Are you looking to play Bernie Worrell influenced synth bass lines, but you don’t have the requisite keyboard chops. Bass synth pedals allow bassists to produce funky lines that sound nothing like a bass guitar and instead sound like they were played on modular synthesizers manufactured by Moog, Korg, and other well-known synthesizer manufacturers.
Here is a rundown of six different bass guitar synth pedals. Each with their own unique features and functions.
Best Bass Synth Pedals On The Market
|Image||Bass Synth Pedals||Specs|
$267.54 at Amazon
-Adjusts the input sensitivity of the envelope filter.
-Octave Mix(ccw: Same octave as the input / cw: One octave lower)
-Filter feedback control. It will oscillate when turned fully cw.
-Adjust the parameters of each modes
-Level control for the dry signal.
-Level control for the synth signal without the effects.
-Level control for the synth signal with the effects selected via the mode knob.
|$169.99 at Amazon||-11 DSP variations of Saw, Square, and Pulse synth waves
-Control filter cutoff and LFO rate via EV-5 Expression Pedal (sold separately).
-Enhanced Wave Shape Mode provides sharper sounds.
-Hold notes with the onboard pedal and jam over the top.
|Price not available at Amazon||-Synthesizer emulation pedal for guitar and bass
-V1/V2 switch toggles between 2 unique synth voices
-V1 creates a warm sound with envelope sweeps for classic analog synth tones
-V2 delivers a vocal formant effect for vocoder and talkbox-style sounds
-360-degree Drift knob morphs between Square, Octave, and Sub soundscapes
-Built-in modulation engine yields chorus and vibrato effects
-Momentary footswitch controls the modulation effects like a virtual mod wheel
-True bypass design preserves your tone
|$269.99 at Amazon||-Synthesizer emulation pedal with 9 presets for electric guitar and bass
-Precision tracking from the 23rd fret on a guitar's high E string, down to the open A string on bass
-Separate Dry and Effect outputs allow for dual amp setups
-CTRL1 and CTRL2 knobs offer preset-dependent controls such as filter envelope depth, voice intervals, and more
Bananana Effects Matryoshka Bass Synth
What’s good: Very unique layout and synthesis flowchart
Not so good: Doesn’t handle bass chords nor hammer-ons/pull-offs very well.
Right off the bat, the main feature that makes this unit from Bananana Effects stand out among all bath synth effects pedals is that it generates two synth tones simultaneously.
These are labeled ‘out 1’ and ‘out 2’ and they each have their own volume knobs. Out 1 is a steady synth tone that is rich and deep. You can mix this together with Out 2 which changes according to 8 different modes you have to select from. These 8 different modes are vibrato, LFO, distortion, bit crush, pitch shift, arpeggiator, filter sampler, and aliases sampler.
It also has knobs for octave, resonance, sensitivity, and a clean volume f0r true bypass. The resulting sounds you can get from blending the two channels together with the effects are similar to the synth sounds produced by the Minimoog or the Korg MS-20, two classic monophonic analog synths.
Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer Pedal
What’s good: It also works well with guitars and drum machines, making it a handy tool to have in the studio.
Not so good: The tracking is not particularly accurate. This means that in fast runs a lot of notes get lost, as do hammer-ons and pull-offs.
This bass synth pedal has four knobs: two concentric stacked knobs and two single-pot knobs. From left to right, the first stacked knob with two concentric pots allows you to blend the “dry” tone of your bass that’s inputted into the pedal (the larger pot at the bottom) with the effect tone (the smaller pot stacked on top). Moving along, the next stacked knob blends resonance with frequency.
The first single pot knob controls the decay, which at the leftmost position results in short, punchy tones. Turn this knob to the right, and the notes become longer and more sustained.
What’s more, the Boss SYB-5 is one of the few bass synth pedals that has an input option for an expression pedal, which is a wah-wah style pedal that allows you to sweep the range of one of the pedal’s parameters. In the case, of the Boss SYB-5, an Ev-5 expression pedal can be used to sweep the decay rate.
The fourth knob is the mode pedal, and this synth pedal has 11 different modes: the first three are saw waves, the next three are square waves, then there are three pulse wave variations, and finally an Up wave shape mode and a down wave shape mode.
Future Impact Bass Synthesizer
What’s good: MIDI compatible and comes with its own editing software for Apple and Windows.
Not so good: Definitely on the pricier side of things.
One of the most popular bass pedals in the mid-1990s was Akai’s Deep Impact bass synth. This Future Impact bass synth pedal from Panda is not a reissue of this pedal, but it is definitely inspired by long discontinued Akai classic, which happens to be one of the priciest bass synth pedals online. The Panda Future Impact also replicates the Deep Impact’s nine sounds.
Still, the way the two pedals work is quite different. The Akai Deep Impact generated monophonic synth sounds from a single created by a monophonic bass guitar. In contrast, the Panda Future Impact can be used not only with a bass guitar, but can also be played directly with MIDI. In addition to the 9 classic Deep Impact sounds, the Future Impact can store 99 patches across 10 memory banks.
These sounds can be created using free software on both Windows and Mac, provided that your sound card or audio interface has a MIDI port. When you edit sounds this way you overwrite existing factory patches.
The Future Impact also benefits from much more advanced digital signal processing technology; whereas the Deep Impact’s oscillation was at 32kHz, the Future Impact has four oscillators running at 512 kHz for a much clearer and precise sound. Other features that set the Future Impact apart from its forerunner are different effects such as delay, reverb, and foldover distortion.
As for this pedal’s interface, there are 4 knobs with 2 switches and an LED screen for banks, patches, and data values.
Electro-Harmonix Bass MicroSynth
What’s good: A wide range of sounds and a diverse selection of effects.
Not so good: Poor tracking, especially in the higher registers.
The bass MicroSynth from Electro-Harmonix has established itself as one of the most well-known bath synth pedals given its ability to accurately recreate the sound of the early Moog synthesizers.
Instead of knobs, this pedal makes use of ten separate sliders that are separated into four different sections: in one section, there are four completely independent “voices” that can be blended together, and these are ‘sub-octave’, ‘guitar’, ‘octave’ and ‘square wave’.
To the left of these voices is the ‘trigger’ slider, which determines the input volume for the different filter circuits. A “filter sweep” sections have four parameters controlled by four sliders, and these are ‘resonance’, ‘start frequency’, ‘stop frequency’, and ‘rate’. The final slider/section is ‘attack delay’.
Although the trigger and filter sweep range of this pedal makes it suited for bass guitar, it can be used with other instruments. For instance, tuba player John Altieri (David Byrne, St. Vincent) uses this pedal on stage and in the studio with his horn and a small contact microphone.
DigiTech Dirty Robot Stereo Mini-Synth
What’s good: A affordable and fun knob-twiddler for robot voice enthusiasts.
Not so good: Not build to stand up to the rigors of regular live gigs.
No, this isn’t among the most versatile bass synth pedals on the market, but at this low price-point that isn’t what you should be expecting to be honest. In fact, it shouldn’t really be classed among bass pedals at all as it can be used equally well with a guitar, drum machine, or any other sound source.
At the core of the Dirty Robot from Digitech are two very distinctive voices: ‘V1’ which is traditional, envelope style synthesis, and ‘V2’ which is a ‘vocal formant synth’ (more commonly known as a ‘talk box’). You can switch between V1 and V2 with a toggle.
A ‘continuous drift’ knob allows you to select between square, sub-octave, and octave waveforms with the ability to blend adjacent waveforms together. A stacked concentric pot knob allows you to set the starting and stopping frequencies of V1 and the vocal performance sweep of v2.
Another concentric stacked knob controls the trigger sensitivity and time between the start of the sweep and stops settings and lastly, there’s another stacked concentric control for balancing between the wet and dry signal balance, and also for folding in a chorus effect.
Simply put, this is a cool gadget for bassists and producers who have an affinity for artists such as Trans Am, Gary Numan, Com Truise, and other retro-futurists.
Electro Harmonix SYNTH9
What’s good: Offers polyphonic synth sounds in addition to monophonic lead lines.
Not so good: Can’t track frequencies lower than the open A string.
Here’s another synth pedal from Electro Harmonix and this time bassists and guitarists have access to 9 vintage synth tones: the Oberheim OBX, the Korg Poly VI, the Sequential Circuits Prophet V, two variations of the Mini Moog, a string synth, a vibe synth, and an EHX Mini Synth tone.
As is the case with many synth pedals, this is not an effect pedal in that it does not treat your guitar or bass signal per se; instead, the input signal from your instrument triggers the internal sounds.
One major problem for bass players with this pedal is that it does not track input frequencies below the A string.
And the Winner is…
In the end, although each of these pedals has its pros and cons, we feel that the best option for the serious bassist is the Matryoshka Bananana, as it is the most versatile of the bunch.
If you’re not convinced that you want to pay this much for a bass pedal, then the Boss SYB-5 is the next best choice as it produces fat synth sound, is reasonably priced, has a clean bypass, and is cased in the durable hardware that Boss is known for.
But that’s only if you had to choose just one. The truth of the matter is that all of these 6 bass synth pedals have their charms, and make for literally hours worth of worthwhile sonic experimentation.
Think of the funkiest, most danceable bass line you´ve ever heard; keep it in your head and imagine it is being played by a synthesizer instead of a real instrument. What will the result be? The answer is easy: instant 80s retro-futuristic funk. This kind of pedal was widely popularized by the most famous funk bands in the eighties and fueled tunes from Chic to The Prodigy. It is quite different from any other stompbox in the market and, to me, makes everything sound a little better. I´ve been playing with them for many years and this is what I´ve learned.
What does a bass synth pedal do?
A bass synth pedal will turn your bass into a completely different instrument. Ever since 1964, synthesizers have been changing the face of music and the ear of generations. The big difference between an analog instrument and a synthesizer is that the sounds of the second are “synthetic”, not coming from any natural sources of sound (like pressing a steel string on a fret and playing it with a pick).
In the case of a bass synthesizer, the synth module inside the pedal uses the bass signal to trigger the instrument. The sound coming out of it can be mixed with the original sound, but it is not a modification of the bass audio, it uses the notes to create something new. A great example of a real bass vs. synth bass is this video.
Why Do I need a bass synth pedal?
With a synth pedal, it is very easy to toggle between completely synthetic audio and an analog, traditional one. Having this ability will turn your four-string instrument into several at the same time. You need a bass synth pedal to expand your playing style and the boundaries of your own instrument (and imagination).
Mono bass synthesizers, the backbone of groove
For the longest time, mono bass synthesizers ruled the market with their single-note approach. In fact, some of the most famous bass synth models in the world are like this.
Units like the Korg MS-20 mini and the Moog Sub Phatty and such helped create not only funk but also early hip hop records along with a TR-808 Roland drum machine. The ability to play one note at the time made them great to play along with a bass drum and create a headbanging/waist swinging sound.
Where in the signal chain do I put a synth pedal?
In my experience, using a synth pedal is great to turn your instrument into something else and for that, you have to eliminate all modifications to the sound previous to it. I usually put it right in the beginning after the compressor, which stays on all the time. Most people criticize me for that because the compressor takes away some of the dynamics, but that is a whole different post.
Placing the synth at the beginning also allows you to modify the effect afterward with a filter like a wah or a time-based effect like a delay or even distort it with something as a Big Muff. If you play with a Sansamp, I would put it right after it.
Playing with a bass synth pedal is like playing with a different instrument that you can kick in with your feet. My piece of advice is that you enjoy the learning curve, it will take you some time to learn how to master it, but once you do, the funk shall be on your side.