Years ago, the tools available to guitar players were limited. A typical guitar player’s rig consisted of just the guitar and their amplifier, and musicians had to rely solely on their amp to create unique and different sounds.

Today, there are tons of different effects available that allow you to color your sound and explore new ground as a musician. Some of these effects are dramatic and noticeable, where others are more subtle, like the humble volume pedal.

In this article, we’re looking at volume pedals and how they affect the sound and flow of your music. We’ll also review 11 of the best volume pedals for beginner and intermediate level guitarists.

What is the Best Volume Pedal?

What exactly is a Volume Pedal and what does it do?

As the name entails, a volume pedal allows you to control the volume of your setup.

Similar to a wah in design, a volume pedal functions sort of like the gas pedal in your car. With the pedal in its fully down position, a volume pedal allows your amp to play at it’s natural volume. As you move the pedal upward, the volume of your amp and any other effects you’re using decreases.

The point of using a volume pedal is to attenuate the entire signal chain which allows you to perform swells and other volume altering effects.

A volume pedal functions similarly to the volume pots located on your guitar. However, when you use your guitar’s volume to alter the volume of your guitar, you’re also altering your entire tone. You’ve probably noticed that when you roll back the volume from the guitar, you lose a bit of “oomph” from your sound.

With a volume pedal, you’re able to alter the volume of your instrument without coloring its tone at all. You can also perform swells and other effects.

Active vs. Passive Volume Pedal

Something that a lot of beginners get confused about when they are shopping for volume pedals is the difference between an active and passive pedal. They often confuse this with active and passive pickups, but these are two completely different things.

A passive volume pedal is a potentiometer that is mechanically turned by a pedal; this works the same way as a volume knob does. These are typically less precise, and they will sometimes interfere with the tone of your music, but the primary advantage of these is that they do not require a power source.

Passive pedals are simple and easy to use, but they are more sensitive to the types of instruments you use them with.

While passive volume pedals can be useful and have the added benefit of not needing a power source, they can color your sound in the same unwanted ways as the volume knob on your guitar can.

Active volume pedals contain an amplifier circuit that is used as a buffer often alongside other features like a boost, tuner, etc. Active pedals require an internal battery or external power source, and they isolate the input from the output which allows you to supply different effects and impact the sound at any point within the signal chain.

What Makes a Great Volume Pedal?

As with any musical instrument or device you want to make sure you buy the best one for the right amount of money.

As with any other pedal, the quality of the pedal itself will determine how it sounds with your set up. While a volume pedal is often an easily forgotten or secondary consideration for most players, it doesn’t mean you should cheap out and buy an inferior quality pedal.

Here are some of the most important thing you want to think about when you are buying a volume pedal:

  • Durability
  • Minimum Volume
  • Adjustability
  • Mono vs. Stereo

Durability

Volume pedals are simple, but they are used more frequently than most of the others in the chain, so you want to make sure you get a durable one. This pedal needs to have a rubber section on it where you stomp, and it should get made of a robust material instead of a cheap plastic.

When you are shopping around be sure to pay attention to reviews and see if any previous customers complain that the pedal didn’t last them long enough. You want to get the most for your money and buy something that will last a long time. Buying a cheap pedal that is of a flimsy material will only frustrate you down the road.

Minimum Volume

An interesting feature that you might want to look out for on your volume pedal is something called a minimum volume setting. This allows you to set the level of volume that the pedal delivers when it’s set to the lowest value.

When you do this correctly, you don’t have to worry about stomping too hard or letting up too much because there is a minimum and maximum volume the pedal can deliver.

Adjustability

Like we said before, you’ll be stomping on this pedal a lot, and you want to make sure that the pedal is flexible and built in a way that meets your needs. The best volume pedals will be adjustable enough so you can tweak the volume levels based on how hard you are stomping.

Some pedals are sensitive while others are stiff. If you have never used a volume pedal before we recommend trying one out so you can get a feel for it first.

Mono vs. Stereo

Something that a lot of people might overlook but it’s an essential factor to consider is whether the pedal is a mono or stereo pedal. Mono means that there is only one input and output on the pedal and stereo means that there is two. If you play in a group where you want the pedal hooked up to more than one instrument at a time than you might want to consider whether the pedal is mono or stereo.

Volume Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

 

Boss FV-500H Foot Volume Pedal – High Impedance

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

This volume pedal is from the popular company Boss. We recommend this one as the best overall because of its combination of functionality, durability, reputation, and affordability. In terms of its construction, it is built incredibly solid, and it is a bit too big for some, but overall, it can put up against some abuse.

  • High impedance
  • Durable foot pedal
  • Trustworthy brand name
  • Easy to learn

As we touched on already, the build and design of this pedal are highly desirable. Some customers might think the pedal is too large, but many people are satisfied that it is large and durable.

Very few experiences any tone loss using this volume pedal, but some say there is a bit of a cliff. The ideal point of having a volume pedal like this is to be able to adjust your signal without having to turn everything down.

Overall, this is a one-time purchase volume pedal that is ideal for beginners and intermediate guitarists. They do not recommend using this with a keyboard because it is for high impedance instruments only.

What Customers Like

  • Reputable brand
  • Durable build
  • Minimal tone loss

What Customers Dislike

  • Too bulky for some
  • Some say it has a cliff

MeloAudio EXP-001 Volume Expression Pedal

Best For The Price

What Makes It Special?

This ultrasmooth pedal is much smaller than most, so it is easier to place on your pedal board. It is also highly durable and designed using a durable cast aluminum housing. The pedal is compatible with any model or brand that features a standard TRS expression input.

  • Precision response and smooth action
  • Rubber pedal for comfort
  • Compact size
  • Designed with damping

Overall, this pedal is durable and gets the job done as most would expect. For the money, you get a volume pedal that is consistent and precise in its response with smooth motion as you adjust. It’s a bit larger than your typical mini pedal but still a lot smaller than conventional expression pedals.

What Customers Like

  • Consistent volume reduction
  • Smooth volume adjustment
  • LED display

What Customers Dislike

  • Too bulky for some
  • Unknown brand

Ernie Ball VP Jr. P061 Potentiometer

What Makes It Special?

This volume pedal is the Ernie Ball VP Jr, so it is a smaller version of the original pedal. This one is perfect for passive signals, and it features a compact and durable design using aircraft grade aluminum that is nearly indestructible. It also contains a micro taper switch that allows you to have two completely distinct volume swell rates.

  • Durable aircraft aluminum casing
  • Smaller compact design
  • 250k ohm resistance
  • Allows for two distinct swell rates

This volume pedal is ideal for people who are seeking a middle of the line pedal with no bells and whistles. This one gets the job done and is durable and long-lasting. Some customers say the pedal sits a little tall and is a bit too bulky for them, but they do say it feels nice on your feet. The pedal does not cut into your gain because it comes with a power source.

What Customers Like

  • Passive volume pedal
  • Does not require a power source
  • Does not cut into your gain

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t always work well with amps
  • Potentiometer is open and exposed

Dunlop DVP4 Volume Mini Pedal

Best For Beginners and Students

What Makes It Special?

This pedal is half the size of their previous model, the DV3. It controls the volume levels and FX parameters while remaining lightweight and friendly to your pedalboard. The pedal comes with an AUX output for a switchable expression functionality. The main thing that makes this pedal so great for beginners is its size and user-friendliness.

  • Low impedance pedal
  • Small compact design
  • Easy to include in your pedalboard
  • Well-designed pedal

This pedal is built to be compact and easily incorporated into a pedal board. It’s size also makes it ideal for beginners because it is easy to learn how the volume pedal adjusts the frequency and tone of your instrument. The main downside about this pedal is that it does not allow you to set a minimum volume so it could take some getting used to for inexperienced individuals.

What Customers Like

  • Mini design
  • Pedalboard-friendly
  • Comes with an AUX output

What Customers Dislike

  • Not durable enough for heavy use
  • Requires more action for a full swell

M-Audio EX-P Expression Pedal

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

If budget is something important to you than you want to go for a lower price volume pedal like this one. It offers everything you would expect from a volume pedal like all the necessary settings and inputs, but they sacrifice a little in the design and build of the pedal.

This one gets manufactured in the USA, and it comes with a polarity switch on the side to ensure compatibility with other brands, and it also has a hardwired ¼ inch cable.

  • Affordable
  • Entry-level pedal
  • Comes with a polarity switch
  • Durable molded construction

This pedal does a great job at providing an option for beginners who might not be looking to spend a bunch of money on something they may not use or properly understand. While the build and design on the pedal might seem cheap and fragile, this pedal does a great job at controlling the volume and frequency without cutting into your tone.

A lot of customers say it works well with a piano or softer instrument compared to a guitar, but as long as you are somewhat gentle with it, you are getting the best pedal you can at this price range.

What Customers Like

  • Lightweight
  • Comes with a polarity knob
  • Affordable price

What Customers Dislike

  • Cheaply designed
  • Cable is hardwired to the unit

6 More Really Good Volume Pedals

Ernie Ball 40th Anniversary Pedal

This is a limited-edition pedal that comes with a compact sized pedal chassis that feels great on your foot and allows for adequate control and precision. The pedal features an improved kevlar cord that is more durable and gives you more volume control as you adjust up and down. This pedal works well with active and passive signals and does not require a power source.

Something you cannot beat about this pedal is its overall appearance. It looks great, and its incredibly stylish plus it performs as you would expect. The fact that it is also completely passive is nice, so it does not require any form of power.

Signstek Guitar Stereo Volume Pedal

This stereo volume pedal comes with an amplitude adjusting knob that allows you to have more precise and accurate control over your minimum and maximum volume. The pedal is completely passive, so it does not require any power source.

This pedal comes with two inputs/outputs so you can hook it up to multiple instruments at the same time. Overall, the sound is decent, but nothing too fancy but this pedal is within an affordable price range for most and meets the expectations of most.

Sonicake Wah/Volume Guitar Pedals

This pedal is cool because it combines a wah effect with a volume pedal in one. It has a pure analog circuit design in one mini-sized pedal that is compact and great for saving space in your busy pedal board.

The volume part of the pedal contains an active circuit which saves you a lot of trouble trying to match impedance. The wah section mimics the Crybaby style which is dynamic and responsive.

The pedal itself is a hard plastic that is lightweight enough to move around but still durable and robust enough to hold up over the long term. The pedal has two LED lights that show the working state of the device and alert you to which mode the pedal is engaged in.

This one is great for people looking to get the most for the money and if you want to experiment with different effects alongside each other in one pedal.

Mission Engineering VM-1 Volume Pedal

The Mission VM-1 is an entirely passive volume pedal designed for use with a guitar. It has a 500K impedance which is ideal for use with most guitars. The input and output are hand wired together using the potentiometer. The potentiometer is sealed requiring zero maintenance, and it’s rated at greater than one million operations.

Something great about this pedal is that it is passive, requiring no battery or external power source to operate. In normal mode, the tuner out gets entirely bypassed. The tuner out gets activated via the mute switch. Mute mode is engaged when you press down on the front of the pedal, and this enables the tuner and isolates the primary output for completely silent tuning, and noise-free guitar changes.

The main downside a lot of customers see with this pedal is that it is too large so it doesn’t sit nicely on most musicians pedal boards.

Moog EP-3 Expression Pedal

This pedal is the perfect blend of craftsmanship and functionality. It comes in at an affordable price and features a durable design that works well with keyboards, synthesizers, or pedals with an expression. The pedal has a smooth performance with durability and a polarity switch that ensures compatibility with products from any brand.

The device comes with a ¼ inch output jack on the front panel that allows you to use a cable that suits your needs. The primary complaint about this pedal is that its size is too large and they wish that it could be smaller.

Overall, this pedal does an excellent job of providing the right amount of volume adjustment for keyboards and synthesizers.

Boss FV50H High Impedance Volume Pedal

The primary purpose of a volume pedal is for you to be able to adjust the volume throughout a song so you can keep up with the rest of your band when need be. The worst situation to be in is when everyone else around you are louder than you and your hands while you’re trying to turn yourself up.

This high impedance volume pedal gets the job done with durable construction and a smooth adjusting ability. Some customers say they wish it had more range, but it gets the job done.

5 FAQ’s About Volume Pedals

How to use a volume pedal?

When you talk about volume pedals with musicians, there is often a lot of debate that goes into whether they are entirely necessary. The truth is, they are not essential for some musicians, and some cannot live without them. It solely comes down to whether you desire the specific effect that volume pedal can supply you with.

So, before we talk about how exactly to use the volume pedal, we need first to understand why you would want to use one in the first place. You know now that this pedal does the job of fluctuating the volume and frequency of the signal chain. You are lowering and raising the volume of your sound depending on a variety of factors.

Using a volume pedal allows you to control the signal from any point in the chain because most of them come with an input/output. This means that you can put them anywhere in your chain and you’ll achieve that desired effect at that exact point.

Most musicians understand where to put their volume pedal to get the effect they want. They have already decided where they work best in the signal chain for them depending on what type of results they want to achieve.

The traditional practice when using volume pedals is to put them at the end of the signal chain or before the delays. When you place the volume pedal at the end of the chain, you are attenuating the entire signal. That is the desired effect that most people want, so that is why you put it at the end of the signal.

When you do this, you still get full overdrive saturation and everything you chose to include. The only thing that changes is the volume, and that is what you are looking to achieve at the end of the day.

Volume pedals exist because of the desire to control volume levels without digging into their tone easily. At one time, most musicians used pots which were useful at the time, but your tone quality went down the toilet. Using a volume pedal gives you complete control over the volume levels while still keeping the quality of your tone intact.

Where do you place a volume pedal in the chain?

Like we discussed previously, you could ask this question to one hundred people, and you might get ten different answers. Each musician has their ideal location for a volume pedal depending on what they are looking to achieve. We find that placing it at the end of the signal chain is what makes the most sense.

When you place the volume pedal at the end of the signal chain, it allows you to control the volume of each effect and pedal in your chain simultaneously. When you take this approach, it’s the best way to control the volume without cutting into your tone. You can experiment with this and see if you find any locations throughout your chain that work better, but this is standard practice for volume pedals.

Can I use a volume pedal on any instrument?

It depends on what type of volume pedal you have. Back to the passive or active pedal, if you have an active volume pedal, you can generally use this on any amplified instrument like a guitar or keyboard. These have a higher impedance which allows you to play those types of sounds.

Lower impedance volume pedals are generally passive, and they require a softer sound, so they do not interfere with the tonality of the music. These are better suited for acoustic instruments like guitars, violins, and cellos.

How to prevent tone suck when using a volume pedal?

The truth is, volume pedals almost always impact the tone of your sound, and it can be frustrating at times. The best way to combat this is by using a buffer interface right before your volume pedal. Buffers help drive the signal through the impedance, and it brings your tone back to life.

Some people are not bothered by the dulling effect of a volume pedal but if you are, using a buffer right before the volume pedal is a great way to prevent the aggravating tone suck.

What are the top volume pedal brands?

As with any instrument or musical equipment, a lot of musicians are loyal to certain brands. This is not as common in the volume pedal realm, but there are still some major brands that are most popular and desired by musicians. Here are some of them.

  • Ernie Ball – This company is the world’s leading manufacturer of strings, and musical accessories. The company makes high-quality electric guitar and bass string and they have been doing so since 1962. They have designed strings for world famous musicians like Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton.

This company uses the latest technology alongside the finest materials to produce the best of the best in musical equipment known to enhance your playing and provide you with a variety of options. Ernie Ball seems to be one of the favorites in the musical world.

  • Boss – The Boss company specializes in effects pedals for guitars which makes them highly desirable because of their specialization. When a company focuses entirely on a specific product like effects pedals you know that a lot of attention and quality goes into making the best products.

Many musicians are loyal to this brand because they are known for manufacturing a variety of pedals to meet the needs of each musician looking to achieve a particular goal.

The history of Boss dates to 1974 when they made their first distortion pedal. Their products were made in Japan until 1990 when they moved their production to Taiwan where they still manufacture all their foot pedals today. Some of the most famous musicians using Boss pedals were Prince, Kurt Cobain, and Stephen Carpenter.

How much does a good volume pedal typically cost?

While prices of volume pedals can generally range from as little as $20 to as much as $150, the quality of the pedal will usually determine the price you pay for it. We find that the more expensive pedals typically have a stronger build and are made from better materials that will hold up better over the long-term.

Volume pedals do not come with any unique or special features that differentiate one from the other, so the main reason that their prices fluctuate so much is due to the quality of their design and the brand that makes them. The well-known brands like Ernie Ball or Boss will charge more for their pedals because consumers are willing to pay more for a better brand.

These more expensive brands are also typically known to hold up better over a more extended period and they offer a more extended warranty as well. It’s crucial when choosing a volume pedal to choose one that meets your expectations but also falls into your desired price range.

Choosing a budget volume pedal will usually yield a similar quality product in terms of how it performs because they almost always do the same thing and offer the same level of performance. Where you receive the most significant difference in performance is when we look at the precision of the volume adjustments.

A more expensive volume pedal from a better brand will offer a smoother adjustment as well as more precision so you will be able to have more control over the volume and the more expensive ones also provide you with minimum volume control so you can set the lowest volume you would like to achieve with your pedal.

Overall, we find that the price of pedals fluctuates in a way that doesn’t always mean the more expensive one is better. It’s best to consider all the factors when making an informed buying decision of a volume pedal.

Where can I learn more about volume pedals?

You can never have too much information when it comes to effects pedals especially as a beginner. Gathering information and a better understanding of how the pedals affect the sound and tonality of your music is the best way to make sure you do not waste money, and you get the most out of your purchase.

If you are looking to learn more, there are a variety of resources available on and offline for you to gather a better understanding. Here are some of the best places to find more information online.

  • Guitarfella – This website is a wealth of knowledge on everything you need to know about guitars. The website breaks down all different types of guitars ranging from cheap beginners to expensive expert level equipment. They also have a ton of information on practical applications for various accessories and things like pedals.

If you are looking to learn a lot more about guitars and gain a better understanding of the accessory options you have available to you, then we suggest checking out this hobbyist website.

Guitartricks – This is a forum that offers a lot more than healthy discussion. The forum has a ton of useful videos as well as tutorials that help beginners understand how to use pedals and how to incorporate them into the chain. They break down every pedal you could ever want to know about with in-depth discussion and instruction on how to use them at their best.

They also have a forum where you can get involved in discussions with actual musicians who use these pedals and instruments every day. Sometimes it is best to talk with people who you know are using these products rather than reviewing them. These are all volunteers who are passionate about their hobbies and interests, so we suggest getting involved on this site.

  • Mission Engineering – This website is a great resource for beginners looking to get more information on musical accessories and tools like amps and speakers. They also supply plenty of information about effects, volume, and power and the devices that are relative to each subject.

Mission Engineering is a manufacturer of products, so they do sell a lot of their tools and accessories on their website as well. The company sells a lot of effects pedals, and their products are more in the mid to high-range area so you can expect to find only the best of the best on their website.

Conclusion

That’s it! In the end, having a volume pedal can do a lot when you interact with your music and play around with the dynamics of your sound. Some musicians might see volume pedals as an unnecessary piece of clutter on their pedal board, but many could never live without it.

Volume pedals play an essential role in balancing out the sound and making the overall sound of multiple instruments more attractive.

Be sure to leave us some feedback about how you utilize volume pedals and if you feel that they impact the sound and tonality of your music.

If you use a volume pedal, you might also find one of these three pedals useful:

  • Distortion
  • Reverb
  • Wah
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cool stuff for cool people. Get yours.

We're testing the stuff you want to buy. Sign up for gear and gadget updates and giveaways.

You May Also Like

11 Best Noise Gate Pedals: Our 2019 Beginner and Hobbyist’s Guide

Let’s take a look at one of the most underutilized, yet powerful,…

11 Best Pitch Shifter Pedals: Our 2019 Beginner & Hobbyist’s Guide

When it comes to guitar effects, few pedals are as unique or…

11 Best Sustain Pedals: Our 2019 Beginner & Hobbyist’s Guide

When thinking of guitar effects, a sustain pedal probably isn’t one of…

11 Best Looper Pedals: Our 2019 Beginner & Hobbyist’s Guide

Have you ever wished that you had an extra set of hands?…