TRM-1 | Guitar Player (January 1993)

Everyone knows that next to wah-wah and reverb, tremolo is the world's coolest effect. Born in the wacky, sci-fi 1950s, the tremolo's psycho-pulse has found its way onto countless records. It was a key element in the big Bo Diddley sound. The Tremulator is a pocket-sized tremolo stomp box that's managed to endear itself to many of us at GP. The unit is about the size of an MXR Distortion+, and features depth and speed knobs, an LED status indicator, and a mini-phone plug battery-eliminator jack.

The Tremulator shows Demeter's exceptional attention to detail. Inside its steel case, a small, densely packed PC board is connected by neatly soldered wiring (some of it shielded) to high quality pots, jacks, and the footswitch. A board-mounted trimpot allows you to adjust the time-on and time-off ratio. This alters the way the tremolo sounds and feels. James Demeter informs us that the units are preset to Ry Cooder's favorite trimpot tweak.

Everyone who's tried the Tremulator has something good to say about it. Undoubtedly, the highest compliment: One tester claimed to hear no difference between the Tremulator and his ultra-high-end T.C. 2290's tremolo. The Tremulator really preserves the lopsided pulse that keeps it from sounding like an oscillator. We did an A/B comparison of the Tremulator and a '66 Fender Vibro Champ with state-of-the-art tremolo. Here's what we found: For starters, neither system creates completely on/off tremolo. Both keep some signal present even at full intensity settings. The Champ has a narrower range of tremolo speeds; the Tremulator can go much slower or much faster. The Fender, however, has a low-speed juiciness and note detail that the Tremulator has a tough time matching. At higher speeds, the differences are negligible. Of course, the Champ has the advantage of its tremolo circuit being located after the input stage, not to mention its tube conditioning of the sound. The solid-state Tremulator, patched into an amp's front end, is at a disadvantage here. We'd recommend using the Tremulator in an effects loop, if your amp has one.

Overall, the Tremulator gets darn high marks. It sounds much better than the tremolo on a favorite '64 Super Reverb we use a lot onstage. It also sounds as good or better than 99% of the tremolos in both the new and old amps we regularly encounter. If you're searching for a tremolo stomp box that sounds believable, look no further: This tough little guy is where the train stops.