ERNIE BALL EX­PRES­SION TREMOLO

RE­DEFIN­ING THE HUM­BLE TREMOLO... IN PUR­PLE!

Australian Guitar - - Reviews - WORDS BY STEVE HEN­DER­SON.

Rocker ped­als have been done, that’s for sure, and all man­ner of sound ef fects have been given the ‘ vari­able re­al­time con­trol’ treat­ment. The first two were the ven­er­a­ble wah pedal – way back in ’66 by the Thomas Or­gan Com­pany – and the must-have-for-ev­ery-gui­tarist vol­ume pedal; DeAr­mond was pro­duc­ing those in the ‘40s.

Tremolo, too, has been a go-to ef­fect for a long, long time – mostly for or­gan play­ers, but gui­tarists soon enough adopted it just in time f or the surf mu­sic scare of the early ‘60s. So, what sets Ernie Ball’s Ex­pres­sion Tremolo rocker pedal apart from the crowd?

DEEP PUR­PLE

Well, to start with, it’s pur­ple. That alone makes it an eye-catcher, but the Ex­pres­sion Tremolo also has small foot­print, so it won’t take up much more real es­tate that a nor­mal stomp box. In fact, it’s only about 50 per­cent larger than a Boss com­pact pedal.

Next, like all EB ped­als, it’s built su­perbly – it’s made from air­craft-grade alu­minium, and bul­let­proof like no other brand (look at all the play­ers still us­ing their orig­i­nal Ernie Ball vol­ume ped­als af­ter 40 years). Also, the trea­dle ac­tion feels smooth, con­trolled and ex­pres­sive, with just the right amount of re­sis­tance to make the player work a lit­tle. Best of all, the tremolo ef­fect is well thought out, with op­tions that de­liver some unique sounds along with the clas­sics.

A COLOUR­FUL SOUND

The re­ally unique fea­ture of the Ex­pres­sion Tremolo is that it can be used as a nor­mal stomp box – the trea­dle acts like a nor­mal on/off switch – or as a rocker pedal. Be­cause of this, you don’t ac­tu­ally need to rock the trea­dle to pro­duce a trem ef­fect. Set the wave form dial to the re­quired shape (I ini­tially chose a clas­sic sine wave), and with the trea­dle pushed all the way for­ward, ad­just the depth and rate to suit.

The Ex­pres­sion Tremolo pro­duces a rich, al­most three-di­men­sional trem ef­fect, with­out thin­ning out the bot­tom end. Now, push the end of the Depth knob (an LED lights up) and this as­signs that par­tic­u­lar pa­ram­e­ter to the trea­dle – which is now an ex­pres­sion pedal rather than just an on/off switch. The depth value is now ad­justable, in re­al­time, from zero to what­ever.

Now turn off the Depth knob switch and do the same with the Rate knob – use it either as a fixed con­trol or as a com­pletely vari­able pa­ram­e­ter. This means that push­ing the trea­dle for­ward in­creases the speed of the trem ef­fect – very use­ful as an ex­pres­sive de­vice.

Can you have both pa­ram­e­ters con­trolled by the trea­dle at the same time? Ab­so­lutely, and this blends from no ef­fects at all to an ex­treme chop­per. The ‘com­bined pa­ram­e­ter’ ef­fect sounds su­per cool through­out the sweep and never thins out, gets mushy or cre­ates any kind of har­monic clash. It re­mains de­fined and pur­pose­ful.

PUR­PLE REIGN

There’s a built-in bonus in the form of a sweet spring re­verb ef­fect, just to put a lit­tle ex­tra grease on the tracks. It’s a sim­ple one-knob de­vice that op­er­ates with the trea­dle, but not by it­self. It’s a

warm tone that adds an ex­tra depth to the sound, rather than the shimmer that you might find in, say, a plate re­verb ef­fect. It’s a great sound, but it could have had a switch to either as­sign it to the trea­dle or have it as an in­de­pen­dent, al­ways-on sound. The rea­son for this ob­ser­va­tion is sim­ple: re­verb is an en­vi­ron­ment more than an ac­tual ef­fect, and this doesn’t change from song to song.

As for the trem ef­fect op­tions, the Ex­pres­sion Tremolo of­fers some pretty cool sounds. The ‘Ramp Up’ and ‘Ramp Down’ op­tions are re­ally in­ter­est­ing. If you’re af­ter some­thing a touch un­usual – some­thing with a unique vibe, but not com­pletely weirded out – this may be just the ticket.

The ‘Sine’ and ‘Square’ waves are stan­dard fare on most Tremolo ped­als, but the ‘Har­monic’ op­tion is a se­ri­ously use­ful, rich, cho­rus-y sine wave shape that can sound ex­treme, or even bet­ter, can back off to a more sub­tle and ex­pres­sive sweep. This sounds great in con­junc­tion with the built-in re­verb.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

The me­chan­ics of the Ex­pres­sion Tremolo rocker func­tion are solid and re­li­able, sup­ported by 40 years of Ernie Ball rocker pedal ex­pe­ri­ence. The Ex­pres­sion Tremolo is a road-ready tremolo unit that pro­duces a re­fined, har­mon­i­cally rich sound – per­fect for the stage (com­pact and re­li­able) or stu­dio (su­per-quiet).

It has all the con­trol that you need, and doesn’t clip off the high tre­ble of low bass. It has more of a hi-fi-qual­ity sound, rather than the slightly fuzzy Fen­der amp trem, which means it won’t im­pact on your ba­sic amp tone. In fact, test­ing it with a va­ri­ety of amps demon­strated its ‘trans­parency’ in that each amp’s in­her­ent char­ac­ter re­mained the core of the gui­tar-amp part­ner­ship, with the Ex­pres­sion Tremolo adding its Hen­drix-ap­proved tex­ture with­out be­ing the com­plete cen­tre of at­ten­tion.

And, it’s worth ex­per­i­ment­ing with sig­nal chain place­ment: I al­ter­nated an old Boss DS-1 be­fore and af­ter the Ex­pres­sion Tremolo for a va­ri­ety of tones that were all use­ful and fun to mess with.

The pur­ple liv­ery is cer­tainly dis­tinc­tive – no­body will con­fuse this with their Ernie Ball Vol­ume Pedal. All in all, the Ex­pres­sion Tremolo is a wor­thy ad­di­tion to the ven­er­a­ble Ernie Ball line, and a use­ful ad­di­tion to any pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian’s ped­al­board. Plus, it’s an ab­so­lute hoot to use.

RRP: $395

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