Xvive V16 Stereo Undulator Tremolo
By Phil O'Keefe |
Xvive is a relatively new pedal brand. Their pedals are made in China, but designed in the USA by very experienced pedal gurus, including their chief designer, longtime EHX and Pigtronix contributor Howard Davis. This results in some very affordable pedals, but ones that are well thought out and have lots of features that musicians will appreciate. The Xvive V16 Stereo Undulator Tremolo is a rather interesting little mini tremolo, with more features than you'll find on other similarly sized and priced pedals. Let's take a look and what makes it special.
What You Need To Know
- Housed in a mini-sized metal enclosure measuring 1.8" W x 3.7" L x 2.0" H, the V16 Stereo Undulator Tremolo packs a lot of features into a very small, pedalboard-friendly enclosure.
- With a British Racing Green body and white and black graphics there's a lot of contrast, which makes it fairly easy to read the control labels. The knobs also have highly contrasting position indicators which also help.
- The top of the Undulator features three knobs - one white full-sized mini-chickenhead knob for Depth, and two smaller black knobs; one for setting the speed of the amplitude modulation, and a second one for selecting the waveform shape for the tremolo. Sine, Trapezoid, and Square wave options are all available, and you can easily sweep and morph between them with just a twist of this knob.
- The speed knob offers a decent range, from slow to very fast. There's also a wide range to the Depth control. In mono mode it can take you from unnoticeable at its lowest settings to full on / off volume modulation in its higher settings. But stereo is where the magic of this pedal comes into play, and using medium depth to add some movement to your sound that doesn't quite overpower it as much as full depth auto-panning or tremolo is really cool.
- There's simply no room inside a 1590A sized enclosure for a battery, and there is no provision for using one with the Undulator. Instead, power is supplied with an external adapter (not included), and the Undulator requires 9VDC and draws 85mA of current. The jack uses the industry standard 2.1mm center-negative format, and is mounted at the front end of the pedal.
- Switching is true bypass, and a LED indicator illuminates when the pedal is active. There are no internal trim pots or switches inside, and no reason to open the pedal.
- There are three 1/4" jacks mounted to the sides of the Xvive V16 Stereo Undulator - two on the right side, and one on the left. The lower one on the left is for the input, and it has a 1MOhm input impedance. The main output is on the left side of the pedal. A second output, labeled "Stereo Out" is located on the right side, directly above the input jack. Output impedance is 150 Ohms.
- Connecting a second amp turns the Undulator into an auto-panner. Instead of the strict up and down tremolo volume variation you get when using it with a single amp, the level of the two amps changes relative to each other, with one getting louder as the other gets softer, and then back again as the tremolo sweeps through its wave cycles. Of course, all the other controls still work, so you can get anything from a slow speed sine wave sweep that gradually and smoothly moves the signal back and forth from one amp to the other to a faster speed square wave pulse that quickly and abruptly chops and switches back and forth between them.
- There's a bit of cyclic noise that is audible when you're not playing. This is tied to the Speed setting, and the amount will depend on how high up the Depth knob is set - you'll notice it more with higher Depth settings.
- There is no level control or trim pots and nothing onboard you can adjust to compensate for the pedal's slight volume boost when activated. Tremolo is one of those effects that can tend to disappear - after all, at the most basic level, a tremolo is merely cycling between volume on and volume off, right? If it has to be one or the other, it's probably better that it be a bit of a boost instead of a cut, but some players may be annoyed that it's not true unity on the gain when active.
I really like this little tremolo pedal a lot. Yes, it could be a bit quieter, but the noise levels are not likely to be an issue for live performance, and it really isn't even that terrible in the studio either except at extreme depth and speed settings. Some may lament the pedal's slight volume boost when active, but that's really the only other quibble I have with it. The design is extremely pedalboard friendly while still giving you features that garden-variety two knob tremolo pedals usually don't offer, like selectable waveform and stereo outputs. The sound in stereo is quite mesmerizing and even in mono it offers all the classic tremolo warble you could want, with sine, trapezoid and square waveform types to choose from. It's not going to go head to head with large, multi-option tremolos, but it offers more than you might expect given its small size and modest price, making it a good value overall.
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.