RPS Tremulus Maximus Optical Tremolo
By Chris Loeffler |
RPS Tremulus Maximus Optical Tremolo
Tremulus maximus for the carnivourus vulgaris guitarist...
by Chris Loeffler
How flexible can an amplitude modulation effect be? Boutique pedal makers have been taking the standard Speed and Depth controls of the classic pulse first found in amplifiers and pushing it to the limits by offering alternative wave shapes, adding digital controls, and going true stereo for panning effects. RPS has taken on this classic effect with their own twists(s); reactive playing and the coolest visual tempo indicator I’ve come across.
The RPS Tremulus Maximus is an optical tremolo effect that features Rate, Depth, and Avto controls and a Triangle/Square waveform selector. The Tremulus Maximus is true-bypass and is powered by a standard, 9v center-negative power supply.
What You Need to Know
Rather than starting with dessert (Avto control and the LED), let’s chew into the meat of the Tremulus Maximus.
The standard Rate and Depth controls on the RPS Tremulus Maximus do exactly what you would expect, with the Rate knob taking you anywhere from multi-second sweeps to helicopter-like chops by noon. The last half of the Rate control gets pretty wild, with ring modulation sound effects thereafter. The Rate can be controlled by an expression pedal as well, which seems to bypass the Rate control entirely and mimic its sweep, giving the same fastest and slowest speeds.
With the Depth knob rolled all the way down, the effect might as well be off. Other than a slight clean boost, there is no change to your core tone when activated. The depth has a fairly linear cut all the way to the most extreme setting, at which point the signal entirely disappears at the peak. In the pulsing Triangle wave mode this cut can be more subtle, but when cranked in Square wave mode it sounds like an automated kill switch.
All this talk of what it does leaves open the question of how it sounds. To my ears, it sounds exactly like a tremolo should… invisible. No weird EQ shifts, no “warming” of signal; just a smooth amplitude modulation. There are perceived harmonic spikes, but those are mostly due to how we perceived a sound at various volumes (excepting, of course, when driving an already pushed preamp after the fact, in which case it is pushing out different harmonics).
The Avto control is the one area the Tremulus Maximus veers fairly off what a “normal” tremolo sounds like. It sets an envelope follower that uses the strength of the input signal to dictate a speeding up of the modulation, introducing a truly dynamic experience where the speed ramps up when hit hard and then gradually slows its cycle as the sustained notes begin to fade. The control itself sets the sensitivity and level of the effect; when it is all the way down the Tremulus Maximus acts as a standard tremolo, but as it is cranked up the responsiveness of the effect picks up. I found lots of cool uses for this, from subtle expressiveness like an uncolored vibrato effect to rotating-speaker style ramps without the phasing effect.
A final note on the whole of the RPS Tremulus Maximus is how it handles visual feedback of the speed and depth. Rather than a top-mounted LED, there is a piece of transparent material sandwiched between the enclosure casing and the bottom plate. When the effect is activated, the bottom sides of the pedal pulses in synch with the waveform from all four sides. It doesn’t impact the sonics, but it looks damned cool (especially on a dark stage). Each wave form has its own color (green and pink) for easy identification of which mode you are in and, again, because it’s just a pleasure to see in a sea of red and blue indicator LEDs.
The slight goose in output volume keeps the RPS Tremulus in the mix, but you can’t increase or decrease the volume.
The RPS Tremulus is a playful yet 100% serious take on optical amplitude modulation, with two unique wave forms to choose from and an Auto control that brings the pedal to life, reacting to your playing style. The color-coded flashing speed indicator between the bottom plate and the enclosure is far more fun than it should be, and a great bonus to what is all-around a fantastic sounding, flexible tremolo with a little extra. Unless you’re looking for extremely customizable wave-shapes, there’s no reason to not consider the RPS Tremulus as a top contender for your tremolo needs. - HC -
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.