Bass synth pedals can be novelty items or really essential tools in a bassist’s arsenal depending on how they’re used.
They have the ability to generate crazy, quirky sounds which can work great on some kinds of music and not so good on others.
Ultimately it depends on how they’re used, and having a great pedal in your collection could quite possibly help you create some outstanding work.
In this article we’ll take a look at the 5 best bass synth pedals you can buy.
|Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synth||1MOhm|
|Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer||1kOhm|
|Markbass Super Synth||200 KOhm|
|Red Witch Zeus Bass Suboctave||2.2MOhm|
|Digitech DOD Meatbox Sub-Synth||1MOhm.|
- 10 sliders for moulding your sound.
- 4 mixable voices.
- A specially designed built-in EQ bass filter that you can easily sweep.
- True bypass.
Overview: The EHX bass Micro synth is one of the best bass synth pedals money can buy. It has a solid, compact design which makes it easy to carry around and fits snuggly even on a busy, messy stage.
The thing that stands out the most about this pedal is the amount of sound you can generate with it.
It has a natural sound and is particularly great in the recording environment where you may need access to a lot of flexibility in generating sounds.
It works really well on EDM and pop style bass sounds.
The problem with it being analog is that you have to adjust the tone every time you want to use it which can be a problem for people who are used to the digital way of doing things.
You can’t save presets so if you need to change settings for different songs in the middle of a show you may have a bit of tough time.
The octaves are almost always distorted so if that’s the sound you’re going for then this pedal will do the job for you.
Moreover the pedal can operate using a battery which can be of convenience if you’re in a place where you don’t have many power outlets or for jamming outdoors.
All in all it’s a neat little piece of gear to have. The only real issue may be its analog nature which means a little bit of unpredictability which can either be fun to tinker with or quite annoying in a live setting if you need to make a lot of adjustments in between.
But music is about sound and if sound quality is a priority to you then you’ll probably love the EHX bass micro synth. It allows to great flexibility and has plenty of controls for exploring.
- Compact design
- Great sound quality
- An extensive selection of effects
- Depletes quickly. This can be solved with a power adaptor.
- 11 digital signal processing variations of waves (pulse synth, saw and square)
- Sustain pedal
- 4 knobs for controlling decay, frequency resonance, applying effects
Overview: The Boss SYB-5 is from the same line as the renowned SYB-3 which is one of the most popular small form bass synths. Right off the bat it’s clear that build quality of the unit is quite good.
The 4 knobs allow you to tweak the device to your taste and it has a jack which allows you to connect an external expression pedal for controlling the LFO, cutoff filter and note hold.
But that has to be acquired separately as it doesn’t come with the Boss SYB-5.
If you decide to buy this pedal it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what you’re getting into.
The pedal can generate some crazy tones to accompany you as you play; sounds such as aliens, robots, metallic tones and all sorts of wacky sounds.
The Boss SYB-5 allows both the clean and processed signal to pass through the unit if you wish so you can mould your sound how you wish.
Having the clean and processed signal can sometimes make for a nice punchy, interesting bass line.
Tracking on this pedal requires caution though. It doesn’t handle chords very well; it’s monophonic so take that into account.
However, connecting the SYB-5 to an expression pedal helps to clear up the chord issue rather well.
It’s also important to take note that the tracking issues normally arise when you don’t have clean playing.
So it’s not completely the fault of the pedal itself, which reinforces the importance of honing the fundamentals of playing bass before venturing into the synth pedal game.
Pedals merely give you room to expand and add interesting effects to your playing.
Other than that there’s a lot of room for experimentation with the Boss SYB-5 and with time you can get to some really solid, unique sounds out of it.
You’ll probably enjoy it that much more if you’re a bassist in a psychedelic band as the sounds it produces fit perfectly in that genre of music.
If you’re willing to spend some time to be creative, you’ll grow to love this pedal and you’ll see that it’s one of the best bass synth pedals available on the market.
- The pedal does a great job creating 70s/80s synth sounds.
- It has true bypass.
- The pedal’s tracking abilities could be better. Connecting it to an expression pedal helps solve this.
- It has true bypass
- USB control
Overview: The Markbass Super Synth bass pedal is an excellently built piece of gear. The build quality is solid and unlike many other bass synth pedals the Mark Super Synth is actually very pleasing to look at.
It has a nifty presets footswitch which you can use to scroll through the sound presets, which is very handy when you’re on stage.
This relieves you from manually adjusting the controls every time you want to use a particular preset.
In settings where equipment is shared this could come in real handy as equipment shared amongst multiple people is susceptible to tinkering.
The unit is a synthesizer at heart and that’s exactly what it makes your bass sound like. In other words it’s pretty much a synthesizer which is controlled by your bass in the same way a keyboardist would use a keyboard to control a synthesizer.
So it’s ideal for playing super fast 70s bass grooves or electronic music.
The Mark Super Synth comes with its own software for creating your own presets which you can then sync to the pedal via USB. This gives you a lot of flexibility and you’re not stuck with the factory presets.
But as is always the case with synthesizers you either need to know what you’re doing or spend a lot of time experimenting in order to come up with some great presets of your own.
The onboard envelope filter might take you a bit of time to get used to, and if you prefer to have outboard gear then an external envelope filter can do the trick.
One of the areas in which this pedal truly shines is tracking. Its tracking capabilities surpass most other bass pedals in the same price range and makes grooving very easy and enjoyable.
All in all the Markbass Super Synth is a versatile pedal which you can use for generating fat 70s synth sounds as well as treble-heavy lead sounds.
It’s quite the workhorse which gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It has a very analog feel to it and best of all there’s no delay when tracking.
- Excellent sound quality.
- The on-board effects are good.
- Durable, sturdy build.
- Comes with Markbass software for creating and saving your own presets.
- No delay when tracking.
- No onboard knobs for creating sounds, which might be an issue for you if you prefer working with physical knobs.
- 2 Footswitches for controlling octave mode and fuzz
- It has true bypass
- Dedicated switch for doubling the distortion
- Onboard controls for fuzz mix, octaver mix, fuzz and spatter
- ¼ inch mono jack for input and ¼ inch mono jack for output
- Fuzz pedal (with octave control)
The Red Witch Zeus Bass Suboctave is a little powerhouse. It manages to combine an octave pedal, fuzz, distortion and an envelope filter into a neat compact box.
The above functions often require multiple pedals to accomplish, so it’s safe to say the unit packs quite a punch.
Tracking on pedal is very fast and flexible and it has the capability of blending fuzz and octave effects to varying degrees which leaves a lot of room for creating some pretty stunning sounds.
Two onboard switches allow you to control add gain and cut high frequencies.
The sputter control might be the most interesting thing on the entire pedal. Engaging it can result in some weird effects such as glitch, clipping and some rather wild and uncontrolled singing effects.
Another great thing about the pedal is the fuzz which sounds controlled even at loud volumes. So you can rock out like crazy while still maintaining a high level of sanity and control in your bass grooves.
It will probably take you a bit of time to tune up the fuzz to a useable level, but it’s worth it. This fuzz is for the faint of heart.
The combination of effects and controls means that there’s a lot of room for experimentation. You can generate a wide array of sounds, be it tame or utterly mad and nonsensical.
You can’t really criticize this pedal because it performs the job of two pedals very well. So if you want to have multiple effects without buying separate pedals, you should consider taking a look at the Red Witch Zeus Bass Suboctave pedal.
- Excellent tracking capabilities.
- A lot of bang for your buck due to its capabilities.
- The fuzz might take you some time to tweak to perfection.
- It has true bypass
- Lightweight aluminum chassis
- TRS output
When you first see the name “Meatbox” you might be inclined to chuckle a little. But the moment you plug in your bass guitar you’ll understand the reason for its name. This unit beefs up your bass guitar’s low end to crazy levels.
The aluminum chassis ensures that the pedal is well-protected and lightweight. It’s a very small, sturdy unit that looks good.
The TRS output allows you to split the output into a dry and wet signal so that you can get a good mix of both. The audio response is brilliant either when you run it clean or with distortion.
The unit lacks a generator for the upper octaves. But that is not what it’s designed for. You could always hook it up to an octave generator pedal for that purpose if you really it.
The box doesn’t only boost the low end it can also cut some frequencies if desired. If you use bass synthesizer keyboards in your setup instead of bass guitars you could consider running the keyboard through the Meatbox to beef up your low end considerably.
When using the Digitech DOD Meatbox Sub-Synth you need to ensure that your tuning is on point because shoddy tuning can confuse the box and result in undesired effects.
It’s advisable to use this pedal with caution and avoid running it directly to your PA without passing it through a compressor of some sort, because it can potentially fry your system. That’s how powerful it is. It’s not for the weak at heart.
The Digitech DOD Meatbox Sub-Synth does what it’s designed to do damn near perfectly and it’s difficult to find any real faults with it. It truly is one of the best bass synth pedals you can find.
- Great sound quality.
- Super powerful low end, almost to a fault.
- Its higher octave capabilities are limited
Good bass synth pedals are generally difficult to find because of the overall sensitive nature of the sub 100Hz range.
Synths can introduce artifacts and chaos in the bass range which can affect an entire band if the devices are not used correctly. However, if you learn to use them properly you can achieve brilliant musical results.
Even if you’re not a bassist you can still find use for a bass synth pedal such as triggering different chords with a single press; like a one man band does. You could also use a pedal to add effects to your other instruments such as keyboards and keytars.
The pedals mentioned in this article should suit most applications and playing styles and if you’re new to pedals this is a great list to get you started.
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