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.
A toneful trembler packed with vintage tics and new tricks.
A wide range of tube-warmed tremolo sounds with a friendly control set.
Might be a tad conservative for sonic buccaneers.
Fender MTG Tube Tremolo
Ease of Use:
When gospel-blues legend Pops Staples needed a backline amp, he always requested a Fender with “shake.” If Pops were still with us, he’d be able to get all the “shake” he needed—and more—with Fender’s MTG Tube Tremolo.
Like other Fender pedals I’ve encountered, the MTG honors the company’s heritage by dialing in the traditional sounds just right. But in this case it also explores the wilder side of the tremolo effect and offers control that no old-school amp can offer—thanks in large part to the highly flexible wave controls designed with Bruce Egnater.
Peek Inside the Box
There is, indeed, a tube inside this pedal’s ultra-sturdy 5" x 4" x 2" metal enclosure. It’s a tiny NOS 6025 preamp tube, made in the 1940s. Fender acquired a thousand of them when it bought Groove Tubes in the ’90s. So, naturally, the device requires a 9V power supply—especially because the perceived volume drops a little as tremolo intensity increases, and turning the level dial up compensates for the loss by raising the voltage fed to the tube. Cranking the level also works as a bit of a signal boost—but just a bit.
All four dials have LED position-markers that improve visibility on dark stages, but you can switch the lights off with a switch at the back of the pedal. This is increasingly a standard-issue feature on Fender pedals, and it’s a brilliant, genuinely useful idea.
Just as on a classic Fender amp, there are controls for tremolo speed and intensity. What is improved is the degree of precision the MTG’s speed knob provides. Handy markers for specific beat subdivisions—quarter note, dotted eighth note, quarter note triplet, eighth note, dotted sixteenth note, eighth note triplet, and sixteenth note—are listed around the speed dial, eliminating guesswork. Since there are no detents, you can set the knob anywhere between those spots, too. More personalized speed settings are possible via the tap tempo switch, and a flashing LED above the tap switch always pulses to the active tremolo tempo.
Outside the Box
Tremolo wave-shaping controls include a mode toggle and a wave dial. The latter blends or selects between available waves shape in a given mode, and together they can produce real magic—sculpting trem forms that run from languid, smooth, and soothing to the nattering blips of Martian radar. In toggle-up position, the mode switch moves through a triangle- to sine-, to square-wave range, providing traditional smooth textures as well as choppy effects. In the middle toggle position, the wave control spans sawtooth to triangle waves. In the down position the wave control governs pulse width for a hard square wave, which is great for stuttering effects.
The wave dial really expands the potential of each waveform. In the toggle’s up position, for example, 12 o’clock on the wave dial provides a creamy balance between smooth and choppy with more buttery and hard pulses at the two extremes. (I run through all three toggle settings at different wave dial positions in the demo video online.) The many pulse and wave shape variations can translate to surreal textures with other effects too: I had a blast setting the toggle in pulse-width terrain, cranking the wave dial all the way right, and passing the signal through a granular delay for a sound a lot like mice squeaking in Morse code.
Obviously, the MTG is not just about weirdness, Many players who use this pedal are likely looking for accurate traditional tones. And with my Stratocaster plugged into a clean Carr Vincent with the reverb on 3, the MTG Tube Tremolo was a ticket to the past. I found a wide variety of pretty and articulate tremolo sounds. My favorites included the gentle shimmers I got from a balance of triangle and square waves, as well as a eighth-note setting with the intensity that I crafted in honor of Pops Staples.
Both classicists and rebels will find textures to love in Fender’s super-easy-to-use, mid-priced MTG, which puts the company’s classic tube tremolo formulas—and more—in one convenient box.
Watch the Video Demo: