If you are a fan of ‘60s era amps with built-in tube-driven tremolo, then the Black Cat Mini Trem is sure to be right up your alley. At its core, tremolo affects the rapid rise and decrease of volume, and is in my opinion, one of those “basic and essential” type of effects.
After playing the Mini Trem for a while, it reminded me of a perfectly prepared, medium rare steak. Huh? Just add a little salt and pepper, but nothing more is needed; forget that glaze or sauce or other crap that disguises an inferior steak. The Mini Trem is akin to that perfectly prepared steak—great, authentic amp-like tremolo, without trying to add on a bunch of features that would just muck up the tone and make it more complicated to use.
Like the amps of that era, the Mini Trem has a simple feature set, with a little added seasoning to make it more versatile. Firstly, the Mini Trem has controls for Speed and Depth. It also contains a Tone and Boost control (more on these two in a minute). The Speed control also has its own separate footswitch, which allows you to either double or half the speed. At first, I was disappointed this control wasn’t tied to tap tempo, but I quickly realized this was in some ways more useful to me. Simply set the speed you like, and then hit the Speed toggle for speeds twice as fast; you simply can’t tap anything that quickly and accurately. Still, I know some folks will wish it had tap tempo.
The Depth control makes up the character of this pedal. If set below 10:00, the tremolo effect is more subtle, but turned up anywhere near noon or higher, and the effect becomes a much heavier, staccato like effect. Somewhere on this dial, you are bound to find the tone that works just right for you. I preferred it right around 11:00, somewhere between being too mellow, and too much of a helicopter-like effect.
Now for the seasoning: the Tone and Boost controls are the secret weapons. Turn both controls all the way off, turn the Boost up, and suddenly you have a very cool FET boost-type pedal. The Tone control then shapes how bright or bass heavy you want your boost to be. In a sense, you are really getting two pedals in one box.
What we like: For a simple pedal, there is a lot to like, starting with really great, authentic amp like tone. That is the heart of this pedal. The fact that it can also be a useful boost pedal is a big plus. My amp (not a from the ‘60s) has a tremolo feature built in, but when I compared the two, it was not even close. My amp’s basic tremolo was thin sounding, and lacked the warmth of the Mini Trem—this pedal has that tube-like ‘60s vibe going on that I really enjoyed, and can easily recommend.
Concerns: Not much really. If you are looking for a tremolo that has tons of wave shaping capabilities, tap tempo or other extraneous features, this might not be the right tremolo pedal for you. In addition, while I do like how the LED blinks in tempo with the speed, I prefer it to stay on when the pedal is off, making it easier to adjust on the fly.