BY LYLE ZAEHRINGER
Tremolo is one of the oldest electronic guitar effects—a common feature on
combo amps as early as the 1940s. In its
most basic form, tremolo is simply amplitude modulation, like turning a volume
knob up and down.
It’s nothing, if not a simple effect. And
for the most part, it’s simple to please
tremolo fans too. A nice vintage Fender or
Gibson amp-based circuit or a pedal that
can move from choppier square waves to
softer sine or sawtooth forms will usually do
the trick. But the analog, optical Pigtronix
Tremvelope invites tremolo fans to look
deeper into what the effect can deliver. By
effectively combining a trem circuit with an
envelope follower, Pigtronix has produced
one of the most creative and dynamically
responsive tremolos we’ve heard.
tremolo effects scratching their heads. Even
the Speed and Depth controls are more
versatile than those on an old amplifier,
because you can control their effect on the
tone with either playing dynamics or a TRS
expression pedal. The sonic payoff for all
the control options can be immense.
Wild as a Boar
Two mini switches (Depth and Speed)
help make this expanded interactivity possible. Each switch has three positions: Plus,
Minus, and Off. These switches modify the
way in which the Envelope functions. Flip
the Speed switch to Plus, and the tremolo
will speed up the harder you play. Switch it
to Minus and the opposite happens. This
effect has a particularly profound emotive
quality where quiet, tender melodies can be
reinforced by slower undulations, but can
be made more intense and manic when you
play forcefully. This sort of dynamic interaction can also be applied to the tremolo depth
with a flip of the Depth switch. Switching
to the Minus setting has an inverse effect on
Speed and Depth. For example, playing with
a gentler touch will speed up the tremolo,
while digging in will slow it down.
Here Piggy, Piggy
You can typically count on a Pigtronix
stompbox to give you a lot of ways to
tweak your sound, and the Tremvelope is
no exception to the rule. With six 1/4"
jacks, four mini switches, three knobs, three
LEDs, and two footswitches, it has the
potential to leave players used to bare-bones
you’re looking for a versatile and
interactive tremolo that can deliver
more unconventional sounds.
additional controls cause you
CLICKHere… or scan this QR code with a mobile device to hear audio clips of this pedal at premierguitar.com/nov2011.
When set to its most extreme Depth setting, there’s even a bit of a signal boost that
can provide some nice grit at the loudest
part of the volume swell if your amp is at
the point of overdriving. Though this can
be perceived as signal coloration, the unit is
actually remarkably transparent.
Additional controls allow you to further define the size and shape of the effect.
Switching to the smoother sine waveform
sounds more traditional. This setting is ripe
for surfy and noirish mood explorations. The
sawtooth waveform sounds more modern—
perfect for choppier and percussive “How
Soon is Now”-style Johnny Marr trem, or
even more radical settings. The harder settings in particular are even more effective
when used with the stereo output and two
amps. At times, this can become positively
brain-warping. Even in subtle settings, however, the combination of the Tremvelope’s
dynamic control and stereo capabilities can
be incredibly surreal and spacious.
The Tremvelope reflects just how far an
imaginative pedal builder can go with the
simplest effects, and the features describe
here really only begin to scratch the surface.
The Pigtronix Tremvelope is exceptionally
well built. It’s also supremely dynamic and
highly interactive, and if you’re open to what
more radical applications of tremolo can do
for your songs and playing, the Tremvelope
can return your curiosity in spades.