Tremolo hasn’t changed a ton since the motor-driven DeArmond Tremolo Control appeared in the late 1940s. That primitive unit had just two knobs—speed and increase (or intensity), but they remain the foundation of most amplifier and pedal tremolos available today.
There’s something pure and beautiful about tremolo in its simplest form. But sometimes you need more precision or color to hone a part or make a song stand out. Wampler’s Latitude Tremolo Deluxe is a trem aimed at the tinkerer—an exceptionally tweakable effect that can mimic vintage throb or create chopped, synthy syncopations. Plus, it offers variable waveform shapes, subdivision options, and a tap tempo control.
Navigating the Waves
The U.S.-built Latitude is handwired in a very sturdy enclosure. But unlike a lot of simple, vintage-inspired tremolos out there, the Latitude has a total of seven controls for shaping your signal. Anyone that’s used an onboard tremolo knows how to whip up a wobble with speed and depth. The Latitude’s attack and space parameters open up acres of new territory—especially if you’re open to a little investigation and tinkering. Increasing attack reshapes the waveform so you hear a quick rise in volume followed by a soft taper (obviously, this won’t work on the square wave setting). Dropping the attack level produces a slower rise to the wave peak, almost like a volume swell. Increasing the space level, meanwhile, increases the distance between sine waves without affecting the arc of the wave, which enables intense pulses at slower rates.
The waveform toggle switch selects between square, peak, or bell-shaped waves. The tap tempo control adjusts the rate on the fly, but Wampler has also added a subdivision selector switch. With a simple push of a button the Latitude will scale the tapped tempo with quarter notes, eighth notes, dotted-eighth notes, or triplets. The potential for fine-tuning to fit a rhythmic base is impressive.
The real key to the Latitude’s flexibility is the tap tempo function and while Wampler didn’t pioneer tap tempo tremolos, the presence of this function makes the Latitude feel capable of just about anything. Changing time signatures is a breeze and hitting the switch three times resets the unit. This is amazingly useful in a live setting when you have to keep up with the inevitable human errors in timekeeping. And if your drummer loses the plot it takes just a few steps to get your tremolo pulses back on the one.
Selecting the bell-shaped waveform delivers the classic vibrations of ’50s and ’60s amp tremolo. The deep pulses of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover” can be had by setting all controls at noon, adding a hefty dose of depth, and an eighth-note subdivision. (Even better results are possible with single-coils and a heap of tube amp reverb). When using more intense depth settings, it’s easy to imagine a volume drop in your signal, but the level control can help you bump the pedal’s output significantly. Unity gain is right around noon on the depth control if you’re using single coils (in my case a Fender American Standard Telecaster) but there’s plenty of extra volume available if you want the effect to dominate a phrase, lead, or song section in a live context.
The square wave tremolo is a powerful, choppy, and stuttering tremolo that’s ideal for spare, intense tremolo passages like the chords that populate the verses of Pink Floyd’s “Money.” This waveform can sound almost synthy and intensely electronic when you max the depth and tweak the space and speed controls. Adding a fast attack will also intensify this robotic oscillation, but even at these settings the Latitude rarely feels unmusical or unforgiving.
If you’ve shied away from using tremolo because it feels limited or difficult to manage, the Wampler Latitude Tremolo Deluxe could open up a world of possibilities. The tap tempo control enables you to cope with the most erratic rhythm section. And the space and attack controls enable tremolo forms well outside the bounds of traditional amp tremolo. The $240 price tag is pretty steep. But if you’re a session or gigging guitarist or just a tremolo fanatic that likes more extreme (and more numerous) forms of the effect, you’ll be thrilled at the options the Latitude puts at your feet.
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