8 Best Volume Pedals for a Total Control of Your Sound
Last updated: Apr 09, 2020
63Hours of Research
A volume pedal is relatively simple – it increases the output of your guitar when you press down, and decreases your sound when you let up. But that basic function is essential if you want to have complete control over the dynamics of your sound.
We reviewed tens of volume pedals and narrowed them down to our eight favorites. We feel the Dunlop DVP3 is the overall best volume pedal for most guitarists because it features fully adjustable tension, 250k Ohm resistance, and a unique band drive. You can find our other top picks highlighted in the table below.
Top 8 Volume Pedals Review 2020
Our research looked closely at whether pedals offered active or passive amplification, which determines whether you’ll need a power source, as well as how they were constructed. Continue reading past our top picks for detailed reviews of each volume pedal, complete with pros and cons. Our Buying Guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the best volume pedal for your needs. Finally, we sum up our three overall favorite volume pedals on the market today.
This top-notch volume pedal from Dunlop won our Editor’s Choice for its multitude of features. To start, the pedal is passive, so it’s relatively affordable and you don’t have to worry about finding a power source for your pedal.
Users particularly liked the construction of this pedal. It’s about the length of the average foot and wide enough for your whole shoe. Plus, it’s made of aluminum for durability and the top of the pedal is covered in a non-slip rubber tread. The rocker tension is fully adjustable, so you can actually customize how much pressure it takes to change the volume with this pedal.
Users also loved that this pedal has an expression jack, so it can double as an expression pedal. Essentially, you get two pedals for the price of one and can switch between the volume and expression functions simply by changing which jack you use.
The only notable downside to this pedal is that it doesn’t have a true bypass switch. However, users found that it was nearly imperceptible in the effects panel when the pedal wasn’t being used. There also isn’t a minimum volume control, although users didn’t find this to be an issue.
This volume pedal from Ernie Ball is beloved by users because it’s simple and effective. Essentially, it’s the perfect device if you want to turn up the gain on your guitar without distorting your sound. The pedal is equipped with a minimum volume knob, which makes it extremely easy to make large volume sweeps with this device. The only downside that users noted was the lack of a true bypass switch, but most didn’t find any issues with the pedal when it wasn’t activated.
The pedal is overall quite simple – it’s a true volume pedal with few other add-ons. There’s a tuner out jack that you can use during gigs, but that’s about it. Just beware that the minimum and maximum gain switches aren’t labeled, so it can take some trial and error to find the volume range you want.
Users were also very happy with the construction of this volume pedal. The heavy-duty aluminum isn’t the most lightweight option available, but users are confident that this pedal will last for years. The pedal is on the larger side, at one foot per side, so you will need to plan on having plenty of space on your pedal board to add in this unit.
This active pedal from Morley is one of the highest-quality volume pedals that we’ve seen. To start, it’s made from cold-rolled steel and is extremely durable. The base is slightly wider than the pedal, which users didn’t love because it increases the size of the pedal on your board. But, it’s still small enough that this is hardly a problem for most users.
What really sets this volume pedal apart is that it uses electro optical circuitry. That means that it’s virtually impossible to wear out the ports, which is a concern with other well-used volume pedals. It also comes with an onboard battery so you don’t have to worry about plugging the pedal in, and the battery is easy to access for when it comes time to charge the pedal.
The sweep on this pedal is more linear than many of the other options we reviewed. However, keep in mind that you can’t control the torque on the pedal. In addition, users appreciated that this pedal comes with a minimum volume knob, which comes in handy when you want to take advantage of the pedal for big volume sweeps.
This small and lightweight pedal is the perfect choice if you are running out of space on your pedal board. On top of that, the pedal combines active volume control and a vintage crybaby-style wah effect into a single pedal. So, you save space by eliminating the need for a separate wah pedal. Users were also extremely impressed with the wah effect – many actually recommended this for the wah effect even if you don’t need the volume control.
However, you can’t use the volume control and wah effect at the same time. Instead, you switch between the two using a switch on the side of the pedal. A pair of LED lights makes it easy to tell which mode is activated at any time. Users also noted that the volume control wasn’t as nice as on some of the other pedals we reviewed – for example, it’s difficult to make smooth volume swells with this pedal.
The pedal itself is quite small and constructed from hard plastic. That presents some concerns about durability, but users reported that this pedal is surprisingly solidly built and holds up well to abusive use. The compact size and light weight also make it very easy to travel with.
This all-in-one pedal combines wah, volume, and distortion effects into a single unit. The distortion control can be used independently from the wah and volume controls, and the volume is controlled optically when the wah is bypassed. Better yet, users were extremely happy with both the included wah and distortion effects. The distortion comes with three effect controls so you can truly adjust your sound. While the distortion is a bit muddy, users felt that it is still very good.
As a volume pedal, you’ll need to make some modifications out of the box. The volume comes on suddenly rather than with a linear sweep. Modifying this can be difficult and requires taking apart the pedal, so it’s not something that beginners will want to mess with.
In addition, users noted that this active volume pedal sucks up battery fast – especially if you’re using the distortion effect. They highly recommended purchasing an external power supply, which adds to the cost of this already expensive pedal.
That said, you can rest assured that your investment in this pedal will last. The pedal is made of steel and users agreed that the pedal feels extremely sturdy when stomping on it.
This large, passive volume pedal from BOSS offers high impedance and a number of simple customizations. For example, you can control the torque that needs to be applied to push down on the pedal using an easy-to-access set screw. On top of that, this pedal doubles as a volume pedal and expression pedal thanks to the inclusion of a second input jack.
Users loved the construction of this pedal, which is made of heavy-duty aluminum. One users noted that it’s built like a tank, and there’s very little question that it will last as long as your music career. Despite that solid construction, the pedal still weighs only 3.5 pounds. While it’s somewhat large if your pedal board is crowded, the pedal is the perfect size for the average foot.
The one thing that users didn’t love about this volume pedal, unfortunately, is the volume control itself. Users noted that most of the volume change was in the last bit of travel of the pedal, which makes it hard to create smooth volume transitions. In addition, the pedal doesn’t have a true bypass, and users found that it was akin to damping your guitar’s tone signal even when the volume pedal wasn’t activated.
This miniature volume controller from Mooer isn’t truly a volume pedal, which is partially why it is able to be so small. Instead, it offers sense and attack controls that allow you to modify your guitar’s sound in a way that is similar to a traditional volume pedal. Users wished the range of control on the sense and attack functions was slightly greater, but they overall really liked the effect – particularly for clean, undistorted sounds.
It’s worth noting that this is one of the only models we reviewed that comes with a true bypass footswitch. That’s a huge advantage if you need your sound to be absolutely clean when you’re not using the volume pedal. However, users did note that there was a slight buzzing noise underneath the guitar when the controller is activated.
The controller is active and requires an external power source. It comes with an adapter, but users noted that it definitely requires a standard outlet as it draws too much current for most small batteries. If you don’t meet the controller’s current requirements, users found that the background humming gets bad enough to cause interference with your music.
This passive volume and expression pedal from Donner is a steal if you’re looking for both effects and facing a tight budget. The pedal switches between the two automatically when you stomp down on the pedal, although it can be hard to control whether you’re using volume or expression mode otherwise.
Importantly, users warn that this isn’t the pedal for big volume sweeps. The volume control is very nonlinear, so it’s ideally designed for ramping up your volume between two points. In addition, there is no minimum volume control or true bypass switch, so the functionality is relatively limited. That said, it’s one of the cheapest volume pedals on the market that can achieve this effect reliably and won’t break on you after a few uses. You do get a tuner jack, but this is only so helpful for the majority of guitarists.
When it comes to durability, this pedal is made of lightweight hard plastic. That’s certainly less long-lasting than aluminum or steel, but users felt that this pedal seemed very solid when they were using it.
Combined volume and expression pedal
Nonlinear volume control
No minimum volume control or true bypass
Difficult to control whether you’re using volume or expression
Now that you’ve learned more about our eight overall favorite volume pedals on the market today, how do you choose the one that’s best for you? Our Buying Guide will cover everything you need to know about volume pedals and answer some questions that first-time buyers often have.
Features to consider when choosing a volume pedal
Volume pedals are relatively simple, but there are a number of important features that differentiate them. Here, we’ll take a look at these features and explain how they can affect your choice of which volume pedal is right for you.
Volume pedals vary quite a bit in size, from the rather large Dunlop pedal to the miniature Mooer and SONICAKE pedals. When making a choice based on pedal size, look to see how much space you have on your pedal board. If you’re tight on space, a smaller pedal will do just fine. The main advantage of a larger pedal is that it’s slightly easier to center your foot over.
Your volume pedal will see more use than any other pedal you own, with the possible exception of your wah pedal. As a result, it’s important that you get a volume pedal that’s built to handle years of stomping. Most of the pedals we reviewed are constructed from aluminum, which is lightweight while still being durable.
The two Morley pedals are made of steel, which is arguably one of the few materials with more strength than aluminum.
Watch out for the plastic SONICAKE pedal – while it has many good qualities, plastic can fail a lot sooner than metal.
Responsiveness is hard to measure, which is why it’s so important to check user reviews when considering any volume pedal. A more responsive pedal is usually a good thing, although there’s definitely a thing as being too responsive – you don’t want a light tap on your volume pedal to crank your volume all the way up. Since responsiveness is one of the main functions of a volume pedal, this is something we paid close attention to in our reviews.
Active or passive?
One of the biggest choices you’ll need to make is whether you want an active or passive pedal. Passive pedals don’t require a battery or external power source. But, they’re more limited in the volume control you can achieve because they only control a signal’s output, such as your guitar’s volume. The advantage to passive pedals is that they’re inexpensive.
Active pedals, like the Mooer, Morley, and SONICAKE pedals, function as a circuit and require a secondary power source. They control volume with greater fidelity, but they also tend to cost more than passive pedals. Some pedals, like the model from Ernie Ball, can be used as either active or passive pedals depending on whether you have a power source available.
Stereo or mono?
All of the volume pedals that we reviewed are mono pedals, which take a single guitar as input and produce that single guitar’s sound as output. For most guitarists, a mono volume pedal is all you need. Stereo pedals allow you to put two inputs into the pedal and mix the sound during the volume control stage. While this could be useful if you’re playing in a band, it provides less control over each guitar’s volume.
There are a handful of extra features to watch out for when choosing a volume pedal.
One of the most useful features to have is a minimum volume knob, which allows you to control the volume output when there’s no pressure on the volume pedal.
Another thing to watch out for is an expression jack, which allows you to create subtle echo effects and ease in and out of reverb using your volume pedal.
Some pedals, like the Ernie Ball, BOSS, and Dunlop pedals, also include a tuner out jack. This isn’t particularly necessary, but it allows you to automatically adjust your guitar’s sound to keep it in tune as you play gigs.
Finally, consider opting for a volume pedal with a true bypass switch, like found on the Mooer pedal. This allows you to turn off the volume pedal when it’s not needed, and you won’t have any impedance or interference from the pedal messing with your sound.
Where you should put your volume pedal depends on what you want to achieve. If you only want to control your guitar’s volume signal, you can put your volume pedal at the beginning of your signal chain. However, if you want to control volume after all your effects have been applied, you should put your volume pedal at the end of your chain.
The expression pedal can be used to control volume, but it’s important to note that you’ll add in a change in your guitar’s tone in the process. Whereas a volume pedal effectively modifies your guitar’s volume signal, an expression pedal modifies your guitar’s tone signal.
Yes, a volume pedal can be used with any instrument that has an output signal jack and a volume control. Volume pedals are frequently used with keyboards and electric basses in addition to guitars.
Our three overall favorite volume pedals on the market today are the Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X), the Ernie Ball MVP 6182, and the Morley Steve Vai Little Alligator. The Morley pedal is the perfect choice if you want a pedal for big volume sweeps. It features one of the most linear volume controls that we’ve seen, and the construction is weighty enough that you have good control over the pedal with your foot. The Ernie Ball pedal is ideal if you want a no-nonsense pedal that can crank up your guitar’s volume without causing distortion. It’s solidly built and offers a minimum volume knob so that you can tightly control how much sound is coming from your guitar at any time. Finally, we feel the Dunlop pedal is the overall best volume pedal for the majority of guitarists. It features an impressive build with an anti-slip rubber tread and the ability to customize the rocker tension. It also includes an expression input, so this pedal can easily switch between use as a true volume pedal or as an expression pedal.