If you think volume pedals are boring and you’re considering skipping this review, think twice. Mission Engineering’s new VM-Pro buffered volume pedal packs in several handy features that may pay real dividends for guitarists—especially those with expansive or constantly evolving pedal boards.
With its all-metal chassis, high-quality red powdercoat finish, and an enclosure almost identical to that of a Dunlop Cry Baby wah pedal, the VM-Pro resembles other volume pedals on the market. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find features that set this pedal apart.
Prevent Tone Suck The VM-Pro is a buffered pedal. A signal buffer is a common feature on pedal switchers, where lots of pedals and/or cabling are expected in the downstream effects chain. The longer your signal has to go to reach its destination, the more signal you risk lose along the way. This is often referred to as “tone suck,” and the most common result is a loss of high-frequency content, which can make your instrument sound dull and dark. The buffer on the VM-Pro is also an amplifier that boosts the output from the pedal to give it the momentum it needs to reach your amp intact. In fact, the VM-Pro includes two of these buffer/boosters.
Gotta Tune Up Why the need for a second amplifier when there’s only a single output jack? Actually, it’s a stereo output jack—when you plug in a TRS (stereo) Y-cable, one output can feed your amp while the other flows to your tuner. (This is another technique for avoiding signal loss, because not all tuners are designed with the health of your tone in mind.) Mission implemented this second output perfectly: Sweeping the expression pedal has no effect on the volume going to the tuner. The result is silent tuning directly from your volume pedal.
The VM-Pro pedal has a nice, wide, mechanical sweep range, giving you detailed control over your volume swells or fade-outs. If feels easy—and a lot less touchy than some other volume pedals.
The Guts Are Nuts Opening the chassis provides access to three micro-switches, which allow you to configure the pedal to work optimally with different gear types. You set Switch 1 depending on whether your pickups are active or passive. Switch 2 is the “sparkle” switch—when engaged, it preserves high frequencies in the pedal’s lower range. (Like signal buffering, this is a way to maintain your tone, even during the quieter passages.) Switch 3 is an impedance switch. Many vintage and vintage-style fuzz pedals are built for input impedance equal to the direct output from passive pickups, which is why guitarists tend to put these vintage units first spot in their signal chains. But thanks to Switch 3, you can place the VM-Pro before your vintage pedals.
Minimum Volume Another cool control is an internal trimpot. During normal operation the VM-Pro works like other volume pedals, in that your signal goes silent when the rocker is in the heel-down position. But the VM-Pro’s internal trimpot lets you set a heel-down position that’s quieter than toe-down, but not completely silent. For example, you might play verse parts in the heel-down position, then give yourself a volume boost when you hit the solo. This can make for a more graceful exit from your solo, rolling the volume back rather than clicking off a booster pedal.
The Verdict Mission has created a fantastic volume pedal with the VM-Pro. Its internal configurability solves longstanding compatibility issues for players with active pickups or vintage fuzz units. Factor in that clever tuner output, and the Mission’s VM-Pro makes a great front-end to a well-planned pedalboard.