One of the best things about modulation pedals is that they vary in sound. When searching for one, consider aiming for the sounds you prefer, with build quality that can last you quite a long time. Read more to know more about what makes these pedals interesting!
Just days ago, I realized being a guitarist is never easy.
One minute, you’re just listening to some classic records and being inspired by them. Fast forward a few years, and before you know it, you’re already spending hundreds of dollars on gear and pedals.
It’s probably not new to you that guitarists love investing in guitar effects pedals. And in the evolving world of stompboxes and multi-effects units, it’s totally understandable to be overwhelmed with all your options!
Of course, a lot of us gear geeks start out with either an overdrive, a distortion, and a fuzz pedal. There’s just something about dirt pedals that spark creativity and inspiration among a variety of players.
However, depending on your skill, all of these can still leave you wanting more sounds.
As a lot of modern players adapt and apply new things to their musical arsenal, the world of effects pedals also expands. This gives guitar players tons of tonal options to choose from.
One of these options is labeled as modulation pedals.
Now, before you go scurrying to your hiding spot and caress your favorite overdrive, I’m here to let you know that there’s nothing to fear about modulation pedals.
Some players are hesitant to try it out because they have no idea how to make it work for their playing style.
When purchasing a modulation pedal, it’s really important to me that it sounds distinct from just another pedal. Whether it be a chorus or a flanger, it needs to have that distinct tone that makes it stand out from the rest.
It’s also important to understand that there are several different modulation types.
Since we’re already on the way to diving deeper into this topic about pedals, let’s get right into it!
What Are Modulation Effects & Why You Need It
It’s sort of difficult putting things plainly in terms of modulation. The reason behind this is that there are certain effects that affect your sound and tone in a different manner.
But of course, we’ll try and put some light on the subject.
Imagine a clean, unaffected sound coming straight from your guitar and amplifier. Similar to a previous feature we’ve come up with, modulation effects play their role in applying a variety of movements to an existing clean signal (or clean tone).
World of Music greatly explains the functionality and the role of each modulation type to an unaffected signal.
They indicated that the chorus pedal affects the signal by acting as a doubler to the soundwave, making it appear to sound all “watery”. If you listen carefully when you engage the effect, you can hear that the notes can appear to be detuned thanks to the motion the effect creates.
Phasers on the other hand work by shifting several different frequencies, creating a noticeable swooshing sound every time you engage the effect.
Flangers produce that distinct jet like sound when engaged. This can work wonders for you every time you wish to add color and character to a certain part of a song or recording.
A tremolo effect is also another fun sound to experiment with. It produces a sort of chopping-like effect on your signal. It can also be tweaked to correspond with a specific time of your preference. Some pedals can even offer you the option to tap the tempo of your tremolo.
Lastly, vibrato pedals are described as a sort of rotary-like effect that adds a versatile sound to your tone. It can also be used as a tool that gives the player a warped effect for a more flexible sound.
It can be a bit too much knowing all of this information, especially if you’re just starting out! But just to give you an even better understanding, here are some guides you can consider before deciding to purchase any of the modulation types in our roundup today.
Modulation Effects Pedal Buying Guide
When purchasing your first modulation effect pedal, things can get really technical.
1 day ago, you were so focused on distortions and overdrives, and now, you’re thinking of getting a uni-vibe or a modulator of sorts.
Now we have some of the nitty-gritty stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can decide what can be the best modulation pedal for you.
Right off the bat, you must always consider your playing style. It helps to know and identify beforehand what type of sound you are aiming for. It’s important to understand that the different sorts of modulation pedals affect your sound in a different way. Another useful way to find out what sort of modulation will work for you is to figure out how often you will use these effects on your dry signal (or your original sound).
Additionally, some modulation pedals work best when being played in single notes rather than with chords. This is also an aspect that you might want to look into.
Another thing you must always consider is your dedicated budget for a modulation pedal. If you’re only just starting out, then it helps to try out some of the cheap versions available out there today. After all, there are some units that house more than one or two of these effect types, and they can be expensive.
Lastly, pedalboard real estate.
Chances are you’ve already got quite a few effects pedals prior to picking up a modulation unit. As mentioned earlier, there are a few large modulation pedals that come bigger than others. Opt for one that suits the space available on your board and you should do just fine.
Now that you’re up to speed, on to the modulation pedal roundup!
If it was good enough for a legend like Eddie Van Halen, then it sure is good enough for anyone looking for a trusty phaser.
Spearheading our list is from a brand that brought you some of the classics like the Distortion +, the Carbon Copy Delay, the Smartgate, and the new Dookie pedal from Billie Joe Armstrong!
The MXR Phase 90 has been around long enough for it to be a staple on many professional boards across the globe.
Thanks to its orange enclosure, it’s easy to spot this baby on any rig. It comes with one simple Speed control knob intended for the tweaking of the effect’s phasing to your signal.
If you’re into versatility and controls, then there can be others available for you. But if you’re into some of the classic tones of the rock ‘n roll era, than this set and forget offering from MXR is something to check out.
Just like the Phase 90, we have another classic offering, this time from the geniuses behind some of the most-respected pedals out there today.
Think DS-1. Think DD-3. Think OD-3. Think TU-2.
Yep. It’s a tremolo pedal from BOSS!
The TR-2 sports three control knobs – Rate, Depth, and a dedicated wave controller. This makes it a durable and versatile offering, giving you access to a variety of tremolo sounds in a simple enclosure!
Its dedicated wave controller gives you the option to choose between triangle and square waveforms, depending on the sort of sounds you will need. If you want your tremolo to be subtle or entirely huge, you can tweak the Depth dial, while the Rate messes around with the speed of your tremolo.
This is definitely something that is built to last a lifetime, so feel free to stomp your way through gigs or recording sessions!
If you’re into versatility and options, then the Eventide H9 can be just the thing you are looking for.
Right out of the box, you get access to 99 onboarded presets, with additional 500 downloadable options!
It gives you access to some of Eventide’s famous offerings, such as the TimeFactor, ModFactor, Space, and the PitchFactor.
You can also get access to some signature tones from the Crushstation, the PitchFuzz, the UltraTap Delay, the SpaceTime, the Resonator, the Sculpt, and a Compressor EQ while you’re at it!
If you’re at all interested in the additional 500 presets, you can get access to them using the H9 Control app. It also boasts multiple in and out connectivity options, as well as an expression pedal and aux input.
Presets are what makes the H9 Max stand out.
The Nano POG is one of the variations of the POG series from Electro-Harmonix which has been renowned for its sonic textures and tonal characteristics.
The Nano POG is an octaver pedal that boasts three simple controls – the Sub Octave, the Octave Up, and the Dry knob. It also sports two outputs – an Effects Out and a Dry Out!
Combine this with a fuzz pedal for some crazy Jack White and Jimi Hendrix tones!
One of the toys for the big boys, we have another offering from one of the pedal giants.
The BOSS MD-200 offers a plethora of modulation options in a stombox form factor.
What makes it shine is that BOSS incororated the Tap Tempo option, making it possible to dial in some of the most iconic BOSS modulation pedals at your own rate.
It also comes with a variety of control knobs, allowing you to tweak some of your modulation parameters to your preference. To top it all off, it also boasts stereo in and out!
Completing our roundup is a pedal from the geniuses behind the creative folks over at Walrus Audio.
The Julia is a pretty dual chorus/vibrato offering from the company that brought you the Fathom Reverb, the ARP-87 Delay, and the Voyager Overdrive!
Being an analog stompox, it delivers a warm chorus/vibrato sound that instantly adds a different texture to your playing. It houses versatile controls, such as Rate, Depth, and Lag.
What makes it even more versatile is its onboard Dry, Chorus, and Vibrato knob, all while having the option to toggle between LFO effects.
Since it’s from Walrus Audio, the pedal graphics are also stunning, too!
The Wrap Up (The Modulation Pedal)
With vintage and modern modulation effects and its features and modes being misunderstood most of the time, it’s easy to disregard them when you’re just starting out with playing. Tremolo and chorus, no one ever really gives them a good first look. It’s a good thing that they have been around long enough for some experts to be aware of what sounds they can work for or what style they can be perfect at.
Feel free to try out some of the digital and analog modulation pedal recommendations above and do a fair bit of experimenting yourself. Good luck and have fun with the tone chasing!