WordPress Managed Hosting Comparison

A good host and webmaster grease the SEO wheels. One of my clients is with ProntoMarketing. They’re awful. I loathe working with them. (Pronto, not the client.) I more or less told them, “It’s them or me.” Rather than leave a great client in the lurch like the prima donna I sometimes aspire to be, I’m helping them look at managed WordPress hosting options. If you’re impatient, you can just skip to the chart.

Pronto Marketing Sucks

What’s wrong with Pronto? I won’t dig into the abysmal non-hosting side of Pronto Marketing here; that hole’s too deep and dank. But even if their other aspects were acceptable, their hosting platform isn’t.

Pronto hosts all of their clients on a single multisite WordPress install. Both ssh and sftp access are therefore off the table for all of their clients. So there are things you or your web team can’t do. Conveniently, Pronto’s business model includes access to an expensive, on-demand team of unqualified non-experts to do things for you! …I spent far more time checking and correcting Pronto’s work than if I and my team did it ourselves.  Enough about them. (Edit: Well, Pronto got worse. I’ll add more about that at the end, if you’re interested.)

Comparing Managed WordPress Hosts – Which Ones?

wordpress-hosting-comparison
Teaser of the managed hosting comparison spreadsheet. Click to go straight to it.

Sure, my corybantic contender counts when comparing rank tracking vendors and choosing the best tap tremolo pedal were perhaps excessive, but not this time; I kept it simple. Here are the four contenders and why I picked them.

WordPress.com – They’re the oddball in the field. Owned by Automattic and more tightly controlled than other options. Not to be confused with WordPress.org, the self-hosted version of WordPress. (This blog is hosted on WordPress.com, and I’ve been impressed with their services, SLA, etc.)

WPEngine – Probably top-mind or near it when most people think of managed WordPress hosting. I worked in their platform several years ago when I worked with the Baynote digital team.

Pressable – They don’t tout it much, probably to avoid complaints from their other host partners, but Automattic owns a majority stake in Pressable. If that’s not and endorsement, I don’t know what is.

BigScoots – Who? Yeah. Not a big name. But I host 99% of my sites with them. After EIG bought and destroyed yet another host I used, I spent a good chunk of time finding BigScoots. I don’t use their managed WordPress hosting, but I’ve been nothing but impressed by their other services.

“What is managed WordPress hosting?” (My Criteria)

My expectations of a manged WP host are that they’ll largely or wholly take care of:

  • Security
  • Core WordPress updates
  • Plugin updates
  • Speed and other infrastructure concerns
  • Backups
  • Providing full access to the CMS
  • Giving me back-rubs and making coffee

How is managed hosting different from other hosting options?

Most sites use unmanaged hosting. You might hear the phrases: shared hosting, dedicated hosting, or even virtual dedicated hosting tossed around; any of those could be managed hosting, or unmanaged. The “management” part pertains only to a higher level of support and services. But don’t be fooled by worthless, free add-ons to lower-tier shared hosting. Like Abraham Lincoln used to say, “extra chaff and turd-polishing doesn’t managed hosting make.”

Spreadsheet Comparing WPEngine, WordPress.com, BigScoots, and Pressable

This isn’t exhaustive. I.e. your criteria might be different than mine. And there are definitely other players in this space (Kinsta’s name pops up a lot.)

Here it is – a chart comparing several of the best managed WordPress hosts.

Want a narrative of the findings?

I won’t deprecate any contenders; I think most sites would be fine hosting with any of them. But two stand out in positive ways which may or may not matter to you.

BigScoots and Pressable both offer tangibles the others don’t:

  • more domain/site capacity (in case you want to host more sites)
  • more free migration of existing sites
  • control over whether or not you auto-update plugins

BigScoots adds:

  • the only one with full ssh/ftp access (which might not matter, really)
  • the only one with email (you have to use a third party for others, which is advisable, anyhow. GSuite FTW!)
  • …but costs more.

Pressable:

  • Is the cheapest

Pressable and WordPress.com:

  • are owned by WordPress’ parent company, which might be worth something?

WordPress.com:

  • The biggest hurdle here is their migration cost. It’s not unreasonable, but it’s not competitive with other migration options.
  • There are several notes in the spreadsheet for WordPress.com, not b/c they’re worse, but b/c their biz model is different than others.

WPEngine:

  • Migration cost is unknown. E.g. What if their plugin fails on a customized theme? Do I have to pay somebody hourly?
  • Some of the notes in the spreadsheet for WPEngine will likely turn more positive as they continue to roll out new services.
  • …but WPEngine is the most expensive

Adendum: Pronto Marketing is Worse than I Thought

Yikes. When trying to move away from Pronto, one needs to rebuild the site, almost completely. If you haven’t been with Pronto for at least a year, they seemingly won’t part with any of your data. If you’re lucky (??) to have been with Pronto for at least twelve months, they’ll give you some data, but they won’t give you your theme, nor will they let you use many of the several dozens of plugins they used on your site. It’s a mess. The first quote to rebuild the site to work on Pressable came in at 80 hours @ $65/hr. Friends don’t let friends use Pronto.


 

Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO and makes noise in several bands. He enjoys sketching, films, games, beer, and hanging with his hot triathaloner-doctor-wife. He plans to turn his front yard into a two-hole miniature golf course with a dragon sculpture.

Tap Tremolo Pedal Comparison/Guide

 

Updated for 2019. When this UX snob of a pedal junkie caught the tremolo bug, he started referring to himself in the third person and made a spreadsheet comparing 30+ different tap tremolo pedals. …Then he blogged about it.

If you’re lazy or impatient, use these links to skip to a juicier section of the tremolo pedal roundup. But keep in mind: my trem criteria, while not so odd, might not be the same as yours. Spoiler alert: I initially got the EHX Super Pulsar, but found reasons to replace it with the superior Swindler Effects Red Mountain V2. Couldn’t be happier.

  1. What is tremolo?
  2. My tremolo criteria
  3. Other tap tempo trem features to consider
  4. Results: Best tap tremolo pedals
  5. The 30 tap tempo tremolo shootout chart

Quick Intro: Different types of tremolo?

Tremolo, in the classical sense, is a rhythmic wavering of a note. E.g. like that produced by a violinist rapidly shaking the bow hand. But then some doofus decided to call the electric guitar vibrato system “tremolo,” a misnomer which caused a few generations of guitar wankers to not understand what tremolo means. (“Whammy bar” is a much better name for guitar vibrato, anyhow).

In the effect pedal sense, which is why we’re all here, there are two main types of tremolo.

Amplitude tremolo changes the volume of the signal at a specified speed and depth. From abrupt on-off-on-off square-wave chop, to a subtle waveform barely imparting a warble, and everything between.

Harmonic tremolo chops the signal in half, treble (high pitches) and bass (low-end), and modulates them out of phase with each other. …Which is to say, it’s more of a tonal wobbling.

All of the pedals in this tremolo pedal roundup can do amplitude tremolo; only a few of them can also do harmonic tremolo. So if you’re stuck on a harmonic tap trem, your choice is much easier. Me? I got the Swindler Red Mountain V2 in part because it is dual-mode. I like it both ways. 😉

Tap Tempo Trem Criteria

First I thought I wanted a tremolo pedal with the ability to control the tremolo speed via an expression pedal, but I quickly realized that easy, onboard tap tempo was more important. As I dug deeper, I found other things I cared about. You likely have at least slightly different tremolo criteria.

To be considered a contender for my tremolo affections, a pedal has to have all of these features:

  • Dedicated, onboard tap
    Pedals with dual-purpose tap buttons aren’t welcome here. TC Electronic Pipeline Tap Tremolo and Line 6 Tap Tremolo both use tap buttons for other commonly used tasks. Sure, it allows for a smaller pedal footprint, but usability suffers.

Tap tremolo pedals relying solely on an external tap button or expression pedal were similarly nixed. (Entries from: Moog, Strymon, Supro, Earthquaker Devices, and Source Audio)

And the Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo pedal also fails to make the cut, but it’s an expression pedal form factor, so if that’s your thing, check it out. Oh, and Matthews Effects The Conductor v2 loses here because they inexplicably put the tap right next to other controls. …I don’t want to stomp on a knob. With the Conductor, you probably will.

  • Dotted subdivision/interval (or a way to fake it)
    Sometimes it’s fun to do rhythmic things that don’t fall on a downbeat, an upbeat, or the “and” between them. Enter the dotted eighth note tremolo subdivision.

Scant few tremolo pedals have native dotted divisions. (See the spreadsheet. First link in this post, above).

We can bend most other tap trem pedals to our dotted whimsies by setting the div to “triplet” and then tapping half-time. (On the one and three, instead of on all four beats).  …Which is good enough for me, in a pinch.

But a scant few candidates failed completely here, e.g. the Fulltone Supa-Trem2 and the otherwise lauded Zvex Sonar.

  • Volume knob
    People often mention a perceived drop in volume when using amplitude tremolo. Most candidates use some sort of clean boost/gain knob to counter that.

But the Dedalo Tres Tap Tremolo Pedal does not have a volume knob.

  • Dedicated rate and div knobs
    The fewer different parameters a knob is responsible for, the smoother the user experience. Effect pedal UX is especially important for me because I often have friends using pedals, and I loathe doing technical support when I could be making noise with people.

Several high-profile tap trem pedals fail here by combining rate and div into one knob. …And I can’t even fathom that “saving space” was a real concern, because they then need to add another controller to switch the function of the rate/div knob. If you’re always going to use it one way or the other, then you might not care about this. But I sometimes use my pedal boards for noise projects, and lazy me can’t be bothered to deal with the design shortcomings of: Empress Tremolo 2, Seymour Duncan Shapeshifter, Copilot Polypus, et al.

  • Easy access to shape shifting
    Want to go from a mellow sine wave to a mad-blinky square chop, on the fly? Me too!

This is another place the Zvex Sonar doesn’t shine; it can only change wave shapes via hidden controls. I.e. you have to hold down a “shift” button and use a knob for this unlabeled purpose.

  • Reasonable power requirements
    Almost every trem pedal passed the bar here, but the Stone Deaf Tremotron fails twofold.

It requires a whopping 300ma of power and their website claims it’s picky about voltage. They say it doesn’t work with a Truetone 1 Spot power supply. …One of the most popular, high-amperage 9v power supplies. No thanks.

  • Other UX concerns
    Many features on the Chase Bliss Gravitas Tremolo pedal require flipping the pedal around to toggle one of its umpteen dip switches.

E.g. you have to pick between having access to subdivisions 1,2,4 OR 3,6,8 via a dip switch. Want to go from harmonic to amplitude mode? Yep. Dipswitch. Etc. Yes, you can sort of work around this using presets and/or midi, but that’s not what I’m looking for in tremolo UX.

  • Availability
    As of initial publication, two pedals on the list are lingering in development hell. The Luma Trueno and Coda Effects Montagne bot look great, but they’re both still preorder only. Some pedals (Waves, Semaphore) are discontinued and hard to come by. Not going to seriously contemplate something I probably can’t get.

Please note: As I eliminated pedals from contention via the criteria above, I usually stopped gathering data for the chaff. So there are several holes in the tap tempo pedal chart. (Send me a note if you want to add any data).

Other Tremolo Pedal Features to Consider

The features above were all chopping blocks for my decision process. The trem options below are added bonuses, frosting on the cake.

  • Tap once to re-sync
    I don’t know if I’d use it, but being able to synchronize the pedal to the downbeat of the “1” might come in handy.
  • External tap jack
    Maybe you want your trem high on the back of your pedal board, but want the tap tempo button easily mashable down in front.
  • Expression pedal jack
    Some control one parameter, some pedals can map an expression pedal to control one of many functions. Some can control many at once.
  • Rhythms or patterns
    A few trem mix it up with stock patterns. Some let you create and store your own. Some even have step sequencer-like controls of each beat with dedicated knobs.
  • Harmonic trem
    Want to switch from amplitude to harmonic mode, and back? No problem, for a few tremolo pedals out there.
  • Hold a button for added functionality
    Some tremolo pedals emulate a Leslie speaker brake when you hold down the tap button. Others use the tap tempo momentary switch as a kill switch or div-doubler when you hold it down. Some trem pedals turn the on/off switch into a momentary on-switch when held. Others still, use these pedals for saved preset controls.
  • Other features?
    Yep. Some trems have tone control knobs. Want to skew waveform symmetry? There’s a pedal or two for you. Dedicated space/duty controls? Yep. You can find that. Want to sync via VC or midi? Use your pedal as a global clock for other gear? Do you need stereo ping-ponging tremolo? Do you want built-in distortion or reverb? Yeah, well, there’s a pedal that can do that. …But it might not be able to do all the other stuff you want. #priorities

Results: The Best Tap Tremolo Pedal

Want a smaller, dual-mode, stereo tap tremolo with a great feature set?

s447163914514069377_p18_i10_w640Get the Swindler Red Mountain V2.

Pros: The best feature set in a small (less than 3″x5″) pedal enclosure. Red Mountain is the only dual-mode (harmonic and amplitude tremolo) in the roundup. It stores one preset/favorite for later recall. Stutter mode. Stereo ping-pong. Etc.

Cons: Doesn’t have any rhythm settings, so you get clasic on-off-on-off pattern. Plain-Jane white paint with black text will be pure minimalist (and UX) bliss for some, but flashy-pedalboard folk might yawn at that. You might be able to find the discontinued “Signature” model, if you’re looking for something with more color.

Silver and Bronze Medalists:

Don’t mind a huge enclosure, 15 buttons/knobs, and amplitude-trem only?

ehx super-pulsarGet the Electro-Harmonix Super Pulsar.

Pros: Features galore. Available below suggested retail on eBay. …which might hint at something?

Cons: All those features come at a cost. At almost 5″x6″, it’s considerably larger than the other tremolo pedals in this roundup, so make sure you have space on your board. Mediocre UX takes a while to learn, and longer to master.

Want simplicity, with a couple funky bonuses?

diamond-tremolo-pedal-300x300Get the Diamond TRM1 Tremolo.

Pros: It checks most requisite boxes with a couple bonus amenities (two rhythm patterns, kill switch, etc.) using only seven controls. …Which means it’s simpler than most. #UX
I liked the sound of its “chaotic” interval with a hard square waveform.

Cons: That simplicity comes at a cost. The Diamond Tremolo lacks extra features some may want: external control jacks, true dotted intervals, etc.

Tremolo Pedal Honorable Mentions

Want harmonic tremolo more than you care about other criteria?

Get the Walrus Monument or the Drolo Twin Peaks.

twinpeaks-monument-duo

I’ll preface by saying both the Monument and Twin Peaks are up here in the rarefied air because of their harmonic tremolo options. They’re both great pedals, but they don’t tick as many of my criteria boxes as the pedals above, (or as many as some that didn’t even make the cut). They do however tick enough of the right boxes so they’d both be in the runner-up section (below) even if they lacked the harmonic switch.

Pros: The Monument is the simpler layout of the two harmonic tremolo finalists. But the Twin Peaks v4 offers tone and wave symmetry controls, if you prefer those features to a less dense control panel. Both come in geologic-themed tri-color designs, perhaps a breath of artsy fresh air on your board, compared to the options above.

Cons: Both the Monument and Twin Peaks lack rhythmic patterns. Neither has native dotted subdivisions, but because both have a triplet setting, you can fake it by tapping half-time. For me, the extra knobs on the Twin Peaks are (probably) more noise than signal; I wouldn’t use them much.

The other honorable mentions in this tap tempo tremolo comparison go to…

In no particular order:

  • Wampler Latitude Deluxe
  • Cusack Tap-A-Whirl
  • Dawner Prince Starla

Even if your criteria is close to mine, you might find something about one of these to tickle your tremolo fancy. Look into them.

Many tap tremolo pedals not favorably noted in this review are great pedals beloved by countless people. I know that, and I don’t discount their quality and utility at all. They’re just not what I want in a trem. (Which is far from saying I wouldn’t use one if somebody gave me one!)

Is your tremolo pedal criteria vastly different from mine? You should check out the reddit comment thread about this tremolo roundup wherein people discuss other options. E.g. if you’re into menu-driven multi-effect options like the Modfactor, MD500, Mobius, etc.

Here’s a link to that spreadsheet again. Check it out.

spreadsheet

Thanks for reading.

.


Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO when he’s not making noise with pedals and friends. (Check out synthband.com?) His favorite color is pizza.

Guide: Comparing Arpeggiator Pedals

arpeggiator-pedals-roundup
Tararira, PitchGrinder, AARP, Arpanoid & More!

Wherein Dan talks himself into buying one via this arpeggiator pedal roundup/shootout. (Spoiler alert: I bought the Tararira.)

What is an arpeggiator pedal?

An arpeggiator is a sequencer. A sequencer plays a series of sounds based on a source and parameters set by you, the user/musician. In the case of an arpeggiator pedal, the “source” is whatever you plug into it: guitar, bass guitar, synth, toy, etc. The parameters are the pedal knobs and buttons, controlling things like: pitch, tempo, order, steps, scale, key, etc. We’ll leave it at that for now.

Why do I want one?

Keep in mind: My criteria for an arpeggiator are likely different than yours. That said, they’re fun. I recently picked up an Electro-Faustus Drone Thing, and this guy seems to have fun pairing it with arpeggiators, so…

EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid

First I saw the Earthquaker Arpanoid. (Link immediately above). I wanted it.

Its small size and lack of a zillion knobs and whistles belie its nifty factor. However, it lacks a few things I’m looking for: per-note/step pitch control, CV or midi control, tap tempo, etc. And because it lacks features, it doesn’t so much arppegiate as it plays scales. At $225, it’s definitely ‘affordable’ in this lineup.

“But what else is out there?” I wondered.

Cooper FX AARP

I fell hard for the Cooper FX AARP (v1) when I saw that same dude playing with it.

AARP stands for Automatic Arpeggiated Repeating Patterns, which seems redundant, right? Also questionable product naming, what with the AARP being a 38-million-member thing, and all. Regardless, the AARP v1 has almost everything I want: tap tempo, eight pitch knobs, etc.

While looking for one, I learned about the upcoming AARP v2, but I’m not as attracted to its menu-driven interface (vs. all the knobbies on the older version.)

Regardless, both AARPs are currently unavailable, and you have to be on your Instagram game to snag one from the limited supply when v2 is released circa Q4 2017 or Q1 2018. Price unknown, but certainly higher than the v1’s $275 price tag.

Dwarfcraft Devices PitchGrinder

At $350, it’s not the most affordable option, and while I like that it crunches the signal down to 8-bit awesomeness, it lacks some features I want (external control, pattern control diversity, etc.). Another cool bit about the PitchGrinder: Its “Glide” knob acts as a portamento effect, controlling whether the pedal jumps or glides from pitch to pitch.

Hologram Dream Sequence

$425. It’s much more than an arpeggiator, but I’m not looking for more-than-an-arpeggiator, and I don’t want to spend that much. Furthermore, the UI isn’t setup for a great arpeggiating UX, if you know what I mean.

But it has midi in and out, and an assignable expression pedal insert, and it’s feature-rich. So maybe it’s your jam?

Bananana Effects Tararira

$269 + $20 shipping. This one might be my jam. It doesn’t break the bank – at least in this space, and speaking of space, it’s small, which is a plus. Each of the eight steps is knob controllable. …And if we’re grading on quantity of buttons and knobs, the Tararira is the clear winner, scoring a whopping 19 in the controller bells and whistles column.

^That was my original blurb on the Tararira. Then I bought it. Additional thoughts:

The Bananana Effects Tararira is everything I hoped it would be. (Fun and weird!) It has just about everything I want in an arpeggiator pedal. But if you want me to nitpick, I could say this:

bananana-tararira-arpeggiator
Added rubber feet for traction.

Par for the course with boutique pedals these days, the bottom of the Tararira is plain ole metal. I added four rubber feet to help it stay in place a little.

The scale, step and divider knobs are smooth-spinning, without a tactile hint when you spin to another value. …So you kind of have to visually know where the knobs are, which is tough because they’re small and black, with scant visual cue as to which number value/setting they’re pointing. I plan to remedy this with a little white paint and a tiny paintbrush, or something. If I find appropriately sized and calibrated clicky knobs, I might solder those in instead. But I doubt I’ll find any. Bananana Effects clearly had to make some minor sacrifices for the sake of size and cost. Worthy trade-offs for most consumers, I think.

I’ve no doubt I made the right choice in picking the Tararira. I look forward to many hours of noise-making weirdness with this pedal. You should get one.

 

Other arpeggiator pedals considered:

Eventide H9 – Billed as “a complete pedalboard in one pedal,” I find it way too separated from effect controls. If you want presets, this might be for you, but if you want knobbies, not so much. $399 + you may purchase/download additional algorithms (read:fx) for more $.

Line 6 RollerShifter – Near as I can tell, this is a custom-made Line 6 ToneCore module that was never available to purchase. It earned the nickname “talent simulator” on at least one pedal forum.

That’s it. I hope to get up the nerve to buy one of these toys soon. Thanks for reading!

 


Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. He’s been in hardcore noise-punk band ‘Cat Shit’ for over a year now. Accordingly, he and pals are getting ready to scare trick-or-treaters with noise from: Microbrute, Theremini, Drone Thing, and guitar through sundry fx pedals on Halloween. #LureThemInWithCandy