Tech

Top 15 Best Guitar Pitch Shifter, Synthesizer & Octave Pedals

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The concept of shifting the pitch of a played note, either during performance or when working with recorded material, has been around for decades. Anyone who watched Looney Toons heard it on Mel Blanc’s voice for certain characters, and the same goes for any of the Alvin and the Chipmunks recordings. This was originally achieved by playing a recording at a different speed than it was recorded, changing the duration, which in turn changes the pitch. The Beatles featured a lot of in the late 60s, too.

As a device for musicians, digital audio processors used to have to work with something after it had been recorded so that the device could analyze the pitch. Eventually, as the technology improved, so did the ability to pitch shift in real time. It was only a matter of time before someone harnessed this ability for guitar players.

Amazingly, it took until 1989 to engineer the first of these — the venerable DigiTech WH-1 Whammy. Tom Morello has used one to fantastic effect in virtually all of his projects. There are dozens of other examples, including Dimebag Darrell and David Gilmour, and the original pedal goes for between $300 and $500. Happily, you don’t need to spend that kind of money to get into pitch shifting.

There are different types of pitch shifting, too. The Whammy represents the purest sense of the effect, using the expression pedal to bend the pitch in a distinctive way. Octave pedals and harmonizers change the pitch while leaving the original signal in place, so you can build musical layers of your guitar tone. Synthesizer pedals are dedicated to using similar circuits to make your guitar sound like other instruments, such as an organ. Choosing which of these you need all depends on the effect you’re going for.

As with chorus and flanger, there’s quite a lot of overlap with these pedals, so we’ve slotted them into their different types by their dominant use. Most of these will cover all three of these tonal categories and beyond.

For on-the-fly pitch changes, dive-bombs, and even subtle harmonies, consider our list of the top 15 best guitar pitch shifters, harmonizers, and octave pedals.


Pitch Shifter Pedals

Much like the whammy bar on a vibrato-equipped guitar, pitch shifting pedals are meant to change or bend a note well beyond what would be physically possible. One of the major advantages to using a pedal to achieve pitch shifts is that your guitar doesn’t get pulled out of tune. Wildly pitch shifted notes create a very particular effect and is great for expressive and experimental playing.


1. DigiTech Whammy

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(DigiTech)

Might as well start where it all started. A version of the pedal that started it all. The Whammy currently available is the fifth version, which is also the first with polyphonic tracking and true bypass. If you’re looking for that certain Whammy sound, there’s still no better alternative than going to the source.

For controls, you get, of course, the built-in expression pedal. You also get a switch to choose between Classic style and Chords, which is where the polyphonic capabilities come into play. The rotary knob lets you choose your harmony, which also includes a new Detune setting. A midi port allows you to remotely control the Whammy.

Of course, DigiTech haven’t left it up to just modifying one unit. There are now a handful of Whammy-related pedals with varying functions. The Whammy DT adds both drop tune setting and a momentary switch. The drop tune function is available in the standalone DigiTech DROP, while you can now get all the Whammy-style fun from the much more compact Whammy Ricochet. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure of Whammy effects.

Need more options? Browse more DigiTech products here.

Price: $199.95

Buy the DigiTech Whammy here.



Specs:

  • Range: Two octaves above to three octaves below
  • Blend?: Yes, on Harmony mode
  • Polyphonic?: Yes, in Chords mode
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: Yes

Find more DigiTech Whammy information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Distortion Guitar Pedals

If you're in search of heavier guitar tone, consider our list of the top ten best distortion pedals.

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2. Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork

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(Electro-Harmonix)

Electro-Harmonix have never let themselves be left out of any pedal game, and released the Pitch Fork to aim for Whammy territory. It more specifically competes with the Ricochet model, given its small footprint and lack of included expression pedal. Though the range is similar, this one doesn’t have the nifty LED readout that the Ricochet does, if that’s something that interests you. Still, the tracking on this is quite good, with only a few millisecond delay that all but fades under heavy drive.

Controls include a Blend knob so you can always control how much of your original signal appears along side the pitch shifted note. The Shift knob controls the pitch, from with 11 positions including the 17-cent shifted Detune, Minor 2nd to Minor 7th, and three octaves. The small switch on the front chooses whether you’re transposing up, down or dual, which is both at once. The Latch switch can change the footswitch to momentary mode. Depending on which you’re using, this will mean that your expression pedal is controlling the pitch shift or the glissando.

This is a fairly robust option in a small package and would be a good alternative if you find the tracking on other pitch shifters to have latency issues.

Need more options? Browse more Electro-Harmonix products here.

Price: $157.20

Buy the Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork here.



Specs:

  • Range: Three octaves above to three octaves below
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: Exp jack provided

Find more Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork information and reviews here.


Top 15 Best Cheap Guitar Effect Pedals

For those searching for good tone on a budget, here's our list of the top 15 best cheap guitar effects pedals offering excellent value.

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3. EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine

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(EarthQuaker Devices)

Those first two options are very good pitch shifters. They’ll give you what you want (eventually, after some time re-familiarizing yourself with intervals). If, however, you want your pitch to be shifted in a bizarre, even uncontrollable way, this is the pedal for you. This is one of EarthQuaker Device’s stand out pedals, as it is made for truly unique sounds and (relatively) beautiful chaos. This isn’t for controlled pitch bends or detuning, this is for setting your guitar free.

Controls include Pitch, which ranges from a 4th down to a 3rd up. Primary controls the volume of the pitch shifted signal, with unity around 2 o’clock, boosting above that. Secondary is an octave from the Primary shift, with one octave below fully counter-clockwise to one octave above fully clockwise. Tracking determines the amount of time between the dry signal and the wet shifted signal. Tone starts a full signal fully clockwise and rolls off the highs turning back. Magic controls the…magic. This knob reads the positions of the other knobs and sets off out-of-control effects based on those parameters. This is separately selectable with the Magic footswitch in case you don’t want that sort of thing. That’s kind of the point, though, so use it as you would a boost for a lead passage. When an expression pedal is added, it controls the Pitch knob.

EarthQuaker also makes another polyphonic pitch pedal called Arpanoid. This is a guitar arpeggiator rather than a true pitch shifter, but hey, while you’re at it, you might as well know such a thing is possible.

Need more options? Browse more EarthQuaker Devices products here.

Price: $225

Buy the EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine here.



Specs:

  • Range: 4th down to 3rd up
  • Blend?: Yes (called Primary)
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: Exp jack provided

Find more EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine information and reviews here.


Top 15 Best Chorus, Flanger, & Phaser Guitar Pedals

Here's our list of the top 15 best chorus, flanger, and phaser pedals to add intrigue to your guitar tone.

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4. Boss PS-6 Harmonist

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(Boss)

Coming back to something more broadly useful, this Boss unit is incredibly powerful. For less than the previous pedals, you get a host of different modes and uses with more subtle variation between each. You even get a little flavor of Whammy in here using S-Bend mode, which again features a momentary footswtich setting to give you more dynamic playing.

Controls depend a bit on function, but for Major, Minor, Pitch Shifter, and Detune mode, the Balance knob is a wet/dry mix. Shift chooses the type of voicing and includes a few three-voice harmonies for any setting. Key sets the key you’ll be shifting to, while Mode chooses the kind of pitch shift. In S-Bend (Super Bend) mode, the Balance knob becomes Rise Time and Key becomes Fall Time, which changes the length of time it takes to shift to the extreme of the pitch and come back to the actual note.

For the best range of practical shifting, this is probably the one go to with. It’s also pedalboard friendly, which is nice.

Need more options? Browse more Boss products here.

Price: $149

Buy the Boss PS-6 Harmonist here.



Specs:

  • Range: Three octave below to four octaves above
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: No
  • True bypass?: No
  • Expression pedal?: Exp jack provided

Find more Boss PS-6 Harmonist information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Reverb Guitar Pedals

If you're looking to add a sense of atmosphere to your guitar tone, we've rounded up the top ten best reverb guitar pedals to help you choose.

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5. Eventide Pitch Factor Harmonizer

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(Eventide)

While the Boss is excellent, it doesn’t have everything you could ever dream of. This Eventide unit almost certainly does. If changing pitch is even remotely involved — and yes, that includes a tuner — this unit can do it. It’s expensive as it is difficult to master, so you would choose this if you found all other options lacking. If you’re still looking for it after you’ve tried this, it might not exist yet.

Controls are abundant and give you finite adjustment of the many parameters at your disposal. There’s an over all Mix for the unit as a whole, as well as a Pitch Mix. There are two knobs apiece for Pitch and Delay, as well as Depth/Key, Speed/Scale, Xnob, and Ynob, whose functions all change depending on which of the ten pitch-based modes you’ve chosen. There’s a tap tempo, and inputs include stereo 1/4 inch ins and outs, external aux and expression switches, and USB that allows for MIDI use. You can change the inputs and outputs to instrument/amp or line.

The unit comes with 100 presets, but an unlimited number are available via MIDI. Like all of the Eventide Factor pedals, this is basically a rack unit condensed into a stompbox, so the sound quality is studio-level. If you can spare the cash and pedalboard space, this will certainly deliver everything you need.

Need more options? Browse more Eventide products here.

Price: $479.10

Buy the Eventide Pitch Factor Harmonizer here.



Specs:

  • Range: Three octaves below to three octaves above
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: Exp jack provided

Find more Eventide Pitch Factor Harmonizer information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Delay Guitar Pedals

Whatever you need in a delay pedal, we've compiled this list of the top ten best delay guitar pedals to help you pick a great one.

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Synthesizer Pedals

Using octaves and subtle pitch variations, synthesizer pedals seek to create a unique voicing that turns your guitar into something else entirely. The most common of these effects is an analog keyboard synth, but there’s a range of instruments available. Pitch shifter or octave pedals can give you pretty good bass emulation, but for more complicated sounds, turn to synth pedals to give you the greatest breadth as guitarist.


6. Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth

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(Electro-Harmonix)

The EHX Micro Synth is one of the grandaddies of guitar synth pedals, with its unique control interface and distinctive square wave sound. This is meant to give you those warm analog synth tones like you would get from a vintage Moog or Roland. It’s a bit fuzzier than some synths, but there are plenty of options for dialing in smoother sounds.

All of the controls on this pedal are essentially blend faders you use to dial in precisely the tone you want. It’s geared toward those warm and thick tones, but even within that premise, there’s a lot of variation. With the Square Wave especially, you can control how fuzzy it gets overall. The Voice Mix section controls the sound of the pitch mix, while the Filter Sweep section controls the movement and duration of the sound, which is what gives it more of the held-key feel you would find in an old synth.

If all that is too fiddly for you, you could try the Electro-Harmonix Superego which moves away from the analog synth emulation and more toward turning the guitar itself into a synth machine. It’s a little easier to dial in, but it’s pretty distinctly different.

Need more options? Browse more Electro-Harmonix products here.

Price: $286

Buy the Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth here.



Specs:

  • Synth style: Analog synthesizer
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Overdrive Guitar Pedals

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7. Electro-Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay Machine

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(Electro-Harmonix)

In addition to those two promising option above, EHX has created a suite of synth pedals that are uncanny in their recreation of classic key tones. There are four of them including the B9, C9, Key9 and this one. All of them offer nine voices of synth modeled closely after their vintage real-life keyboard counter parts.

The Mel9 is a take off on the Mellotron, which was a keyboard system that played parts of tape instead of synthesized notes. In a sense, it was an early sampler, and the weird and wonderful sound of them made them popular for awhile. Some artists still play them here and there, but they’re pretty unreliable by their nature, so having a much smaller pedal unit that uses your guitar as an input is an incredible way to have access to these tones.

Controls for the Mel9 include Dry and Effect volume knobs, which work as a blend, or to control the separated outputs for each, in case you want to skip the rest of your board with the synth sound. There’s also a knob for Attack, which controls the swell speed, and Sustain, which controls the release time. The nine-position knob lets you choose the voice among Orchestra, Cello, Strings, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Brass, Low Choir, and High Choir. The tones are alarmingly epic and will give keyboard-challenged guitarists access to sounds previously left to keyboards.

If those four pedals don’t provide enough different instruments for you, the company also makes the usefully accurate-sounding Ravish Sitar Emulator. If you were to buy all of these and a looper, you could easily be a one-man band.

Price: $221.30

Buy the Electro-Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay Machine here.



Specs:

  • Synth style: Mellotron
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more Electro-Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay Machine information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Small Combo Guitar Amplifiers

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8. EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander

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(EarthQuaker Devices)

More akin to the Micro Synth, the Bit Commander is meant to turn your guitar into a shredding old-school synth. It’s not meant to be smooth. This almost sounds a bit like an octave fuzz at times (more on that later), but with the thick key attack of an old synth. By manipulating the octave levels, you can quickly emulate a number of warm analog synth tones.

Controls begin with Sub, which controls the level of the two octaves down. Then there’s Down 1 for one octave down and Up 1 for one octave above. Base is the square wave control, which is something like a light bit crusher and can be used on its own. Level is the master volume, while the Filter controls the tone and can smooth off some of the harshness found on some settings.

If you like the idea of the Bit Commander but would prefer something prettier and polyphonic, EQD also makes the Organizer. It’s a bit more squarely B3 organ-focused, and perhaps less destructive.

Need more options? Browse more EarthQuaker Devices products here.

Price: $175

Buy the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander here.



Specs:

  • Synth style: Analog synthesizer
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: No
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Mini Guitar Amplifiers

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9. DigiTech Dirty Robot Stereo Mini-Synth

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(DigiTech)

If you want to dial in a little synthy goodness, but you still want it to sound mostly like a guitar at the end of the day, you might consider this option. Despite its small size, it’s loaded with three knobs with concentric knobs to give you nearly as much control as you would get with the Micro Synth above.

The first control is a concentric Mix/Mod pot, which changes the effect level and modulation. Drift blends the different synth types between Square Wave, Octave, and Sub. Start/Stop determines the the beginning and ending frequency that the pedal moves between according to the setting of the Time knob. Sens controls the sensitivity that triggers the frequency sweep. The V1/V2 switch chooses between envelope type and vocal type synth.

Need more options? Browse more DigiTech products here.

Price: $149.95

Buy the DigiTech Dirty Robot Stereo Mini-Synth here.



Specs:

  • Synth style: Envelope and vocal synthesizer
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more DigiTech Dirty Robot Stereo Mini-Synth information and reviews here.


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10. Red Witch Synthotron

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(Red Witch)

This Red Witch unit has a slightly more video game inspired sound on the whole. The unique four-channel control gives you a different way to shape your tone compared to the others on this list. By manipulating these, you can create a fairly wide variety of tones in a layout that is easier to grasp at first glance.

Controls start with the Red 8ve oscillator note. The toggle switches between octave above and unison, with controls for Level and Decay. The Orange 8ve oscillator’s toggle switches between two octaves below and one octave below, also adjusted with a Level and Decay. The third band is a Tremolo control, with a toggle for on/off, and knobs for Velocity and Dry mix. The last section controls the filter, which is separately turned on and off with the footswitch. Toggle up is envelope filter mode and toggle down is sample hold. Range controls the sweep of the envelope filter and Velocity controls the sample hold speed.

Need more options? Browse more Red Witch products here.

Price: $299.99

Buy the Red Witch Synthotron here.



Specs:

  • Synth style: Analog synthesizer
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: No
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more Red Witch Synthotron information and reviews here.


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Octave Pedals

If the other two names seemed obvious, this one should, too. An octave pedal adds at least one but possibly very many octaves to the played note. It’s somewhat simpler in terms of processing, so the tracking (or latency) of these pedals tends to be less noticeable than the first two types. If you’ve ever wanted to try having an 18-string guitar, an octave pedal is the way to go. The circuit is pretty straightforward, so these were some of the first pitch-related effects to hit the market.


11. Electro-Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator

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(Electro-Harmonix)

With a layout familiar to the Micro Synth, the POG2 is now an industry-standard octave effect. It’s the classic solution for generating octaves and throws in a few effects for good measure. If you weren’t crazy about any of the synths above, but still have an occasional need for something that sounds like an organ, this will fill that gap for you, as well.

Each parameter is controlled by a fader, including Dry Output, two octaves below through two octaves above. The Attack parameter acts as a swell knob to slightly delay the sound of the octave behind the dry signal. LP Filter is a low-pass that fades out the highs as you turn it down. Detune controls the slight note shift that creates a organ effect. The Q button adds resonance and top end in three stages, indicated by the brightness of the LED above it. By turning on the Dry FX, the parameters of the effects sliders are applied to the dry signal. There’s also a bank of eight preset options that you can save your parameters to, which you can cycle through with the Preset footswitch.

Of course, this is Electro-Harmonix, and they’re not afraid of giving you variations. To begin with, you can get smaller versions of the Pog sound in the Micro Pog and Nano Pog form factors. Controls-wise, there’s no difference between the two, so unless your ears can discern a reason to go for one over the other, I think the Micro Pog is the way to go.

If you need every octave possibility available, ope for the massive HOG2, which has a whopping ten octaves and a Freeze built-in. There’s also the Octave Multiplexer, which is a monophonic bass tone generator. Finally, the new kid on the block is EHX’s octave fuzz, the Octavix, which is just an octave up paired with fuzz.

Need more options? Browse more Electro-Harmonix products here.

Price: $326.70

Buy the Electro-Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator here.



Specs:

  • Range: Two octaves below to two octaves above
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more Electro-Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator information and reviews here.


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12. Boss OC-3 Super Octave

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(Boss)

Boss again has a straightforward unit for this application. Unlike the POG2, this offers only two octaves, both below the played note. They call it polyphonic, but that’s only true in Poly mode, which leaves out the three high strings and is more of a bass accompaniment. That’s true of this pedal on the whole — since the octaves are down only, this isn’t for calling up organ tones or for creating lush sounds, but more like EHX’s Octave Multiplexer, turning your guitar into a heavy bass machine. The Poly mode is an improvement over the OC-2, as is the dedicated bass input.

Controls include Direct Level and Oct 1 Level to dial in the octave effect. The third knob is a parameter knob that changes based on the Mode chosen with the fourth knob. The parameter knob will let you decide what strings get the octave in Poly mode, while in Oct 2 mode, it controls the second octave. In Drive mode, it controls the amount of the savage, fuzz drive this pedal can deliver. It’s a specific sound, but if you like it, it’s available to you.

Need more options? Browse more Boss products here.

Price: $125.95

Buy the Boss OC-3 Super Octave here.



Specs:

  • Range: One to two octaves below
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes, in Poly mode
  • True bypass?: No
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more Boss OC-3 Super Octave information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Tremolo Guitar Pedals

To add that signature sparkle or hard chop to your tone, check out our list of the top ten best tremolo guitar effect pedals.

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13. EarthQuaker Devices Pitch Bay Dirty Polyphonic Harmonizer

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(EarthQuaker Devices)

Somewhat like the Boss, the Pitch Bay contains not only two octaves, but a truckload of gain. Unlike the Boss, however, one of the octaves is above, giving you one of each, both of which are polyphonic. The control on this is more finite, as each of the harmonizing voices can be selected by semitone up to the octave for slightly more flexibility note-wise than the ones that have come before.

For controls, you get Pitch Up to control the upper harmony from one to 12 semitones above, and a Pitch Down for below. Gain increases the distortion level. Up, Down, and Root all control the levels of each of the three notes for very precise blending.

If you’d like to simplify, EarthQuake also makes the Tentacle, which is just an octave up. Why not?

Need more options? Browse more EarthQuaker Devices products here.

Price: $225

Buy the EarthQuaker Devices Pitch Bay Dirty Polyphonic Harmonizer here.



Specs:

  • Range: One octave below to one octave above
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more EarthQuaker Devices Pitch Bay Dirty Polyphonic Harmonizer information and reviews here.


Top 10 Best Guitar Looper Pedals

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14. TC Electronic Sub ‘N’ Up Octaver

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(TC Electronic)

The only octave pedal on this list with access to hundreds of other tones, the Sub ‘N’ Up features three modes of octave. With TC’s TonePrint, you can beam infinite different presets to your pedal so you will likely never run out of octave options. They’ve also included a classic monophonic mode in case all you need is the vintage-style octaves.

All the controls are simply level knobs for the various notes, including Dry, Up, Sub, and Sub 2. The switch in the middle determines if you’re using the Polyphonic setting, Classic, or a TonePrint imported tone. Pretty simple, just get to tweaking.

Need more options? Browse more TC Electronic products here.

Price: $129.99

Buy the TC Electronic Sub ‘N’ Up Octaver here.



Specs:

  • Range: One octave above and two octaves below
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: Yes, in Poly mode
  • True bypass?: Yes
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more TC Electronic Sub ‘N’ Up Octaver information and reviews here.


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15. MXR M103 Blue Box

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(MXR)

While not a pure octave effect, the Blue Box is so classic that it’s worth mentioning. This is a fuzz and octave combination, which renders an 8-bit style tone that is somewhat unpredictable. The octave is just a single note two octaves below, giving you a huge amount of bass response.

Controls are ultra-simple and include an Output and a Blend knob. At lower Blend settings, it’s more evident that monophonic playing is bound to be more successful. You can get away with chords at the higher end of the knob, but on the whole, it doesn’t track multiple notes very cleanly. If you want a wild sound, play all the notes you like.

For a bit more control and nearly double the price, there’s the Sub Machine, too.

Need more options? Browse more MXR products here.

Price: $79.98

Buy the MXR M103 Blue Box here.



Specs:

  • Range: Two octaves below
  • Blend?: Yes
  • Polyphonic?: No
  • True bypass?: No
  • Expression pedal?: No

Find more MXR M103 Blue Box information and reviews here.

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Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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