What is a Volume Pedal
Before we begin, we should clarify that volume pedals are not limited to guitars alone. There are volume pedals you can use for other electronic instruments such as your synthesizer and keyboard.
However, in this article, we will just limit the product selection to volume pedals for bass and standard guitars.
By operational standards, a volume pedal is a variant of "dynamics" stompboxes. Guitarists use this device to modify the volume of their instruments through the increase and decrease of the audio signal's aptitude. By concept, it is not that complicated process.
However, once you dissect this product, you will discover that there are a lot of things that operates it. The presence of multiple factors becomes a detriment to what brand of volume pedal you are going to choose.
Moreover, volume pedals have the same appearance as wah pedals. Many beginners always mistook one for the other.
What Does a Volume Pedal Do
Of course, you might be convincing yourself already that you don't need a volume pedal. You think that if your instrument has a volume knob or if you have an amplifier, getting this pedal is not reasonable anymore.
Well, both of those arguments are completely wrong.
Volume pedals offer a different kind of control to the sound of your instrument. Once you partner a volume pedal with the proper positioning and play style, you can get different effects.
For example, a volume pedal can alter the gain of your guitar without changing the location of your hand.
Meanwhile, you can also consider a volume pedal as a tool for creating ambient and swelling textures. Specifically, such effects can work well with delays and reverbs. An experienced guitar player would even fade their notes as if like their instrument is a violin.
Among these purposes, the most practical use of a volume pedal is balancing the volume of your guitar. If you are playing with other instruments (such as in a band), you will need this capability to generate musical harmony.
If the volume pedal you have has a "minimum volume" setting, then you can use it when you are playing regular rhythms. Of course, you have to crank the pedal if you are in dire need to boost the volume of your instrument (i.e. solos and distortions).
All in all, you will just realize how useful a volume pedal once you try it. It could be the game changer that you are looking for.
Considerations in Buying the Best Volume Pedal
Transparency and Sound
You can consider that a volume pedal is great if it is transparent. Specifically, the device should not induce their character to the sound of your instrument. If you want such kind of pedal, you must choose wahs and overdrives, not volume pedals.
Their purpose is different. You should never hear any form of sound coloring at all!
If you are going to buy a volume pedal, make sure that it doesn't suffer from "tone loss." Many pedals are suffering from such kind of detriment.
By nature, the signal is already weak. Once the latter travels to the pedal, it becomes weaker because of the tuner.
Of course, many players won't notice this. One reason is that the tolerance of our ears for such kind of imperfections varies. However, you should still be aware of this concept.
Passive and Active Volume Pedal
A volume pedal that is passive does not use power coming from an adapter or battery. It is a simple setup that gives you an irreplaceable form convenience, wherever you look at it. But still, passive volume pedals still tend to be finicky and sensitive.
Specifically, you have to pay attention to the location of your signal chain as well as the instrument that you are using. Most of the passive pedals have tuner controls. As we mentioned earlier, this particular part is the culprit for tone loss.
Meanwhile, an active volume pedal requires power to operate. But as compensation, it will free you from any worries of tone loss.
Quality of the Build
You cannot just buy a volume pedal that is flimsy and susceptible to damage. It has to be sturdy as the stage out there is always rough. You should always check the construction of the device. Is it responsive? Is it easy to modify?
The pedal should answer these questions positively. Otherwise, you should just veer to another brand.