Maybe you’re not a volume pedal user. It’s OK, lots of bassists aren’t. But if, like me, you value having a volume pedal for things like volume swells and hands-free volume control, you may be pretty excited at the prospect of a volume pedal that offers supremely smooth feel and volume taper, adjustable output gain, a built-in buffer, and the build quality associated with anything Lehle puts their name on.
Over the years I’ve tried a handful of volume pedals. I used to think they were pretty much all the same, but the more I drilled down, the more I came to realize the subtle differences and shortcomings of different models. Besides the fact that some volume pedals take up a larger than necessary footprint on a crowded pedal board, I found certain ones have parts that wear out quickly and need to be serviced, due to the design. I found others to affect tone in ways that are not ideal, i.e. being too bright or having artificial highs, or, the dreaded “tone suck” (high-end rolloff and loss of general dynamics) that certain models are known for. Lehle, in their usual fashion of building a significantly better mousetrap, have gone a different route. Foregoing the usual potentiometer driven volume control, the Lehle Mono Volume uses a precise magnetic sensor, driving a VCA (voltage control amplifier). The result is a virtually wear-free volume pedal with super low signal to noise ratio, and exceptionally wide dynamic range.
In addition to the basic way it does its job, there are few other cool and different features of the Lehle Volume. It accepts a 9-15 volt signal, making it user friendly for pedal board power supplies, but the voltage is internally rectified up to 18v, to increase headroom. Additionally, there is a small knob to adjust output gain from 0dB to +10dB, which can be helpful for driving long signal chains, or just adding a bit of transparent oomph to your signal. Like most high-end volume pedals, you can control the “clutch” or tightness of the rocker hinge, affecting the feel of the pedal under your feet. I prefer a slightly stiffer feel, and the Lehle was able to provide that feedback without the stickiness or uneven friction I sometimes get with other pedals. Dual outputs including an affected and a direct output add some versatility and allow for some cool signal routing options.
There is something to be said for reinventing the wheel. The Lehle Volume shines because the various existing volume pedals each seem to have their own pro’s and con’s. For me, solid feel, reliability, and toneful-ness are the hallmarks of a ‘best of’ volume pedal. Lehle took it one step further by adding their fantastic buffer, some variable output gain, and flexible routing options. While volume pedals may not be a staple on every bass players pedal board, the Lehle makes a strong case for why they should be. I for one am spoiled, and would be hard pressed to go back to a passive, potentiometer driven model. If you’ve been thinking about trying a volume pedal, or are frustrated with your current volume pedal, I can’t think of a better model to suggest than the Lehle. Check out Lehle’s website for more info and pricing.