Volumes of Volume Pedals

Volume pedals are pretty interesting little devices.  Sure, just about every guitar comes with a volume control wired right on to the guitar, but consider the concept of gain staging, and the advantages of having a volume potentiometer on your pedal board become more apparent.  

Think about the volume control that is built into your guitar for a second.  I've mentioned in previous posts that the volume control on your guitar can be used to reduce the gain coming from your amp.  This is because the volume control on your instrument is at the very beginning of your signal chain, way before any overdrive pedals or amp settings.  Place a volume pedal after your drive pedals, and now you have a volume control that will reduce your gain and affect your tone (on your guitar) AND you've got a volume control that will reduce volume but not affect your gain (the volume pedal).  This is something a whole bunch of guitarists do, but one thing that I've learned over time is that different guitarists like to put volume pedals in different spots on their signal chain.   

Another interesting thing to consider when planning where to put your volume pedal is delay effects.  If you place your volume pedal after your delays in your signal chain, rocking the volume pedal all the way back into the off position will cut off your delay trail.  If you place the volume pedal ahead of your delays, rolling your volume back with the pedal will not affect your delay trail, and even though you will be muted your delay trail will be able to die out naturally without getting cut off.  

Aside from where in your signal chain you'd like to put your volume pedal, there are some other important differences between some models of volume pedals that may be helpful to know, depending on what you're looking for your volume pedal to do.  Here are some to keep an eye out for!

Ernie Ball Jr. 250k 

The Ernie Ball Jr. 250k volume pot has a smaller footprint than the standard Ernie Ball volume pedal, and is better suited to guitarists who are not looking to sacrifice a huge part of their pedal board to a volume pedal.  This pedal houses a 250k volume pot, which is well suited for passive electric guitars.  This pedal is passive itself, meaning that it does not require a power supply or a battery of any kind.

Ernie Ball Jr. 25k 

This pedal is almost exactly the same thing as the previously mentioned Ernie Ball Jr. volume pedal, however this model houses a 25k potentiometer and is better suited for active electronics.  This pedal is better suited for any electric guitar that runs off of a 9v battery, including acoustic guitars with active electronics inside.  While the 250k Ernie Ball volume mentioned previously will function if you plug your acoustic guitar into it, this 25k version will have a much more appropriate volume rolloff and taper.

Morley 20/20 Volume Plus

The Morley 20/20 Volume Plus solves two common complaints with conventional volume pedal designs.  First, this pedal does not use a string on the inside to manipulate the potentiometer.  The use of strings in many volume pedals has been the source of frustration, as strings are inherently fragile and once they break the pedal needs to be repaired.  By doing away with this string design, the Morley 20/20 Volume Plus is a much more durable volume pedal than most.  Secondly, this pedal is active meaning that it requires power from either an adapter or a 9v battery.  A common criticism of passive volume pedals is that their existence in the signal chain can cut off bright frequencies, a characteristic commonly referred to as "tone suck".  This Morley pedal solves the issue of tone suck that exists in other volume pedals by using an active circuit that doesn't have the same issue with high frequencies.

Ernie Ball MVP Most Valuable Pedal

Ernie Ball's MVP volume has some really impressive features.  This pedal is active, solving the tone suck issue with many passive circuits, and it has some added controls for greater versatility.  The minimum volume knob allows you to set what the lowest output will be when the treadle is set in the toe up position.  Typically volume pedals will totally cut off any signal at this point which is something this pedal is able to do as well, but if you prefer to leave a bit of volume in at the lowest setting, you can do that too.  Additionally, this pedal has a gain boost that delivers up to 20db of extra volume, which is a really wonderful function for any guitarist who knows the feeling of reaching out to the volume pedal only to realize it is already set to as loud as it can go.

Thanks for checking out my rant on volume pedals!  I hope that some of that information is helpful to you on your journey with the guitar, and if you're looking for more info please don't hesitate to reach out to me.  Until next time!

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