Guitar Player (March 2008)
by Darrin Fox
From old school R&B and blues players to rockabilly cavemen and dance-band texturalists, tremolo is a go-to effect with myriad uses. Often confused with vibrato, with is pitch modulation, tremolo – a volume fluctuation – was introduced on various guitar amps in the late ’40s (most notably on Gibson and Premier models). In 1955, Fender introduced its first tremolo-equipped amp, the tweed-covered Tremolux. Guitarists soon discovered that whether you’re using trem for a fast, helicopter stutter, or a subtle ripple, it’s an amazing tool for adding sonic intrigue and texture without adding a bunch of fake goo to your sound. The pedals tested here run the gamut from butt-simple approximations of tube amp trem, to extremely involved feature-laden boxes with tap tempo and stereo outputs. For our tests, we used various Fender Strats and Telecasters, a Gibson Les Paul and SG, and a Hamer Talladega through a Fender Deluxe Reverb, a Savage Rohr, and a Cornford Carrera.
Demeter STRM-1 Stereo Tremulator
James Demeter’s first Tremulator pedal was built at the request of Ry Cooder 25 years ago, and the little box quickly became a hit in the burgeoning boutique pedal world. The STRM-1 Stereo Tremulator is the logical evolution of this ground-breaking trem, as it’s basically the same proven unit, except in stereo. Sporting separate Depth controls for each output, the STRM-1 also offers a Sync control that allows the trem’s pulse to undulate in mono (in sync), or bounce between the two amplifiers in a stereo setup (out of sync). You also get a Phase switch, as well as two recessed trimpots that fine tune the amount of depth the effect offers. The STRM-1 is preset with a classic triangle wave shape, the same as Cooder’s Fender Twin Reverb.
Sonically, the Demeter is outstanding. All of your guitar’s character comes through, and the pedal delivers a slight +3dB boost to put the effect up in the mix. Although it works fine as a mono trem pedal, a stereo setup is the only way to really behold its wonders. The separate Depth functions allowed me to go as crazy or as subtle as I wanted. For instance, set the Sync switch to Out with the Depth controls cranked, and the pulse bounces between the amps with a hammer-like ferocity. Dial back the Depth, or offset them a bit, and the trem ripples back and forth with a wonderful three-dimensional shimmer. In fact, with the Phase and Sync switches set to Out, I conjured a drippy, liquid-like effect that bordered on psychedelic. There are a lot of sounds to be found in this bad boy, and the more you get into it, the more you will discover.
Functions: Dual depth controls, triangle wave, two bias adjustments trimpots.
Kudos: Dual Depth controls make for a lush stereo spectrum.