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9 of the Best Guitar Expression and Volume Pedals for Your Consideration

AMT EffectsClassic AudioDunlop EffectsExpressionHotone EffectsKorgLehleMooerSonuusSource AudioUtilityVolume+-
2017AfBlg9ExpressVolume700

Like many players, even though I have an Expression/Volume pedal, I don’t tend to use it much. I specifically bought the DigiTech Whammy Ricochet back in the day - as it makes use of a footswitch in place of a rocker, and I really like the TC Electronic ’MASH’ technology which embeds pressure-sensitive sensors into a footswitch to very much make that work like a rocker too. The only downside being with a Wah pedal, where you might wish to have the pedal in half-cocked mode - which is not a possibility for these other technologies.

 

A significant factor to bear in mind is that your typical traditional Expression or Volume pedal is around 27cm long - which is more than twice the typical regular enclosure length of circa 12cm. The 3 larger pedals featured are all around 27cm, while the Classic Audio Expression Roller and Mooer Expline come in under 13cm.

 

I’ve said many times that I value pedalboard real estate, and I’m a keen fan of multi-functionality. so it was never in doubt that I would be looking for a smaller pedal which combined both expression and volume control. As I already had the Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah, it kind of fell to reason that I would get the very similar Dunlop DV4P Volume (X) Mini. All the pedals featured here are great in their own way, and for me to select any large format ones they need to be pretty special indeed.

 

All the 3 larger pedals have unique properties, the Korg XVP-20 combines Expression and Volume, the Lehle Mono Volume 90 makes use of optical technology to limit wear and make the action a lot smoother, and the Source Audio Reflex can control up to 7 pedals simultaneously via a variety of outputs.

 

The Sonuus Voluum is quite a different pedal here and has numerous filtering options allowing you to do all manner of vibrato and tremolo style effects with the volume. We then have 3 mini Expression only pedals where the Classic Audio Expression Roller genuinely offers you something different - and should work well for Expression and Volume, less so for Wah as already mentioned.

 

Finally there are the two mini combined Expression and Volume - I considered both at the time, and read repeatedly that the Dunlop was better quality and more robustly built. So there are pedals here at varying sizes and price levels.

 

Pedals listed alphabetically by brand:


AMT EX-50 - £100

This Russian brand has found may fans over the years - they do a great series of Mini Expression, Volume and Wah pedals - 3 different ones though; they should really think of combining the Expression and Volume functions like Dunlop, Hotone and Korg do. This was head-to-head with the Dunlop Volume (X) Mini, but that pipped it with its greater functionality.


Classic Audio Expression Roller G2 - $119

Here the rocker is replaced by a roller, as demonstrated in the above video. The key advantage is the exact same form factor as a regular enclosure pedal - which means easy accommodation on your board. One of the downsides here is that this is still essentially a potentiometer type mechanic, making use of a drive belt, which means longer-term wear issues. They should really be looking to combine the roller with optical technology, which would make this pedal more robust. A very clever alternative though that you can buy direct from manufacturer or via Reverb.com; no UK reseller yet as far as I can see.


Dunlop DV4P Volume (X) Mini - £133

A passive (non-powered) mini combined Expression and Volume - my pedal of choice here, although I don't really use it that much, it spends much of its time outside the chain. I would infinitely prefer pedals to have expression control via pressure-sensitive footswitches (e.g. TC Electronic 'MASH'); but if you have to have one, then this is about as good as it gets at this size.


Hotone Soul Press - £79

This goes one better than the Dunlop above by adding Wah to its Expression and Volume control - Really good price and a very similar form factor. I already had the Mini Cry Baby at this stage so I was not looking specifically for Wah also, but should you be looking for an all-in-one then this should most definitely be a consideration. One thing to be wary of is that I've read of a few quality issues with these, if you get a good one then all fine, but obviously when you are mixing up Expression, Volume and Wah - there is more that can go wrong, and it seems early release quality control at least was a touch suspect.


Korg XPV-20 - £139

A very smooth-action larger format Expression and Volume pedal particularly in favour with keyboard players. As I am wont to say - wish this was a smaller form-factor, but there is no denying the high-quality build and internal components -and great action.


Lehle Mono Volume 90 - £209

A premium large format Volume pedal which uses optical rather than mechanical means to control the volume. Much in favour by pro players - this minimises moving parts and wear, and has likely the smoothest control action of any of these pedals.


Mooer Expline - £60

The smallest conventional rocker-style expression pedal listed here. Has a smart feature whereby rocker platform can be extended via fold-out stirrups. This pedal also has another ace up its sleeve whereby you have pressure switches on the rocker which automatically switch it on versus the more conventional approach where you need to latch a pedal footswitch to activate it - as in the case of the Dunlop etc. The Mooer mini pedals are certainly worth consideration, would be even better if Mooer could combine Expression and Volume like Dunlop and Hotone do at this sort of size.


Sonuus Voluum - £179

This pedal is not quite as long as the typical volume and expression pedals, but much wider on account of all its additional dials and switches - which add LFO filtering, compression and a whole lot more. You're best of checking out the above video to get a clear idea of what this pedal can do for you. Has found favour with several pro players, but may be a little much for most players - genuinely highly innovative and feature-rich though.


Source Audio Reflex - £214

This full-size Expression Pedal is currently the most capable one available - as exemplified in Dan and Mick's above video. It has numerous inputs allowing you to control up to 7 pedals simultaneously. Dan demonstrates this with just 3, but you get the idea well enough. Requires some pretty high-level thinking if you want to make use of this in the best way possible, but certainly gives you a lot of options.


Final Thoughts

As I state throughout this piece, I feel I already have the right Expression + Volume pedal for my needs in the shape of the Dunlop Mini (X), and don't really use it that much. I think there is still lots of room for improvement in terms of core construction - move to cleaner optical technologies with less movable parts and less wear for instance. I feel more and more pedals will end up with TCE 'MASH' -style controls meaning that there will be a decreasing need for separate expression pedals. Volume pedals are great for swells, and finer control of output, but I tend to use my guitar volume dial for that - which is kind of why I have such little use for these types of pedals right now. For the right player though I can really see how something like the Sonuus Voluum can become a key part of the performance.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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