Catalinbread Tremolo8 Review
Tremolo meets reverb in a modulator that excels at old school amp trem’ and much weirder fare.
A cleverly designed and superb-sounding tremolo pedal with several outstanding varieties of modulation, and excellent reverb. Compact design. Many unexpected tones.
A separate footswitch for the reverb might be nice, but would likely require a bigger pedal.
The clever Portlanders at Catalinbread have always been great at the design game. And the new Tremolo8 shows how much creativity they continue to squeeze into a compact pedal enclosure. At just 4.25" x 2.25" x 1.12", the Tremolo8 is no larger than the average small-format, single-footswitch effects pedal. The price isn’t much more than your average compact stompbox, either. Yet, impressively, the Tremolo8 packs the kind of deep-dive functionality you’d expect from a chunky, more expensive, double-wide unit.
Catalinbread says the Tremolo8 is rooted in attempts to create a convincing digital version of a brown-panel Fender Showman’s harmonic vibrato. But once that nut was cracked, Catalinbread just kept going. The result is an eight-function modulation-plus-reverb pedal with copious capabilities. Twisting the dial, you’ll find classic variations on much-loved Fender- and Magnatone-style tremolo effects that can be used with and without reverb, tremolo modulated with chorus, envelope-controlled tremolo, ring modulation, and more.
Eight Isn’t Quite Enough
In addition to the 8-position rotary program selector, the Tremolo8 is host to controls for rate, tone, space, and mix. Generally, those controls perform as you’d expect, but they can vary in function depending on the selected program. For instance, the type of reverb regulated by the space knob ranges from tight with medium-to-short trails to ethereal and atmospheric. In the sine-wave-with-chorus program, however, it governs the depth of the chorus. Similarly, the tone knob takes on unexpected functions in a few settings—controlling the length of the “duty cycle” (aka pulse width) in the square wave program, for example, or the speed of the release in the envelope-controlled tremolo.
“The envelope-triggered tremolo was surprisingly tasty, offering an easy route to that evocative sound of a Leslie slowing down when you hit the brake switch.”
More tone-tweaking options are available via two internal controls: an internal gain trimmer and a buffered/true-bypass option for the footswitch. Buffered mode allows reverb trails to fade naturally even after the pedal is switched off, while also conditioning your signal for the rest of its journey. There’s no room for a battery inside, but the Tremolo8 can run on DC power from 9-to-18 volts into a standard center-negative input and draws at least 60 mA. Operating at higher voltage levels increases headroom and even delivers a dry signal boost.
Trem de la Trem
Tested with a Les Paul, a Jazzmaster, a tweed Deluxe-style 1x12 combo and a 65amps London head and 2x12 cab, the Tremolo8’s many trenchant and useful tremolo and reverb sounds proved much more than one or two good settings and a bundle of oddball filler. Dialing between the sine wave, square wave, sawtooth, and harmonic vibrato settings felt much like swapping between classic vintage amps. A gamut of classic ’60s Fender tremolo sounds were easy to approximate. I also heard hints of Magnatone, Valco, and Gibson amp tremolo types, among others. Beyond the standard tremolo fare, the envelope-triggered tremolo was surprisingly tasty, offering an easy route to that evocative sound of a Leslie slowing down when you hit the brake switch. The ring modulator, too, offered a clever rendition of this effect, if one I probably wouldn’t use too often.
On top of the tremolo sounds, the reverb textures are excellent and well-executed. Sure, the reverb only has one control, but the basic depth and dimension of the effect itself is on par with many dedicated reverb pedals in this price range. In addition to the impressive variety of sounds, the overall sound quality of the pedal and of each individual setting is fantastic. You hear warmth, depth, and great clarity, as well as just a little of the requisite “swooshing” white noise in the tremolo that pulses in time with the rate, adding a cool analog color.
I have been a tremolo nut for years, and despite the effect’s essential simplicity—volume on, volume off—I still find it one of the most atmospheric and evocative effects one can use. But as familiar as I am with tremolo, I haven’t been this excited about a new trem’ pedal in a long time. Even if the Tremolo8 featured just one or two of the best settings, I’d consider it a winner. But when you add in a boatload of odd and uncommon tremolo options working in harmony with a great-sounding reverb, you have a gobsmacking success on your hands.