EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 Review – Best “Choppy” Tremolo Pedal?


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Rating:
4.5
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Last modified:December 3, 2016

Summary:

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-01

The EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 is the third iteration of the Ohio-based company’s “repeat percussion” tremolo pedal. This pedal is a bit different than your standard trem, offering a harder sawtooth chop and slower to ridiculously fast Rate speeds for a pedal that evokes the sound of a tiny hummingbird’s flapping wings… if those wings were a whirlwind of sonic machete blades chopping your guitar signal into fragments of stuttering chaos. Yes, the Hummingbird V3 is a deceptively unassuming little pedal with massive potential to disrupt and augment your sound in serene and psychedelic ways. You’ll find out if you need to make a cozy pedalboard nest for it in our EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 review.

Features:

  • Depth knob: Controls amount of modulation from barely there to full signal chop at full bore.
  • Rate knob: Controls the speed of the LFO. Clockwise for faster, counterclockwise for slower.
  • Level knob: Controls the signal input level which ultimately controls the output level. Clockwise for more, counterclockwise for less.
  • Mode flip-switch: Three way toggle switch which selects the range of the oscillator. Mode 1 is slow, mode 2 is mid tempo and mode 3 is fast.
  • Expression Jack: Use an expression pedal to adjust the rate with your foot! When an expression pedal is in use the Rate control is defeated. We recommend the Moog EP-2 expression pedal. 
  • True bypass for letting for signal pass unaffected when disengaged.
  • Power: powered by 9VDC power adapter (10mA)

Hummingbird V1 vs V2 vs V3

Here’s a brief history of what’s changed in the evolution of the Hummingbird. The original V1 “Hummingbird Repeat Percussions” was dead-simple in operation, featuring just a single Rate knob and a “Flutter” or “Flap” flip-switch for increasing the speed range of the pedal. The “Flutter” setting was generally for slower “choppy” trem sounds while the extreme “Flap” setting allowed the pedal to venture into psuedo-ring-mod tones at high Rate settings, a trademark of the Hummingbird’s sound. The Hummingbird V2 added a couple incredibly useful functions, a Depth knob for making the trem softer and a Level knob for adjusting output level. A Mode switch still allowed selection from 2 different Rate speed ranges.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-02The Hummingbird V3 has 4 noticeable improvements over the V2. First, expression pedal control now allows real-time Rate modulation. The Mode switch now has 3 selectable Rate speed ranges. The Depth knob can now reduce the trem depth entirely, making this pedal double as a JFET clean boost when no trem is called for. And a final little improvement that happened was EarthQuaker’s transition to top-mounted audio jacks. If you’re not using the exp pedal control you’ll benefit from having a little extra space on the sides of the Hummingbird V3 for squeezing it onto cramped pedalboards.

The inside is clean and simple and appears solidly built (as are such things made one at a time on a gilded cloud in Akron, Ohio). The few of you that still use batteries to power your guitar pedals might complain about the lack of battery option, despite there being room for one inside, but let’s face it, most guitarists use power supplies as they’re essentially for powering up a whole pedalboard of any reasonable size. But this is a sturdy bird and will most likely serve you well as EQD pedals are known to do.

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Sound & Performance:

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-03The Hummingbird V3 is something a little different from your standard tremolo pedal. While tremolo sounds are often characterized by their smooth volume pulsing, the Hummingbird pedals from EarthQuaker have always been known for their more aggressive, squared chopping of your audio signal. The Hummingbird V3 is actually a bit more versatile in this department as its Depth control will let you rein in the intensity of the trem for a smoother feel, although it’s still generally more prominent that a sine wave LFO tremolo. If you’re familiar with the harder, percussive trem sounds of a Vox Repeat Percussion or 60’s bulb & photo-resistor tremolos, you’ll understand the general idea of what to expect from the Hummingbird V3.

The Mode switch is probably the most essential little control here as it lets you set the speed range of the Rate knob. Basically, 1 is for slower speed Rate settings, 2 is for medium and faster tempos, and 3 goes from fast to mind-bendingly warped as a sub oscillating tone creeps into your signal at higher speeds. (More about the trippy sounds in a moment.) There’s a bit of crossover range in each Mode setting, so each can cover a wide speed range when you need it to.

My favorite setting is Mode 3 as this produces some wildly bizarre sounds as you crank the Rate past noon. As the sub tone creeps in you can actually turn the Rate knob to tune it to create a resonating drone under your playing. I’d also recommend trying the Hummingbird V3 before and after distortion to hear how it affects your sound. While I normally keep a tremolo pedal placed later in my signal chain, it also sounds interesting when you feed the oscillating drone infused signal into a distortion pedal or an overdrive amplifier. This is another reminder to experiment to see what interesting sounds you can find.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-04One one of the biggest selling points of the Hummingbird V3 is the expression pedal controlled Rate. I plugged in a Moog EP-3 expression pedal for my demonstration purposes. (EarthQuaker Devices recommends Moog pedals, and our Mission Engineering EP-1 & Roland EV-5 were indeed incompatible.) You can rock the exp pedal to set the pedal to different tempos, but sweeping through the pedal’s sweep to modulate the tremolo speed in real-time is where the real fun is. Again, Mode 3 is especially cool for going in and out of those crazy ring-mod sounds.

Another subtle but huge selling point of the Hummingbird V3 is that it functions as a JFET clean boost. While you may not want to use the choppy trem effects throughout a set, by turning down the Depth all the way counterclockwise the trem pulse is removed, and you can use the Level to set your degree of boost. Unity is somewhere around the 10-11 o’clock ballpark, and this pedal can get very loud as you go past noon and beyond.

My only major gripe is that a visual Rate LED indicator would have been nice as some of EarthQuaker Devices’ other pedals (like the Disaster Transport SR) have this feature. Of course, this extra implementation might have increased the Hummingbird V3’s very competitive asking price a little. The only other concern is that this type of percussive tremolo may not be for everyone, but if you like quirky variations on a classic effect, the Hummingbird V3 is worth checking out. And if you’re a fan of EQD’s outlandish Rainbow Machine, Organizer, Arpanoid, or Bit Commander pedals, you definitely might be adding this emerald colored gem to your pedalboard. And since the boost is solid, that will help give it some extra utility on your board.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 is an inspiring pedal for guitarists with a taste for choppy tremolo and strange sonic textures. And this pedal doubles as a JFET clean boost when not trem is called for, adding extra value this slot on your pedalboard. Expression pedal control makes real-time Rate modulation possible, and 3 selectable ranges of the Rate speed add to the versatility. The Hummingbird V3 is yet another example of the kinds of unique pedals that set EarthQuaker Devices apart from any other pedal builder in the world today.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 review. Thanks for reading.

 

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And check out our list of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals!

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