Our Top Pick for 2018: Mission VM-1 Volume Pedal
Read our full review.
A sometimes overlooked guitar modification device that can truly add additional expression to your music is a high quality volume pedal. The volume pedal does the same thing that the volume knob on your electric guitar does but with your feet; it simply raises and decreases the volume. Even though this may sound simplistic and of not a very high value to your playing, you’d be surprised at what simply progressively raising the volume of a played chord can do to that chord’s overall sound. Utilizing one of these pedals can even help you produce unique sound effects that will even make your music sound like you are using a whammy bar to produce a stunningly melancholic vibrato effect. Since there are a bevy of volume pedals on the market today from music brands like Vox, Dunlop, and Boss, we’ve done research to compile what we think are the four best models on the market today.
#1. Mission VM-1 Volume Pedal
Our Gold Pick selection is produced by Petaluma, California-based Mission Engineering. Mission engineering is a small company that specializes in guitar effects pedals that are robustly constructed, have a rich feature set, and are serendipitous to control. They are actually the world’s only pedal manufacturer that specializes in crafting unique pedals that are specifically tuned for specific amplifiers, processors, and effects units. They’re VM-1 model of volume effects pedal provides an excellent experience for amateur and professional musicians alike.
To start, it’s impossible to not notice the sporty design of this cherry red volume pedal. Its coloration is beautiful and the glossy finish on this volume pedal adds a luster that only amplifies the aesthetically pleasing design. To create this unique look, Mission used a red powder coat that not only looks fine, it also is supremely scratch and scuff-resistant.
For those familiar with the legendary Vox Cry Baby that rocketed to amazing heights of guitarist popularity in the 70s, you notice that this volume pedal has a very similar shape. Looks aside, the action on this pedal differs from the iconic Cry Baby. Since you need more direct control to properly modulate the volume on this item, there is a wider sweep of motion than you’d get on other types of pedals. If you’d like to increase the tension on this pedal, simply turn the tensioner screw underneath the expression pedal.
Aside from the sleek red design, the expression pedal also has a unique looking form factor despite the overall similarity to the Cry Baby. It sports a slightly raised rubber pad that features a ridged construction for heightened grip and stability. This surface pad feels soft, even when fully depressed by your heel and the tension adjustment will help you avoid too much foot fatigue; even when playing an overlong gig.
Insofar as dimensions, this volume pedal is purposely designed to be a little smaller than its competitors; this is to ensure that it will fit on a pedal board without much resistance. The accurate dimensions are: 12 inches in length, five inches in height, and another five inches in width. Even though it doesn’t necessarily affect pedal board functionality, this volume pedal weighs a relatively weighty 3.6 pounds; which is an attribute of this pedal that can make hefting it to gigs something of a chore.
From a features perspective, this guitar volume pedal has a healthy set. For the standard features that come with this type of pedal, along the right side of the unit is your instrument input jack. This is fairly self explanatory; you plug in your guitar here. On the opposite side of the device is the output cable connector, which sends the signal out to your amplifier. Positioned alongside this jack is a AC adapter; this adapter is capable of connecting a standard power input, but if you have an issue finding a power source, you can unlatch the door set inside the bottom of the volume pedal and install a nine volt battery.
This mission pedal also included buffering technology for a crisper, more nuanced sound set. Buffering is designed to directly fight the so-called “signal suck”. Signal suck occurs when there are a bevy of pedals and effects processors along the signal chain that leads to the amp. As signal is pressed through all of these peripherals, you tend to lose some of it; this occurs typically in the higher frequency. Buffering boosts the output of the pedal so that you don’t lose your high frequency tones.
As this is our Gold Pick item, you know that this is a well reviewed item by critics and consumers. On Amazon, 100 percent of the reviewing audience who purchased this item have graded it at a four star status or above. One four star review outlines the quality of this pedal, but also notes that it’s on the heavy side as well: “I like this pedal very much it does what a good volume pedal should and it’s built to take a lot of wear and tear. My only problem is it is Heavy as a tank (generally positive) and does not mount squarely on a board even with the rubber feet removed. For me I like to keep my effects tight as I don’t use many and lugging around an extra pedal does not work for me. I would recommend it to others who don’t have my needs.”
#2. Boss FV-500H High Impedance Volume Pedal
Boss is one of the largest producers of effects pedals in the world. Opening its doors in 1978, Boss has become well known for several quality lines of guitar pedals, stomp boxes, and digital recorders. In this field, Boss has an impressively iconic history; they developed one of the most well known multi-effect pedals, the ME5 in 1985. With their latest volume pedal, the FV-500V, Boss has produced yet another great item that will be beloved by guitarists.
From a design point of view, this volume pedal utilizes several unique aesthetic cues that really make this device stand out. To start, Boss constructed this item out of heavy-duty die cast aluminum, and it just seems to extrude toughness; as a matter of fact, there is no outer coat of paint for design purposes. With this volume pedal, you get what you see; a sturdy pedal that is built to take the punishment that these types of devices typically endure, and do so with aplomb.
Shaped like an elongated rectangle, this volume pedal is much larger than our Gold Pick. If you are planning on adding this to a pedal board setup, you should know that this thing will certainly take up a lot of pedal real estate. To be honest, this pedal is fairly tank-like in construction and size. You’ll probably even want to omit it from your pedal board setup and simply utilize it alongside the pedal setup.
The main expression surface is paned in such a way that there are specifically four rubberized stomp surfaces that are somewhat pliable but also sturdy feeling. Nestled between the top two and the bottom two pedal pads is a laser etched boss logo that looks very stylish.
The chief connectors of this volume pedal are oriented along the leading edge of the device. You’ll notice that there are three standard jacks on this end, and they are labeled input, output, and exp. The input jack is provided for your instrument while the output passes the signal from the volume pedal through to the amplifier. The exp jack is a rarer connector for volume pedals; this jack is designed especially for connectivity with expression compatible amplifiers, effects pedals, and synthesizers.
Along the side of this unit is another console area. In this console, you’ll find two features; a tuner jack for attaching a tuner and a minimum volume rocker. The minimum volume dial is used to set the default low end sound level. Typically, a volume dial reduces the signal to a base level when you step on it fully, this dial lets you select a base level that can be higher than a full-on mute. This effect will allow you to set the volume to a lower level when you step on the pedal itself, which will allow you to produce a clean sound through this pedal, even when using an overdrive filter. As a result, you can strum some overdriven notes, and then depress the pedal to produce a countering clean sound. With all of these features, you might have noticed that we did not mention an AC adapter or battery setup; this is because this volume pedal requires no power source, which is an excellent, road-friendly feat.
A startling 91 percent of the reviewers on Amazon have granted this volume pedal a four star rating or better. The majority of the reviewers seem to appreciate this pedal’s strong tank-like construction and power profile. Many are also very satisfied with its minimum volume dial as well. Here is a five star testimonial from the site: “Great volume control pedal. This is the best pedal by far I’ve come across for volume control. And like all the other reviews state, it is built like a Tank. Boss is BOSS when it comes to Stomp boxes and pedals. I love the fact also that this requires no power source. Excellent price. Another Boss product I can easily recommend. This is about a size 10-11 in men’s shoe size BTW.. So it’s not tiny.. But it sure is made well.”
#3. Dunlop GCB80 High Gain Volume Pedal
Our Bronze Pick is produced by legendary pedal producer Dunlop. Dunlop started out as the home business of Jim Dunlop, an immigrant from Scotland. The brand built up over the years to branch out from capo manufacture, to the production of effects pedals and processors. Dunlop is the current owner of the iconic Cry Baby brand and produced a now famous upgrade to this amazing wah pedal in the 1990s as a direct response to requests made my various high-end musicians. Their GCB80 volume pedal takes an aesthetic design note from that iconic pedal and brings it’s recognizable look into the world of guitar volume management.
As previously stated, similarly to the Gold Pick, this model of volume pedal bears a distinct resemblance to Dunlop’s Cry Baby line of pedals. Since many pedal boards are designed with this type of form factor in mind, this is the perfect style of volume pedal for the growth of your pedal board’s pedal collection. From a composition point of view, this pedal is made of sturdy and durable die cast metal that is coated in a powdered paint that protects the chassis from harm. The external is a matte black and the expression pedal itself is topped with a rubberized pad that is soft enough for comfort, yet firm enough to provide adequate feedback to your tread.
Dunlop was clearly going for an easy-going experience when they designed this pedal. It has everything you’ll need to manage the volume profile of your guitar’s sound and then some. As mentioned before, this model is designed to be pedal board compatible and has its input and output jacks positioned on opposing sides of the unit. This will allow for easy connection to a pedal board’s connector assembly.
This device is designed to last. Dunlop included a one million cycle potentiometer rather than an infrared/optical system in this volume pedal’s construction. Volume pedals affect gain if it’s placed before the gain in your signal. A potentiometer effectively cleans up the signal that’s produced, creating a cleaner sound.
Like our prior pick, this volume pedal requires no additional power. Simply plug it up to your instrument and amp and there will be enough energy production to power the volume control’s circuitry. This design makes it super easy to just take your pedal board from gig to gig without having to make serious considerations of how to power this aspect of the board.
80 percent of the reviewers on Amazon have granted this a positive rating. The majority of the reviews on the site have a tendency to reference how easy this pedal is to setup, and are also about the responsiveness of the potentiometer. One five star rating really summarizes the quality of the pedal’s functionality: “I love it! This is the only pedal that I always have plugged in. It’s real handy at gigs if I suddenly want a little more or less juice in my sound, plus I can do nice swell-effects with it. Plus it’s a handy way to silence my guitar quickly if I’m getting feedback or something.”
#4. Fender FVP-1 Volume Pedal
Foot-powered volume control is great for controlling many aspects of your produced tones, but is this level of control possible if you are the type of starving artist that tends to ball on a budget? To answer this question, let us take a look at our final model of volume pedal, a unit that is budget conscious AND designed by iconic guitar maker Fender.
Fender is probably one of the most legendary instrument makers in the world and is known for their attention to quality and functionality. Even with a low-cost item, you know that your sound will benefit from the Fender name. Their FVP-1 volume pedal does an excellent job of providing you exceptional volume control, while remaining at a very affordable price point.
To start, this is the smallest volume control pedal on our list. Its dimensions measure in at 8.4 inches in length, 3.5 inches in width, and 2.6 inches in height. Clearly designed to last, this pedal has an all-metal construction that is durable and scratch and scuff resistant.
The main pedal sports a rounded grid design which is pockmarked with beveled holes. This gridded texture ensures that your step will not slip from the surface as the textures provide additional grip. Along the front of the unit are three ports; these include an input jack for your guitar, an output jack that’s meant to pass the signal to your amplifier, and a central tuner jack for attaching a tuner for on-the-go tuning adjustments.
Fender has included a long life potentiometer as well as a special tone circuit that protects the tone of the device across the numerous settings. Simply put, tone loss is an issue that can occur with these types of pedals, and Fender’s circuit provides an elegant solution to this problem; an amazing feat considering the low price point.
Out of 16 reviews on Amazon, 96 percent of the purchasers have had a very positive experience with this volume pedal. One of our most glowing reviews on our list can be found for our ballin’ on a budget pick: “In a world of Ernie Ball VPs and outrageously priced Goodrich volume pedals, the Fender FVP-1 is a seriously underrated pedal. I hate tone suck, and having to adjust amp / guitar to compensate for the suckage that occurs with some pedals. I demo’d one of these side by side with a Ernie Ball VP Jr. (which is also passive) in my local music shop and I noticed a loss of volume and high end when running thru the VP Jr., but the sound going thru the Fender was indistinguishable from plugging straight into the amp!”
If you’re planning on packing on the pedals, you might consider grabbing a pedal board to keep them all in a semblance of order and organization. If you have this type of organizer, consider the size of your volume pedal, as too large a pedal might make managing it in a pedal board impossible. The main expression pedal is usually what will have the largest form factor on any volume pedal you purchase, so be sure that any size estimations that you do make account for the size of this main stepping lever.
You’re going to be stepping on this device a lot. Simply put, a flimsy guitar volume pedal will be completely counterproductive to your music production ability as you’ll constantly be repairing or replacing the item entirely. A good pedal of any type will be comprised of a strong metal that will take your weight confidently. Also, look for a model that has a tension adjustment screw, this will help you establish a comfort level when using your new volume pedal. Most pedals on the market have a very strong, Vox classic wah pedal-like construction, so if it has an appropriate construction, you can expect to get a lot of playtime during the life of your volume pedal.
A dedicated volume pedal can definitely produce a greater range of volume adjustment than the knobs on your amp or directly on your instrument. Also, having the precision control of your foot can help you raise and lower the volume level of your notes and chords with a higher level of articulation that you’d get using any other method of volume control. This heightened range will increase your sound producing repertoire by adding lower lows and higher highs. These types of pedals are great for silencing your sound output when you need or boosting it. Some models of guitar pedals that are available on the market today even have adjustable levels; you want to have a preset lower level that will let you press down your foot fully without completely muting the sound? Then, this type is for you. When searching for your future guitar volume pedal, be aware of the range and any settings that your new tool will come with at purchase.
Powering Your Power Chords
For the most part, the majority of guitar pedals are all plug-in affairs. For some models, there is also an available wireless option that will take batteries of multiple types to provide the same music making experience without having to find an outlet for your AC power cable. If you find yourself playing impromptu a lot, consider looking for a guitar volume control pedal that has its own on-board power source and can generate volume control without an immediate need to plug in. The charge duration of these types of pedals will certainly vary, so be sure that you execute the necessary due diligence when looking for a portable volume pedal.
Where you set your volume pedal will greatly affect the range of its sound management capabilities. If you place it after your other pedals in your effects loop, you can attain a signal boost capability that will add variation to your sound. With this method you silence just the amplifier, not the preamp which will make the sound generated at this stage sound much more boosted. Another placement setting that you can utilize is placing the volume pedal directly between your guitar and amp. When you do this, you can scale back the sound being generated by your guitar to a low level, which will have the effect of cleaning up a guitar that has a high degree of modulation and create a Fender like sound profile, even when you might have a crunchier effect selected.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
By utilizing a volume pedal, you’ll be able to shine during your solos and produce some great sweeping effects that will melt the faces of every single one of your audience members. As you search the market for a new one of these wondrous devices, really consider the models we reviewed on this list. Take into consideration our pre-purchase guidelines, and you’ll find a great volume pedal for your own unique sound.