Although firmly sitting in the utilitarian category of stompboxes, the best volume pedals can actually help you be more creative, as well as give you more control over your sound. Used properly a volume pedal can add swells that bloom beautifully, or even add choppy, tremolo-esque tones to your arsenal. They can also add another layer of drive by boosting your signal further, giving you more hands-free control over your playing.
There are quite a few different volume pedals to choose from nowadays, and there are many considerations you should take into account before you pull the trigger and buy one. Do you need an active or passive pedal? Can it handle volume and expression pedal duties? Do you need a buffer to ensure a strong tone continues onwards to the rest of your pedals and amp?
If you’re not sure about any of the above, definitely check out the buying advice section below to make sure you get the right pedal for your setup. If you already know your stuff, proceed onwards to see the very best volume pedals available today…
Matt is a Junior Deals Writer at Guitar World and has been playing guitar as his main instrument for well over 20 years. He also plays drums, bass, and keys – producing out of his home studio in Manchester, UK. He has previously worked for Dawsons Music, Northwest Guitars, and freelanced for various magazines and blogs, writing reviews, how-to's, and features. When he's not downloading the latest VSTs or justifying yet another guitar pedal purchase, you'll find him making a racket with Northern noise hounds JACKALS.
Best volume pedals: The quick list
We'll admit that the Lehle Mono Volume Pedal isn't cheap, but if you want something that's a smooth operator, low noise and will stand the test of time, it doesn't get better than this.
This multi-role pedal covers both volume and tuning duties, making the Ernie Ball VPJR one of the most versatile volume pedals out there. We love the multiple color options too.
A passive volume pedal saves you a precious slot on your pedalboard power supply, which makes the Boss FV-500H a fantastic choice for the power-hungry guitar player.
With its ergonomic treadle, the Mission Engineering VM-1 Aero is a volume pedal for the future, equally at home whether you play standing up or sitting down.
Volume pedals take up a lot of room, so if you've got a busy 'board, then the DOD Mini Volume won't encroach too much on your setup, whilst still providing top-tier performance.
The best volume pedals available today
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Here you'll find full write ups and reviews of the best volume pedals available today. Many of these have been tested first hand by our expert writing team here at Guitar World, so you can rely on our recommendations.
If you want the best of the best, the Lehle Volume Pedal is about as good as it gets. Combining precise control with fantastic build quality and some handy extra features, this powerful pedal takes a different approach from its competitors, producing excellent results.
Unlike most volume pedals which use a potentiometer, the Lehle design features a magnet-controlled VCA, which offers much improved performance. Instead of the many moving parts of a potentiometer, this pedal only moves a magnet, with a sensor measuring the distance. This means increased control and no hissing or humming sounds.
We’ll admit it’s expensive for a volume pedal. But it works phenomenally well. There’s no signal loss at all and no noise that we could perceive either. The gain knob takes you from -92dB all the way to +10dB, offering a hefty boost if you need it. There’s also a direct out if you want to run two amps or into a DI when playing live.
Best for versatility
Taking volume pedals firmly into the future, the Ernie Ball VPJR features touchscreen functionality and a tuner to help you save space on your pedalboard. With a rugged build quality and a range of colors, it’s a great choice as a multi-role pedal for your ‘board.
The touchscreen display is incredibly bright, so there won’t be any issues seeing it on dark stages. With the heel down it displays the tuner and once you start moving it upwards it tells you a volume level, with 10 displaying the toe fully up position. Think of it as a speed-o-meter for your sound.
A double tap on the screen opens up options for running it as a volume pedal or tuner only, but most players will run it in the dual tuner/volume setting. It also allows you to set your reference for the tuner and set the treadle as a volume or gain control. A built-in FX loop just adds to the functionality, making the VPJR one of the most versatile volume pedals out there.
Read the full Ernie Ball VPJR review
Best passive pedal
If you’re short on pedalboard power supply outs, then the Boss FV-500H allows you to add a volume pedal to your setup without having to sacrifice a valuable power out. Housed in an aluminum die-cast body, as with all Boss pedals it’s a rugged bit of kit that will put up with plenty of abuse.
As well as handling volume duties the FV-500H doubles as an expression pedal, so you can use it to control swells on your favorite reverb pedal. It’s got an adjustable torque feature to control the feel too, accessible by turning the adjustment screw on the bottom panel with a Phillips screwdriver.
A separate tuner out is available, although depending on your setup, you may want to run your tuner in front of the pedal. To get the best out of a passive volume pedal, you need to ensure you have some kind of buffered pedal before it in the chain. Most guitarists would use a buffered tuner here, although anything can suffice depending on how you run your particular pedals.
Best for comfort
The Mission Engineering VM-1 Aero takes volume pedal design a step further by making it just as comfortable to use standing up as it is sitting down. Great for use at home, it’s a ruggedly built unit that will certainly put up with abuse on the gigging circuit too.
We absolutely love the curved heel of the VM-1 Aero’s treadle and the sweep of it’s movement feels super smooth. An isolated tuner output is a nice feature, activated by pressing it fully into the toe-up position, much like you would with a wah pedal.
There is a power supply input and a battery compartment, but this is exclusively to power the LED base of the pedal, which lights up to let you know what mode it’s in. It can be green or blue to indicate volume control, whilst it lights up red when the tuner output is activated.
Best compact pedal
If you’re like us and you’ve got too many pedals on your ‘board, then the DOD Mini Volume is the perfect choice for adding a volume pedal to your setup. Not only is it tiny, but it doesn’t require a valuable power supply out either.
We’ve got to say the DOD Mini Volume looks fantastic and whilst it’s very simple, it does exactly what you need it to. Despite the small treadle, it still feels like the full sweep of a regular-sized volume pedal, which is no mean feat from DOD.
Because of the increased resistance and smaller treadle size, this means you get a bit of a calf workout when using it over long periods of time, but you quickly get used to it. A treble bleed circuit built into the pedal ensures there are no high-end losses when you ramp the volume down, making this a fantastic option for space-strapped players.
Best budget pedal
If you’ve been scrolling through this article and raising your eyebrows at some of the pricing, then the Behringer FCV100 will offer you some solace. As with most Behringer gear, it’s priced exceptionally low, making it the perfect option for players on a budget.
It functions as a dual volume/expression pedal and can operate one stereo instrument or two mono instruments if you wish. The treadle angle is absolutely huge too which some players find a little uncomfortable when playing standing up, although it does give you a lot of control over the sweep of your foot.
It’s made of plastic but feels very sturdy, certainly hardy enough to put up with live shows. A minimum volume setting lets you use it as a gain control or as a pure volume control, and it will take either a 12v power supply or a 9v battery for power. For the money, you’ll be hard-pressed to find such a feature-rich pedal for your volume control needs.
The template for the Morley 20/20 Volume Plus is similar to their renowned wah pedals, with a triangular treadle that features controls at the heel end. It’s a design that works fantastically well, so it makes sense to do the same with their volume pedals.
The 20/20 Volume Plus is optical, so instead of a potentiometer to measure where the treadle is, it uses an LED and an LDR (light-dependent resistor) which means no moving parts that can fail. It also gives the Volume Plus an exceptionally smooth feel that’s perfect for those violin-esque swells.
A minimum volume knob lets you use it to control either the volume or as more of gain control, and there’s a handy minimum volume off switch that you can use as an instant boost. The glow-in-the-dark logo on the treadle means you’ll never miss it on a dark stage, and we love the space-saving design too.
Serving a dual purpose as a volume and expression pedal, the Dunlop DVP3 Volume X features the same rugged housing as their famed wah pedals. With plenty of functionality on offer, it’s a versatile bit of kit that can do a lot for your pedalboard.
The transition from silence to full volume is lovely and smooth, with a screw beneath the heel end of the casing to adjust the torque to your liking. With the use of a TRS cable, you can use it to control any pedal with an expression input, making it great for manipulating delay times and creating reverb swells.
In expression mode you can reverse the heel-up and toe-down functions, adding an extra bit of flexibility you won’t find on many other volume pedals. The minimum value for your volume is adjusted via an internal potentiometer which is awkward to access, but typically once you’ve set this you aren’t likely to need to do it again.
Best volume pedals: Buying advice
What is a volume pedal used for?
A volume pedal is a way of controlling the volume of your guitar without using your volume knob or the master volume on your amplifier. They can be used in a variety of ways, either to control your overall volume, control how much gain goes to your amplifier, or create swells like the sound of a violin.
Of course, you can use your volume knob to do the same job, but it’s quite hard to keep playing and manipulating your volume control at the same time. A volume pedal makes it much easier to manipulate your sound without having to stop playing.
Should I get a volume pedal or an expression pedal?
It all depends on what you want to achieve. A volume pedal looks very similar to an expression pedal, but they both do very different things. Where a volume pedal controls your volume, an expression pedal can be calibrated to manipulate a lot of different things. You can use one to change particular settings on the fly, for example ramping up the amount of repeats on a delay pedal or the time setting on a reverb pedal.
Some volume pedals also double as expression pedals, which can be super handy if you're tight on space. Volume pedals with expression functionality will usually have an output marked ‘exp’, but if you’re in doubt check out the manufacturer's website or the manual to confirm whether or not your selected pedal can do both.
Do volume pedals need a power supply?
Not all volume pedals need a power supply depending on their type. A passive pedal type gets its power in a similar way to your electric guitar pickups, so it doesn’t need to take a valuable slot on your pedalboard power supply. An active volume pedal requires a battery or an external power source to work.
Does a volume pedal affect tone?
Depending on the design, some volume pedals have been known to give the dreaded ‘tone suck’, or to affect the high end of your signal. To understand how this works, you first need to decipher the difference between a passive and an active volume pedal.
Passive pedals don’t have their own power, so they often don’t often play nice with guitars that have active pickups. If a passive pedal has a separate tuner output it can cause some tone loss, as the signal gets split between the two outputs. You can sometimes offset this by placing a pedal with a buffer, like many Boss pedals, in front of the volume pedal to provide a stronger signal.
With active volume pedals, you won’t have this issue. They get their power from a pedalboard power supply and typically have a buffer built in which separates the input signal from the output signal. This means you don’t get any tone loss with an active volume pedal.
How we choose the best volume pedals
At Guitar World, our writing team of experienced musicians are deeply entrenched in the world of guitar gear. With years of playing and rigorous product testing behind us, we bring a depth of understanding that comes from real word experience with musical equipment. Our dedication spans every facet of the musical journey, from live performances to studio sessions, forming the basis for our expertly curated recommendations across various categories.
In the pursuit of identifying the best volume pedals in the market, we embark on a meticulous selection process. This involves a fusion of practical experience, insights gleaned from user reviews, and extensive deliberations within our editorial team. This comprehensive approach ensures a well-rounded evaluation, providing a trustworthy guide for you to base your next purchase on.
As passionate guitarists, our primary goal is to guide fellow players in discovering gear that perfectly aligns with their needs. Factors such as budget considerations, features, and the pedal's usability are all carefully weighed to compile a list that confidently represents the best volume pedals in the current musical landscape.