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Unless you’ve got a wad of cash to spend on a boutique pedal, there aren’t too many options out there for tremolo. The Boss TR-2 has become the affordable standard, but it has its faults: volume drops and lack of features have led to plenty of complaints.
Enter Electro Harmonix’s Stereo Pulsar, a feature-rich tremolo pedal with enough tonal variety to made your head (and your guitar signal) spin. Part of EHX’s XO series of reissues, this analog stompbox features three knobs to control the depth, wave shape, and rate of your tremolo, along with a switch that changes the wave form from triangle to square. As its name suggests, the Stereo Pulsar has two outputs, so you can run it into two amps for spacey stereo madness.
Without question, the Pulsar’s greatest strength is its versatility. The waveform switch and Shape knob allow for a seemingly endless variety of LFO’s, from the sharp square wave to the rough sawtooth and the watery, smooth triangle. And whatever waveform you choose, the analog circuit ensures that it’ll sound warm, rich, and vibrant.
The Depth knob is an interesting feature, as well. While most tremolo pedals would max out the effect with the Depth knob cranked all the way, the Pulsar reaches maximum tremolo at 2 o’clock. When you crank the depth knob past 2 o’clock, the pedal oscillates between positive and negative phase. The result of this is a bizarre, trippy ring mod effect that mangles your guitar signal in the best kind of way.
Like its competitor the TR-2, the Pulsar does not seem to be true bypass, but I haven’t noticed any issues with unwanted tone coloration. However, the Pulsar does have one frustrating weakness. The Rate knob is incredibly sensitive, which means that you’ll likely have a hard time setting your tremolo to a precise tempo. This is problematic for those looking for a more rhythmic tremolo effect. (For tremolo with tap tempo, check out the snazzy Empress Tremolo unit.)
[rating: 4.5] – Build Quality: 4.5
[rating: 5] – Sound Quality: 5
[rating: 5] – Features: 5
[rating: 4.5] – Ease of Use: 4.5
[rating: overall] – 4.75
Electro-Harmonix delivers again! The Pulsar’s wide tonal variety, solid build quality, and straightforward interface put it well ahead of the more popular TR-2. Even with its touchy Rate knob, the Stereo Pulsar is the best tremolo unit out there for under $100. Bargain hunters and gearheads alike are sure to love this great reissue of an EHX classic.