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.

PedalProsCons
πŸ₯‡ MXR M288
(Bass Octave Deluxe)
🟒 Analog
🟒 Blendable modes
🟒 Synthy + subby
🟒 Adjustable mid boost
🟒 Tracks low notes
🟑 Needs a hot signal
🟑 Needs a compressor
🟑 Needs clean technique
🟑 Otherwise: artifacts
πŸ₯ˆ EBS Octabass
(Blue Label)
🟒 Analog
🟒 Blendable modes
🟒 Gets smooth or synthy
🟒 High / low range setting
🟒 Great tracking
🟒 Tracks low notes
🟒 Flexible power
🟑 A little boomy / muddy
πŸ₯‰ Boss OC-2🟒 Unmatched synthy sound
🟒 Analog
🟒 Good tracking
🟒 Articulate
🟒 Industry benchmark
🟑 Discontinued
🟑 Volume drop w/o dry
🟑 Weak subs
🟑 Limited tone shaping
🟑 Power (ACA – 12V)
πŸŽ– Boss OC-5🟒 Sounds close to OC-2
🟒 Multiple modes
🟒 Multiple in/outs
🟒 Has octave up too
🟑 Slight artifacts
🟑 Digital
🟑 Limited tone shaping
🟑 Meager octave up
πŸŽ– Boss OC-3🟒 Sounds close to OC-2
🟒 Multiple modes
🟒 Multiple in/outs
🟑 Slight artifacts
🟑 Digital
🟑 Limited tone shaping
πŸŽ– Aguilar Octamizer🟒 Analog
🟒 Good tracking
🟒 Octave / clean EQ
πŸ”΄Boomy
πŸ‘Ž MXR M280
(Vintage Bass Octave)
🟒 Analog
🟒 OC-2 clone
🟒 Mid boost
πŸ”΄ Artifacts on high notes
πŸ”΄ Noisy
🟑 Useless -2 octave
πŸ‘Ž EHX Pitch Fork🟒 Polyphonic tracking
🟒 Flexible pitch shift
πŸ”΄ Sounds artificial
πŸ”΄ Meager oct.down
🟑 Digital
🟑 Limited tone shaping
πŸ‘Ž EHX PoG🟒 Polyphonic tracking
🟒 Can octave-up too
πŸ”΄ Sounds artificial
πŸ”΄ Meager oct.down
🟑 Digital
🟑 Limited tone shaping
πŸ‘Ž MXR M287
(Sub Octave Bass Fuzz)
🟒 3 band EQ
🟒 Blend options
πŸ”΄ Meager dirt
🟑 Big
🟑 No fuzz-off switch
πŸ‘Ž TC Electronic Sub n Up🟒 Polyphonic tracking
🟒 Can octave-up too
🟒 Multiple modes
🟒 Editable via app
πŸ”΄ Sounds too artificial
πŸ”΄ Meager oct.down
🟑 Digital
πŸ‘Ž Fishman Fission🟒 Can add 4/5 too
🟒 Built-in drive
🟒 Built-in noise gate
πŸ”΄ Too big
πŸ”΄ No octave down
πŸ”΄ Only useful for rock
🟒 Great feature 🟑 Bad feature πŸ”΄ Deal breaker

Now, let’s get into the subjective reviews.

πŸ₯‡ Gold Medal

MXR M-288 is a very good and flexible octaver. Basically; Growl is your OC-2 and Girth is your sub (like DoD or Octamizer). 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.

My only 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.

On my current setup, I have a Cali76 Compact Bass -> DarkGlass Harmonic Booster before my M-288, and the octave response is nearly flawless.

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

πŸ₯ˆ Silver Medal

EBS Octabass is one of the best 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. Still usable, though. 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.

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

πŸ₯‰ Bronze Medal

Boss OC-2 is the best choice if you are looking for a 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.

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. 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 dimed, Clean 14:00

πŸŽ– Honorable Mentions

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..

Aguilar Octamizer is a pedal I used for a while; I love its natural sound. The filter setting on the octave side gets you from subby to “saw-y”; for lack of a better term. It won’t emulate the OC-2 synth thing though, it has an original sound. The most significant show-stopper to me is; it is too boomy, no matter how I set the filter. Can’t use it without an EQ pedal or HPF afterwards.

πŸ‘Ž Eliminated

MXR M280 is basically a Boss OC-2 clone, but is simply too noisy. It produces weird crackles even when you are not using the bass. That’s probably the noise in the signal chain being picked up by the M280, but other pedals don’t do that so… It also has tracking / artifact problems on the G string, similar to MXR M-288.

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.

MXR M287: Basically has the same pros / cons like the other MXR octavers above. Plus, it has a built in fuzz – which may or may not appeal to you. I wish it had a fuzz-off switch, so I could octave in-out or fuzz in-out without having to turn knobs. Size is also a turn-off. I’d rather have a separate octave and fuzz so I can switch pedals if my taste changes.

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 very useful for guitar emulation – especially if you low-cut below 800 Hz in the editor app.

Fishman Fission: Purpose of this pedal is to emulate a rock rhythm guitar sound. If you play simple root notes, this pedal will happily follow you around and fill the sonic space when your sole guitar player starts to solo. The wet output should preferably be sent to a real guitar amp to sound better. But, it won’t do the octave down thing; so it’s not your typical desert island octaver. This is more of a special purpose pedal.

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