Looking for the right pedal is frankly as much of a pain as it fun. So we’ve collected eight bass octave pedals together to help you clarify, by comparison, the perfect fit.
The winner of the roundup, at least for me, has to be the Boss OC-3. Obvious I know, but it’s relatively inexpensive, it does everything you want and more, and the overdrive setting is a nice addition too.
Bass Octave Pedals We Recommend
Boss OC-3 Dual Super Octave
What’s good: Lots of features, polyphonic.
Not so good: Limited tone control, same old Boss look.
Extending on the OC-2, the OC-3 incorporates everything that the OC-2 did with some additional features. As like the OC-2, the OC-3 can play one and two octaves below the original signal at the same time or independently of each other, but it’s the two other settings where Boss have made some changes.
First, and my personal favorite, is the added mouldable overdrive setting that quite simply adds a dirty and warm overdrive, which can be altered independently of the octave below knob to increase gain. Secondly, is the POLY setting that affects the range of notes heard when adjusting the knob and plays polyphonically, which is useful for hitting chords.
Overall, with the three different settings and the inexpensive price, you get a lot of bang for your buck. However, the OC-3 has little to no tone control so that’s something of a pitfall. The OC-3 works with both guitar and bass too.
MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe
What’s good: Easy to use, good mid boost.
Not so good: Pretty standard, not many features.
For an average priced and simple to use octave pedal, the MXR M288 is a good option. The M288 offers three notable tone-molding features: the GROWL and GIRTH knobs and the mid-range boost button.
The GROWL knob affects an octave below giving the tone, you guessed it, growl. It essentially gives the tone a bit of mid-range bite whereas the GIRTH knob provides a separate smoother sound.
You’re not going to be hearing huge differences in tone, but at least there’s some control. If you turn both the knobs up together, you’ll be hearing two fat octaves together, which, for me, is where the M288 works best.
The M288’s mid-range boost button helps the tone cut through the mix and helps with the already decent enough tracking. Pound for pound, the MXR is a great run-of-the-mill octave pedal.
Electro-Harmonix Micro POG Polyphonic
What’s good: Easy to use, polyphonic.
Not so good: Pricey, no extras.
For straight up, no messing around one octave up and down from the original signal, the Micro POG is a comfortable fit. Although favored by guitarists, the POG works equally well with bass with quick and precise tracking.
The octave up feature is an interesting addition that many of the other pedals on this list lack. Both octaves can be played independently or together, but roll everything down except for the high octave for some trippy weirdness. Once that’s worn off though, the pedal works well with all the octaves playing together, creating a Birds-esque sound, or play it staccato for a thin funky sound.
There is however the price. The Micro POG has quite a price tag and with the lack of tone control, you certainly don’t get much your money. What you do get though is a no-nonsense, high-quality pedal that does exactly what it says on the tin.
What’s good: Wide tone control, easy to use.
Not so good: Looks dull, no extras.
The Octamizer, put simply, is a purebred octave pedal. There are no bells and whistles, but there doesn’t really need to be if you’re just looking for an easy to use and easily mouldable natural-sounding octave pedal.
With the Octamizer, there’s a dry level knob, an octave level knob, an octave filter knob, and a clean tone knob — sounds dull but like I said no bells and whistles. What it does do is offer noticeably distinctive octave and dry tones.
The octave filter knob shifts the tone from edgy to a smooth tone, or you can meet in the middle for a bit of both. The clean tone knob affects the dry signal separate from the octave filter offering two levels of tone malleability. If the octave is turned down the pedal essentially functions as another extra tone control. It’s not all singing and dancing, but it gets the job done.
EBS OctaBass SE Triple Mode Octave
What’s good: All-rounder, easy to use.
Not so good: Pricey, looks terrible.
EBS has tried to encapsulate both a synth sounding low octave with the HIGH setting and a more natural-sounding octave with the MEDIUM and LOW settings in one pedal, the OctaBass.
The three settings are easy to use and create three distinctive octave tones (one octave below.) However, whilst the HIGH setting has its movements, it does struggle a little when tracking those low notes.
That being said, even if the tracking can be a little off on the HIGH setting, the OctaBass is a jack-of-all-trades. It does capture both synth and natural sounds, but not as well as the pedals that only go for one or the other.
The pedal only produces one octave below, which for the hefty price tag is definitely a negative, despite that though; the OctaBass is a good little all-rounder.
Electro Harmonix Octave Multiplexer
What’s good: Fun to use, cheap.
Not so good: Only really for experimentation, not a standalone octave pedal.
EHX’s Octave Multiplexer is an inexpensive and fun pedal, but its utility value as a simple octave pedal leaves much to be desired.
The Octave Multiplexer is simple enough to use with two knobs for a HIGH and a BASS filter, a BLEND knob in between and a SUB switch for an extremely deep tone. If you turn the SUB switch off and experiment with the HIGH, BASS and BLEND knobs you can create some, let’s say, interesting sounds. Sounding like a sort of low-rent Herbie Hancock synth bass tone, the pedal becomes fuzzy and wobbly. It does sound great, but it’s more for those who want to create unique sounds rather than a standard octave sound.
The Multiplexer is for the experimentalist. With its low price tag, the pedal is more of a fun addition to your pedalboard rather than being a conventional octave pedal.
Mooer MOC1 Pure Octave
What’s good: Really cheap, two octaves up and down.
Not so good: Pitch can sound off, sounds too inorganic.
As with most Mooer pedals, the MOC1 is an inexpensive alternative if you’re on a limited budget. The MOC1 boasts two octaves above and below which is a plus, but they are by no means perfect.
The two octaves above and below knob can be easily switched between eleven different variations of the octaves. This means that there’s a wide variety of options like two up one down or two down and two up and so on, and the three-volume knobs control the DRY, SUB(s) and UPPER(s) amount octave volume you want. Sounds great, but in reality, the MOC1 is suited only for creating trippy, inorganic weirdness.
Often times the pitch is a little out and the octaves tones just aren’t up to scratch. To me, they sound far too robotic and unnatural, but the Mooer MOC1 is, if nothing else, fun to use and it’s not going to break the bank.
MXR Slash Octave Fuzz
What’s good: Fuzz option, one octave above and below.
Not so good: Fuzz option, limited control of the octaves.
The MXR Slash Octave Fuzz is one and a half pedals in one: a silicon fuzz and an octave pedal… sort of. The pedal leans towards its fuzz function. This is fine if you want an octave pedal that’s tacked onto to fuzz pedal, but versatility within the octave function is not really an option here.
The clue’s in the name though, why would expect anything less than a high-octane octave fuzz pedal? It can, however, be turned completely off for a simple, clean one octave down along with a VOLUME knob to control the octave volume. The TONE and the HIGH octave knob are only activated when the fuzz is turned on seriously limiting the octave tone in itself. But expecting this pedal to be mere octave pedal is kind of missing the point.
The pedal wants to be played with fuzz turned on and when it’s on the pedal gets a little insane. You get a warm and seriously heavy sound and now have the option between having one octave below and/or one octave above. For me, the fuzz tone is too indistinct and isn’t so great on the lower fuzz setting, but this pedal is made for loud bass distortion rather than subtlety.
What does a bass octave do?
In simple terms, if you start with your dry signal, that is just the original bass guitar signal, you’re essentially hearing one frequency when playing individual notes.
An octave pedal bolsters those notes with a new frequency that’s an octave below or above and sometimes even two octaves below or above. So what you have is two notes playing at the same time without having to physically play both notes.
Octave pedals track whatever note or notes you play and generate an additional note alongside it without you having to lift a finger… well, another finger. You don’t have to worry about key or anything like that because the added interval is an… octave.
Sounds strange I know, but nobody is trying to mislead you here. For those in no way upon their theory, it’s the same note but played higher or lower.
The same idea applies for when playing chords or more than one note at a time, but we’ll get to that in more detail later.
Octave effect, when do you use it?
There’s no right or wrong way to use an octave pedal, as always music is subjective and therefore up to the user’s discretion. However, octave pedals are conventionally used for a number of reasons.
Most octave pedals have knobs to affect the volume of the wet and dry signals meaning that the octave sound up or down can be played along with the original guitar signal or on its own. Therefore, octave pedals can generate an array of useful sounds.
Personally, I like to use an octave pedal to boost individual note riffs with the lower octave and the dry signal together. It gives the whole riff some extra oomph especially if it sounded weak, to begin with. Add a bit of overdrive then the riff gets a real shot in the arm.
Many people use octave pedals for soloing too. Either an octave below or above added to the dry signal gives the bass a much-needed boost. It goes without saying that this is helpful for cutting through the mix when your solo comes up.
An octave pedal with the octave up function can imitate eight-string bass guitars, which is a much cheaper alternative to buying an eight-string and easier on those precious fingers. Not every octave pedal has an octave up function though; it’s mostly down to personal preference whether you need or want it.
As I said, there’s no right or wrong way to use an octave pedal, but they allow for a wider range of voices with minimal effort and a fuller sound that imitates another instrument playing the same thing.
Polyphonic vs Monophonic octave
Something to look out for within an octave pedal is whether it’s polyphonic or monophonic. Not every octave pedal will do both and you won’t necessarily need both depending on how or what you play.
Most octave pedals are monophonic meaning that the pedal will only track individual notes with its octave effect. If you start to play more than one note at a time like in a chord, the output gets a little wobbly. A monophonic octave pedal is not designed to track more than one frequency at a time. If your play-style is chord heavy then opt for a polyphonic octave pedal.
Polyphonic octave pedals allow for more than one note at a time so you don’t have to worry about the effect sounding off when you need it to track more than one frequency. The only issue is getting a polyphonic pedal that does exactly what it says on the tin.
A polyphonic octave pedal is hard at work tracking all those notes and it’s no easy feat. Read reviews about the respective polyphonic pedal to ensure whether the pedal can do what it says to a good standard. The same can be said for monophonic pedals too, but generally, they don’t have a harder time of it when tracking.
Tracking is extremely important when it comes to octave pedals and it’s essentially how well the pedal performs at playing the affected octave sound. A pedal with bad tracking will play a muddy and wobbly sound because it’s struggling to achieve the right frequency.
Octave up vs Octave down
Most run-of-the-mill octave pedals offer at least an octave down that can be played with or without your dry signal. This is a kind of standard for octave pedals and means that you can play a full octave down from the original signal on its own for a booming, dub-like sound. Alternatively, play it along with the dry signal to give the sound some thickness.
One octave down (or sub-octave) can add a funky dimension to the sound of your bass and can also create some synth-bass style tones. The tone of the octave is generally up to the pedal itself. Some opt for a natural boost that emulates another guitar, whereas some opt for a synth-bass sound that emulates the sound of a synthesizer playing bass notes. Whichever you get is down to personal preference.
Any octave pedal worth its salt will have tone control or a high and low filter so you can roll back or increase the bass, mid or treble of the octave sound and fully optimize the sound to your heart’s content. Not every pedal (like bass preams) has these features though so that’s something to consider if you want a mouldable octave sound.
One octave up is the opposite of one down. Not every bass octave pedal has the one up function but it’s worth looking out for if you want to fill out the mid-range frequencies within your sound. Along with the dry signal, an octave up thickens up the sound. If a section in a song sounds a little bare then an octave up gives the section some color. Without the dry signal, an octave up will increase the range of notes with ease if you have a particularly taxing section to play that requires high and low notes in quick succession.
Above all, an octave pedal is just another great way to explore your own creativity. Whether it’s just to boost your bass or to explore different sounds, octave pedals are if nothing else a lot of fun. They add color and fatness. Just make sure you look for a pedal with decent tracking if you don’t want that much-dreaded wobbly and muddy sound.