The effects/pedals are electronic devices meant to modify the tone of your bass guitar signal, either drastically or in a subtle fashion or somewhere in between. As you get into the world of bassists, you’ll appreciate that many effects are fun and most importantly cool sounding. However, the world can seem pretty daunting.
Scheming through all the kinds of models, brands, technical components, colors and thousands of reviews won’t be easy.
So, we created the compressive guide and the complete list of all the bass pedals you can name – giving you the right information about the effects pedals and how to use them best.
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Complete List of Bass Pedals
Octave pedals are fairly straight-forward considering their engineering and how they work. They generate a tone/note which is a higher or lower octave depending on the frequency that your bass guitar is playing.
Some models are fitted with synthesizers that can produce a wider range that emulates a three-octave range.
In layman terms, an octave pedal adds a pitch-shifted copy of your guitar’s signal on top of the source.
Bass octave pedals are principally useful to produce a bigger sound, with the effect being fairly artificial and unique. Technically, they are useful in different musical settings, whether you’re looking to create a unique sound to a specific song, or a fill-up the sub-bass range or mid-frequency range.
They are a fantastic tool for gigging bass players and guitarists who lack the much needed low-end or those recording musicians thinking of transforming their tone too.
Wondering which octave pedal might be right for you? Bass octave pedals have traditionally been known to be monophonic (analog), meaning can only monitor and process the effect for one signal at any single time.
But with the technological advancements, the quality of the processing units have ten improved to produce polyphonic (digital) octave pedals. The digital versions have several advantages over the analog models.
Overdrive and distortion pedals are often mistakenly lumped together, and it’s important that we make a distinction between the two. As aforementioned, the distortion effect alters the sound’s tone and timbre to give it an aggressive growl.
The overdrive effect, on the other hand, simulates the sound of an overdriven tube amp and is certainly a milder, warmer and more organic sounding distortion. The effect results in a cleaner sounding texture, which is opposed to the rough distortion effect.
Overdrive pedals are usually used in line with other bass effect pedals including bass EQ pedals to boost or reduce certain output frequencies and bass compressor pedals to maintain dB output consistency. Therefore they are commonly used within studio recording settings and live performance environments.
These units are best for genres that don’t need much distortion, such as country, blues and garage rock.
Besides, they can be placed before distortion pedals to increase the distortion pedal’s gain, which is a great way to increase the volume and sustain solos and lead lines. They can also be a valuable addition to your rig even if you play harder genres.
A bass distortion pedal is engineered to add an aggressive saturation to your sound by manipulating and altering the waveform and sound of the incoming/inputted signal.
The effects distort the sound, making it dirty and rough, which is great for hard-rock tunes.
Like most effects, the distortion effect is common with live performance and studio settings for rock and indie music. And considering how the pedal saturates and distorts the signal, it’s important that it is placed strategically within the pedal board’s signal chain.
As a result, it is mostly placed in a position within the chain where the noise floor is unlikely to be accentuated by pedals down the signal path.
Speaking of most popular and perhaps the oldest guitar effects, fuzz pedals can never go unmentioned alongside the distortion, overdrive and boost pedals. Commonly known as the grandfather of distortion, a bass fuzz pedal modifies a signal to create a fuzzy, buzzy and distorted sound.
Hence, there are many adjectives that can be used to describe the effects. I prefer the super-hairy, distorted, gritty-sounding effect.
For beginners, the fuzzy effect from fuzz pedals can be very confusing when compared to distortion, boost, and overdrive pedals. Therefore it’s important that you understand how to best use them so you can achieve the best from them.
They are commonly used within studio recording and live performance environments for rock, blues, and indie music, which are characterized by slightly distorted sounds.
And since the fuzz effect saturates the tone heavily, the bass fuzz pedal should be placed strategically within the pedal board’s signal chain, preferably in a position where the noise floor of the input signal is low and other pedals down the signal path are not likely to accentuate the processed signal further.
A bass preamp pedal is basically meant for tone-shaping. It offers a blank canvas to help you shape and sculpt your bass tone before it reaches the amp.
It increases the dB volume of the inputted microphone signal to reach the line-level, which is the projected dB level to which all recording equipment work with.
Because it increases the inputted bass signal to line level for additional processing through other bass effects, the bass preamp is therefore placed early in the signal chain before any other processors. In doing so, the unit also allows you to change between different tones quickly and dramatically.
It is commonly used in both live performance and studio settings because you can easily set your favorite tone without having to go back to the amp to adjust the settings.
If you don’t enjoy the long road of gradually growing a collection of effects stamp-boxes from different brands, you may want to consider the multi-effects unit, also known as the all-in-one effects unit.
For starters, pedals come in two categories: dedicated effects pedals (all the listed examples) and multi-effect pedals.
A multi-effect pedal basically combines several bass effects in a single physical unit and is particularly convenient for bassists who don’t want to purchase individual effect pedals, wiring kits and an entire pedalboard.
Usually, multi-effect units come with standard effects that include EQ, Overdrive, Distortion, Tuner, Compression/Limiter, Chorus, Reverb and a few more. Most bassists and guitarists love these units because of the convenience of having all the necessary effects in a single unit, the benefit of digital circuitry and the lower cost.
Multi-effects are meant to keep all your preferred sounds in one place/unit, without the mess of patch cables and possible power concerns on a conventional pedal board.
Bass Reverb Pedals
A reverb pedal is undoubtedly one of the most transformative effects on the music board, and it’s commonly used for general audio engineering to add a spatial dimension to the original track.
In simple terms, reverb effects give you the impression that the sound is originating from an empty, large room. You hear the sound with several iterations as it bounces off surfaces.
Considering the simulation of the echo sensation, it’s important to make a distinction between reverb and delay pedals. Both effects produce an echo in the sense that the sound bounces off surfaces. However, reverb is fairly quick and happens almost instantly. The delay/ echo effects, on the other hand, take longer to reach the listener.
So, what makes reverb so attractive? Well, you can use reverb pedals in your rig if you’re looking for: Ambience, Abstract Texture and also to Smoothen your Mix.
And considering whatever taste you might want to add to your rig, the basic types of reverb pedals you’ll come across include: Spring REVERB, Plate Reverb, Digital Reverberation, and Chamber/Hall Reverb.
Make sure you understand the engineering and controls in each type to make sure to get the right one for your musical responsibilities.
Bass Synth Pedals
Bass synthesizer pedals are basically effect processors that offer some of the most extreme techniques to manipulate your sound. They create entirely new sounds and timbres that certainly defies what you and your audience formerly thought the guitar was capable of.
The technology has been around for decades in different forms that have allowed bass players to achieve great monophonic and polyphonic synth sounds from standard pickups.
Technically, a bass synthesizer processor manipulates the input analog bass signal to emulate the sound of a synthesizer.
It starts by activating the effect pedals, then the synth pedal manipulates the output signal of the bass guitar, changing the overall sound. And depending on the active interface settings, the bass signal will be fully processed and outputted.
Bass synth pedal can be used in a recording studio and live performance environment. Besides, they are commonly set up in the middle of a single chain and are essential tools in every bassist’s arsenal and that depends on how they are used.
Bass Envelope Filters
Bass envelope filters are often compared to wah pedals, thus they go by many names, including a Q-wah or Auto-wah pedal, and are a common effect for bassists and guitarists.
They are best known to make your bass sound like a funky keyboard bass.
For starters, a filter is an algorithm or circuit that adjusts the outlines of the frequencies passing through it. As a result, it alters the relative levels effectively, which also results in altering the sound of each frequency.
In doing so, bass envelope filters can automatically widen or narrow your sound because of the automatic frequency-altering effect, thus the name Auto-wah.
A Direct Injection Pedal (popularly known as the DI box) is a unit/tool that helps balance the input signals and protects your instrument from electronic interference. It does this by providing electrical ground isolation between the input and output, and equals/matches impedance of the source to the load.
In layman terms, it gets rid of line noise, which makes it much easier to control the bass tone when plugged into a console mixer. And since it protects your signal from the noisy outside interference, it is a better idea for bass, electric, acoustic guitarists.
Besides, if your instrument doesn’t put out enough signal you’ll need a DI box to boost it.
A bass delay pedal is designed to take the input bass signal and echo/repeat the signal, so that that it can be audibly repeated based on your settings.
The settings mostly include the length of the delay time, feedback time and tempo requirements. The output is simplistically described as a sound that is similar to the slight echo coming off the surface of an empty, large room.
As aforementioned, delay effect are quite similar reverb because of the echo simulation, but reverb happens more rapidly as opposed to delaying effects which take longer to reach the listener.
And concerning the importance of delay pedals, their relevance is similar to that of reverb effect which you can use in your rig if you’re looking for: Ambience, Abstract Texture and also to Smoothen your Mix.
The delay in technology is currently available in analog and digital mechanisms.
The analog technology works on a single step per clock cycle by sending the recorded analog signal through a series of capacitors. Digital technology, on the other hand, use digital signal processing chips that are engineered to produce different delay effects, long or short with additional tonal effects. However, the analog technology has a distinct warm sounding.
If you want an effect that will help you stabilize your tone and attain a more expressive sound, you might want to consider the compressor pedal for your bass. In essence, the compression effect deals with dynamic control over the inputted signal, smoothening out the dynamics and pushing down the peaks.
Technically, it is an effect processor that reduces the dynamic range of the incoming/input signal. In doing so, the natural dynamic inconsistencies in your playing are reduced.
So, why would you want it? Well, for every bass player, a decent compressor pedal is important because it produces the effect that you and your audience will certainly feel rather than hear.
With this effect, your playing will sound exceptionally smoother and evener. It gives you a more stable output without the harsh high frequencies.
It is also important to note that most models come with the digital technology that is much better than the traditional models that use analog circuitry. The digital circuitry doesn’t have the static noise that is a common problem with the analog circuitry.
The engineering behind boost pedals is to boost the volume (add more gain) of your guitar’s signal without distortion or EQ adjustments before it hits the input stage on your amp.
It takes your bass guitar sound and makes it bigger and louder. The only distortion may be from the amp being overdriven by the pedal. Besides, you could use the pedals to produce clean, smooth sound from guitars with high output pickups.
So, why would you need a boost pedal? Well, if you have longer guitar cables or a complex signal chain that lack the true bypass and makes the signals weaker.
A boost pedal will give you the extra boost that reinforces the signal and allows the equipment to perform better. The ability to cut through the mix.
Considering how the boosters work, boost pedals are commonly available in three different types.
The most popular one is the clean boost that just adds volume without any distortion. The treble boosts that aren’t that clean/transparent and adds a slight flavor to the signal besides boosting it. Then there are the hybrids that have EQ clusters and can be categorized as boost/overdrive pedals.
Bass Volume Pedals
Volume pedals are often categorized as gizmos that don’t really affect your sound output extremely but are still essential nevertheless. They are used to control the volume of your bass by increasing or decreasing (raising/lowering) the aptitude of the audio signal.
Theoretically, their functionality is simple and quite self-explanatory. You increase the volume when you floor it toe down” and decrease it when you pull it down “heel down”.
If you’re wondering why a bass and guitar player would need a volume pedal yet the instruments have volume knobs, as do the amps. Well, a dedicated volume pedal brings different types of control that give you full control of your output.
It can create ambient textures and “swells”, especially when used with reverb and delay. Inherently, stand-alone volume pedals won’t be that useful.
You may also want to know about the 2 main types: active and passive. Passive volume pedals are very simple and usually require power. They also have a wider sweep, tend to feel less sensitive and you need to pay attention to its impedance.
Contrariwise, active volume pedals need to be powered and you don’t have to worry about losing signals. The signals can be easily tamed and you’re assured of clean, streamlined signal output. Active pedals are the more popular of the two.
Thinking of getting a volume pedal, you’ll want to look into transparency and sound output. Find a model that doesn’t tone-suck or distort or introduce foreign characters into the original sound. Another thing is getting a mono or stereo device, where mono devices have one input and one output while the stereo pedal has two inputs and two outputs. Then there is also Adjustability that lets you take full control, Pro Player Usage that is more useful and the Build Quality that assures you of durability.
Understanding the engineering that goes into the phaser pedal’s functionality might be quite confusing. But I’ll try to explain it in layman’s way and perhaps add some technical description too.
In the most basic form, a phaser is an electronic sound processor or effect that splits the bass guitar signal. Once the signal is split, the phaser sends one clean signal and another pitch-shifted signal. The pedal then mixes both signals back together, which results in them canceling each other out. This causes an effect that sweeps the sound output from low to high and back again.
Technically, it takes the guitar’s input, processes it and outputs a waveform signal (characterized by peaks and troughs). This starts by utilizing the signal processor that receives the guitar’s sound (input) and breaks into two signals.
The first signal is then sent through a chain of all-pass filters that alters the phase “wet” and holds downs the second signal “dry”. The “dry” and “wet” are then reunited to create an output that has an in-phase and out-of-phase signal. The degree of the alterations through the phases depends on the frequency parameters.
The logic behind the phaser effect is to produce a warped, wavy sound. This gives you and your audience a heightened sense of spatial awareness because you’ll have the impression that the guitar’s sound is moving away and coming back in the rotation. The swirl effect.
Depending on the speed, slow phaser effects produce a thickened sound, while, the most intense produces a seemingly chaotic, at times melodic, spatial tones. In a nutshell, phaser pedals are meant to improve the musical presence and stimulate the audiences to fully feel and experience the music.
A bass limiter enhancer pedal gives you better control over the dynamic range of your guitar’s sound. They are popularly known as the principal weapons in the “Loudness Wars” of the music business.
When used as an enhancer, you can tweak the pedals to add bass, clarity and an extra presence to your guitar’s tone.
But when used as a limiter the pedals use a high compression ratio to compress the signal, which allows to control the amount of signal passing the unit and thus preventing audio levels from exceeding a specific point.
They are useful in recording studios when high levels might damage sensitive equipment.
Limiters are often associated with compression pedals because they are used in almost every broadcast or recording studio to make soft sounds louder and loud sounds softer. Technically, they both reduce the dynamic range of any signal passing through them. The only difference being that Limiters completely prevents a signal from exceeding a specified setting, while the compressor gradually lowers the signal level above a specified threshold.
Bass Tuner Pedals
Bass tuner pedals are basically hardware units that can easily be daisy-chained into your effect setup allowing you to tune up the sound output without ambient noise or distractions.
They work by providing rue Bypass’ meant to bring real-time instructional direction so as to not interfere with the bass signal that passes through the setup, often to be processed by other effects and eventually output. This makes them invaluable resources for the live environment and studio environment.
Though you don’t really need a tuner pedal, it’s best to have some form of tuner because you can never play an out of tune bass or electric guitar. When playing outdoors or under hot state light, some strings will inevitably need fine-tuning from time to time as they have changed because of the heat.
The bass tuner processor pedal analyses the inputted signal frequency directly compares it to the pre-programmed frequency ranges and co-relates frequency to the right tag.
This helps you (the bass player) to detect deviations from the nearest semi-tone and you’ll be instructed to either tighten or loosen the relevant tuning pegs till the particular target frequency is detected.
To make sure you get the right tuner for your musical responsibility, you may want to learn about the available types of tuner pedals that include: Chromatic (the most common), Polyphonic, Strobe and Microphone.
Bass chorus pedal is another member of the modulation pedal family which also features flanger and phaser pedals.
Technically, it is an electronic effect processor that adds a different dimension to your tone by creating a rich shimmering chorus’ sound to the bass signal.
Mostly used to add to the high-end, producing a shimmering biting resonance that is warm and liquid. Alternatively, you can use it as a layering tool or with fast intervals to thicken your tone to sound bigger and better.
Generally, chorus effects sound like it is thickening and doubling what you’re playing. And if you’re wondering if you really need a chorus pedal, it all depends on you. Though, considering its popularity since the 80s, the bass chorus pedal is a must-have on every bassist’s pedalboard for that spacey fusion tone. The units are commonly used for live performance and studio recording.
Since they create the shimmering sound through beating where two sounds oscillating at somewhat different frequencies are heard together, you’ll need to pay attention to the features that come with each model and the available technologies (analog or digital).
Bass Wah Pedals
Wah pedals are among the most dynamic and expressive guitar effects given they are used in many styles of music – a true pedalboard staple.
It adds a funk-styled rhythm to your bass sound also known as the wah-wah effect. The effect’s percussive elements have made it popular among rock and funk bassists.
Besides, as aforementioned, wah pedals are often associated with envelope filters because of their ability to widen and narrow your sound. They have an electrical resistor with a revolving contact that splits the pedal’s voltage levels when adjusted.
Therefore, your foot’s movements on the plate determine the sound output of the pedal. By rocking the pedal forward you can thin your tone or widen it by rocking the pedal backwards.
Bass EQ Pedal
The name EQ is very common in musical circles and is often associated with tools that shape, define and mold sound. Vary your harmonics, making bass notes extra deeper, and adjust anything that doesn’t sound right.
Well, a bass EQ pedal also works in the same line. Technically, a bass EQ pedal (also known as the utility pedal) is a processor that helps in adjusting the amplitude or volume of the bass audio signal at certain frequencies.
EQ pedals will either boost or cut certain frequencies and allow you to fine-tune the bass, treble, and midrange. Banked on how they work, they are often left for experienced guitarists who may want full control of their tone.
Hence they are commonly used within live performance environments and generally not in recording studios because the studio desk takes care of the equalization.
Analog vs. digital bass pedals?
The main difference between the common types of effects depends on the technologies used to alter the source signal.
Analog bass pedals alter signals by applying some physical modification/change to the signal. Often by manipulating the source signal’s voltage with various electrical components such as tubes, transistors, etc. The action is natural and continuous – has no breaks.
On the other hand, digital bass pedals are designed to use microchips running on programs and algorithms to manipulate the source signal. The digital technology translates the sound into code (e.g. binary), which is then manipulated by an algorithm into the next phase to create your desired effect. However, as opposed to the natural and smooth results from analog effects, digital effects are more sterile and sound colder.
So, which is a better pick? Well, considering the response to the subtle nuances as you play, the Analog is better than the Digital.
The analog’s circuit fully reacts to the subtle nuances even to the minor changes in current and voltage because the actual circuit elements are analog. This is unlike the digital pedals that are programmed and cannot have the desired physical response, instead they process the signal and faithfully reproduces what they get as per the algorithm.
Basically, for any digitally created signal, you’re bound to have man-made imperfections that analog models will never have. Of late there has also been the introduction of hybrid technologies merging the best parts of both digital and analog technologies.
There is one more option you can go, and that is virtual, with the bass VST plugins.
Do guitar pedals work on bass?
Yes, they do. Absolutely! Pedals are engineered to process signals and are never choosy. So, whether the signal is coming from the bass, guitar, microphone, or keyboard, they will do their job. There are no rules for the pedals. But, it’s important that you select the right effect for the musical responsibilities.
How do bass effects actually differ from guitar effects?
There are several differences between bass and guitar effects, but the main difference is that bass effects are engineered to handle a wider range of frequencies, particularly those below the standard range of a guitar. The bass effects also have better “sweet spots” for different frequencies as opposed to guitar effects.
Why use effect pedals on a bass?
Using effect pedals can do several things for you. If you want better tone control, volume, clarity, and definition on your bass sound, as well as adding some diversity to explore more ways of playing the bass, the effects will do it for you. The effects are also meant to relieve stress and fix some issues on the way you play.
What is the bass effect?
As aforementioned, the bass effect (also known as the baseline) are electronic devices meant to provide rhythmic and harmonic support to the band.