In this Ernie Ball VP Jr Volume Pedal Review, I will guide you through all the main features of this pedal, as well as look into a few alternatives that could adapt to your needs better than the Ernie Ball. Bear in mind that this review focuses on the 250K version. There is a 25k version that is more suitable to be used with line-level signals such as the ones found on keyboards. The 250K version is meant to be used with instrument-level signals, such as the ones from guitars.
When I started playing the guitar and getting into effect pedals, there were a few that I thought I would never buy because I couldn’t see the point of getting them. One of those was a volume pedal, but years later, I see that I could not have been more wrong. Nowadays, I love having one on my pedalboard, as I have found out that it has limitless applications, whether I’m at home, at the studio, or in a live performance.
Obviously, they can control your overall volume, but many of them can be used as expression pedals, and their placement on the signal chain will also affect how the pedal will interact with the rest of your rig.
Bottom Line Up Front: The Ernie Ball VP Jr is a great candidate for any player who is looking to get a sturdy and reliable pedal that offers excellent precision when adjusting their volume. The fact that it can also be used as an expression pedal exponentially increases its value and versatility.
I have used mine both ways and I am very satisfied with the results. While it certainly can’t be called a “mini” pedal, it still has a manageable size for most pedalboards. It is passive, meaning that it does not require a power supply to be used.
A volume pedal is an amazing tool for any musician, and it can come in handy when studying at home, when rehearsing with the band, and also during live performances. Depending on what you wish to achieve with yours, you can place it in different positions within your signal chain, which will yield different results, especially when paired with overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals.
Don’t forget that you can also use the Tuner Out to remove your tuner pedal from the rest of the chain, although this might cause you to lose some of your tone’s high frequencies.
Ernie Ball VP Jr Volume Pedal Main Features
250k Ohm Impedance
This version of the Ernie Ball VP Jr features a 250k ohm impedance, specifically meant to be used with passive signals such as those from a guitar or a bass.
If you are intending to use your volume pedal with instruments that have an active signal (such as keyboards) you should look into volume pedals with an appropriate impedance value for them.
The Ernie Ball VP Jr is an extremely sturdy pedal made of aircraft-grade aluminum. It feels solid and apart from the string that can potentially break at an unexpected time, it is built to last for a lifetime of abuse.
The internal string on my pedal has broken once, and it left me quite worried because I had a gig the next day, but I was able to find a replacement kit at a nearby store and fix my pedal easily in the next few minutes. After that, I ended up buying one to keep in my guitar case for an emergency, but I still haven’t had to use it yet.
One useful addition to the Ernie Ball VP Jr is its tuner out feature. With it, you can connect your tuner pedal directly to the VP Jr, thus removing it from your signal chain and allowing you to have it constantly on.
One notable issue that some players experience is “tone suck” when they use the tuner out. This happens because of the changes in the overall resistance of your signal that takes place when you add a passive volume pedal to your chain. If you find that your sound becomes duller and darker when you use this configuration, a good solution is to place a buffered-bypass pedal with a nice buffer early in your chain or after the volume pedal.
If this is something that bothers you, you can also consider finding a good active volume pedal, which will not exhibit the same behavior. A great example would be the Lehle Mono Volume Pedal.
Micro Taper Switch
If you look inside the Ernie Ball VP Jr, you will find a micro taper switch that allows you to toggle between two different volume swell rates. It is located under the footplate, just behind the jack area.
On one side of the switch, you get a more linear, gradual fade-in of your sound as you go from the heel-down position to the toe-down position. On the other one, the overall sound stays quieter for a longer range of the pedal, and it gets more intense in the last part of the sweep.
Personally, I prefer using the first one, as I feel that it is easier for me to make precise adjustments to my volume regardless of the circumstances.
Although I wouldn’t classify it as a “mini pedal” like the Dunlop DVP4, the Ernie Ball VP Jr shows a 22% size reduction in comparison to its big brother, the original Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. It takes up about as much space as a Dunlop Crybaby or Vox V845 wah pedal.
If you are looking for the smallest option possible, there are more adequate pedals for you, but I still think that this one is very decently sized, and it feels very comfortable to use.
Complete Specifications of the Ernie Ball VP Jr Volume Pedal
You can take a look at the complete specifications of the Ernie Ball VP Jr below.
- Pedal Type: Volume
- Circuit Type: Passive
- Resistance: 250k ohm
- Dimensions: 2.4″ x 3.5″ x 10″
- Weight: 2 lbs
- Inputs: 1 x 1/4″
- Outputs: 1 x 1/4″ and 1 x 1/4″ Tuner Out
- Material: Billet aluminum housing, Kevlar cable and stainless steel spring
- Manufacturer Part Number: P06180
- Others: Taper switch that changes the volume reduction curve
Where Should I Place a Volume Pedal and How to Use It?
Although this pedal does something that should be very straightforward in theory, you can use a volume pedal in many different ways. Let’s take a look at some of my personal favorite approaches to them.
After Dirt Pedals and before Modulation, Delay and Reverb
The placement of a volume pedal in your signal chain is extremely important, as it is what will define how it will behave when you decrease the volume, cut it off, and bring it back in.
My favorite place to have my volume pedal is after all my dirt pedals (overdrive, distortion, fuzz), but before my modulation pedals (chorus, phaser, etc), delay and reverb.
Connecting it this way allows you to maintain your tone’s saturation when lowering your volume, as opposed to what happens when you roll off your guitar’s volume knob. Instead of cleaning up the sound as your volume decreases, you get the same thing at different levels.
The reason why I place it between my dirt pedals and the rest is that when you place delay and reverb after the volume pedal, the repetitions and reverb trails aren’t cut off when you are at the heel-down position. This greatly improves the pedal’s performance when playing volume swells and other ambient techniques that rely on long trails.
As the Last Pedal on the Signal Chain as a Master Volume
If instead of wanting to hear my delay repetitions and reverb trails when I have the pedal in the heel-down position, I want to have a master volume that I can control with my foot, then I will place the pedal at the very end of my signal chain. Doing this gives me total freedom and control over what is coming out of my amp, including noise from any other pedals in my signal chain.
Although this is not the configuration I have used the most over the years, I recognize that it can be very useful, so you should also give it a try when you have the chance. You can also achieve a similar effect by placing the volume pedal in your amplifier’s effects loop if it has one.
Before Dirt Pedals to Control Saturation
Placing a volume pedal before dirt pedals is probably my least favorite way to use it, but some players might have a good reason for using it, as it all depends on the context.
By placing it this early in the signal chain, when you start to lower the volume, your tone also gets less saturated, because all of your dirt pedals start getting less signal from your guitar’s pickups.
The reason why I don’t use this is that I can already achieve this effect by using the volume knobs on my guitars, so I would rather use the pedal for something I otherwise could not do. Again, it is perfectly possible that there are cases in which this technique could be useful, and it is always good to know it is there if you eventually need it.
Playing Volume Swells
One of the most popular techniques that can be used with this kind of pedal is playing volume swells.
It works by removing the sound of the pick attacking the strings by playing a note/chord with the pedal in its heel-down position (no volume) and then fading in the sound gradually. To further enhance this, there are many effects that players use in conjunction with the volume pedal, such as a compressor, delay, and reverb.
You can also achieve a similar effect by using the volume knob on your guitar (Jeff Beck does this a lot), but the sound will not be the same throughout the entire range of your volume knob, which is why using a pedal after your gain stages and before delay/reverb is so popular among players who like volume swells.
Pros and Cons of the Ernie Ball VP Jr
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Ernie Ball VP Jr to help you understand if this is the right volume pedal for you, or if you should be searching for one that features something that this one is lacking.
- Precision and Accuracy: The Ernie Ball VP Jr provides a smooth volume curve that you will adjust yourself to in a matter of minutes. Controlling your volume is easy and seamless, whether you are just making slight adjustments, or doing ambient swells. Inside the pedal, you’ll also find a taper switch that changes the volume reduction rate. Experiment with both modes to see which one adapts better to your playing style.
- Durability: I have many pedals which I consider to be well-built and resistant enough to take with me on the road, but the Ernie Ball VP Jr is in a different league. It is seriously built like a tank, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to someone who abuses their pedals when rehearsing and during gigs. The only thing I don’t love is the fact that the string can break unexpectedly, which puts you in a tricky spot. While it is not something that happens frequently by any means, I recommend carrying a spare replacement string just in case.
- Versatility: When I initially bought my VP Jr, my intention was obviously to use it as a volume pedal. However, I noticed that I could also use it as an expression pedal, something I had also never had before. I hooked it up to my delay pedals and I ended up using it like that for months! For a brief period, I was considering buying either another volume pedal or an expression pedal just to be able to have both of these features at the same time.
- Size: Even though Ernie Ball advertises the VP Jr as a downsized version of their original volume pedal, it isn’t the most compact volume pedal there is out there by far. While it is true that the first Ernie Ball volume pedal is a lot bulkier, nowadays many options are more suitable for those who are already running out of pedalboard space, such as the Dunlop Volume X DPV4.
- String Replacement: The Ernie Ball VP Jr features a couple of Kevlar strings and a spring that move the pot inside the pedal, thus giving you control over your volume. While these are resistant materials, they can break, and if that happens in an inconvenient situation, it can be a bit tricky to replace these components. Ernie Ball sells a replacement kit and provides the instructions for it, but it might be a good idea to carry one in your guitar’s bag just in case.
Other Volume Pedals You Should Check Out as Alternatives to the Ernie Ball VP Jr
The Ernie Ball VP Jr is great. It has been on my pedalboard for years and it has endured dozens of gigs without ever letting me down. However, spend a few minutes browsing online and you will notice that there are many other volume pedals with appealing features spanning a wide price range.
Maybe you want the smallest pedal possible, or maybe you want to have stereo ins and outs, so you should choose accordingly. Take a look at some of my personal favorite volume pedals below:
Electro-Harmonix Volume Pedal
The Electro-Harmonix Volume Pedal might not be my very first choice when it comes to this type of pedal, but it is very affordable and practical to carry around due to its lightweight design. It is also a passive unit, meaning that you don’t need to worry about plugging it into any power supply.
One noteworthy feature found in this pedal is a switch that lets you toggle its impedance between 25K and 250K, making it a more versatile pedal that can be used with passive and active instruments more conveniently, while Ernie Ball manufactures two separate versions. If you play the guitar but would also like to use it with keyboards, you should keep this feature in mind.
You can find the Electro-Harmonix Volume Pedal for a price of around $70.
DOD Mini Volume Pedal
The DOD Mini Volume Pedal is one of the best options for players who are looking for a small unit that won’t take up a lot of space in their pedalboard. It is roughly half the size of a normal-sized pedal such as the Ernie Ball VP Jr. Since it is passive, you don’t need to power it, but you might want to place a buffered pedal after it to compensate for any potential loss of high-frequencies.
It comes with a 3-year warranty, but its solid steel construction and gear drive should ensure that it endures everything you throw at it for a very long time. It comes with non-slip rubber pads, but you can remove them if you prefer to velcro it to your board.
You can buy the DOD Mini Volume Pedal for around $120.
Dunlop DVP4 Volume X Mini Pedal
The Dunlop DVP4 is hands-down one of my favorite volume pedals currently available on the market. It manages to gather a lot of appealing features without being sold for an excessively high price. Its chassis is made of aluminum, keeping the overall weight low.
Aside from adjusting your volume, it can also be used as an expression pedal. Using it is smooth and intuitive, thanks to its non-slip tread and Dunlop’s patented Low Friction Band-Drive. You can even adjust the rocker’s tension to your preferences.
Other interesting features of this pedal include its AUX output, which allows you to switch between its tuner out or expression functions, and an internal switch that allows you to reverse the function of the heel-down and toe-down positions when using it as an expression pedal.
I would recommend this pedal as easily as I would the Ernie Ball VP Jr, if not even more, in case the player in question is concerned about their pedalboard space.
You can find the Dunlop DVP4 Volume X Mini for a price of around $130.
BOSS FV-30H Compact Volume Pedal
The BOSS FV-30H Compact Volume pedal aims to improve on the BOSS FV-500’s excessively large enclosure, and it does this successfully. While I wouldn’t call it a “mini pedal” like the previously shown DOD and Dunlop models, it has a decent size that won’t overcrowd a pedalboard. It also feels very sturdy, as is usual with BOSS pedals in general. In any case, it comes with a 5-year warranty.
The “H” in FV-30H stands for “high-impedance” since this model is meant to be used with electric guitars or basses, while the FV-30L features low impedance meant to be used with keyboards and other instruments.
This pedal features a tuner out jack like the Ernie Ball VP Jr and the Dunlop DVP4, so you can remove your tuner pedal from the rest of your signal chain.
The BOSS FV-30H is generally sold for a price of about $125.
BOSS FV-500H Mono Volume Pedal
The BOSS FV-500H Mono Volume Pedal is one of the biggest pedals from this list of recommendations, so you might not want to consider it if you’re looking for something small. However, feels pretty sturdy and it comes with useful features such as a tuner out, expression pedal function, and a knob that allows you to control the pedal’s minimum volume, in case you don’t want your heel-down position to completely kill your sound.
The biggest downside of this pedal for me is its size, and it is one of the main reasons why I have gone with smaller solutions whenever I was putting a pedalboard together. Some users have also complained about a couple of small mounting screws breaking after some time, which could be very inconvenient.
You can usually find the BOSS FV-500H Mono Volume Pedal for a price of around $145.
Morley 20/20 Power Wah Volume
This is one of the most peculiar options from this selection because it is a volume and a wah pedal in the same enclosure. The Morley 20/20 Power Wah Volume combines a wah with up to 20dB of boost with a volume pedal that is comfortable to use in any circumstance. In terms of looks, the glow-in-the-dark logos on this pedal give it an awesome vibe when performing, and its buffered circuit ensures that your signal doesn’t suffer from any tone suck.
If you already own a wah pedal, then maybe this is not the option that makes the most sense for you, but I could see myself having one for a secondary, smaller pedalboard. Combining these two in one enclosure would allow me to save a lot of valuable pedalboard space!
You can find the Morley 20/20 Power Wah Volume Pedal for a price of around $180.
Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner Volume Pedal
The Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner Volume Pedal is one of my all-time favorite designs. I remember watching a video of it when it came out and I immediately loved the concept of combining a volume pedal with a tuner. The large touch display looks amazing, tuning is fast and accurate, and it is just a pleasure to use.
If you are already familiar with Ernie Ball volume pedals, then you will feel at home using this one, and if you’re not, it doesn’t take long to get used to it either. To engage the tuner, you have to bring your volume to 0 (heel-down position). When you are increasing or decreasing your volume, there is also a graphic readout that shows you how loud you are instantly. Double tapping the touch screen gives you access to alternative configurations such as an “always on” mode for the tuner.
Unlike the regular VP Jr, this one features a buffered circuit guaranteeing that there is no tone loss whatsoever.
The biggest downside of this pedal is its price, but if you consider that you are getting two in the same enclosure, it is actually a fair deal.
You can find the Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner Volume Pedal for a price of around $200.
Lehle Mono Volume Pedal
The Lehle Mono Volume Pedal is one of the most premium options you can currently find. If you’re a professional player who uses a volume pedal extensively at the studio and on the stage, you should try one of these out. The entire design and the way it controls your volume are quite different from the other pedals in the market.
Instead of using conventional mechanical potentiometers or optical sensors, the Lehle uses a magnetic sensor and a Blackmer VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) to accurately control your volume, while leaving your original tone completely uncolored. You can’t identify any loss of high-frequencies either, something that is commonly seen on volume pedals.
Other interesting features include a gain knob that allows you to get up to 10dB of boost that can help you push a tube amplifier into breakup.
Although this pedal is expensive (around $300), it is without a doubt one of the best options that you can get nowadays.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about the Ernie Ball VP Jr
Question: Can the Ernie Ball VP Jr be used as an expression pedal?
Answer: Yes, apart from using it as a normal volume pedal, you can also connect the Ernie Ball VP Jr to the expression pedal input of any pedal that is compatible with this feature, and use it to control its parameters. For example, you can connect it to a delay pedal like the MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe and control the volume of the repetitions or how many repetitions you get.
Many modulation pedals are compatible with expression pedals so that you can control the rate and other aspects without having to reach for the knobs with your hands while playing. Think of it as if you are buying two pedals at once!
Question: Does the Ernie Ball VP Jr need a power supply?
Answer: No. The Ernie Ball VP Jr does not need to be connected to any power supply whatsoever, since it is a passive pedal. If you decide to use the tuner out, you should keep in mind that this passively splits your signal into two different paths, and this could result in a little tone loss (less high-end, sometimes called tone suck). If you don’t plan to use the tuner out, then you don’t need to worry about this particularity of the Ernie Ball VP Jr.
Question: Are there multiple versions of the Ernie Ball Volume Pedal?
Answer: Yes. As of writing this, there are 8 available versions of the Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, which are the following:
• Ernie Ball MVP Most Valuable Pedal
• Ernie Ball VP Jr 250k
• Ernie Ball VP Jr 25k
• Ernie Ball 250k Mono
• Ernie Ball 500k Stereo Volume/Pan
• Ernie Ball 25k Stereo
• Ernie Ball Mono 250k Volume Pedal with Switch
• Ernie Ball 40th Anniversary Volume Pedal
Ernie Ball also makes one of the coolest-looking pedals I’ve seen so far: their VP Jr Tuner, which combines their already famous volume pedal with an enhanced definition digital guitar tuner that you engage by putting the pedal in its heel-down position. As you increase the volume, it also gives you visual feedback on your volume level. This one is a real space-saver, making it very appealing for those players who are already struggling with managing space on their pedalboards.
Question: What is the best place for a volume pedal in your signal chain?
Answer: The best place for a volume pedal in your signal chain depends on what you are looking to achieve with it. My personal favorite position is right after my drive pedals and before modulation and time-based effects. By connecting them in this order, whenever I decrease the volume while I use overdrive or distortion, the sound retains all of its properties, but with a lower volume.
If you place your volume pedal before your drive pedals, decreasing the volume will also decrease the overall saturation of your signal, just like it happens when you lower the volume knob on your guitar. Since I can already achieve that with the guitar itself, I don’t see a huge point in doing the same with the pedal. However, being able to do volume swells and maintain every aspect of my sound is a lot more appealing to me.
Closing Considerations about the Ernie Ball VP Jr Volume Pedal
Ernie Ball is well-known for its sturdy, well-built products, and the Ernie Ball VP Jr is no exception. It is a decent size, it can double as an expression pedal, and the tuner out is a nice feature to have. Keep in mind that this is a passive volume pedal, and while not requiring a power supply can be convenient, you might want to include a buffer somewhere after it to compensate for any loss of high frequencies.
The only part that might eventually break is the string that you can find inside the pedal. I’d recommend purchasing a spare replacement kit to have just in case, as you never know when something unexpected might happen. I have had to replace mine once, but apart from that, I only have good things to say about the Ernie Ball VP Jr and I am surely going to keep using it for a very long time.
If you would like to get something smaller or an active pedal instead, check out some of my recommendations in this guide such as the Dunlop DVP4 or the Lehle Mono Volume Pedal.