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Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo Pedal

When you just need to express yourself ...

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

Ernie Ball released the Expression Overdrive and Expression Delay, the first two pedals in the Expression line, to great acclaim last year for players looking for more flexibility from classic effects types. By having the most tweaked aspect of an overdrive (gain) or delay (blend) controllable via foot pedal, fine-tuning textures on the fly suddenly became much easier, and thus the effect use more expressive. Ernie Ball teased a new addition to the Ernie Ball Expression line at Winter NAMM of 2018, the Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo, and has finally released the pedal to retailers throughout the US.

 

The Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo features controls for Depth, Rate, Wave Shape, and Reverb and runs an a standard 9v power supply.

 

What You Need to Know

 

The Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo offers five modes of classic tremolo (slow rise, slow fall, sine, square, and harmonic) and adds a classic spring reverb emulation to blend in (or not) as you see fit. The slow rise mode creates a rhythmic LFO that rises from no signal to full signal for a ramped swell while the slow fall mode does the opposite and starts the tremolo cycle at the highest volume and drops off to near-full signal cut. Either way, the tremolo sounds like ocean waves crashing over each other as opposed to the symmetrical warble of a vintage tremolo.

 

The sine and square modes produce the most standard and amp-like of tremolo styles, with a smooth, undulating wave in the sine mode and a choppy, almost on-off stutter in the square wave mode. Placed head-to-head with a 1966 Fender Super Reverb’s tremolo, the sine mode was eerily similar in behavior, with the difference being it could go much faster and much slower than the amp’s limited range. The square wave almost sounds like a sequenced synthesizer at the most extreme settings, with carefully timed arpeggio work yielding start/stop patterns that could have been created by a keyboard.

 

The harmonic tremolo mode is the most radical of the available modes, moving beyond amplitude (volume) modulation and into the swirly world of cross-phase shifted chewy sweeps  that sounds similar to, but not exactly like, a cross between a Univibe, a phaser, a tremolo, and an envelope filter. In short, it could stand in for any of those classic modulation effects, but has its own unique flavor.

 

The expression pedal is ingeniously designed to be assigned to either the depth, the rate, or both. When solely dedicated to the depth control, the expression pedal effectively fades the effect in and out to allow for more dynamics between subtle and in-your-face throb of the tremolo. When dedicated to the rate control and used similar to how guitar players use vibrato on sustained notes you can make it should like a helicopter taking off or landing with each sustained note, the sort of effect rarely achieved outside of studio trickery before now. Things really kick into overdrive when you tether both the rate and depth to the expression pedal and the depth and speed increase or decrease at the same time. In practice, it sounds like all Hell breaking loose at the most extreme settings, with incrementally deeper tremolo cuts as the speed goes from a lazy throb to near ring modulation inducing speeds.

 

The Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo is housed in a sealed aircraft aluminum chassis for a sturdy enclosure that feels up to the rigors of the road and provides a solid platform for fancy expression work without slipping. The knobs feel more solid than your typical effect, with tight, concise travel, and the treadle mechanic between the expression pedal and the enclosure is perfectly tensioned to lock in at any point in the sweep without pulling away nor timidly setting in when left half-cocked. The Ernie Ball Expression tremolo screams build quality.

 

Limitations

 

Modern feature sets have really spoiled me, and while there’s absolutely nothing to fault the Expression Tremolo from a sonic standpoint, it would have been icing on the cake for true stereo-outputs for stereo panning and the harmonic tremolo modes for those with two amp setups.

 

Conclusion

 

While tap-tempo has begun to show up on more tremolo effects, the pure flexibility the expression pedal platform grants to the tremolo effect takes it to a different level, and the Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo's ability to control the transitions between the gaps will really connect with players who value nuance and personality in their playing. Yes, you could stomp and rip through an entire set with tap-tempo dicatated tremolo depths and speeds, but the Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo pedal is more about expanding your own voice than it is about giving you a rhythm to play over. -HC-

 

Resources

 

Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo Product Page

 

Buy the Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo @ Sweetwater (MSRP $299.99, Street $199.99)

 

 

                                      

____________________________________________ 

 

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. 

 

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