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What is the main difference between optical, bias and harmonic tremolo?

NoiseNinja

Member
Messages
1,803
What is the main difference between optical, bias and harmonic tremolo, as in how does the different techniques of obtaining tremolo influence on how they sound and what is the typical sound characteristics for each of the different main types of tremolo?
 

Hoodster

Member
Messages
701
bump

Just got the excellent Fender Tre Verb perdal and curious about these differences. To my ears, the bias setting is where it's at for smooth swampy mojo.
 
Messages
3,673
I can't speak to the others since I was not really a fan of them, but for harmonic...

Sonically speaking, harmonic tremolo filters the high and low frequencies of the soundwave and then modulates the remaining signal in opposite paths. So basically, it is a pretty unique and lush form of modulating sound. The most comparable effect to this would be that of rotary/leslie speaker emulation. Honestly, though, that is really the only descriptor I could think to give to someone who hasn’t heard a harmonic tremolo before. There is little to no examples when it comes to the use of this effect in popular music (other than maybe some CCR). In fact, most players that I know have yet to even hear of this effect. Harmonic tremolo is definitely one of the lesser-known and underrated guitar effects.
from https://www.octavemusicstore.com/blogs/news/what-is-harmonic-tremolo

If you don't know why you want one, check this out:

 
Last edited:

longgonedaddy

Supporting Member
Messages
1,058
Opto and bias do the same exact thing through different methods. Harmonic uses a different process to get similar, but distinctply different sounds

I’m sure someone with more technical knowledge will gladly tell me all the things I got wrong here, but here’s a good layman’s explanation:
opto and bias simply put, are just changing the volume of the signal. Not much different than turning the volume knob up and down. opto does it with a pulsing light, and bias does it through tubes. That’s the Main reason why there’s more chop to opto and bias more smooth In general. Add in other component variables, and the tone can be further sculpted.

harmonic takes the signal and splits the highs and lows, then puts them in and out of phase, opposite to one another. You get the up and down, but also that phasing characteristic you hear

again, just a layman’s description
 

jamester

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,476
Most of the time I think of it like:

Bias - swampy
Opto - choppy
Harmonic - phasey

That's obviously oversimplifying it and different waveform shapes can alter things, but usually this is what I find from pedals that claim to make these distinctions. YMMV
 

Hoodster

Member
Messages
701
Most of the time I think of it like:

Bias - swampy
Opto - choppy
Harmonic - phasey

That's obviously oversimplifying it and different waveform shapes can alter things, but usually this is what I find from pedals that claim to make these distinctions. YMMV
This is pretty much exactly what I have found from the three settings on the Tre-Verb. I would add that the bias is by far the smoothest and as such is really the only option for always-on tremolo. The other two settings are really more for a niche type situations IMO.
 




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