Volume pedals are a legitimate tool that guitarists have used for years and years to enhance their playing. But how can a pedal that functions just the same as a volume knob on a guitar have such widespread use? The reason for this is the added flexibility a volume pedal provides in comparison to the volume knob.
Most volume pedals function just like a standard wah-pedal, making the volume easy to control on the ground level with the foot. It frees up the extra fingers needed to pull off volume swells on a guitar and gives the player room to play to their fullest while maintaining the ability to adjust the volume. Swells are a technique where the output volume is lowered on the guitar just as the player strums a string and turns back up once the player’s initial attack hitting the strings has vanished. It gives the guitar a unique sound that is akin more to a violin. Volume swells using the volume knob are very hard to pull off, and using a volume pedal will provide a shortcut to getting the effects needed. Volume is crucial for music. It might sound trivial, but being able to shift between different levels of volume quickly means easier access to building/releasing tension in any musical composition.
The second perk of having a volume pedal compared to a volume knob is that you can choose where to put it in a signal chain and receive varying effects. Putting a volume pedal last in the chain will make it function like a master volume knob on an amplifier while putting it before any other pedal in a chain will alter that pedal’s volume. A volume box only reduces volume, so it will never function as a boost in and of itself. Just as with most things, there are volume pedals that are super expensive and those that are super cheap. In this article, we will list pedals with average prices that will function at top-notch levels.
Ernie Ball VP JR. Passive Volume Pedal & Ernie Ball VP Junior 25K Active Volume Pedal
Ernie Ball is usually heard in discussions when it comes to guitar strings. They fit guitars with affordable strings that are any first-timers’ best friend. But there are other things that Ernie ball does incredibly right, one of them is volume pedals.
The VP JR is a smaller version of Ernie Balls acclaimed EB6167 and functions just the same. Volume pedals are a pedal type that will require the player to physically alter them a lot more than say a stompbox delay. Having a foot on the pedal pumping up and down quite frequently means that durability becomes a legitimate factor when rating volume pedals. The Ernie Ball VP JR is a very sturdy and durable pedal at an affordable price. It has one output for the main signal, one for silent tuning and one input. Very simply, a legitimate pedal.
Both the Ernie Ball pedals in this article have the same core functions, but one is passive and active. This listing will be used as an example to talk a little bit about the differences between active and passive guitar pedals. An active guitar pedal requires an external power source to function, while a passive pedal only uses battery. There are many perks having an active guitar pedal, but the only bonus of a passive guitar pedal is that they are cheaper. The active guitar pedal will function more reliably, and won’t run the chance of the guitars’ pickups interfering with the volume pedal, as in the case with a passive pedal. There is a small upset when it comes to providing pedals with power, which most pedalboards have a solution for. If you have no solution for that, then a passive pedal might be the way to go. However, the price difference between the passive and active VP-JR is not enough to bust your budget unless it is extremely tight.
For volume pedals, you usually compare high impedance to low impedance pedals. The Boss FV-500H is listed as a high impedance pedal. Simply put, this means that the pedal has a buffer that allows it to provide the same output of tone as the guitar outputs at the start of the signal chain, and carry the signal through to the end of the chain. Therefore, high impedance pedals will usually go first in a pedal chain. However, the loss of tone that a low impedance pedal will give is only relevant in a longer signal chain with several pedals that don’t have a true bypass mode.
The Boss FV-500 is just like the last listing, an acclaimed and iconic volume pedal. It has an aluminum casing, one input, output and an input for an expression pedal. The expression pedal input on the BOSS FV-500-H will allow the player to connect the FV-500 to any other pedal in their chain to give more specific control of that pedal. The FV-500 is a big boy, so for a player who requires space on the board, this might not be it. It is within the mid-price range, just as the other pedals on this list. It is a sturdy pedal that is suited for both guitar and bass. The expression pedal input will give the Boss FV-500H many options for a player to play around with in terms of positioning pedals in a chain and how that affects the overall output.
Jim Dunlop DVP4 Volume X Mini
The Dunlop DVP4 is a versatile little box. It has the same functions as the previous listing but is smaller. The upset here is that the functionality of having the same options in a smaller box is that it will come at a slight bump in price. It is not a significant difference, but it is enough to make it a dealbreaker when following a budget.
This pedal has an input for expression/aux and is made out of a durable aluminum housing. Here is the kicker, this pedal is passive.
For some, this might be a pleasant kicker and it actually makes perfect sense in the case of the DVP4 to be passive. It is truly a pedal that is small enough to put into the pocket of a windbreaker and plug in on a moment’s notice. The negative side of having a passive pedal is as listed above. In the case of the DVP4, having it passive makes it the perfect traveling companion that requires little to no space.
There is one additional downside of having a smaller volume pedal. The original larger versions of volume/wah pedals are more suited towards being comfortable for the average-sized foot rather than taking up as little space as possible. This might sound ridiculous, but the average big-sized volume pedal has increased odds of making the player more comfortable due to being naturally fitted to the size of their feet.
Summarizing, it might feel strange initially to use a mini version of a volume pedal. It will overall decrease the quality of playing, but after a little bit of getting used to, there is practically no difference!
Boss FV-50L Stereo Volume Pedal
The Boss FV-50L is a low impedance pedal. The recommendation is to use it to control the master volume in an effects loop, and not use it at the start of a signal chain.
It is a cheap pedal, the most affordable on this list.
The FV-50L is suited for the keyboard as well as the guitar. It has two inputs and outputs, which are commonly used for stereo imaging with keyboards. It has a silent tune option, but no ability for expression. Overall, there is nothing much to say about this pedal other than what has already been stated. It is basically an extra master knob and doubles as a tuner.
Certainly, if a player is looking for the master volume control option without any extra fuzz at the lowest price possible, the Boss FV-50L is a good option. It is also worth mentioning that while there certainly are cheaper pedals that function in exactly the same way, the FV-50L still has the added perk of durability.
Boss has mass pedals production, and they know how to make them last at an affordable price.
In the final section of this article, we hope to summarize the pedals listed and crown some winners in various categories. We will be looking at price, durability, user-friendliness, and the pedal that compromises best among all these categories. The user-friendliness of a volume pedal is based on many different factors. We consider how much space the pedal takes up, how easy it is to control with the foot, and the overall effect the pedal has on the output of a signal chain. Usually, a compromise must be done between how much space the pedal takes up and how easy it is to work with the foot.
The overall best pedal on this list is the Ernie Ball VP Junior 25K Active. The Vp Jr Active Volume pedal sits in the average price range in relation to all the other pedals in this article but has more than average capabilities. Although it does not have the ability for connection to an expression pedal, this pedal still has perks that heavily outweigh that. It is incredibly durable and easy to move around.
It is powered by a power source that makes it resist all of the noise that can occur when a passive pedal tries communicating with a guitar. The VP Junior 25k Active is a no-fuzz volume pedal that can be placed both at the start or end of an effects chain with great success. The foot surface on the pedal is also designed to be comfortable for a foot, even though it is a mini-pedal. This pedal takes the win when it comes to bang for buck and durability.
The final listing we will mention in this article is the Dunlop DVP4 Volume X Mini. It is certainly the most user-friendly pedal on this list. Both because it is so small and because it does not require an external power source. In the case of the DVP4, the downside of being small is not big enough to outweigh how handy and easy to use it is. On top of being passive and having a very slick design, it also has an expression pedal input.
In this small package, a user will have pretty much everything that a volume pedal requires, right in front of their feet. Having a passive pedal that is not powered by anything will, of course, bring the downsides of unwanted tonal change. This is why a player has to be extra careful about where they place the DVP4 in their signal chain and what instruments they use. But the very essence of user-friendliness goes hand in hand with not having a gigantic pedal chain that requires meticulous switching between pedals’ positions. It is slightly above the price range but makes up for that ten times over.
Every single volume pedal will feel a little different from another. In an ideal situation, a player can test several pedals before making a purchase. When it comes down to choosing between pedals, the most important thing is that the pedal feels good to play/perform with. Of course, a player has to take into consideration how they want their pedal to perform. Settling on active vs. passive, high impedance vs. low impedance, and all these factors early on is very important so that the final choice can depend on how the pedal feels to play with.