There are a lot of pedals out there for guitarists to get a hold of. The octave pedal is perhaps one of the least well-known and least common of the many available, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Beyond being able to really beef up your chords if you’re in need of a bit of texture, it also has an incredible ability to create a really unique, cool sound.
In this important guide, I’ll talk you through the best octave pedals available for guitarists.
If you’re looking to chuck an extra octave into your guitar playing, then look no further than this guide.
First Things First
An octave pedal is pretty simple at its core. The pedal takes the signal your guitar inputs and either halves it or doubles it, then mixes it back in with the original signal. If your signal is being halved, then it means your guitar tone is going to be smashed together with a note exactly an octave lower, beefing it up to no end. If your signal is being doubled, then you’ll be getting an octave higher layered above. This is good for when you want to add a more melodic edge to lower chords.
Jimi Hendrix was one of the first to regularly employ the effect, but it isn’t restricted to just him. Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ has an incredible guitar solo that sounds absolutely massive thanks to a create octave effect. Even The White Stripes have done it, using an octave pedal to turn the electric guitar into a bass for ‘Seven Nation Army’.
Boss OC-3 Dual Super Octave Pedal
If you had to choose one manufacturer to represent the very concept of guitar pedals forever, then you’d probably choose Boss. They’re known by all and used by many, while remaining pretty much well respected across the board. They’re synonymous with pedals much lie Gibson are with guitars, Marshall are with amps and Nord are with keyboards.
This particular pedal is described, by the company themselves, I might add, as ‘the world’s first polyphonic octave pedal.’ But what do they actually mean by that? In short, octaves can be added while playing chords. This isn’t particularly innovative, because of course a pedal can’t differentiate between a chord and a single not anyway, it just activates on whatever sound is input…
One of its most impressive features is the fact that it actually allows you to blend two octaves with your original note, should that be your desire. You can play whatever you need, then with a simple stomp, add another octave below that, and with one more stomp, add another below that. Now, this works well if you’re playing in a very high register, as it allows you to pull off a very cool sound that sounds like a full band playing complex lead in unison. However, low down, as you might expect, things could get incredibly muddy.
Beyond that, the pedal is well equipped for use with a bass guitar. If you want to play some higher notes and get thickness beneath, then got for it. Again, avoid the double low octave on lower notes because it could quite literally break your amp. One particularly cool thing about this feature, though, is that the pedal knows when you’ve connected a bass. This means you don’t have to do or change anything to perfect the settings, as the amp will simply do it all for you!
One final thing to note is the pedal’s ability to combine settings. There is an impressive overdrive that means you no longer need to connect and octaver to an overdrive and operate both at once, because this one has a really nice, fuzzy effect already ready to use. Then again, you could just grab a solid multi-effects unit.
Donner Digital Octave Guitar Effect Pedal Harmonic Square
This is yet another very well reviewed pedal. It’s incredibly compact size makes it a dream for any guitarist on the go because you can slip it into your travel bag (or even pocket!) if necessary. For some reason, despite being the ultimate pedal for versatility, it can’t be powered with batteries. I don’t really know why this is, because it seems almost designed exclusively with that sort of thing in mind.
This pedal is cheap, and it shows. The plasticy case and relatively tacky external appearance might suggest that you should stay back and trust a pedal with a more solid build, but that would seriously limit your sound. After all, this isn’t just an octave pedal, but a harmoniser.
The options you have available to you are to add a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth, a seventh, an octave, or two octaves on top of your sound. This can be switched between with a turnable knob, which does mean you can’t (really) alternate while playing, but you probably wouldn’t need to. There is also a toggle to select ‘sharp’, ‘detune’ or ‘flat’ options, each giving a different tone, depending on what sort of thing you’re going for. The wet and dry mix can also be controlled manually, as well as the output volume as a whole. This level of customisability is welcome, but again, all of these changes must be done by hand, not foot.
The foot control is a much more simple on/off switch, allowing you to stamp your way between a simple, normal tone and this monster of a harmoniser. The only real issue is that not all of the harmonisation options are great. You can be fairly confident when using each of the octave options, and if you’re aiming specifically for that muddy, dissonant sound created by the major second, then go for it. But the use of the third needs a good grasp of harmony to avoid playing seriously ugly chromatic notes, while any theorist knows that playing in parallel fifths is a hideous move.
The actual sound is surprisingly great for such an inexpensive model, and while it is digital the tones are warm. Not as warm as an analogue pedal of course, but at the expense of tone comes the luxury of affordability and portability, so it really is just down to preference.
While the pedal can be used on bass, there are a few options you may want to avoid. The careful detuning could be at particular risk of creating a muddy, unwelcome tone, while harmonising with a seventh sounds like a recipe for disaster. This pedal knows what it’s doing, and is able to replicate your sound impressively well, whether on guitar or bass.
ammoon Octave Pedal OCTA
If you’re looking for simplicity on a budget, then you can’t really aim for anything better than this. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
Planted in the centre is a very simple bypass switch; click on that and the pedal will activate with whatever sound you’ve told it to, click on it again and it’ll stop. Easy. The knobs each do exactly what you’d expect as well. There is a control to give dry signal volume, leave that in the middle and you’ll get an untampered sound which (they claim) is no different from the sound you’d be getting should the pedal not even be there.
Above this control, you have volume controlling both the ‘up’ and ‘sub’. In short, the sub control determines the volume of the low octave, while the up control determines the volume of the high octave. Very simple.
You can use this to beef up chords by adding a bit of bass (particularly if you don’t actually have a bass guitarist- this can basically fill in for a band member) or add a glorious twang to higher notes. As with every pedal on this list, adding a low octave to already low notes runs the very real risk of creating a muddy, ugly sound, while adding too much high will lead to something twangy and weak that no one wants to hear. Use it in moderation and you’ll be gifted with a brilliant sound no other pedal can produce for this price.
Neewer Digital Octave Guitar Effect Pedal
As tiny, portable and reliable as the Donner above, this Neewer digital octaver is pretty much as cheap as a pedal could ever possibly be, and fills out of the function of an octave pedal pretty much to the exact standard that such a price tag can allow.
Obviously, with this being a digital pedal, it isn’t creating anything incomprehensibly magical, but it is doing what you need it to do. The true bypass means that the pedal is actually being ignored by the signal, so your guitar should sound exactly as it would if this pedal was never there, which is a very good feature.
As with the ammoon above, it is about as simple as a pedal can get as well. You almost don’t even need to use a brain cell to operate it. The dry signal is controlling exactly that, the dry signal, while the oct 1 and oct 2 knobs are controlling the two types of wet signal this pedal outputs. The first one is determining the volume of the first octave, while the second controls, you guessed it, the second.
This means that you can have a strong presence from a higher pitch, with just a tiny bit of support on the low end, or you could go all in and double your signal from both ends at once.
Due to the price and size, you aren’t provided with overdrive free of charge with this particular model. If you don’t need it, or simply want this one to sit as part of a huge pedal board full of effects, then you’re golden. However, if all you need is octave and overdrive, maybe looking somewhere else is your best bet. Also, due to the very tiny price tag and miniscule frame, I can’t be sure of how well this little guy could handle big, booming bass signals.
Behringer UO300 Ultra Octaver Effects Pedal
Behringer is another brand that seems to be pretty much universally trusted as a leading authority on guitar pedals. Their octaver is particularly cheap, and that seems to be why it has attracted so many buyers. The main problem is that you can tell.
It isn’t a bad pedal by any stretch. For the value, it is actually quite incredible. You’re getting a simple to use interface that has the ability to beef up your signal to no end, and leave you with an unaffected clean guitar with one simple click. There is a growling tone to the low end, and a ringing quality in the high that creates a really pleasing experience. You can actually really explore a lot of interesting, unique and buildable tones with this pedal.
However, there are two issues people seem to find. The first is noise. With such a small, plasticy frame, you can’t expect un-interfered with perfection, but when connected to a guitar/amp, the pedal creates unnecessary interference. This could easily be fixed through a little bit of adaptation to the wiring, but due to the low price, this sort of treatment isn’t really part of the package.
The second issue is sustain. Obviously, your sustain comes primarily from the actual guitar you’re using, so unless you have access to one of those incredibly infinite sustain devices, your note is going to stop ringing eventually. However, various users of this pedal have noted that it does interfere with how long certain notes are able to ring out. I guess if you’re using this to shred or play short, sharp notes then it isn’t going to be an issue, but if you favour those lyrical, long melody lines, then perhaps this isn’t the octave pedal for you.
Mooer MOC1 Pure Octave Guitar
Mooer have knocked it out of the park with their addition into the octave pedal market. Providing a tiny pedal that is, like many on this list, exceptional for those who need to lug around equipment. It might look like a complex mathematical clock on the surface, but the controls actually aren’t as stressful as they look.
At the bottom, obviously, is your bypass. Click this on and off to operate the pedal or to leave your untampered guitar tone to sing on its own. Then there is a knob with various numbers printed all over it. Each of these numbers represents an octave or combination of octaves that can be added to the signal. There isn’t an option to harmonise here, so you don’t really need to worry about whether you’re playing things that are doing to work in the right key, though certain reviews have expressed a bit of a concern regarding whether the octaves are always in tune…
Anyway, you have options that range from a simple one octave above being added to the dry signal, right up to one that combines two octaves below, with two octaves above. As you may expect, extremes like this can create some really weird sounds unless you’re playing right in the middle of the guitar at all times, so perhaps avoid those. What you should aim for is a perfect blend of one up and one down. This avoids taking things too far, while managing to give you an incredibly thick and full tone that your guitar could never achieve on its own.
The sub, dry and upper controls at the top simply control your mix. If you don’t want any of your dry signal at all, then the octaves are all you’ll hear. This, unfortunately, can make the output sound a little weak. If you’re hearing an output that adds the dry original signal, then you’re getting those nice analogue tones from your guitar. If you’re only hearing the wet signal, things start to sound a little synthetic.
On the whole, this pedal is a really versatile and exciting option for everything from crushing low end riffages, all the way to delicate, high-strung chorus-like arpeggios.
Electro Harmonix Octave Multiplexter Pedal
Designed with creating a thick bass tone to lay beneath your guitar in mind, this offering from Electro Harmonix is a big player in the pedal world. It gives that funky low end an extra edge, while retaining the crisp highs your guitar is already putting out.
Interestingly, it takes a more delicate approach to adding an octave. Rather than existing for ‘effect’, this pedal exists for purpose. It gives the lower end of the note, sure, but not in a way a metalhead might think will craft a torturous, damaging low frequency riff machine. Instead, the tone that comes out of the other end of this pedal is rounded, clean and impressive. It suits a swung blues riff way more than a tremolo picked metal riff. That’s why I’d say it was the worst pedal on our list for those looking for a booming, muddy metal tone, but the best for those aiming for a well-rounded blues attack.
It actually models bass guitar sounds more than it octaves. There is a blend option that allows you to combine the low and original sound, but it seems to have been geared more towards those who don’t own a bass, or may temporarily need a bass sound in a track, or who want to lay down some bass loops of their own without changing instrument. As such, all of their effort has gone into some really quite impressive emulation sounds.
In terms of functionality, the bypass is right there in the middle, ready to be stomped on as and when is necessary. However, this pedal is a little wider than most we’ve seen so far, as it needs to hold a few more customisable options within than many others on the market. There is both a bass and high filter knob at the top, which allows you to craft the EQ and tone of the output nicely. If you want the octave there, but you still need a trebly sound, the crank the high up. If you do actually want that murkier effect, then crank the bass up a little. In the middle is the blend I mentioned above, which allows the pedal to revert back to its more traditional octaver effect.
The sub switch is probably the most unique feature on the pedal, because while you can change the amount of octave, or whether there even is any, you don’t always have the option to switch an EQ patch on and off just like that. With this switch, you can actually move between that brighter, fuller, rounder sound that lends itself well to jazz, and the grittier, muddier sound that you might attempt to play metal with. Opeth cover bands? This one is for you.
Digitech Drop Guitar Effects Pedal
Perhaps you shouldn’t call this pedal and octaver, per-se. It doesn’t actually allow you to play a guitar line while another an octave below or above plods along in perfect unison. What it actually does is far more unique, and far more Tom Morello-esque.
You’ll see that the bold red exterior of this pedal holds a line of LED lights with numbers on them, with a switch allowing you to move through each one until its respective LED is lit. The specific LED is representative of which setting you’re on, and it can be switched on fully by pressing down on the bypass. But what do the LED’s actually do/mean.
In short, this pedal is a de-tuner. Select the ‘1’ option and the sound your guitar outputs will actually sound an octave lower. Keep moving down the numbers, and the output sound will keep sounding lower and lower until you reach the full octave. In that sense, the full octave setting acts as a bass emulator that could be used when playing certain tracks by The White Stripes.
Obviously playing a lower note is always going to sound better than editing it with a pedal. But this is a gimmick. It can be used for effect in many situations, but has the small practical purpose of being able to provide your guitar with lower notes than it is capable of. The one thing I would say, however, is that its digital sound isn’t really strong enough to stand on its own for a long time, if the lower notes were actually just available to be played instead.
Caline CP-53 Voodoo Fuzz Octaver
As you may well have figured out from its name, this pedal from Caline is also a pretty impressive fuzz pedal. It’ll plant your octave right in front of you with no trouble, but it’ll also add a fair bit of fuzz for your money. Considering its price, this is impressive, but considering its actual sound, it makes a lot of sense.
A funky green exterior may well draw you in, but it doesn’t quite last. Its synthetic digital sound means that this pedal is perfect for practicing the exact way in which you’re going to use an octaver, but shouldn’t really make its way to the stage or recording studio. There is a mid-cut toggle that isn’t particularly necessary, but for some reason no wet output control. This means your octave is either on or off, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
The fuzz isn’t really worth having. It sounds, honestly, quite strange. You can control its volume, but taking it beyond about a quarter gives off quite an unpleasant buzz. You’d be much better off getting a separate overdrive.
For the price, this is a fine pedal, but considering there are octavers (admittedly, without fuzz) that are both better and cheaper, I’d suggest you give this one a miss.
MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe
The MXR M288 is specifically made for the bass guitar. As it is the first on our list with this specific purpose, it sort of makes it our default choice for the bass guitarist in need of an extra octave. Luckily, it is pretty great too.
Beyond the obvious bypass pedal and pretty self-explanatory dry/wet mix control, there are two much less clear-cut options for embellishment upon your sound with this pedal: growl and girth. They do some pretty interesting things. The pedal is providing you with a note that is a full octave lower than what your bass is outputting. Dangerous territory in a way, especially if a grumbling low end is something that scares you, but also a great way to get a true sub bass sound in music that isn’t electronic.
The growl setting is in charge of how much you want to hear of the first iteration of that low octave. Bring the mix of this one up and your octave will have a middy, punchy and more aggressive character. Bring the girth up, and you’ll be editing the volume of a different low octave (the same pitch, though). This one is far rounder and less grating on the ear, but the mixture of the two is all down to personal preference and what you want to get from the pedal.
While Boss pedal at the start of this list can adapt well to the bass sound, it is exciting to be able to play with a pedal such as this one when it is crafted specifically for the bass.
Voodoo Octave Ultimate Fuzz Guitar Effect Pedal
The final entry onto our list is from Voodoo. From the title you can expect some overdrive built in, and just the pedal above, it is an alluring green colour that first draws the eye. It is a wide pedal with two footswitches and the ability to craft a rather unique tone.
The two footswitches are in case you want to use this pedal exclusively for its overdrive. First word of advice: don’t do that. It’s a nice touch, but absolutely pointless because if you wanted a good, warm overdrive, you’d just buy a good, warm overdrive. The other footswitch controls the octave. This is the one to press when you want to bring an extra brightness to some playing, or if you’re brave enough to plug a bass in, add a little melody to those low tones.
The fuzz level can be controlled independently by a specific knob, while a tone wheel allows for EQ manipulation not unlike that you’d find on the body of your guitar. As with the above you also have access to a mid-cut, should you require it, and there is a volume pedal on there for good measure.
No wet/dry mix and a slightly lacklustre tone make this one of our least recommended octave pedals, but if you’re on a very strict budget then there is certainly no harm done here.
Don’t think that an octave pedal is something simple you can look past without much thought. In essence, it is indeed a simple concept, but when you realize how interesting these pedals can get when you dig deep, there is a lot on offer.
You’ll want to investigate how the pedal will interfere with the natural sound your guitar is outputting, while looking at things such as EQ ability and extra effects the pedal may offer. On top of all that, make sure you’re keeping an eye on the price tag. An octave pedal doesn’t need to break the bank.