A3 Stompbox are a boutique South Korean pedal company that prides itself on brute utility for musicians. Their Custom Volume pedal is expressive with a DIY design that makes its price tag questionable.
Volume pedals are unassuming pieces of gear. To the home hobbyist they seem like an expensive accessory, though to players of post-rock and textural ambient guitar styles, they are the key to more expressive playing. A3 Stompbox have taken this as a major cue for their Custom Volume, offering deft passive control without any aesthetic frills.
Out of the box, you might be a bit shocked at the hunk of stainless steel staring back at you. A neat engraving at the top marks it as an A3 Stompbox, while the grippy black mat is the only colouration on the entire pedal. It doesn’t match the lurid colours of the Big Muffs or the Whammys that might be populating your current collection, though its industrial look is somewhat refreshing. The Custom Volume arrives in both Standard (d 25cm x w 9.5cm x h 6.5cm) and Mini (d 18cm x w 8.5cm x h 6.5cm) sizes, though both take up a considerable amount of pedalboard real estate. The pedal is remarkably lightweight, 1.04kg and 750g in the Standard and Mini respectively.
There is no two-in-one whammy-wah action in the Custom Volume; this pedal has an input-output binary, plus a tuner plug if you so wish. Funnily enough, the plugs’ label is a laminated piece of paper stuck on. The pedal’s hinge is smooth enough that even those with the stiffest feet will be able to reach any volume on the spectrum. Pulling off the pedal gives you a look inside the product’s extraordinarily simple circuitry. Its smooth B Curve operation is held together with string and springs; by virtue of that simplicity, it is also very sturdy. It works using a mainly resistive load, at 250 kohms.
Playing the stompbox is a simple joy, allowing you to play across a spectrum of volumes while keeping every detail of your tone. Thanks to the passive design there is zero hum, even with the shoddiest of leads and amps attached. The tuning plug is a nice touch, something other volume pedals have recently co opted; plug any tuner you like and sit it next to the pedal, then rock back the volume to zero to tune silently mid set. Tremolo-like tones can be created simply by rocking back and forth on the pedal, which can sound quite organic due to the passive circuitry. I found pairing the Custom Volume with other textural pedals like the Memory Boy was the ultimate post-rock package; leaving you ready to join Godspeed You! Black Emperor without anyone in the ten person lineup noticing.
The Custom Volume is an excellent, get-what-you-asked-for passive volume pedal. What is less excellent is the hefty custom price tag. Counter to that point, it’s unlikely this pedal is for anyone apart from gigging and recording musicians in serious need of its utility. More affordable options provide less detailed sound in digital packages, counting them out of the studio. It will be interesting to see where A3 Stompbox takes designs like the Custom Volume from here.
Hits and Misses
Ultra-smooth operation, no need for battery or power supply
Expensive for a DIY Custom design