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.
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
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.
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 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.