Top 8 Best Ring Modulation Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Ring modulation pedals are sonically odd and their applications are not exactly “pop-oriented”. That being said, the strangeness of a great ring mod pedal can add tons of interest to your tone as a guitarist (or any other instrumentalist).

In this article, we’ll discuss the top 8 best ring modulation pedals in the world.

Of course, the choices on this list are subjective. That being said, each pedal is a top performer and should help point you toward a superb choice if you’re looking to get an excellent ring mod for your rig.

The top 8 best ring modulation pedals for guitar and bass are:

  1. Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing
  2. Alexander Pedals Syntax Error
  3. Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge
  4. Subdecay Vitruvian Mod
  5. ZVex Super Ringtone
  6. Moog Moogerfooger MF-102
  7. Pigtronix Ringmaster
  8. Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer

Let’s discuss each pedal on this list and the reasons why they are the best.

What Are Ring Modulation Pedals & How Do They Work?

Ring modulation pedals are, as the name suggests, modulation pedals. They contain ring modulation circuits that affect the sound in, arguably, musical and non-musical ways.

Ring modulation is an amplitude modulation effect where two signals (an input signal and a carrier signal) are summed together to create two brand new frequencies which are the sum and difference of the input and carrier signals. The carrier wave is typically a basic waveform (sine, square, triangle, etc.) selected by the effects unit while the input signal is from the guitar.

The carrier signal acts to modulate the amplitude of the input signal. This results in a modulated signal made up of the sidebands from the sum and difference frequencies (similar to how amplitude modulation works).

Ring modulation works with amplitude modulation. It can be thought of as a tremolo at a very fast rate. In fact, the “tremolo” rate gets into the audible frequency range and begins altering the frequency/note value of the input note/frequency (rather than the noticeable tremolo amplitude effect).

Modulation effects, including ring mod, generally world best when placed between the gain-based effects and time-based effects in a signal chain.

Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)

With that being said, let’s talk about some ring modulation pedals!

For a more in-depth article on ring modulator pedals, check out my article What Are Ring Modulation Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?

Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing

Let’s begin with the versatile Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing (link to check the price on Amazon).

Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing

The Ring Thing from EHX is a wonderful ring mod (RM) pedal with additional upper band modulation (UB), lower band modulation (LB) and pitch-shifting (PS) functionality. It’s a complex and inventive pedal that initially intimidating but cetainly tameable once understood.

Though this article is focused on ring modulation, let’s discuss each of the 4 effects types in the Ring Thing. Press and release the white Mode knob to cycle through. I’ll also share the control parameters for each mode below:

  • Ring Modulator: ring modulates the incoming signal and outputs the affected signal at the stereo output.
    • Blend knob: sets Wet/Dry Mix.
    • Wave knob: sets the carrier or modulation waveform:
      • Square
      • Sine
      • Ramp Down
      • Ramp Up
      • Triangle
    • Filter/Rate knob: sets the cutoff frequency for the effect’s low pass filter.
    • Fine/Depth knob: allows the musician to fine-tune the carrier/modulation frequency.
    • Coarse knob: tunes the carrier/modulation frequency over a wide range.
    • Preset/Tune footswitch: press and release to load a preset. Press and hold to tune the carrier to the note you play on your instrument.
    • External expression pedal (optional): controls the carrier/modulation frequency.

The ring modulator of the Ring Thing is similar to the famed EHX Frequency Analyzer, only with additional functionality. We’ll discuss the Frequency Analyzer later in this article.

  • Upper Band Modulation: ring modulates the incoming signal and outputs the upper sideband in the Left/Mono Output. The lower band can be outputted in the Right Output if need be.
  • Lower Band Modulation: ring modulates the incoming signal and outputs the lower sideband in the Left/Mono Output. The upper band can be outputted in the Right Output if need be.
    • Blend knob: sets Wet/Dry Mix.
    • Wave knob: adjusts the wave shape of the carrier or modulation waveform by adding or subtracting harmonics to the carrier’s sine wave.
    • Filter/Rate knob: sets the cutoff frequency for the effect’s low pass filter.
    • Fine/Depth knob: allows the musician to fine-tune the carrier/modulation frequency.
    • Coarse knob: tunes the carrier/modulation frequency over a wide range.
    • Preset/Tune footswitch: press and release to load a preset.
    • External expression pedal (optional): controls the carrier/modulation frequency.

Note that the UB and LB settings will yield very similar results when using the stereo output (the difference between the two is a channel swap).

  • Pitch-Shift: all incoming notes are shifted by the same factor.
    • Blend knob: sets Wet/Dry Mix.
    • Wave knob: sets the modulation waveform:
      • Square
      • Sine
      • Ramp Down
      • Ramp Up
      • Triangle.
    • Filter/Rate knob: sets the pitch shifter’s modulation rate.
    • Fine/Depth knob: acts as both a Fine control and modulation Depth control.
    • Coarse knob: sets the pitch shift amount ±2 Octaves.
    • Preset/Tune footswitch: press and release to load a preset.
    • External expression pedal (optional): controls the pitch shift amount.

So the Ring Thing can do a lot of stuff! It would take a full article to tell you everything. Let’s stick to the key features.

EHX’s Ring Thing offers 9 user-definable presets; external expression pedal control of the carrier/modulation frequency or pitch-shift (mode-dependent); external oscillator/modulator input; stereo outputs; automatic tuning, and much more.

The Ring Thing can also be used a tremolo by turning the Blend knob all the way up and the Coarse knob below 9 o’clock in Ring Modulation Mode.

This “quick” description barely scratches the surface of how much you can get out of the EHX Ring Thing. If you’re looking for a superb ring modulator pedal with additional functionality, then look no further than the Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing!

Electro-Harmonix is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

Alexander Pedals Syntax Error

Next up is the, perhaps, lesser-known Alexander Pedals Syntax Error (link to check the price on Amazon).

Alexander Pedals Syntax Error

Okay, so this is a multi-effect pedal with an awesome ring modulator mode rather than a pure ring modulator pedal. This pedal is glitchy on purpose. It has a ton of functionality packed into a small and durable housing.

Let’s briefly discuss the 4 modes of the Syntax Error before focusing in on the ring modulation. Select the mode via the red Select button:

  • Stretch: sample the incoming audio and plays it back. Use the pedal controls to time-stretch; slow down; reverse or even delay the playback!
  • Cube: a cubic distortion algorithm with a resonant low-pass filter.
  • Ring: combines a ring modulator with a sample and hold LFO.
  • Freq: a pitch-shifter with delay and feedback controls, capable of comb-filtering and flanging effects.

Things get weird very quickly with this pedal even when we’re not in the ring mod mode. The pedal is described as an “audio computer system” and takes us back to low-bit video games and primitive microchips.

In Ring mode, the Code knob controls the speed of the sample and hold carrier while the Tweak knob controls its depth. The Bonus knob will affect the EQ and the Mix knob mixed the wet and direct signals together at the output.

For a “normal” ring modulation circuit, crank the Mix knob (to eliminate the modulator/input signal and set the Code knob 100% counterclockwise to disable the LFO. Adjust the parameters to create a unique “ring mod” sound for yourself!

The Syntax Error is part of Alexander Pedals’ Neo Line. All Neo Pedals have full MIDI functionality (accessed via the 1/4-inch MultiJack). In addition to MIDI, we can connect an external footswitch or expression pedal. Configure the pedal controls how you like them in Configuration mode (power the pedal up while holding the Select button).

Check out the F.13 Flanger from the same Neo series over at My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Flanger Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

The pedal can hold up to 4 presets in internal memory and up to 16 can be accessed via MIDI/external controls.

The bypass signal of the Syntax Error is buffered and 100% analog to help maintain signal clarity in larger pedalboards and longer cable runs.

As a ring modulator, the Alexander Syntax Error is a top performer. Add in 3 more modes and all this extra functionality and we have an excellent pedal for the experimental folks among us!

Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge

Third on the list is the stripped-down but powerful Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge (link to check the price on Amazon).

Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge

Alright, finally we have a “simple” ring modulation pedal! This all-analog pedal offers all the necessities of a ring modulation pedal with additional tremolo capabilities and a programmable CV jack.

Let’s start with the basics.

Randy’s Revenge has 4 knobs, 2 toggle switches and a bypass footswitch. These controls the following:

  • Volume knob: adjusts the volume of the output signal.
  • Mix knob: adjusts the mix of the modulated and input signals.
  • LPF knob: sets the cutoff frequency of the second-order low-pass filter.
  • Freq knob: adjusts the frequency of the carrier signal.
  • Sq|Si toggle switch: toggles between a square wave and sine wave carrier signal.
  • Hi|Lo toggle switch: toggles between two different ranges for the carrier signal frequency. Hi (18 Hz – 2.4 kHz) gets us a ring modulation sound while Lo (0.5 Hz – 45 Hz) gets us a more tremolo-like effect.

But that’s not all. The real power of this Fairfield Circuitry pedal is in the programmable control voltage jack. This 1/4-inch TRS jack acts as a 2-channel port to control parts of the circuit.

Access 6 microswitches by removing the bottom of the pedal casing. Turn different combinations on and off to personalize the CV jack to your liking. The TRS connection has the first 3 switches on the tip; the last 3 switches on the ring, and sleeve as ground. The microswitches and their associated controls are as follows:

  1. CVO: oscillator frequency (connected to tip).
  2. CVF: filter frequency (connected to tip).
  3. OSC: oscillator output (connected to tip).
  4. CVO: oscillator frequency (connected to ring).
  5. CVF: filter frequency (connected to ring).
  6. REF: reference voltage (connected to ring).

With different variations, we could have an external expression pedal control the internal oscillator, filter or both. We could have the tip control the filter and the ring control the oscillator. We could also have the ring output the oscillator while having the tip control a parameter. There’s a lot we can do here!

To get the most out of the pedal, we may want to consider a TRS to dual-TS splitter that will allows us to split the tip and ring signals.

Check out the Programmer’s Reference Manual for more detail on how to set up the pedal to your exact liking.

Sure, the Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge ring modulator pedal may seem simple. However, this 100% analog true bypass pedal is highly programmable and is one of the best ring mod pedals out there in terms of performance, versatility and sonic quality.

Subdecay Vitruvian Mod

The Subdecay Vitruvian Mod (link to check the price at Subdecay) shows us that versatile ring mods can come in small packages.

Subdecay Vitruvian Mod

Subdecay’s Vitruvian Mod ring modulator combines superb ring modulation with pitch tracking found in many of the great synth pedals.

While most ring modulators will have fixed carrier frequencies that may be tuned to sound musical with a few notes, the Vitruvian Mod tracks the pitch of the incoming notes and tunes the carrier frequency accordingly. The result is a much more musical tone that is still distinctly “ring modulation-esque.”

To better understand the basics of the Subdecay Vitruvian Mod, let’s have a look at the controls:

  • Entropy switch: set to order for ease of use. Set to chaos for wider range.
  • Tracking switch: set to HI or LO for tracking modes. Set to null (0) for fixed carrier mode.
  • Tracking knob (carrier): controls the internal carrier in seven fixed steps. Dependent on entropy and tracking switch settings.
  • Fine: fine-tunes internal carrier dependent on entropy and tracking settings.
  • Mix: adjusts the amount of ring-modulated signal versus the direct signal at the output.
  • Volume: adjusts the overall output of the effect.

So, then, we can get a classic ring mod effect with fixed carrier modulation. We can also opt for a very musical effect with the Hi or Lo tracking modes. Hi will track the input and cause the carrier to be either in unison or some interval above the tracked input signal. Lo will cause the carrier to be some interval below the tracked input signal.

Tune the pedal to your preferred “harmonic ring mod” sound with fine-tuning adjustment of ±3 semitones. Flip the entropy switch to “chaos” to allows an eight octave range for the carrier signal.

Whether we want straight-up ring modulation or something more harmonically sound, the Subdecay Vitruvian Mod is a perfect pedal for the job!

ZVex Super Ringtone

The ZVex Super Ringtone (link to check the price on Amazon) is a superb choice for a strange ring modulator.

ZVex Super Ringtone

The Super Ringtone combines ring modulation with 16-step sequencing for something unique and versatile. The pedal features MIDI sync; tap tempo control; tap tempo sync; expression pedal control; glissando, and delta speed control.

This highly functional pedal can hold up to 8 user-programmable presets that can be saved and recalled.

So how does it all work? Well, it’s pretty complicated. Without getting into all the nuts and bolts, let’s discuss the Super Ringtone’s functionality in order to understand why it’s one of the best ring modulation pedals.

First off, we can set the step sequencer to have anywhere between 1 and 16 steps. 1 step would cause the pedal to work as a “normal” ring modulator. We can set the time (via the Speed knob, tap tempo (with divisions), MIDI clock or expression pedal).

Each step can be set as its own ring mod and we can sequence through the step linearly or randomly. We can also adjust glissando to glide to each step or to step harder between each step in the sequence. Glissando can be controlled globally (via the Gliss knob) or on a per-step basis (in Groove mode).

Delta control can vary the speed at which the pedal runs through the steps.

Even more can be controlled via MIDI.

That’s the basic design of the ZVex Super Ringtone. To get the most out of the pedal, you’d likely have to dedicate a few hours to learning its ins and outs. To be honest, I don’t know its true full potential.

As a ring modulator, it’s awesome. The incredible functionality of the pedal pushes it to the category of “best ring mod pedals”.

ZVex is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

Moog Moogerfooger MF-102

There’s no way the Moog Moogerfooger MF-102 (link to check the price at Moog Music) wouldn’t make this list.

Moog Moogerfooger MF-102

The MF-102 is a fantastic ring modulator pedal. Its analog design is a direct descendent of Moog’s superb modular synthesizer circuitry.

This unit actually contains 3 complete modules:

  1. Ring Modulator.
  2. Voltage-Controlled Carrier Oscillator.
  3. Voltage-Controlled Dual-Waveform Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO).

These modules are separated into two sections: the LFO section and the Modulator sections.

The modulator section offers the typical ring modulator circuit. We have a Frequency control that adjusts the frequency of the carrier wave. The Lo-Hi switch toggles the range of the Frequency control.

The Lo setting sets the range as 0.6 Hz to 80 Hz and the Hi setting sets it as 30 Hz to 4 kHz. At lower frequencies, the ring mod circuit will produce an effect similar to tremolo.

There’s also a mix control in the Modulator section that mixes the modulated and direct signals together at the output.

The LFO section has Amount and Rate controls that adjust the LFO’s amplitude and frequency, respectively. The waveform of the LFO can be toggled between a sine wave and a square wave. The LFO acts to modulate the frequency of the carrier oscillator, producing pitch variations in the output of the pedal.

Moog’s MF-102 also has quite the I/O section. Along with the audio input and output, the pedal also has an individual 1/4-inch CV jack for controlling the Rate, Amount, Mix and Freq parameters. There’s also a input and output for the Carrier, allowing us to input our own carrier and output the carrier signal if need be. On top of that, there is another 1/4-inch jack for outputting the LFO.

The Moog Moogerfooger MF-102 has been one of the best ring modulator units for some time now and I believe that will continue to be the case for a long time to come!

Another superb pedal from Moog’s Moogerfooger line is the MF-103 12-Stage Phaser, featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Phaser Pedals For Guitar & Bass).

Pigtronix Ringmaster

The Pigtronix Ringmaster (link to check the price on Amazon) is another excellent choice for ring mod fans to add some extra interest to their sound.

Pigtronix Ringmaster

The Ringmaster Analog Multiplier from Pigtronix is a ring modulator synth designed to create analog harmonizer and tremolo effects. Unlike most ring modulators, it utilizes tracking (like synth pedals do) to follow the notes at the input. The pedal then adjusts it ring mod circuit to the input notes to create a more musical, harmonic, synthy ring mod sound.

This is similar to how the aforementioned Subdecay Vitruvian Mod works. Like the Subdecay pedal, this following feature can be turned off in order to achieve classic fixed-carrier ring modulation as well.

The Ringmaster allows us to modify both the input/modulator signal and the carrier signal before the ring mod circuit to produce unique and interesting effects with more harmonic content than we’re typically used to with a guitar ring mod.

Blend the guitar (or another instrument) input with a pitch-following square wave with the Source control to increase the harmonic contents of the modulator signal.

Use the gain knob to add distortion to the carrier signal, thereby increasing harmonic content even more.

Even more manipulation can be produced by independent LFO and sample and hold generator that can act upon the carrier signal to further modulate the overall sound of the pedal.

A highly functional ring mod pedal like the Ringmaster surely has a tremolo option since ring modulation and tremolo are very similar in functionality. Utilize the Trem function to drop the rate of the carrier down to LFO range where it will produce a tremolo effect. Combine the Trem function with the Follow function and you’ll have yourself a dynamic tremolo effect that speeds up when you play harder.

The LFO and sample and hold generators can be outputted from the pedal and, similarly, CV/expression pedals can be used to control the pedal.

What we have with the Pigtronix Ringmaster is a really cool ring modulator with plenty of added functionality. It sounds great and offers a wide range of sonic ring-mod possibilities, putting it on this “best of” list!

Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer

Last but not least, we’ll end with the same brand we started with. The Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer (link to check the price on Amazon) is the eighth pedal to wrap up the 8 best ring mods.

Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer

The EHX Frequency Analyzer is perhaps the simplest pedal on this list. However, its reputation, sound, and durability have made it a go-to ring modulator for years and one of the best units around.

Unlike other ring modulators, the Frequency Analyzer has controllable high order filters that reduce cross distortions and enhance the variations.

The pedal has a single mono input with a Dry output and an Effect output. The Dry output outputs the direct signal whereas the Effect output will output whatever mix of the wet and dry signals is set up with the Blend knob.

Turn the Blend knob all the way clockwise to only output the ring-modulated signal. Turning the knob counterclockwise will bring in some of the original signal.

The Shift knob adjusts the frequency of the carrier signal within a 5 octave range and the Fine knob will fine tune the carrier signal within a single octave. Use these 2 knob to adjust the frequency of the sine wave carrier.

Finally, the Frequency Analyzer has a Filter toggle switch. When set to the on position, the top note is filtered out, outputting the original note plus one bottom note.

All in all, the EHX Frequency Analyzer is a simple and highly effective ring modulation pedal. It’s certainly one of the best in the world, giving it a spot on this list!

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