Essential Bass Pedals: Spice up your Bottom End

Last Updated on May 16, 2022 by Dave Tudor

bass pedals

Before we crack on, let’s get this out of the way…

Bass guitar effects pedals aren’t for everyone!

While effects pedals are used exensively on electric guitars, some bassists just want as little as possible between bass guitar and amp and can’t be arsed about bass effects pedals. That’s fine and down to personal choice.  

But this article isn’t about those people. This is for players whose signature sound involves stomping on metal boxes and introducing bass effects to their playing. If you’re one such person, this article is for you. Think of it as a comprehensive list of must have bass pedals. 

We just want to make one thing clear here – this isn’t an exhaustive resume of every bass pedal out there. Neither is it a list that implies some kind of preferential running order. No.1 isn’t the best; No. 8 isn’t the worst. How the hell do you compare octavers to filter pedals to distortion boxes anyway?   

No, what we’ve done is honed in on what we consider to be the best bass pedals in their respective classes. Bass pedalboard essentials in other words. Let’s get started.   

1. OCTAVER: Boss OC-5

Some context. For decades, the Boss OC-2 has been the de facto octave pedal for bass guitars. Released in 1982, it’s one of the most esteemed bass guitar effect pedals ever and is still revered today – particularly for the warm, analog, ‘Moogie’ bass synth pedal sounds it’s capable of producing. 

Its simplistic operation added to the popularity for bass guitarists. The pedal could generate one or two octaves below the original note, each with its own volume control. However the OC-2 bass pedal was discontinued 20 or so years ago although the second hand market is as buoyant as ever. These octave pedals have become collector’s items. 

The next incarnation was the OC-3. There was no OC-4. Now there’s the OC-5. OC-2 + OC-3 = OC-5. Geddit?

So what’s the latest incarnation of Boss’ legendary octave pedal like? Well pretty good actually because this is a two mode pedal: Vintage and Poly. 

So it fuses classic Boss OC-2 Octave tones (Vintage Mode) with modern polyphonic goodness (Poly Mode), and you get an octave-up feature – something you didn’t get with the OC-2 or OC-5. The Poly Mode enables you to play chords if that’s your thing.  

A big improvement over the previous incarnations is the tracking – in other words how faithfully the octave note ‘tracks’ the original. On the OC-5 it’s excellent. 

Let’s take a look at the controls on the OC-5. 

On the rear: selectable guitar/bass switch

Inputs and outputs: you get a single input with dual outputs (output and direct out). This means you can route the untreated/treated sound to separate destinations if you wish. In a live environment perhaps two different stage amps and in the studio to separate tracks on a mixer or audio interface 

Mode Switch: Vintage or Poly

Control knobs (L-R): 

Direct Level: volume of direct (untreated) sound

+1 Oct Level: volume of sound one octave above the direct sound

-1 Oct Level: volume of sound one octave below the direct sound

-2 Oct/Range: in Vintage Mode, this knob controls the volume of sound two octaves below the direct sound.

In Poly Mode it has a different function via a variable Range control which basically adds the octave to different notes of a chord. Fully anti-clockwise (labelled ‘lowest’), the control will isolate the octave effect to the bottom note of a chord only. 

Crank it clockwise will add it to more notes accordingly. In a nutshell, this control sets the note range where the effect is applied

It’s important to note that while the original OC-2 is a 100% analog pedal, the OC-5 is 100% digital. Purists may say the OC-2 is slightly warmer sounding than the OC-5 in Vintage Mode (the OC-2 was analog after all) but we reckon the emulation is pretty much spot on. If you love the OC-2 sound, you’ll love the OC-5.

The tonal variety of the OC-5 with its dual modes means this is one of the most versatile octave pedals available. A span of four octaves (direct sound, -1, -2, +1) means amazing tonal variety – and everything is blendable. 

The Good

  • To our ears anyway, the much loved synth bass setting from the OC-2 (direct signal zero, octave 2 zero, octave 1 full up) is pretty faithfully reproduced in the OC-5. You get the same fat, squelchy mono bass tone that has served bass players well for decades
  • The OC-2 was never loud enough in our opinion. The OC-5 fixes that problem. It’s 5dB louder
  • The upper octave is a welcome addition and adds a whole new dimension to the tonal possibilities available for bass guitars
  • Superb tracking. A big improvement over the OC-2 and OC-3
  • Versatile with a ton of different combinations available
  • The OC-5 goes down pretty low. On 4 string bass guitars with the -1 setting, it will track the low E at a push as long as you don’t play too hard. Normally you’d be using the effect higher up the fretboard to really accentuate the octaves but it’s good to know it’ll go low if you need to

The not so good 

  • In Poly Mode playing chords, the OC-5 handles the basics like octaves and fifths pretty well but it sometimes struggles with more elaborate chord shapes. The sound can be a little dissonant at times  

Conclusion

With the OC-5, Boss has taken the classic tones of the revered OC-2 and taken things to a different level. There’s a lot of competition out there vying for the top spot but the OC-5 bags pole position. A welcome addition to any bass rig/effects chain and worthy of inclusion in our essential bass pedals shortlist.

Check out current pricing on the Boss OC-5 Octave Pedal at zZounds


2. OVERDRIVE/DISTORTION: Darkglass Alpha Omega 

Certainly not the cheapest but definitely up there in our list of best bass effects pedals. Darkglass Electronics are based in Finland and are a renowned designer and manufacturer of premium bass pedals. 

Equally as impressive as their highly desirable equipment is their user base which comprises low end legends such as Tony Levin, Faith no More’s Billy Gould, the Foo’s Nate Mendel, Dave Larue and Karnivool’s Jon Stockman. In fact the Alpha Omega is the end result of a working collaboration between the man from Karnivool and Darkglass.    

Here’s the man himself putting the Alpha Omega through its paces:

Technically, the Darkglass Alpha Omega is a bass preamp and a grunge pedal in one. 

What’s great about this particular pedal though is the fact that it has two distinct, significantly different distortion circuits (Alpha and Omega) which can be selected or blended/mixed via the Mod knob – one of six controls on the front panel. 

The Blend control does exactly that – mixes the levels of the clean and processed signals. 

Because it’s a preamp, the Alpha Omega can also be used with the distortion rolled back as a flat boost to your natural sound. 

In the tone shaping department it’s no slouch either: you get a 3-band EQ (bass, mid, treble) plus Level and Drive controls to dial in the volume and amount of distortion required respectively. 

Completing the controls on the top panel are the fiendishly monikered Bite and Growl switches. The former boosts the high mids (2.8kHz) for more definition and presence, and the latter provides a delicious dollop of low end saturation. Both welcome additions.

Like some other effects pedals, it’s important to note the Darkglass Alpha Omega doesn’t run on batteries so you’ll need a pedalboard or 9v DC adapter with center-negative plug.    

Inputs/Outputs

So what about ins and outs? Well, there’s plenty of options on the Alpha Omega. As well as conventional ¼” input/output jacks there’s also a Parallel Output jack which spews out an identical copy of your input signal – useful for outputting to a mixing desk or audio interface for live/recording applications. 

Completing the I/O section is an XLR Direct Output connector (with ground lift to help prevent excessive noise) which provides a balanced version of the ¼” jack output. Again, this can be fed into a PA, mixer or audio interface. 

What does it sound like?

Unlike some inferior guitar distortion pedals, it’s actually pretty difficult to get any bad sounds out of the Darkglass Alpha Omega. Straight out of the box, with all controls set at 12 o’clock (and Bite and Growl) switches off) it sounds great: a balanced tone with a healthy helping of raspy crunch making it one of the nicest sounding overdrive pedals on the market.  

Hit those Bite and Growl switches though and wind up the Level and Drive controls and the saturation really starts to kick in. Things can get quite aggressive sonically but whatever you dial in (sensibly), the Alpha Omega never sounds harsh or dissonant. 

As we’ve mentioned, the Alpha and Omega distortion circuits are distinctly different. Alpha is smoother and less aggressive than Omega with more tonal definition and punch. Omega is just bordering on the obscene – raw and brutal. 

But having both of these circuits at your disposal in the signal chain, and the fact that you can blend the two, means the Darkglass Alpha Omega is supremely flexible, versatile and popular among bass guitarists. Darkglass has a number of overdrive pedals in its extensive range, but this beauty is certainly one of the most versatile pedals for bass around.   

The Good 

  • Two independent, blendable, distortion circuits offer a plethora of awesome down and dirty distorted tones
  • The 3-band EQ and additional Growl and Bite switches allow a high degree of tone shaping possibilities 
  • Great build quality. This is one cool looking (and cool sounding) pedal

The not so Good 

  • Used purely as a preamp with no distortion and just the clean signal in your effects chain, the Alpha Omega isn’t as good as the Sansamp also listed in this review. This is a distortion pedal first and a bass preamp second
  • Not really a negative but if you’re on a budget, this is quite expensive

Conclusion

Just a great sounding distortion pedal/preamp pedal for bass guitar. Making premium overdrive pedals is what Darkglass does best which is why it makes our essential bass pedals list. You get what you pay for.   

Check out the Darkglass Electronics Alpha Omega on Amazon


3. DELAY: TC Electronic Flashback 2

Bass guitarists often want a decent delay pedal in their respective arsenals and for us, the Flashback 2 Delay from Danish company TC Electronic ticks all the right boxes. 

Finished in a rather attractive blue color, the Flashback 2 Delay features two inputs and outputs so stereo operation is an option. In terms of controls you’ve got 4 rotary knobs and a dinky sub-division switch. Let’s take a closer look: 

Delay: not surprisingly, used to set the delay time. Most delay types available from the pedal have a range from 20ms to 7000ms – or 7 seconds in other words.  

Subdivision Switch: the intervals that the delay repetitions are based on. Choose from quarter note, dotted eighth, and quarter note plus dotted eighth. 

Feedback: the number of repetitions basically.

MASH LED: comes on when the MASH function is engaged. We’ll explain later. 

Level: adjusts the volume of the delay repeats. You’ll use this to set the level of the delay effect against the dry signal. 

Delay Type: Pretty self-explanatory. Set the delay type – or TonePrint – you want here. Here’s what you get:

2290: TC Electronic’s TC 2290 digital delay rack unit was legendary back in the mid-1980s when it was first released. It’s a digital unit but it’s sound is often described as being very analog-esque and sweet sounding. It set a standard back in the day, and a pretty good reincarnation of it is available in the Flashback 2 Delay

  • Analog: vintage sounds never go out of fashion on pedals for bass. Use this setting to create the warm analog delay tones of yesteryear
  • Tape: think of gear like the Roland Space Echo and you’ll be in the right ballpark here, including the inherent pitch shifting you get when the delay time is altered
  • Dynamic: recreates the dynamic delay effects found on the TC 2290. The delay’s output level is altered by the dynamics of the input level. When playing, the delay level is reduced and in between phrases, it’s increased. The goal here is to enable plenty of delay to be used on fast riffs that won’t muddy the sound
  • Modulated: takes the warm overtones of the 2290 and throws in chorus effects. Think of U2’s The Edge and you’ll be on the right track. Experiment with the Subdivision switch for even greater tonal versatility
  • Crystals: Anyone for pitch shifting? This mode takes the echoes and shifts them up an octave through each delay loop. Pretty ethereal and psychedelic and great for those who like to experiment with effects. Even weirder when paired with the MASH function
  • Reverse: Old school reverse delay effect. Originally you’d record a sound on tape, flip it over and then play it back. Used to great effect (excuse the pun) by the likes of Jimi Hendrix
  • Looper: Yes you get a looper as well for overdubbing options. 40 seconds mono; 20 seconds stereo
  • TonePrint: There are three TonePrint settings on the Flashback 2 Delay to access a default setting or create your own 

And on the subject of TonePrints, what are they all about?

One of the Flashback 2 Delay’s differentiators in the marketplace is TonePrint functionality. Basically, this is a pre-programmed effect (called a TonePrint) designed by a specific artist that you dear user can ‘beam’ to your pedal and instantly have access to that tone.

It’s all done via a free app – and there’s literally tons of artist signature tones available from artists like Albert Lee, Andy Summers, Billy Morrison, Devin Townsend, Glenn Fricker, Guthrie Govan, Nathan East and Paul Gilbert and shedloads more. 

This app not only serves the Flashback 2 Delay but also TC Electronic’s other pedals. Nifty stuff. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms. 

And all you need to do is find a tone in the app you’d like to download (you can browse by artist or pedal name), plug your bass into the Flashback 2 Delay, turn the pedal on, turn up the volume on your bass and select one pickup (if you have more than one). Then simply hold your smartphone speaker against the chosen pickup and hit ‘beam’ on the app.  

And for those that like creating new tones from scratch, there’s also a Toneprint Editor (downloadable from the TC Electronic website: https://tcelectronic.com/downloads.html) so you can create your own patches. It works with both PC and Mac and connectivity is via Mini USB/USB. And it’s free!

The MASH Switch

The Flashback 2 Delay’s stomp switch is actually a dual controller. As with any other pedal, it’s primary job is to simply turn the effect on and off – but on this pedal it also activates another unique feature called MASH.

In this context the stomp switch operates a bit like an expression pedal. Basically you click it and hold it down. The effect assigned to it will then increase in response to whatever pressure you apply to the switch.

Please note that you don’t need to overdo it – you only need to apply around 20lbs to reach the maximum MASH level so don’t be too enthusiastic or you might break something. With a little practise, you’ll master it in no time.

So whatever setting you set the pedal to (including TonePrints), MASH just basically sustains, enhances and takes things to the extreme to create some really interesting (and sometimes just downright wacky) effects. And via the stomp switch, that effect is controllable. 

So, what do we think?

The Good

  • An absolutely mind numbing array of effects are available with the Flashback 2 Delay and while some are a little over the top for our personal tastes, the sound quality of the unit is exceptional and just as importantly, fun to use
  • The choice of delay settings is excellent, making this one of the most versatile pedals for bass. It has unique stuff like Crystals which you simply won’t find on other products
  • MASH is also pretty unique and enhances the sound possibilities even further. Effectively you’re getting a delay with a built-in expression pedal
  • The TonePrint functionality aspect is really cool 
  • The Sub-division switch allows for some pretty nice rhythmic repetition configurations. Quarter note plus dotted eighth is like having two differently pulsing delays sounding simultaneously in time with each other. Great with a looper

The Not so Good

  • No tap tempo function. You’ll need to buy an additional pedal for that which is a bit of a pain. Something like the MXR Tap Tempo will do the trick. We can’t be too harsh here though – the previous version of the Flashback didn’t have this at all! 

Conclusion

This is a delay pedal on steroids. Almost endless sonic possibilities and definitely one of the best out there. Some of the functions are probably more suitable for guitar but this won’t get in the way of bass players creating some seriously great tones.   

Check out current pricing for the TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay on Amazon


4. CHORUS: Boss CEB-3 

Boss’ chorus pedals have been around for decades. The CE-2 is a legendary guitar pedal and is a staple fixture on many a guitarist/bassist’s pedalboard. But before that there was the CE1. 

Never seen one in the wild personally but apparently it was a pedal version of Roland’s equally legendary JC-120 Jazz Chorus amp, using the same electronic circuit in fact. 

So what can the Boss CEB-3 offer budding bass players?

Well, straight off the bat, this is a digital pedal that works via mains adapter and/or battery. It’s a mono in, mono/stereo out arrangement. Chorus is an effect that will always sound better in stereo so if you can afford that luxury, output A is processed sound only; output B is dry sound only.   

Sticking with stereo, the CEB-3 uses technology that Boss calls its Space Synthesis system which means the depth of the effect depends on the distance between the two speakers. Probably a bit of marketing hype thrown in for good measure, but there’s no doubt that this really sings in a stereo set-up. 

But fear not. It works pretty well in good old mono as well!

Control wise you have four knobs to twiddle:

E.Level: adjusts the effect level. It blends the chorus effect with the input signal

Low Filter: controls lower frequencies of the effect sound. This is most welcome as it’s tailored for bass and directly affects the low end. The more you wind it up, the wider the range of lower frequencies the effect is applied to.

Conversely, pull it back and the effect is applied to less of the lower frequency spectrum. Fully counter-clockwise and the effect is only applied to higher frequencies.

Rate: Well, somewhat obviously this controls the modulation rate – or speed if you prefer. 

The Good 

  • Offers a wide range of tones from subtle chorus effects to deep chorus heaven. Thickens your bass tone nicely
  • Like any Boss guitar pedal it’s extremely well made and robust
  • The low filter is a standout feature. It’s useful because you can select the frequencies the chorus effect applies to. Fully anti-clockwise means the effect doesn’t go anywhere near your low frequencies
  • This can actually be really useful: non-chorused low stuff and the effect only applied to higher notes – on a solo for example. Fully clockwise and chorus is applied to low end frequencies
  • The effect doesn’t mask the low end
  • Great value for money

The not so good

  • It would be harsh to call this a negative but there will be some bass players who will think the CEB-3’s chorus effect is just too subtle. We disagree. However if you have a hankering for cranky seasicky chorus effects you may prefer the Boss CE-5 which is a bit more full on
  • We’re being picky but the CEB-3 is quite a dark sounding chorus that perhaps could benefit from a tone control 

Conclusion

We think the Boss CEB-3 is just right for bass but don’t expect manically wild chorusing effects because this is tailored for the bass guitar and it’s not a chorus ensemble – just a straight, single modulation chorus pedal.

But there’s plenty of options to experiment with. It’ll add a really nice thickness to your tones while managing to sound full and natural.

See the Boss CEB-3 for yourself on Amazon


5. DI BOX/DISTORTION: Tech 21 Sansamp Bass Driver DI v2

You really do get the best of both worlds with the Sansamp Bass Driver DI because it’s not only a great DI box but also a bass amp emulator as well providing everything from rich clean tones to vintage tube sounds and grungy distortion.  

It’s one of those essential effects pedals. You’ll find them adorning literally thousands of recording studios (home and professional) and live rigs alike. It’s one of the most popular bass guitar effects pedals out there. Some bass guitarists use them as a DI box for recording while others use them live to feed recording desks, mixers, bass amps or power amps.

Others still dispense with a live backline altogether because they can get the exact sound they want directly from the Sansamp. It really is that good with plenty of tone shaping controls for budding bassists to experiment with. 

They are phenomenally popular and although we’re somewhat reluctant to use the term – the Tech 21 Sansamp Bass Driver DI has been something of an industry standard since its introduction in the mid-1990s. We believe this is one of the most essential effects pedals to have in your locker.   

Version 2

As we’ve mentioned, the original Sansamp was released eons ago but we’re now at version 2 following a number of modifications – predominantly to the bass frequencies and mids.  

Basically, Sansamp added two switches: Bass shift and Mid-shift. The former changes the frequency from 40Hz (in the up position) to 80Hz to accommodate the low end grunt of five and six string basses. The latter boosts or scoops the frequency from 500Hz (up position) to 1,000Hz for more tonal versatility in the mid-range.

In addition to the above, you get a plethora of other controls: 

Presence: which accentuates those upper frequencies; Drive: which is essentially a gain and overdrive control; Mid, Bass and Treble: what it says on the tin; Blend: which controls the mix between the tube amplifier emulation circuitry and your direct signal; and last but by no means least, Level: which controls the output.

Ins and Outs

Again no shortage of options here. ¼” Input; ¼” Parallel Output which passes an uneffected signal to the input of a stage amp for example; Balanced XLR output for sending an effected or uneffected signal to a mixer or recorder; and a ¼” Output jack.

The versatility of the I/O section is enhanced even further via additional switches offering even more routing options. For example, there’s knobs for eliminating ground hum plus dB reduction switches. 

You’ll notice what a difference this pedal makes simply comparing the bypassed with the effected sound. Engaging the pedal just cranks everything up a gear – not just fuller but louder. 

Naturally you’ll want to experiment with your own sounds, but you do get 12 sample settings included in the owner’s manual to get you started: Fat Tube, Bassman Style, SVT Style, King’s X Style, Slap, Reggae, Yes Style, Jaco, Full Range/Clean, Acoustic Bass, 80s Style and Active Bass Emulation. 

You do have to ‘dial’ these in yourself but they do give a broad representation of just what this pedal can do. 

We’re not going to even attempt to try and explain these sounds in words but they’re all really good in their own right. Importantly they showcase the sonic dexterity of the Sansamp Bass Driver DI – introducing varying levels of saturation and tonal variation using the controls provided. 

For the record, our personal preset favorites are: Fat Tube, SVT Style (Ampeg emulation) and Slap. 

The Good

  • It’s reassuring to know that the Sansamp Bass Driver DI v2 offers great sounds straight out of the box. Most players will naturally use this in combination with their amp rigs but it does sound great on its own (For those who know their French, Sansamp after all does translate to ‘without an amp’)
  • Versatile. Can be used in a recording or live environment
  • For what you get (a bass preamp AND a distortion pedal), it’s really good value for money
  • With the extended low end and mids options, it’s a marked improvement over the v1 incarnation

The Not so Good

Ermm…

Conclusion 

Think of this pedal, that even at its most basic and irrespective of playing style, will give you a fuller, more rounded bass sound. In practically all cases, it will make you sound better.   

We said at the start of this review that the listed products aren’t intended as a definitive list. But really every bassist should have a Sansamp Bass Driver DI v2 pedal in their locker.  

As well as being a great DI box, the sound shaping controls and distortion effects are superb. In fact, if you’re on a budget and need a DI box and distortion pedal in one convenient package, the Sansamp is the one to go for. 

As an out and out distortion pedal, we do prefer the Darkglass Alpha Omega, which is why it rightfully earns its place in this shortlist. But if the beer vouchers are in short supply and you just need one pedal to give you a wealth of low end sound shaping options, the Sansamp is hard to beat. 

Like a tube amplifier, pushing the saturation leads to the introduction of enhanced harmonics which add a real sense of authenticity to the output.

Take a closer look at the Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI Effects Pedal on Amazon


6. COMPRESSOR: MXR M87  

We were debating whether to include a compressor pedal in this list. The conclusion was however, while they may not be the sexiest pedals on the planet, compressor pedals are the unsung heroes of bass guitar pedals when it comes to producing a level, balanced bass sound. 

Whether you need one or not will depend to a large extent on your playing style. For dynamic, often ‘percussive’ styles like funk, slap, metal and rock, the answer is probably yes. When the bass needs to hold down a groove and be consistent, then compression can help you achieve that objective. 

For more relaxed fingerstyle players, or where playing dynamics are essential to the composition and genre – jazz and classical for example – perhaps not so much. 

On bass, compressors even out the sound, compressing the peaks and enabling you to increase the overall volume so it sits well in the mix. For recording, practically all sound engineers will compress the bass at some point. On stage, it’s a little more subjective. As we’ve noted, style and preference are key factors. 

The compression concept is simple: reduce the volume of the louder parts, bringing them ‘closer’ to the quieter parts ensuring your performance has consistent dynamics. The volume can then be raised uniformly.   

But beware, there’s nothing worse sonically than a sound that has had all the dynamics compressed out of it. Too much compression and the sound becomes squashed and unnatural. Used wisely however, compression is your friend and can really enhance the ‘evenness’ of a bass tone. 

Controls    

There are exceptions but generally compressor pedals tend to be pretty simplistic in their design. The MXR M87 falls into this category with single in/out ¼” jacks and five rotary control knobs: Attack, Release, Input, Output, and Ratio. 

Along the top of the pedal is a visual LED lit gain reduction meter which displays gain reduction level and the compressor response time. Basically, the more this is illuminated, the greater the level of compression being applied.  

On practically all compressors, the controls are all pretty similar because it’s a tried and trusted formula. This is what the knobs on the M87 do.

Attack: how quickly the compression kicks in

Release: how quickly the signal returns to an uncompressed level

Input: input signal (from your bass) gain

Output: controls the overall effect volume

Ratio: On the M87 you have ratio options of 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1. Using 4:1 as an example – for every 4dB above the threshold, the compressor will only allow 1dB through. 4:1 is a sensible starting point. 

At the other extreme, using a 20:1 ratio (effectively we’re in limiting territory here), for every 20dB above the threshold, only 1dB above the threshold will pass through. 

Many compressors have a Threshold control which essentially controls when compression kicks in. The MXR M87 doesn’t. Instead it uses a fixed value meaning thresholds are set by adjusting the input control.

A good starting point, and the manual agrees, is to set the input knob so that the first 3 to 7 green gain reduction LEDs light up. 

It’s important to note that compression will only take place once the threshold has been exceeded. And the amount of compression is based on the ratio setting.  

The Good 

  • This is a no frills pedal that works well to keep your bass dynamics under control. Great for taming a wayward bellowing E string for example or for popping and slapping styles
  • The manual is actually pretty concise and usable. You should be up and running pretty quickly
  • In a live performance the easy to see LEDs tell you instantly how much signal is being compressed
  • Versatile. From subtle compression to full on limiting
  • Plenty of headroom on input/output knobs. MXR calls this CHT (Constant Headroom Technology). Marketing jargon? Perhaps – but it works 

The Not so Good

  • This is a weird one. The Attack and Release controls actually work in reverse to what you’d expect. For a faster reaction time you dial CLOCKWISE; for a slower reaction time, it’s COUNTER-CLOCKWISE. It’s explained in the manual, but if you’re used to studio compressors or plugins this will mess with your brain at first
  • Depending on the settings – and your instrument – it can get a little noisy. You may have to crank the input gain up pretty high for compression to kick in
  • Chomps through batteries  

Conclusion

As far as effects pedals go, compression is something of a black art and often misunderstood. It’s not a wildly obvious effect but for bass players in particular, they can be an absolutely essential tool to have on your effects board. Wise people have said you don’t hear compression, you feel it!

Not all instruments are set up well with inconsistent string volumes. Also, your style of playing may be somewhat erratic. A compressor will keep things on the straight and narrow. Recommended. 

Check out the MXR M87 Bass Compressor Pedal on Amazon


7. ENVELOPE FILTER: Aguilar Filter Twin

Moving swiftly on to filter effects pedals. This is an envelope filter pedal and the sound it produces is deliciously funky. For this reason, rock and metal bassists may choose to save their cash but for out and out funk and groove, you need one of these! Many bass players find using a manual wah challenging but the Aguilar Filter Twin solves all that. At a basic level, it’s a really effective auto wah pedal but it’s also got a few tricks up its sleeve. 

It actually features TWO identical sweeping filters operating in opposite directions – one up, one down – each with its own velocity (speed) control and arrow for easy identification. The other two control knobs are Blend and Threshold.

Blend controls the mix of the two filters. Again, conveniently identified with arrows up and down so you know what you’re doing. Threshold is effectively the sensitivity corresponding to the input level. Bass outputs vary and this control when the effect kicks in basically. You can get some awesome envelope phasing effects going with a little experimentation.      

There’s a natural link between threshold settings and input level. Backing off the threshold but increasing the input level still results in a velocity increase. The manual says ‘tweak away and have fun’ and that’s good advice with this pedal. There’s no substitute for plugging your bass in and messing around. Let your ears be the judge!

The Good

  • Solidly built. It’ll take a knock or two straight on the chin
  • What we like about this filter pedal is that when in use, it doesn’t rob you of your low end. Some envelope filter pedals sound quacky and trebly but not the Aguilar Filter Twin
  • Having twin adjustable, blendable filters really takes this pedal to another level in terms of creating your own unique filter tones. You can even squeeze out quasi monophonic synthy sounds if that’s your thing    

The Not So Good 

  • We’re struggling to say anything negative at all to say about the Aguilar Filter Twin dual envelope filter. It’s pricey but you get what you pay for  

Conclusion

This is one funky filter pedal. Plenty of quack and filtering options. Interesting on slap bass but if 70s funk is your thing, you’re going to want to buy this. Its appeal is likely to be limited and heavily influenced by your playing style but we defy anyone not to have fun with this pedal.  

And for bass, we think it’s the best filter pedal out there. 

Take a listen to Anthony Wellington of the Victor Wooten Band and prepare to be impressed!

Get up to date pricing for the Aguilar Filter Twin Envelope Filter on Amazon


Summary
Essential Bass Pedals
Article Name
Essential Bass Pedals
Description
Bass pedalboard essentials. Take your low end to the next level with our top 8 must have bass effects pedals.
Author
Publisher Name
Making Music Pro

Dave Tudor

Dave Tudor has been a musician for 40 years. He plays guitar, bass, keyboards (badly) and records his own music in his home studio.

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