Bass Octave Pedal Comparison

Summary

This is my subjective bass octave pedal comparison; focusing on octave-down needs. Note that this comparison is based upon my rig and musical needs – yours might differ completely.

Let’s start with subjective pros / cons of octave pedals I have used before. They are ordered by my personal preference.

PedalProsConsPoints
Boss OC-2🟒 Unmatched synthy sound
🟒 Analog
🟒 Good tracking
🟒 Articulate
🟒 No artifacts
🟒 Stacks good with dirt
🟑 Discontinued
🟑 Volume drop w/o dry
🟑 Weak subs
🟑 Limited tone shaping
🟑 Power (ACA – 12V)
7
MXR M288
(Bass Octave Deluxe)
🟒 Analog
🟒 Blendable modes
🟒 Synthy + subby
🟒 Adjustable mid boost
🟒 Tracks low notes
πŸ”΄ May choke dirt pedals
🟑 Artifacts on low signal
🟑 No EQ for girth
6
MXR M280
(Vintage Bass Octave)
🟒 Analog
🟒 OC-2 clone
🟒 Mid boost
🟒 Small
πŸ”΄ Crackle noises
🟑 Weak subs
5
Aguilar Octamizer🟒 Analog
🟒 Octave / clean EQ
🟒 Tracks low notes
🟒 Stacks good with dirt
πŸ”΄ Boomy
🟑 Scooped if not careful
🟑 Loud if not careful
4
EBS Octabass
(Blue Label)
🟒 Analog
🟒 Synthy OR subby
🟒 High / low range setting
🟒 Tracks low notes
πŸ”΄ Crackle noises
πŸ”΄ Octave muddy
4
Boss OC-5🟒 Sounds close to OC-2
🟒 Multiple modes
🟒 Multiple in/outs
πŸ”΄ Digital
🟑 Slight artifacts
🟑 Limited tone shaping
2
Boss OC-3🟒 Sounds close to OC-2
🟒 Multiple modes
🟒 Multiple in/outs
πŸ”΄ Digital
🟑 Discontinued
🟑 Slight artifacts
🟑 Limited tone shaping
1
EHX Pitch Fork🟒 Polyphonic trackingπŸ”΄ Digital
πŸ”΄ Sounds artificial
πŸ”΄ Meager oct.down
🟑 Limited tone shaping
-5
EHX PoG🟒 Polyphonic trackingπŸ”΄ Digital
πŸ”΄ Sounds artificial
πŸ”΄ Meager oct.down
🟑 Limited tone shaping
-5
TC Electronic Sub n Up🟒 Polyphonic tracking
πŸ”΄ Digital
πŸ”΄ Sounds too artificial
πŸ”΄ Meager oct.down
🟑 Hard tone shaping
-5
MXR M287
(Sub Octave Bass Fuzz)
🟒 3 band EQπŸ”΄ Meager dirt
πŸ”΄ Noisy
πŸ”΄ Big
🟑 No fuzz-off switch
-5
🟒 Great feature 🟑 Bad feature πŸ”΄ Deal breaker

Now, let’s get into the subjective reviews in letter order.

Details

Aguilar Octamizer is a pedal I hated for a while; but I liked it when I understood how to set it right. Basically, it is a very articulate and powerful octaver, which doesn’t mask and drown the original sound of your bass (unless you want it to). That’s why I think it’s good: it lets an articulate, natural and “modern” dry signal through.

Left side of this pedal is the octave section. It can get from completely subby to overdrive-ish synthy, or anything in-between. Depends on your filter setting. The trick is setting the volume on the octave side: This pedal has a lot of gain available, and if you are not careful, you’ll get way beyond the unity gain and drown in a mud of sub-frequencies. You have to be gentle with the octave volume; that’s the trick. I recommend using a frequency analyser to ensure that you are not bloating < 250KHz and remain around unity gain.

Right side of this pedal is the clean section. Tone knob is tricky because it is a tilt EQ. Turn it CCW, you get lows and lose treble on your clean signal. Turn it CW, you get treble and lose lows on your clean signal. Setting the clean tone + volume balance is important: You want to provide enough articulation without masking the octave sound.

From my point of view, there are many ways to use the Octamizer. Some examples:

  • Sub-bass only: Filter below 12:00, clean backed off. Good for EDM.
  • Clean support: Filter 12:00, clean level + tone 12:00, octave level to taste. Good for playing higher notes.
  • Blend (my favorite): Filter 14:00, tone 13:00, octave 08:00, clean 12:00. Good for all-purpose octave down support playing.
  • Clean boost: Octave off, clean level 13:00, clean tone 13:00. Good for chords and solos.

I love how the natural sound of my bass blooms on the blend mode. Very articulate and clear sounding.

However; Octamizer is not without its limitations: If you are aiming for the mid-oriented OC-2 sound, Octamizer doesn’t give that. I found that it works good with a P-Bass, but gets too subby with a J-Bass, no matter how high you set the octave filter.

If you put this pedal after a compressor, it helps with tracking.

πŸ’‘ My favorite setting: Octave level 08:00, octave filter 14:00, clean level 12:00, clean tone 13:00


Boss OC-2 is the best choice if you are looking for a mid-oriented synth-like bass sound. Not much needs to be said about the pedal which is pretty much the industry standard. It is a one trick pony, but it is a very good trick indeed. Sounds clean as a whistle, no significant artifacts, good tracking (until A). It is also more forgiving than other analog pedals if you have dirty technique.

OC-2 also plays good with other pedals. It doesn’t choke my dirt pedals at all, I can get very satisfying sub-drive sounds.

Don’t let OC-2 clones fool you, none that I tried sound as good as the real deal.

However; compared to some other analog octavers, OC-2 has weaker subs. Plus, you can’t get unity gain without blending in some dry signal. Plus, the dry signal doesn’t cut through as well as the Octamizer. Plus, it has limited headroom. Depending on your bass, rig and musical goals; those may or may not bother you.

One reminder: If you have an ACA model, use it with a 12V power supply. PSA’s work with 9V.

πŸ’‘ My favorite setting: Oct-2 off, Oct-1 09:00, Clean 09:00 (with a limiter right after)


Boss OC-5 / OC-3 are the predecessors of Boss OC-2. Although they bring more sound options to the table, they are unfortunately digital and don’t sound as natural as the original OC-2. The extra features seem to appeal to guitar players a little more. Those pedals also produce more artifacts. But hey, can anyone tell in a mix? I doubt it. But I can tell when I’m playing alone, so I don’t own an OC-3/5 any more.


MXR M-280 is basically a Boss OC-2 clone, but bears some of the same shortcomings like the MXR M-288; such as potential artifacts, noises and glitches. Besides; M-280 produces crackle noises even when you aren’t playing the bass – a similar issue exists on EBS Octabass too. If I don’t have enough space on my pedalboard, I would use MXR M280 instead of the Boss OC-2, but I’d prefer the original otherwise.


MXR M-287: This pedal is basically a M-288; minus the growl knob, plus fuzz – which may or may not appeal to you. But the noise factor is important – it produces a hiss even when you turn the fuzz level completely down – this is a huge turn-off for me. I wish it had a fuzz-off switch, so I could octave in-out or fuzz in-out without having to turn knobs and enduring the noise. Size is also a turn-off. I’d rather have a separate octave and fuzz so I can switch pedals if my taste changes. This seems to be a special purpose pedal – not an all-around generic octaver.


MXR M-288 is a very good and flexible octaver. Basically; Growl is your OC-2 and Girth is your sub (like DoD MeatBox). You can use it like a OC-2, or blend in Girth for more subs – depending on your tonal goal. Using the mid boost and a little sub-blend, you can even use the M288 as a solo bass power house. OC-2 typically has a unity gain problem and doesn’t fill the subs very well; both problems are eliminated by M-288.

Since it has distinct circuits for mid-oriented-octave (Growl) and sub-oriented-octave (Girth), it is flexible enough to be used with any bass.

My main issue is; M-288 may produce artifacts and glitches on the G string below the 10th fret – which is a problem on songs like Muse – Uprising. To eliminate those glitches; I recommend running a hot signal through a compressor and work on your right hand technique for a cleaner attack. In the past, I put a Cali76 Compact Bass -> DarkGlass Harmonic Booster before my M-288, and the octave response was better.

It also doesn’t let your natural bass sound cut through like the Octamizer – you have a clean blend, but no clean or octave tone knob (except the optional 850Hz mid boost).

It may also choke your overdrive or fuzz pedals. Boss OC-2 does not.

πŸ’‘ My favorite setting: Growl 13:00, Dry 13:00, Girth 11:00, Mid-boost off


EBS Octabass is one of the choices if you are looking for a natural bass sound one octave below yours. The tone control can get you from subby to synthy, but the synthy sound isn’t as natural as the Boss OC-2. The clean tone doesn’t cut as well as the Octamizer either. The range switch helps you switch between bass-focus or mid-focus.

I prefer the ability of blending synthy + subby on my M-288. On Octabass, you pick one or the other. Besides; Octabass produces crackle noises even when you aren’t playing the bass – a similar issue exists on MXR M-280 too. I find the octave sound to be very muddy as well.

πŸ’‘ My favorite setting: Normal dimed, Tone 12:00, Octave 10:00, Range high.


EHX Pitch Fork / PoG: Those are digital pedals; which means that they track better than analog ones, but they don’t sound as good. If you need more pitch options than a simple octave-down, such as octave-up or polyphonic tracking; those may satisfy you though.


TC Electronic Sub n Up: Digital, sounds artificial. Can be tweaked a little using the obvious app, but I couldn’t get a sound I like out of it. However, octave up is useful for guitar emulation – especially if you low-cut below 800 Hz in the editor app. I’d rather use a Digitech Whammy Ricochet for that purpose though.

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