Tremolo effects have been around forever, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes the ZVex Sonar to mix things up. This pedal packs an unprecedented amount of sound shaping capabilities into it’s small, trademark ZVex enclosure. Is it the best tremolo guitar pedal out there? We hope to answer that question for you in our ZVex Sonar review.
We’ll run down the features of this pedal and dive right in.
Volume knob for adjusting volume level.
Speed knob for manually controlling tempo.
Duty knob for controlling peak audio duration, the “on” portion of tremolo.
Delta knob for controlling rate of change in “Arrow Up/Down Modes”.
Hidden Control modes for Attack, Release, and Depth controls accessed by pressing and holding Tap Tempo switch and turning Speed, Duty, and/or Delta knobs.
Clean/Machine toggle switch for selecting built-in ZVex Machine circuit.
Tap Tempo 3-way toggle switch for selecting 1x, 2x, or 4x tempo rate.
Arrow Up/Down toggle switch for selecting direction of auto parameter change and also selects which parameters are being changed.
Tap Tempo footswitch for setting tempo.
Bypass footswitch for effect On/Off.
Powered by 9-Volt battery or Boss-style power adapter.
Sound & Performance:
I must say that ZVex really went all out with this pedal. While many other tremolo pedals give you just the most basic control of your tremolo sound, the ZVex Sonar offers surprisingly deep customization for such a small pedal.
While the range of basic tremolo effects are readily accessible through this pedal’s four knobs and their alternate functions, the Sonar lets you sculpt the perfect throbbing pulse or heavily chopped stab. At extreme Depth settings no sound escapes the wall of silence. At lower levels you can achieve the smoothest tremolo effect for breathing waves of sound.
The most essential feature for me is the tap tempo function. This offers precise timing of the effect, and most importantly, the Sonar always resets back to the beat when you engage the effect. The Tap Tempo allows you to really lock in to the beat for rhythmic pulsing. You can even set the rate to be double or quadruple your tapped input. So if you’re tapping out quarter notes, you can output eighth or sixteenth notes.
If you want vintage tremolo effects just use the manual Speed knob to find a setting that feels right. With a little adjustment of the Attack and Release settings, you’ll craft a smooth waveform for the perfect tremolo sound.
Aside from the in-depth customization, the ZVex Sonar packs in a few features that really set it apart from other tremolo pedals out there.
The Sonar features the all-original ZVex Machine circuit which adds a very interesting twist to this pedal. The magic comes from using the Machine setting in front of a distortion pedal or fuzz effect like the ZVex Fat Fuzz Factory or Fuzz Factory 7 pedals. While other distortion effects distort at the peaks and valleys of the waveform, the Machine distorts at the crossover. This creates a unique distortion sound that is impossible to ignore. Try the Machine setting for heavily chopped blasts of industrial noise. It’s intense in a good way.
The Arrow Up/Down functions are another exciting addition to the ZVex Sonar. With this setting you can have the Sonar automatically speed up or slow down the tremolo effect. Imagine hitting a chord at the end of a song and having it repeat at a fast speed, slowing gradually until on that last hit you bypass the pedal so it can finally ring out. Desktop users or keyboardists can even flip the switch back and forth to slow down or speed up the rate manually. Like the Machine function, the options this adds equals more icing on the cake to make for an exciting tremolo in the world of guitar pedals.
Let’s see the final result.
The ZVex Sonar is one of the best tremolo guitar pedals out there. With it’s deep programmability in such a small pedal, the Sonar will let you craft everything from classic to ultra-modern tremolo sounds. Tap tempo keeps it on the beat for syncing flawlessly to tight BPMs. The Machine function makes this pedal a beast for chopping up distorted guitar sounds. The Sonar does everything from subtle to extreme. If you’re looking for your new tremolo pedal, the ZVex Sonar should be at the top of the list.
That concludes our ZVex Sonar review. Thanks for reading.
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