Since 2016, Ernie Ball brought a new dimension to effect pedals with its Expression Overdrive and Ambient Delay. Both feature a built-in treadle that lets the player control various parameters and interact with the effects in musically expressive ways. While many modern pedals offer expression control via an external pedal, Ernie Ball’s design offers convenience, while its modest size means the units will easily fit onto your pedalboard.
This year, the company has brought foot-sweepable control to tremolo with its new Expression Tremolo. The pedal is bursting with features, including five distinct waveforms (Slow Rise, Slow Fall, Sine, Square and Harmonic) and an onboard vintage-inspired spring reverb.
There are also controls for Depth and Rate, both of which can be controlled separately or simultaneously with the foot treadle. The range of these controls is wide, allowing players to create everything from subtle, undulating tremolo to hard square-wave chopped sounds at extreme speeds.
Having five waveforms on tap makes the Expression Tremolo extremely versatile. While the Sine and Square waveshapes allow you to create the familiar vibes produced by many classic trems, the unusual Slow Rise and Slow Fall modes give you textures that go beyond the standard oscillations.
But perhaps one of the best reasons to check out the Expression Tremolo is the Harmonic mode. Originally offered on some blonde and brownface Fender amps, harmonic tremolo is created by dividing the signal with high- and low-pass filters; one signal is modulated by an LFO, while the other is modulated by the inverse of the LFO wave. The result is that the high and low frequencies are alternately emphasized, creating a rippling tremolo that can sound intoxicatingly beautiful.
Best of all, you can unlock all these tremolo tones with the convenient built-in pedal, giving you expressive control that can’t be matched by traditional on/off stomp boxes
The Expression Tremolo is available now in the U.S. at a street price of $199.99. It will be available internationally in September 2018.
Ernie Ball president Brian Ball generously took some time out to answer a few questions about his company’s new pedal.
You’ve introduced pedal control on the Expression Overdrive and Ambient Delay pedals. Why did you choose to bring this kind of control to a tremolo pedal?
With the Ambient Delay pedal, we realized that time-based effects become extremely fun to play when tied to an expression pedal. There are so many effects that could benefit from the dynamic foot control, but tremolo is such a versatile and creative effect, it seemed like a natural progression.
The wealth of modulation waveforms here is impressive. The Slow Rise and Slow Fall waveforms are especially unusual, and the inclusion of a Harmonic mode is very attractive. What was the thought behind offering these waveforms?
We wanted to make sure that the variety of wave offerings was just that—a variety! The five waveforms on the Expression Tremolo all have very unique sounds that will hopefully inspire a variety of players.
To us, harmonic tremolo was the tremolo effect to include. All of the other waveforms are so versatile, depending on their settings. But when you dig into the harmonic tremolo, there’s no denying the feeling of swimming through psychedelia!
Of course, tremolo and spring reverb is a classic pairing on amps, but you don’t usually find them on modern amps, and you don’t often get them together in one pedal. Were you inspired at all by those classic trem-reverb combos of the 1960s?
Absolutely. Although we strive to innovate whenever possible, peanut butter tastes good with jelly, and tremolo sounds great with spring reverb! It’s very familiar sonic territory for a lot of players, and we wanted to provide the easiest and most expressive way to get there.
The build quality on these pedals has been impressive. With the Expression Tremolo, it looks like you’ve introduced a new PVC-coated Kevlar cord. What benefits does this offer?
Over the years we have received feedback about wanting a stronger cord on our volume pedals. Starting with the recent release of the 40th Anniversary Volume Pedal, and then more recently with this pedal, we’ve chosen to use an ultra-durable PVC-coated braided Kevlar cord which dramatically improves strength, increases traction and ensures consistent tension throughout the foot sweep.
A lot of pedals offer external expression control, but having an expression pedal built into the effect is a space-saving convenience. What’s been the response from players?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Players really seem to be enjoying how flexible and versatile all the options are that we’ve been able to fit into this one tremolo pedal. We’ve had players who have seen our videos, or artist videos, who have been reaching out to try one, and so far everyone who has gotten their hands on it has been blown away. We’re really proud about how this one came out.
Check out the video below to see Blues Saraceno try out the Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo.