Envelope Filters For Bass – “Quack” Your Sound

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For those bassists out there who are unsure as to what a bass envelope filter is, it’s perhaps best to compare it to a wah-wah pedal. The principle behind both effects is the same: you’re sweeping the frequencies from low to high (or vice versa).

The difference is that whereas with a wah-wah pedal you achieve these sweeps with your foot, with an envelope filter you set different parameters and the pedal responds to the volume and attack of your playing.

The result is a much more nuanced and responsive pedal. You may be surprised to discover that a lot of recordings that you thought was a bass through a wah are actually a bass envelope filter.

With these considerations in mind, then, here are 6 of the best envelope filters for bass that are currently on the market, also take a peek at other bass effects pedals we reviewed.

The 6 Best Envelope Filter Pedals for Bass

EBS Bass IQ Analog Triple Bass Envelope Filter Pedal

What’s good: True bypass. Unique 3-way Q switch.

Not so good: On the pricier side.

The configuration of this envelope makes it unique among this particular group of effects pedals. Instead of a Q knob, it has a three-way Q switch that lets you choose between three modes: Hi-Q, having the frequencies sweep up, having them sweep down.

Then there are two knobs: one for attack and another for threshold. By varying the ratios of attack to a threshold, you can achieve lots of envelope filters that you’d be hard-pressed to come across with many of the other pedals we’ve detailed here.

This, and the fact that the EBS filter features solid metal construction and a clean bypass with no hiss, makes it a good choice for the gigging bassist.

Jim Dunlop MXR

What’s good: Superior voltage protection and polarity safeguards. Excellent bypass.

Not so good: Strictly powered by a 9-volt adapter (not included) with no battery port.

The MXR envelope filter for bass guitar from Jim Dunlop is a great option for the bassist that prefers classic 70s style analog tones, making it ideal for bassists playing funk, stoner rock, blues, and other so-called retro styles of music.

This pedal has an intuitive design with five knobs, three for effects, and two for volume: a decay knob allows you to determine the filter’s stop frequency, a Q knob modulates the magnitude of the effect, while a Sens knob controls the sensitivity of the footswitch.

As for the pedal’s volume controls, a dry knob controls the volume of your bass without any effects while there’s an FX knob for the volume of the filtered signal.

What this means is that you can crank the Q and/or decay and the dry knobs cranked all the way up while simultaneously dropping the FX knob down, and this only adds a slight touch of the wah-wah style effect (while at the same time maintaining the original tone of the bass signal that’s inputted into the pedal). On the contrary, drop the dry volume and crank the FX knob for all full-on processed tones.

Electroharmonix “BassBalls” Twin Dynamic Bass Envelope Filter Effect Pedal

What’s good: A distortion mode enriches harmonics and adds extra “snarl”

Not so good: Although there are two filters, there is only one control. The distortion switch is small and delicate and must be changed by hand.

As far as a bass envelope pedal goes, it doesn’t get much simpler than this in terms of an interface: the “BassBalls” from Electroharmonix has a standard footswitch, one response knob that controls both of it’s narrow, sweeping filters, and a small hand switch for a distortion model.

The distortion does give your bass sound some extra “balls” in addition to the funky wah-wahing off the envelope filters, but it’s perhaps slightly redundant if you already have a distortion pedal or a fuzz box in your signal chain.

Aguilar Twin Dual Envelope Filter for Bass

What’s good: Battery saving mode. Right angle lip for both right angle and straight plugs.

Not so good: Slightly more expensive than the average.

This envelope filter combines two different filters that sweep in opposing directions. There’s one filter that sweeps the frequencies up, giving them more treble, and another sweeping them down towards the lower, bassier frequencies.

The latter filter gives an almost talkbox like effect, while the latter produces a jazzy tone that brings to mind Jaco Pastorious, Stanley Clarke and other electric bassists from the golden age of fusion.

This pedal has four knobs. There are two separate knobs for controlling the velocity of the sweep (one for each filter) and a blending knob that allows you to mix the two together in different measures for a wide variety of different sounds. By experimenting with the different speeds of the two filters, as well as the position of the blend knob, you will find that you can generate a myriad of exciting and novel sounds.

Check out this tutorial to see how the filter velocities and blend function interact with each other. A threshold knob allows you to control the volume at which the effect is applied.

Source Audio SA143 Soundblox Pro Bass Envelope Filter

What’s good: Lots more features than the average.

Not so good: Not so much user-friendly.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this pedal has a lot more bells and whistles than the other 5 bass envelope filter pedals presented here. There are 5 knobs, and three footswitches.

The Soundblox Pro comes with 22 different envelope filter presets. There is also a 7 band EQ phaser effect engines, adjustable speeds for attack and decay, an LFO (low-frequency oscillation) that you adjust with a tap tempo (that{s what one of the three footswitches is for), and more.

Thus, even though it’s based on an envelope filter, you could consider this pedal to be a multi-effects unit of sorts, with lots of possibilities. When you come across a particular patch you’ve created that you like, you can save it as one of six personalized presets.

Mooer Audio Micro Envelope Auto Wah Effect Pedal

What’s good: Affordable price (quite low considering the quality). Entirely analog circuitry. Pocket-sized.

Not so good: No battery port.

Finally, we come to a pedal that isn’t strictly a bass envelope filter, but an auto-wah effect pedal for both bassists and guitarists. In fact, you could feed any signal through this pedal and create a variety of special effects which makes it apt for the studio experimenter and the live musician alike.

This envelope or auto-wah effect pedal has a Q knob which narrows the frequency band when turned clockwise and raises the peak. A Decay knob controls the release of the filter, with a clockwise motion giving a longer decay, and a tone knob for further fine-tuning of the frequency range.

These three knobs are placed at the top of the pedal, while a smaller sensitivity control in the middle of the pedal allows you to widen the range of the Q values even more. This increase in the frequency range is what makes this pedal an ideal envelope filter for both bass and guitar.

The Cream of the Crop

Although all of these pedals are quality units, when it comes to the absolute best, if we had to pick one it would be the EBS Bass IQ.

It has a clean bypass with no hiss and solid construction which makes it ideal for bassists that gig regularly. Its compact size makes it easy to integrate into a pedalboard also. The combination of the three Q modes together with the variable threshold and attack make it an extremely versatile pedal also. There’s A LOT that you can do with this stompbox.

Bass Envelope Filter FAQ

Although the concept of a bass envelope filter is quite uncomplicated, there is a wide variety of pedals on the market and each has its own perks, pros, and cons. So what should a bassist be looking for in an envelope filter?

Live vs Studio

Are you a touring musician who needs a pedal that can stand up to the wear and tear of the road, or are you a gearhead who’s looking for a new toy to add to a growing arsenal of gadgets?

If it’s a road dog you’re after, you’re going to want to make sure that the pedal has a solid metal casing and a sturdy footswitch that can take being stomped on multiple times during a set, night after night. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in knob-twiddling and experimenting, then you’re going to want to check out pedals that have extra features such as LFO, expandable frequency range, and extra integrated effects (distortion, phaser, etc)

Twin vs Single Filters

Some bass envelope filter pedals have one filter that sweeps along the frequency range, while others have two, and then there are some (such as the pedal from Aguilar) that allow you to run both simultaneously and blend between them.