod - per the demo video above. The standard JHS Mod is just the addition of the volume dial. For the JHS Twin Speed there are two extra dials along the top and right hand edge - which allow you to change volume and speed for the second footswitch. The standard Alchemy Mod has just the dual-concentric dial with additional volume, while mine also has the x2 (double speed) footswitch which simply doubles the speed of whatever you have set. I overall find the Alchemy solution a touch neater, and it kind of suits this simple pedal. JHS funnily enough has its own dual speed pedal in the shape of the Honeycomb Deluxe model - as featured below.


Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas [tap-tempo] - £299

The Gravitas is currently my pride of place tremolo - with its other 3 Chase Bliss modulation siblings all in a row - it does though get rotated out every now and again for the Tremotron - which involves some slightly annoying cabling machinations. For most modulation effects based on frequency / signal oscillation - volume is a real concern. In fact I had issues with both my primo tremolos when I first got them - both had signifiant volume issues - which I solved with the Gravitas by going up to an 18V power supply, and for the Tremotron I had to tweak the internal output trim-pot. This means that when I switch those effects around I need to detach the Xotic voltage doubler from the SL Drive - put the 18V into the SL Drive, and that one's original 9V supply into the Tremotron! In any case there is little overall to split the Gravitas from the Tremotron - as they are both amazingly capable tremolos - the Gravitas gives you the Harmonic option and bounce ramping across several parameters, while the Tremotron gives you dual simultaneous tremolo effects - both are supberb!


Coda Effects Montagne Tremolo [tap-tempo] - €227

Coda Effects is one Benoit Meijer of France - who has 3 excellent pedals to his range currently - the Sunn T 'Black Hole' clone, Big Muff+ Dolmen Fuzz, and this 6-waveform tap-tempo tremolo. This is a great premium quality device using all highest quality parts and assembled by hand by Benoit himself. Note that there is often a waiting list on these as they are made in batches. It's not quite up to the versatility of the Gravitas or Tremotron, but is near the top of the chasing pack.


Copilot FX Polypus Tremolo [tap-tempo] - $125

Another new pedal-maker to me, but one with an extensive range of pedals (20) - this is a relatively simple tap-tempo tremolo with toggle switch to activate manual rate or foot-tapped-tempo. Then you have Volume, Range and a 6-waveform selector with all the usual suspects. Pricing here is fairly keen, but then it does not have some of the extra touches of some of these other pedals, still a decent proposition though.


Flower Pedals Dandelion Harmonic Tremolo [double tremolo + tap-tempo] - $259

I can't remember how I came across this boutique brand - again a nice small range of 4 pedals including this optical tap-tempo Tremolo with Harmonic voicing option. You have 4 dials here - Boost (Level), Shape (Waveform), Depth and Speed - alongside 2 x 2-way and 1 x 3-way toggle switches. Type allows you to switch between regular Amplitude and Harmonic Tremolo, Voice is a sort of Tone switch - which boosts certain key frequencies of the Harmonic voicing. The third 'Double' toggle allows you set up a sort of secondary speed preset which you can add to your regular tremolo signal - you hold down the bypass switch to assign dial values to that secondary effect. So a really quite smart pedal and it does something genuinely different to the rest in a way, albeit the Tremotron does that Secondary Tremolo thing somewhat better and adds presets. It's features though put it quite far up the ranking. I think it's well worth consideration as it combines some of the best bits of the Gravitas and Tremotron, but does not really match either of those in their full specialisms.


JHS Kodiak Tap-Tempo Tremolo - £199

This is quite a different proposition to the earlier Dual-speed Honeycomb Deluxe - in fact it sits quite nicely alongside the second tier alternatives here - and offers something a tiny touch different. The 4th 'Rhythmatic' waveform is really cool and gives you something closer to what the Chase Bliss can do. Having the Ratio Sub-divisions and Waveforms easily accessible makes this an easy and fun pedal to operate - it sounds great - but there are others here that give you a touch more variety.


Red House Electronics Heat Wave [ramping dual speed + tap-tempo] - $199

I've already written about this pedal's sibling - the Midnight Phaser, which has a very similar layout - albeit with a couple of extra voicing toggles. In many ways it's quite similar to the above Flower Pedals Dandelion - both are optical and have tap-tempo - and the Heat Wave has slow/fast speed ramping versus the Dandelion's Secondary Tremolo, that pedal also has a Harmonic mode which probably elevates it slightly in appeal - then again it is around $60 more than the Heat Wave. I think both do interesting things on a roughly similar framework - so it really depends on what feature set you prefer - both sound great.


Stone Deaf Tremotron [tap-tempo] - £250

This is my current equal favourite with the above Chase Bliss Gravitas - the latter though has been getting more play-time of late after the Tremotron was principal pedal for several months at the start. I just ended up getting the whole row of Chase Bliss modulations and thought I may as well keep them all together - and I do really love those pedals. Yet I am almost 100% likely to switch out the Chase Bliss Spectre for the EQD Pyramids, so I may as well bring the Tremotron back in again - it's time it had its go in the rotation. What makes the Tremotron particularly special is that you have a huge range of waveforms to select from and you can run 2 Tremolo effects simultaneously by pressing and holding the various dials. You also get tap-tempo with sub-divisions and 4 definable footswitchable presets. The only thing it's missing really is the Harmonic option - other than that this thing has it all - and sounds tremendous too. As mentioned above - I had to fairly significantly tweak the internal output trim-pot of the pedal as this was one of the earlier models which was set a touch too low - it's been fine since that adjustment.


Suhr Jack Rabbit V2 [tap-tempo] - £199

The Suhr effects division is likely best known for its Riot, Shiba Drive and KokoBoost pedals - while it has a couple of really decent modulations too within its range - including this Jack Rabbit Tremolo. You get 4 dials - Rate, Level, Shape and Depth - along with a 3-position sub-divisions toggle. The smart thing here is that the tap-tempo is set with the single footswitch via the press-and-hold methodology, although you can also press, hold and strum for tempo - which is a similar thing that TC Electronic used to do on the Flashback Delay. It's overall a very simply pedal, and not quite up to the Gravitas and Tremotron overall - I also really do prefer the dedicated tap-tempo footswitch - but this is a really cool simple alternative with most of the essential onboard.


Supro Tremolo - £229

This one is kind of the odd one out here as it has no additional speed settings - no dual or secondary speed, and definitely no tap-tempo. This takes the legendary Supro Amp tremolo and puts it into a pedal format with Amplitude and Harmonic voicing options. Other than that you just have the basic Depth, Gain and Speed dials. Do note that the Gain dial is more of a pre-amp style boost - like on the Gravitas, and gives increased warmth in sound as well as relatively mild amp-like saturation. It's for sure a great sounding Tremolo but probably overall the most basic here in many ways.


Swindler Effects Red Mountain Stereo Tremolo [stereo + tap-tempo] - $200

I've had my eye on this one for a while as the only compact-sized stereo tremolo that I know about. This means it can be placed between my Delay and Reverb workstations - or even after them - so that the tremolo hits the original signal only and not the repeats. It has most of the high level functionality that most of the more advanced pedals on this page do - separate tap-tempo footswitch which also activated speed ramping, 6 waveforms, 6 sub-divisions and a phase inversion toggle switch - oh and a single preset which can be activated by press-and-hold on the bypass footswitch. It's still not as clever as the Gravitas and Tremotron overall, but it does that that key differentiator in both stereo ins and outs.


TC Electronic Pipeline [tap tempo] - £125

This was one of the 3 compact pedals I featured in my earlier Best 9 Tremolos post - and I really liked the look of it at the time - but did kind of expect it to be full stereo like most of TC Electronic's modulations are. You get the choice of just 2 manual waveforms here - Vintage (Sine Wave) and Square - with still most of the magic happening through the TonePrint function - which allows you to create your own custom preset wave type etc. In fact the Sub-Divisions dial has a 'Custom' mode too - again adjusted via TonePrint - this allows you to sequence up to 4 different Tremolo tempo patterns together for very unique stuttery effects. So I think The Pipeline is cool, but it suffers the same criticisms I have of the smaller TCE pedals - as in there are not enough selectable features onboard really, the pedal is somewhat too reliant on TonePrint - of which you can only have one onboard at any give time. I feel that for a digital pedal specialist like TC Electronic it's a real oversight for this relatively new pedal not to have more TonePrint options available, and not to have an easy way to footswitch between options. I feel that TC Electronic could have build a far more appealing Tremolo here - which has certain advantages, but there's too much 'under the bonnet'. In most ways I feel I would prefer the superficially quite similar Suhr Jack Rabbit - even though The Pipeline can create pretty much any kind of Tremolo for you - it should have been stereo, dual-fooswitch and with presets - that would all make it make sense. Otherwise in this present company, it's somewhat at a disadvantage.


Final Thoughts

I think the main takeaway here is that my perfect tremolo has not been built yet. The Gravitas and Tremotron are still best of breed in my opinion - probably followed by the Flower Pedals Dandelion if you want a mix of the former two's greatest hits. But then the Swindler Red Mountain is wholly unique in being Stereo - which means it's the only one here I can place in-between or after my time-based effect workstations (Stereo Rig).

 

So the perfect pedal for me really is a Tremotron with Harmonic voicing option and Stereo ins and outs, or a Gravitas with Stereo ins and outs and footswitchable presets. There are all manner of clever pedals out there in the world - most of the pedal-makers on this page are already doing clever things with their modern effects. I tend to really like the Analogue Circuits + Digital Controls methodology as used by both Chase Bliss and Stone Deaf - in fact several others here also. Alexander Pedals and TC Electronics are already doing amazing things with digital pedals too - as is EarthQuaker Devices with the latest iterations of its Avalanche Run and Pyramids pedals. There could well be an equivalent form-factor Tremolo coming from EarthQuaker that would cause significant ripples in said sector - but the prize goes to the first one that can bake all the essentials into a compact enclosure!

 

When I started off on this post I was largely undecided as what to do next - whether to stick or roll the dice - and what to go for. I am currently torn between getting a Swindler Red Mountain - so I can experiment with that at the end of my chain, or else wait for the next iterations of these to come out. Right now - I think I will stick with my existing favourites actually. I've already made up my mind to get the forthcoming Empress Zoia Multi-Effects Sequencer Pedal - for a while I had thought I would just bump the Boss MD-500 for the Zoia, but now I'am thinking of activating the 40th and final slot of my pedal-chain so I can accommodate both. The Boss MD-500 is so great for the Chorus, Filter, Flanger and Phaser effects in particular that I really would not want to be without it. I also have the Strymon Mobius - which was bumped for the MD-500 as I largely prefer that overall, although there are still certain effects that the Strymon still does slightly better. You can't have everything, and you really need to make your choices and decide where the arbitrary line lies. My 39 / 40 long pedal-chain is already over-kill for most, but I really love it, and it really works for me!

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Stefan Karlsson
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