SolidGoldFX Stutterbox Tremolo Pedal Review
July 4, 2011
The Stutterbox pays tribute to the buttery sounds of vintage Tremolos while including a few modern features that will help guitarists personalize and refine their own swinging tremolo sounds.
Clip recorded into a 1969 Fender Super Bassman and an Avatar 2x12 loaded with Celestion V30s.
Tremolo is a simple effect in theory—it’s just repetitive amplitude modulation, or in layman’s terms, turning the volume up and down. Making a tremolo effect beautiful sounding is another thing entirely, however.
Tremolo is a feature that has been included in guitar amps built as early as the 1940s. However, Fender may have done more to popularize the effect than any other manufacturer with the introduction Fender’s Tremolux which debuted in 1955, which established one of the real standards for smooth sounding Tremolo. The effect quickly caught on with guitarists and, to this day, the sound of the effect elicits images of flashy cars and slow dances. In that spirit, SolidGoldFX has developed the Stutterbox to pay tribute to the buttery sounds of vintage Tremolos while including a few modern features that will help guitarists personalize and refine their own swinging tremolo sounds.
Two Speeds Are Better Than One
Much like its 1950s predecessors, the Stutterbox is an optical tremolo meaning that it uses a sealed, pulsing light and a photocell as the source of its undulating effect. But while the Stutterbox may emulate a vintage effect, outwardly it’s far from retro. Controls include two footswitches, Speed and Bypass, a two-position toggle switch, Wave, and five control knobs: Speed1, Speed2, Depth, Tone and Gain. The unit is powered by a 9V battery or a 9V DC adapter, and features true bypass switching which is indicated by an intense white LED. There are also LEDs to indicate the status of the pedal as well as the speed of the tremolo.
One of the sweetest features that sets the Stutterbox apart from other tremolo effects is the inclusion of dual-speed controls. This feature uses two control knobs to set Speed1 and Speed2. On the left side of the pedal, the Speed footswitch toggles between the two speeds. With a single stomp it is possible to switch from a slow modulation to a fast modulation, and back again. The exact speed of the throbbing is communicated to two super-bright LEDs, one green and one blue, providing visual feedback to the changing tremolo speed.
The Wave toggle switch is another very cool feature that allows you to select between a gradual tremolo swell and sharper, choppier wave. The harder setting is certainly angular, though nowhere near as drastic as say a digital square wave tremolo. The softer setting is more like the smoother triangle wave tremolos of the 1950s.
The Depth control is super effective for tailoring just the right effect intensity. At the minimum of the Depth control, the tremolo effect is imperceptible. At its maximum, the tremolo swings between full loudness and complete silence. You can really make it as subtle or as drastic as you’d like.
Focus on Tone
Because the tremolo effect is essentially a volume knob that is turning your signal down, tremolo pedals sometimes suffer from a perceived loss of volume and tone. To compensate, SolidGoldFX includes a Tone knob and a Gain knob in the Stutterbox to help you use the effect without sacrificing tone fidelity. The Gain control could fairly be described as a clean boost, though at more aggressive settings there is a perceptible internal overdrive in the Gain control, which introduces perceptible compression and a hint of distortion. With the Gain control at about 8 o’clock, though my signal was essentially clean.
The Stutterbox’s Tone control, meanwhile will alternatively boost the high-mid bite of your signal or completely darken your overall Tone. This cool control makes it possible to more extensively color your effected signal, though it can be quite transparent too. At about 11 o’clock on the Tone control my tone sounded virtually identical to my bypassed tone.
Out For A Spin
With a Stratocaster out front, the essential brightness of the single coils came through loud and clear on a basic tremolo setting. Backing off the Tone control darkened the signal up quite a bit and created for a more subdued, moody vibe. Adding a bit of gain produced an increase in overall volume as well as a bit of overdrive within the pedal. Together, the darker tone and increased gain could give you the feel of an older amplifier tremolo circuit without the loss in volume.
Moving to a faster tremolo speed with a stomp of the second Speed switch illustrated the worth of the Gain and Tone control. Any increase in modulation can result in a drop in volume, and rolling up the Tone control made the bump in gain seem even more pronounced. Flipping to the hard Wave at the same Speed, Gain, and Tone settings produced a choppier, helicopter-like effect that was quite unlike anything you’d find on a vintage, tremolo-equipped amp.
Whether you’re shooting for a classic tremolo effect or something much less traditional, the Stutterbox can get the job done with style. The inclusion of switchable, dual-speed modulation makes the pedal capable of fast, radical switches that tremolo-equipped amps and most standard pedals aren’t capable of. And the ability to boost a signal and add a bit of high-mid content here and there will placate any tone obsessive convinced their tremolo is sucking signal. If you’re looking to add a tremolo effect to your pedalboard, the SolidGoldFX Stutterbox isn’t likely to disappoint—no matter how much you make tremolo a part of your sound.
you’re looking for a tremolo pedal that can go beyond the basics and into more contemporary realms and you’re convinced your old tremolo is sucking tone and signal.
the tremolo on my old Fender Twin works just fine thank you….
Street $225 - SolidGoldFX - solidgoldfx.com