Best Volume Pedals of 2020 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

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The ability to play lead and rhythm guitar requires the ability to control your guitar’s volume.

You need to play along with the band while accompanying and playing rhythm. When it is time to take the lead and stand out, you need more volume so the audience can hear you above the band. The volume pedal makes it all possible.

In this article, we will help you understand what a volume pedal can do and detail some of the best on the market to make your decision easier. 

Comparison of the Best Volume Pedals

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Passive signal in
  • Best guitar pedal overall
  • Has a taper switch for two swell rates
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  • Sturdy, solid built
  • Best for any high-impedance instruments
  • Extremely versatile – swell, diminish or adjust the output level
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  • Best pedal for the money
  • Versatile – both for guitar and bass players
  • Tiny-sized, long-lasting lightweight construction
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  • Fully adjustable rocker tension
  • Internal controls for effect parameter
  • Aluminum chassis and non-slip tread
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  • Best volume pedal for swells
  • Can control volume and panning
  • Both active/passive signals due to 500k ohm resistance
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What is a Volume Pedal and What is it Used For?

A volume pedal takes your maximum volume and lowers it. That makes it possible to play loudly enough to be heard during solos, while toning it down for playing within a band. It looks just like a classic Wah pedal. You have a flat surface upon which you place your foot and rock forward or backward to adjust the sound level.

Most volume pedals are relatively simple in design and construction. You have a potentiometer that the foot pedal adjusts. A minimum volume knob controls the lows. Your guitar and amp control the maximum volume. That makes it a lot easier to use to adjust your volume by soaring dramatically from low to high volume. You can play at exactly the volume you prefer, yet another layer to your unique playing style.

These also come with input and output jacks to maintain the signal path from the guitar to the amp. Many also include a jack for connecting other pedals. The volume pedal then becomes an expression pedal that lets you control and nuance the sounds coming from other pedals. Others offer stereo ability with a jack for a second guitar and another for a second amp. Many volume pedals also have an additional power jack to let you power a tuner pedal next to them.

How to Choose a Volume Pedal

A volume pedal does more than simply adjust the sound coming from your guitar. It can provide many nuanced effects that make it truly important for many guitarists. Here are some commonly desired traits to look for in a good volume pedal.

Enhances Tonal Varieties

A volume pedal can create swells, greater sustain, and work with other pedals to better nuance your tone to create your own unique sound.

Pick Passive or Active Electronics

You have the choice of passive or active pedals. A passive option does not need a power source. That makes it a lot easier to use and move within the pedal chain to find your ideal location.

Sturdy Construction Holds up Over Time

Any volume pedal that you choose must have a sturdy metal body to last many years under heavy use. A higher impedance rating will give you more options on placing it exactly where you want it in the signal chain, too. 

Fits Your Budget

You can spend a little or a lot on any accessory. The best way to pick one for yourself is to choose a maximum budget, know what you want it to do, and buy one that suits both. 

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Volume Pedals

Many of the top names in the guitar business make volume pedals. A wide variety can make it harder to pick the best ones. We analyzed many of the best and have listed them below.

Ernie Ball VP Jr. P06180 250K Potentiometer for Passive Electronics

PROS

  • Makes for a great expression pedal
  • Gives you more control over feedback
  • It is passive, so it does not need a power supply
  • Micro taper switch lets you pick how it responds to your foot inputs
  • Stainless steel pivot shaft and springs help make it exceptionally sturdy

CONS

  • Open design with the electronics exposed
  • Some owners said an internal string is prone to breaking but is easy to replace with a Kevlar string

What Recent Buyers Report

Most report they are very happy with the volume control, swells, and expressive abilities provided by the Ernie Ball VP Jr. The taper switch gives you more control over the exponential potentiometer, which lets you adjust it to better match your playing style and needs. An open bottom and broken internal strings are the primary concerns of owners.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a great option that really does a lot for a relatively affordable price. It truly adds many more colors to your playing palette and gives you even more for creativity. The passive electronics mean you do not have to dedicate a power source to it. Those who prefer an active pedal can buy one with active electronics.

Who Will Use This Most

Professional guitarists who want one pedal that adds a massive amount of playability to any pedalboard will appreciate this most. This truly becomes more useful the better your guitar playing gets by delivering longer sustains, greater swells, and more expressive playing.

Bottom Line

You get a dynamite value with a truly professional-grade volume pedal. It does pretty much anything you might want at an affordable price. The more you learn about all it can do and the more you learn to play, the more useful it will become.

BOSS Volume Pedal (FV-500H)

PROS

  • High-impedance output
  • Very small effect on tone
  • Bulletproof build with die-cast metal housing
  • Uses a sturdy metal blade to move the internal potentiometer
  • Expression output jack works with amps, effects, and other instruments

CONS

  • Big and heavy
  • Minor tone loss while in use

What Recent Buyers Report

The Boss FV-500H is an incredibly sturdy and well-designed volume pedal. Passive electronics mean you do not need a power source. High impedance lets you put it just about anywhere in the signal chain. A simple design makes it very durable and easy to use. It also lasts many years and withstands the rigors of touring duties.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Exceptional build quality, passive electronics, and the ability to use it as an expression pedal make the Boss FV-500H a very close rival to the top-rated Ernie Ball volume pedal. If it cost a little less, the Boss might have won the top position.

Who Will Use This Most

This item is not expensive, but it does cost more than most competing products. Guitar players who want a great volume pedal that literally lasts a lifetime will find it ideal. It does need more space than most other options. The passive electronics and high impedance enable limitless placement.

Bottom Line

The Boss FV-500H is an outstanding option. You get a simple, yet incredibly sturdy design that works flawlessly for many years. It does not need a power supply and doubles as an expression pedal. If you want a nearly flawless product that will last a lifetime, this is your baby.

SONICAKE VolWah Active Volume & Wah Expression Pedal

PROS

  • Active electronics
  • Compact mini design
  • Impact-resistant ABS construction
  • Works as a Wah and a volume pedal
  • No impedance mismatching between pedal functions

CONS

  • No power adapter provided
  • LED indicator lights are not easy to see

What Recent Buyers Report

This product works wonderfully, but the Wah can be a bit tricky to figure out at first. The LED lights that indicate when Wah and volume pedal both are in use are not easy to see on the mini pedal. The tonal difference should suffice, though. There is no noticeable signal degradation, and the ABS plastic case is thick and durable.

Why it Stands Out to Us

When you get two pedals for the price of one and both work well, you know you have a good product on your hands. The mini-pedal format is pedalboard-friendly but still works well for Wah and volume manipulations.

Who Will Use This Most

This is ideal for anyone looking to build a compact pedalboard made up mostly of mini pedals. Professionals likely already have a Wah and room for a separate volume pedal. Just about anyone else will find this great for delivering both abilities in a single unit that costs less than a new Wah pedal would.

Bottom Line

This is a great little pedal that is tougher than an ABS plastic-built one might have a right to be. This is perfect if you want a Wah and volume pedal and have neither. Even if you already have a Crybaby Wah or similar pedal, you can use it strictly as a volume pedal with the Wah as a backup.

Honorable Mention:
Dunlop EQ Effects Pedal

Jim Dunlop Volume (X) Pedal Guitar Effects Pedal (DVP3)

PROS

  • Heel or toe options
  • Sturdy aluminum body
  • Adjustable rocker tension
  • Patent-pending band drive
  • Separate expression and tuner jacks

CONS

  • Rubber pad sometimes comes loose
  • Very large at 5 inches wide and 12.5 inches long
What Recent Buyers Report

The volume pedal has great features. One of the best is that you can easily adjust the feel of the pedal and the increase the durability due to the fact that you do not have a string. It offers smooth actions and a lot of travel. It is a passive pedal that does not have any tone losses. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Dunlop EQ Effects Pedal offers the possibility of a smooth, quiet operation of your instrument. It is highly flexible in adjusting the rocker pedal tension. You can create extremely smooth and precise volume swells. These are all excellent features in a pedalboard-friendly, small volume pedal with a sturdy design. 

For the price, this well-rounded product has a great sound with minimal tone suck and an impressive set of features. It has a huge sweep, which means you can make long, gradual fades. Or, just loosen up the adjustable tension/resistance and you can fade more quickly.

The pedal is made of aluminum and features a thick rubber tread over the footswitch. It has an expression pedal output (so you can use it to control your Space Echo, DL4, or any pedal with an expression input), as well as a dedicated tuner output.

Despite what you may read in Amazon reviews, I have not personally experienced any hardware issues using this pedal. I've been using it on the road for about two years (often not very well secured in my pedalboard case) and haven't experienced a single issue. In fact, the taper mechanism is likely much sturdier than the single wire used on the VP JR (see below).

Who Will Use This Most 

This product is best for anyone who needs an option that is completely flexible and adjustable. Despite its affordable price, it is extremely reliable and offers complete control over the volume. It is perfect for Wah, volume, whammy, and other effects. 

Bottom Line

Overall, this is perfect for anyone who enjoys being in control. It is fully customizable and does not require any power outlet (all you need to do is just plug it in). It is versatile and one of the best assets for musicians. The core feature is its adjustability for tension and its solid design. 

Best Volume Pedal for Swells:
Ernie Ball 500k Stereo Volume/Pan Pedal

Ernie Ball 500k Stereo Volume/Pan Pedal

PROS

  • Mono and stereo outputs
  • Separate pan mode delivers more potential uses
  • Stereo out jack and panning between A and B outputs
  • Extruded aluminum body is more durable than cast aluminum
  • Dual potentiometer and 500k ohm resistance work with passive or active guitars and other instruments

CONS

  • Large -size to accommodate the entire foot
  • Open bottom leaves electronics exposed

What Recent Buyers Report

This is a solidly built product that will last most players a lifetime. It works great with multiple effects pedals or as a stand-alone. The stereo and pan features really add to live performances.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You get a bulletproof item with stereo capability without degrading your guitar tone. You can use it to pan between two sources. It works equally well with passive or active instruments. It is a great pedal for live gigs, studio recording, or just practicing at home.

Who Will Use This Most

This is ideal for touring pros who do not want to spend a massive amount of money. It works equally well on stage or in the studio to lay down your favorite tracks. Intermediate players also will find it very useful for learning and growing as a guitarist.

Bottom Line

You get a lot of bang for your buck. You get superior tonal and volume control with the additional benefits of swells, panning, stereo, and so much more.

PROS

  • Adjustable height
  • Incredibly sturdy aluminum construction
  • Measures pedal angle instead of using a potentiometer
  • Adjustable multi-taper feature helps you dial in the pedal
  • Toolbox software modifies tapers with new programming

CONS

  • Only supports mono
  • More than double the cost of the next-highest-priced option on the list

What Recent Buyers Report

Nine taper options make is possible to get outstanding volume swells and response. Smoothest action of any volume pedal thanks to the angle measurement system. Improves tonal quality, is highly durable, and adds subtle harmonics that improve sound output.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a truly professional-grade volume pedal that works unlike any other. The software updates and nine optional tapers make this one of the best items ever made. A very high purchase price will be the biggest barrier for most guitar players.

Who Will Use This Most

This is not for newbies, but only because it is incredibly expensive. It appeals most to professional guitarists. Guitarists who play mostly at home or gig once in a while, and who do not mind spending the extra money for a software-enabled volume pedal will love this one.

Bottom Line

If it were not for a price that is more than double any other options on our list, this just might be the best of the bunch. If you want a product that truly improves sound quality and do not mind paying the price, this definitely is a great product to add to the collection.

Pros and Cons of Volume Pedals

Different volume pedals do different things. In general, though, most offer some standard benefits. The biggest is the ability to adjust your playing volume to match the band.

When you play rhythm, your guitar naturally is louder. That is because you are playing multiple amplified strings.

Soloing typically uses fewer strings and produces lower volume at the amp. Your volume pedal helps your playing stand out more and be heard. You also can use this as an expression pedal, which really nuances your playing.

SONICAKE Wah/Volume Guitar Pedal

Pros

  • Quickly adjust for lead or accompaniment volumes
  • Enables greater sustain
  • Can double as an expression pedal
  • Passive models do not need a power supply

Cons

  • Takes up space
  • Models with low impedance are more limited

Some options are more limited on where you can place them in your signal chain. Those pedals have low impedance and do not have the juice to send a strong signal through other effect pedals. That makes it important to place volume pedals with low impedance at or near the end of the effects chain to get the best results.

How to Use a Volume Pedal

The way you use your volume pedal depends on what it can do and where you place it in the chain. If you run the signal from the guitar into the volume pedal and then into the effects chain, it acts as a gain control. Instead of adjusting the volume knob on the guitar, you use the pedal to enhance the effect. 

When you place the volume pedal after the effects, it becomes more of a level control. You get the same gain or effect, but you can change the volume. That enables you to do swells and facilitates a tremolo effect. It also makes it possible to adjust the volume heading into the signal chain at the guitar, and then adjust it again with the pedal at the end for more expressive playing.

Conclusion

The volume pedal is a truly outstanding effect pedal that does more than simply control your playing volume. Experienced players can use it to play swells, add sustain, and provide more nuances to their playing style. The investment price can be small and the returns very large with a quality product added to your chain.

People Also Ask

A volume pedal does a relatively simple task but in many different ways. A good product also has other things it can do besides controlling signal volume. The following are some commonly asked questions and their answers. 

What is the Difference Between Active and Passive Volume Pedals?

Active volume pedals have either a nine-volt battery or a standard nine-volt power adapter as a power source. Passive volume pedals do not have separate power sources and instead use the power provided within the signal chain. An active volume pedal gives you more control over the volume’s fidelity.

Does a Volume Pedal Need Power?

You need a direct power source if you have an active volume pedal but not if it is a passive model. A passive model will pull power from the signal chain's main power source and does not need a dedicated source of power. 

Can I Use a Volume Pedal as an Expression Pedal?

A volume pedal works well as an expression pedal when placed after the effect. If you have an expression jack, you can plug in a particular effects pedal and use the volume pedal to better express the tone without affecting the other effects in your signal chain.

Ernie Ball VP Jr. P06180

Do You Need a Volume Pedal?

No one truly needs any effect pedal. Each accessory you add should truly nuance your playing style. That is what this type of pedal does well. It gives you practical control.

What is the Difference Between an Expression Pedal and a Volume Pedal?

A volume pedal controls one thing only – the volume. It can double as an expression pedal when situated after an effects pedal, though. It alters the tone, just as it does the volume coming through the signal pathway.

Where to Put a Volume Pedal?

When you put a volume pedal at the front of the signal chain, it controls the signal level entering the effect pedals. If you are happy with the effect pedals and do not want to change their sound, put it at the end of the signal chain. When you do that, using it is akin to adjusting the volume knob on the amp. A product with a low impedance level does not have the power to send the signal through the path without degrading. In that case, the volume pedal always goes at the end of your pedal chain.

Where to Put Volume Pedal For Swells?

You can get great swell effects if properly positioned. The volume pedal needs to be positioned after your distortion and overdrive pedals and ahead of your time-related effects pedals, such as a delay or a reverb pedal. That enables a longer trail and greater sustain from the reverb and delay pedals.

Can You Use a Volume Pedal as an Attenuator?

An attenuator makes it possible to push your tube amp to distortion levels without upsetting your neighbors. It goes directly between the head and the speaker or cabinet. The attenuator’s position makes using a volume pedal nearly impossible for that tonal task.