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This is definitely not your ordinary tremolo pedal…

By Phil O'Keefe


Tremolo is a type of modulation effect. Typically they use a LFO (low-frequency oscillator) to modulate the amplitude (volume level) from loud to soft. The waveform of the LFO has a significant impact on the overall sonic character of the tremolo effect. A sine wave LFO will transition smoothly from loud to soft, while a square wave LFO will have much more abrupt transitions from one volume level to another, creating a much "choppier" sounding effect. The waveform used for the Hummingbird isn't a sine or square wave - it's more of a reverse sawtooth, giving you a healthy attack and a quick decay and staccato sound, which at slower LFO speeds somewhat sounds like the note repeating as if by a delay, which is where the "repeat percussions" name stems from. At faster speeds, it sounds more like a angry hummingbird crossed with an attack helicopter and a ring modulator.

EQD Hummingbird main.JPG



The original Vox Repeat Percussion V809 that the EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird is based on was a rather unusual take on the concept of tremolo, especially when it was first released back in the mid 1960s. The originals were housed in a relatively small Bakelite housing with a fixed male 1/4" input jack that was intended to plug right into your guitar's output jack, and a female 1/4" output plug. A single on/off slider switch and rate control were the only controls. EarthQuaker Devices has used the original Repeat Percussion as a starting point, and expanded and improved on the idea in various ways. Let's take a closer look at the details.

 

What You Need To Know

  • The Hummingbird is based on the vintage Vox / Jen Repeat Percussion tremolo, but with some modern refinements that increase the versatility and control options that are available to the player, while decreasing noise levels and increasing the "chop" effect.
  • While more expansive than the original unit, the controls of the Hummingbird are still fairly straightforward. There are three knobs, one toggle switch, and a true-bypass footswitch to turn the pedal on and off. A white LED illuminates when the pedal is engaged. It does not pulse to indicate the LFO Rate setting - it's just an on / off indicator for the pedal.

EQD Hummingbird controls.JPG

 

  • There is a very large range of LFO speeds available on the Hummingbird - in fact, the range is so large that it would be tricky to control it if it was all handled by a single Rate knob. To get around this, EarthQuaker Devices added a two-position Mode switch that works in tandem with the Rate knob to provide slower LFO speeds when the switch is set to Mode 1, and a faster LFO speed range when the switch is set to Mode 2.
  • The Depth knob adjusts how much the amplitude modulation affects your signal, from a much less present (but still discernible) effect when it's set to its minimum value, up to very pronounced and drastic "volume on/off" modulation when turned all the way up.  
  • The Level control adjusts the overall signal level when the pedal is engaged, allowing you to adjust it for unity gain when it's activated. There's enough level range on tap that you can also easily set it to boost the signal beyond unity if you so desire. At the minimum Level setting, there is no output from the pedal, so you can dial it up for less than unity gain too if you want.
  • The EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird can be powered with a battery, or with a standard 9VDC power supply (not included.) The jack accepts standard 2.1mm power plugs with the industry standard center negative wiring. The current draw of the Hummingbird Repeat Percussions Tremolo is a low 3mA, so even if you use a battery, it should last a long time as long as you remember to unplug from the Hummingbird's input jack when you're not using it, which disconnects the battery.

EQD Hummingbird side.JPG

 

  • The Hummingbird plays well with other pedals, and sounds very cool when paired with a fuzz, or even a delay. The sound is very cool - similar to other tremolos, but with a distinct "percussive" difference due to the asymmetrical LFO waveform.
  • Construction and overall build and materials quality is in keeping with the other EarthQuaker Devices pedals I've tried, which is to say, excellent.



Limitations

  • If you prefer a tremolo with gentler, sine wave based symmetrical LFO oscillations, the Hummingbird may not be your cup of tea.
  • There is a small gap of unavailable tempo settings between Mode 1's fastest setting and Mode 2's slowest setting.



Conclusions

This is not an ordinary tremolo pedal, and it's certainly not a mild mannered tremolo. Sure, you can set it for very cool mellower sounding tremolo by dialing up lower LFO speeds with the Rate knob and using the Depth control at its lower settings, but that's not where the real fun of this pedal lives. It wants to do weirder and whackier effects, and it excels at them. In fact, for many people, it would probably be best to think of the Hummingbird as a adjunct to your normal tremolo pedal, as opposed to a replacement for it, but if your tastes lean towards vintage sounds, dramatic effects, or Shoegaze music, the EarthQuaker Hummingbird may just be the tremolo of your dreams. 


Resources


Musician's Friend EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird Repeat Percussions Tremolo online catalog page ($145.00 MSRP, $145.00 "street")

EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird web page


EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird demo video

 

 

Phil\_OKeefe HC Bio Image.jpgPhil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines. 

 

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