Volume pedals provide guitarists with a hand-free way to control their dynamics onstage. They are great for gradually increasing or decreasing volume, creating swells, and building tension.
Although all volume pedals essentially perform the same function, there is a wide range of differing capabilities, features, and quality levels from model to model. Let's take a detailed look at the best volume pedals for your guitar.
The Best Volume Pedals for Swells
Table of Contents
- The Best Volume Pedals for Swells
- Getting the Best Out Of a Volume Pedal: Signal Chain Placement
1. Dunlop DVP4
In their long and glittering history, Dunlop has produced some of the finest effects pedals available to guitarists. Ranging from the legendary Cry Baby Wah to Hendrix’s favorite Fuzz Face, there’s no end to their brilliant creations.
It should come as no surprise that their flagship volume pedal is also one of the best offerings on the market today. Inspired by the condensed mini version of the Cry Baby, they set out to create a small volume pedal that is easy to operate and highly responsive.
The compact DVP4 Mini has an additional aux output that can be used to link the pedal to a tuner or an expression pedal, providing ultimate control over your effects rig. The pedal allows you to set your preferred minimum control value, too.
By setting the minimal control value using the internally-installed parameter, you can adjust the dynamic range of which the DVP4 mini affects your guitar. If, for example, you required subtle volume reductions, you would set the minimal control to a lower value.
A common criticism of volume pedals is that they tend to be unnecessarily large and bulky, therefore taking up space on your pedalboard that could be filled with tone-transforming stomp boxes. With the DVP4 Mini, Dunlop provides an efficient solution to this problem.
2. Boss FV-500H
Boss is world-renowned as innovators in the field of effects and audio processing. The FV-500H has a futuristic appearance that makes it unique amongst volume pedals. It also performs the function of controlling your dynamics flawlessly.
If you have some background knowledge on volume pedals, it’s likely that you’ll be aware of the well-respected Boss FV-300, which dominated the market for many years.
Then followed the FV-50 series, which led to the new FV-500H – a culmination of the knowledge gained from the production of the formerly mentioned pedals.
The FV-500H is a high-impedance volume pedal. It's built like a tank, constructed from die-cast, heavy-duty aluminum to ensure it can withstand the battering that occurs onstage or in the practice room.
There’s an additional expression pedal output installed on the FV-500H, making it capable of controlling other external effects. It makes an awesome low-pass or high-pass filter, adding dramatic swells to your guitar playing.
The pedal movement of the FV-500H is smooth and responsive. There’s no unexpected jumps or jitters caused by poor constructions or sub-par components, and with a rubber-coated pedal, your foot is unlikely to slip off at the pivotal moment.
When designing their Mono Volume Pedal, Lehle tore up the rulebook and set out to create a unique alternative to the conventional offerings. They abandoned the commonly used potentiometer-powered model in favor of a highly functional magnet-controlled VCA design.
The advantage of this unconventional approach is that it offers guitarists even more precision and accuracy from the volume pedal. This level of control is boosted even further by the addition of a gain parameter.
The gain control allows you to adjust the dynamic range from as low as -92dB, and up to 0dB. Also, you have the further option of adding a 10 decibel boost to your signal if required, for example, during a solo or a prominent guitar part.
With a handy direct output, the Lehle Mono Volume pedal lets you transmit your unaltered signal to an additional amplifier, external mixer, or tuner. This is very useful for signal splitting and separating your effects channel from your clean guitar tone.
Lehle’s pedals are always built to the highest standard. The Mono Volume pedal’s precise accuracy is complemented by its robust metal housing, blending results with resistance.
To celebrate four decades of their revered VP volume pedal, Ernie Ball created a limited-edition version that is a culmination of the best-loved features from that extensive range.
Featuring the classic, sleek appearance and black color scheme, the 40th Anniversary Volume pedal looks the part and performs equally as impressively. There are a handful of new additions installed on this celebratory model.
Firstly, Ernie Ball decided to replace the standard internal cord of the pedal with a specifically-chosen Kevlar alternative, which improves longevity and performance over a prolonged period of time.
Instead of creating an unnecessarily large volume pedal, they decided to minimize the size to match the popular Vp Jr’s housing. Despite this reduction, the pedal still boasts ample surface area for comfortable and unhampered usage.
Regardless of whether your signal is passive or active, the 40th-anniversary Volume pedal will perform to the same level. Conveniently, there's also a tuner pedal output that allows you to route your signal efficiently and link the pedal to your other effects.
The VM-Pro by Mission Engineering is an industry-standard volume pedal that goes above and beyond the capabilities of your average model. Rugged and malleable, the pedal is compatible with whatever comprises your personal guitar rig.
There's a useful internal selector which is linked to the jack-input, providing you with the power to set the VM-Pro to be specifically suited to either passive or active pickups. This means it is not only compatible with electric guitar, but also basses and electro-acoustic guitars.
It’s common that volume and expression pedals can be taxing on your signal integrity, but this isn’t the case with the VM-Pro. To combat tonal degradation, they have built the pedal around buffered circuitry with a line driver, ensuring pure and unaltered output.
The VM-pro is especially well-suited to guitarists who have long cable runs and many effects pedals. It also offers a complete configuration of the output jack's impedance level, so your vintage pedals will work perfectly with it too.
The all-metal housing ensures that the inner circuitry of the pedal is well-protected, and the flexible power circuit means that it can be powered by either a 9V battery or a dedicated power supply.
With a dedicated tuner output also installed, you can isolate the tuner from the rest of your rig and protect your natural tone.
6. Morley 20/20
Morely's 20/20 volume pedal combines the standard expression design with a stompbox foundation. It's a great pedal for creating immersive and dramatic swells or simply reigning in the volume of your guitar.
The audio taper of the pedal is smooth and pleasant to use and makes you feel in complete control of your dynamics. Additionally, the minimum volume feature which is controlled by foot makes it easy to jump between ideal settings for rhythm or lead parts.
There's no danger of the 20/20 creating unwanted electronic noise or marring the frequencies of your guitar. With the ultra-silent operation, it goes unnoticed until you choose to use the pedal.
This Morely pedal also offers durability in abundance thanks to its rugged steel housing that has been subjected to a process known as cold-rolling, furthering its strength. There’s a convenient clip-secured door for quickly swapping batteries.
An LED indicator provides a visible status indication, and with a premium buffer circuit, your signal is protected against degradation. The combination of outmoded gears and potentiometers that form the inner circuitry of the 20/20 pedal makes it a highly reliable choice that performs well in any rig.
Getting the Best Out Of a Volume Pedal: Signal Chain Placement
Volume pedals, like any other effects pedal, create drastically different results depending on where they are positioned in your signal chain. Although experimentation is always advised and there are no set-in-stone rules to obey, most guitarists agree on the preferred ordering of pedals to get the best results.
Unlike certain effects pedals, like distortion or reverb which have a particular recommended position in your signal chain, volume and expression pedals can be placed in three positions depending on the desired effect.
Let’s take a look at the three most common positions for a volume pedal, and the results they produce:
Start of the Signal Chain
Positioning your volume pedal at the very beginning of your signal chain will keep your output as clean as possible. This method is useful if you are using distortion-based pedals like overdrive or fuzz, or if your amp produces distortion.
This position essentially makes the volume pedal function in the same way as the volume pot would on your guitar. It controls the dynamics before your signal reaches any of your pedals, and therefore reduces the amount of gain that is produced.
Middle of the Signal Chain
When you position a volume pedal somewhere around the middle of your signal chain, it will only affect the pedals that come after it. A common method used by guitarists is to place the volume pedal after your distortion-based and dynamic-boosting pedals, but before any timing-based effects like reverb or delay.
The reason this method is popular amongst guitarists is that it allows you to keep a consistent amount of drive in your signal and create swells using your reverb or delay pedals. It is also a good option for producing continuing trails that tie sections of a song together.
End of the Signal Chain
A less conventional positioning, placing the volume pedal at the end of your signal chain will produce some interesting results. When the pedal is positioned after reverb or delay, it essentially performs the function of a master volume limiter.
Any of the trails produced by your delay or reverb pedals will be stopped in their tracks when you activate the volume control. You can therefore completely mute your signal by using this method. For ending songs instantly, this is a very effective positioning.
Expression Pedal Positioning
If you intend to use your volume pedal as an expression pedal too, this requires a different approach to posting it in your signal chain. Technically speaking, the expression pedal can be placed anywhere as it won't be directly linked to your signal chain.
However, most guitarists prefer to position them somewhere on their pedalboard where there is plenty of space. Due to the large nature of these pedals and the way they are controlled by foot, if they are crowded by other pedals, they become much trickier to use.
Utilizing a volume pedal is without a doubt the best way to gain complete control over the dynamics of your guitar. When you first use one, you’re likely to wonder how you coped without it!
Despite the relatively simple nature of volume pedals, there's a lot that can be achieved with them. Swells and gradual fade-ins are highly effective tools to have in your arsenal. Therefore, it's important to choose one that facilitates everything you need from a volume pedal.