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Some bassists like to keep things simple. They maintain a pure and clear tone, direct from their amp.
But many other bassists won’t be able to resist the allure of cool sounding effects units that enhance the sound of some of their songs at just the right moment.
There isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong way. How an instrument sounds has more to do with your fingers than anything else, but sometimes you just need something like a powerful bass fuzz to take a chorus to the next level.
So, if you’re thinking about expanding your arsenal, here are some pedals you should compare.
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MXR M82 Bass Envelope Filter, Great For Metal Rock And Funk
You’ll love the MXR M82 if you’d like to add a little more “raunchiness” to your funk, or even enhance your rock grooves at chosen moments.
The “DRY” and “FX” knobs give you complete control over how much of the effect and how much of your dry signal you hear at any given time. “DECAY” allows you to control the length of the modulating sweep, the “Q” dial will enable you to change the quantity of the effect (from a little bit to a lot), and with the “SENS.” knob, you can adjust how hard you need to play to get the effect to activate.
True bypass helps you preserve your tone, even when combined with other pedals.
Used sparingly, the M82 can give your tone a sweeping boost exactly when you need it, and its cost is a modest $149.99.
Give the MXR a look, especially if you’re a funk player.
Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synthesizer XO Analog Synthesizer
If you’ve ever wanted to transform your bass into a synthesizer, or even summon a classic bass synth sound from the 80s without having to set up a synth, you’ll find the Bass Mirco Synthesizer a handy tool to have in your toolkit.
From auto wah to filter synth bass, the sheer number of sounds you can achieve with this unit is frankly astounding. Though some musical situations may not require you to use more than one or two sounds, if you crave more range in your tonal palette, the Electro-Harmonix will offer you some stimulating options. Just remember to adjust and tweak to taste. From edgier players to the less adventurous, there is something here for all.
This true bypass unit costs $286 and is fully analog.
EarthQuaker Devices Hoof V2 Fuzz, One Of The Best Bass Pedals Around
There’s more to this somewhat bland and ordinary-looking pedal than you might think. The EarthQuaker Devices Hoof is a bass fuzz with a lot of attitude.
The Hoof is a “muff” style fuzz with four knobs, which allow you to tweak until you get just the right amount of dirt for your grooves. With it, you can take your tone from a light fuzz all the way to fully overdriven mayhem! The “Level” and “Fuzz” knobs are relatively self-explanatory, while you can control the finer qualities of your frequencies with the “Tone” and “Shift” knobs.
Most rock bassists will probably consider adding a fuzz pedal to their collection at some point. It can take a heavy part and put it over the moon! This EarthQuaker Devices unit is an agreeable $175.
Darkglass Electronics SSCOM Super Symmetry Compressor
Finding an effective bass compression isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Those who’ve used a compressor already know how handy it can be in helping you even out the dynamics of your playing. You wouldn’t necessarily use it on every song, but there often are tunes that demand more of a smooth, “leveled out” tone.
The Super Symmetry Compressor is an impressive unit that will give your studio compressors a run for their money. At under $350, however, you would expect it to do what it claims to do with excellence.
Compression can come in handy in a variety of circumstances – I personally like to use it when I’m playing more technical parts. You can play to your heart’s content without worrying about whether all the notes are coming across, because the compressor brings out the quieter notes.
Darkglass Electronics also has some other impressive pedals, such as the Alpha Omega Bass Preamp/Overdrive, that are worth the look.
Pigtronix Echolution 2 Ultra Pro, A Top Bass Pedal For Guitarists
Bassists don’t always find themselves in need of a delay (echo) pedal. But to call the Echolution 2 just another delay pedal is to ignore many of its incredible functions that allow you to create incredible, lush soundscapes.
Guitarists and keyboardists are often responsible for creating a “mood” or “atmosphere” in a song, but why leave it to just them when you could use the Echolution to create some of your own?
This Pigtronix pedal isn’t just for bass players, and in fact some guitarists and keyboard players also use the same unit to enhance the sound of their instruments. But it still sounds great on bass too.
So, if you’re looking for a pedal that helps you create otherworldly tones, this is the one. And for $449, you would hope it would deliver.
What Should I Look For When Buying Effects Pedals?
Effects are highly personal. It’s rare that you’ll see one bassist or guitarist with the exact same collection of pedals as the other. This is because tone is a matter of preference and what works for you.
You will sound like yourself no matter how much you attempt to alter your tone. So, instead of working against yourself, the best way to find great effects is to experiment and discover units that bring out the best in your playing.
Nevertheless, here are some important factors to consider.
Effect Type & The Sound You’re Looking To Achieve
One important step every bassist should take is to familiarize themselves with effect types. A guitarist who has spent any amount of time playing around with different effects has likely tried most, and has a feel for what every effect does and how it sounds.
This probably isn’t the case for most bass players. As I’ve already pointed out, some professional bass players hardly use any effects at all.
Though there are subcategories under the major headings, these are the main types of effects pedals that exist:
Essentially, the pedals you purchase will depend on the sound you’re looking to achieve. And, even if you’re looking at two different chorus pedals, for instance, you must recognize that they aren’t the same. One brand’s chorus is different from another brand’s. The only way to figure out what you like is to experiment and try different pedals.
Some pedals are tone-suckers. And the more pedals like this you add to your effects chain, the worse things can get.
I know I talked about the fact that the sound of a pedal is subjective, and different people like different things, but as much as possible it is important to find true bypass effects. In an instance where you can’t part with a pedal because of its incredible sound, even though it’s killing your tone, there’s still a chance you could have it modified to be less of a tone killer.
Pedals that don’t have a great sound aren’t going to help you enhance your stage sound in any way.
Durability & Solid Construction
You don’t want pedals that break if someone sneezes in their general direction.
There are exceptions, of course. You might choose to acquire a classic, hard-to-find pedal to add to your effects stack. It might be somewhat fragile compared to other, newer pedals on your board. Or, they might be built like tanks, able to withstand decades of wear and tear.
But at the end of the day, it isn’t much fun when a knob falls off a brand-new pedal without any warning. In some cases, you can replace flimsy, plastic parts with more robust pieces. In instances when you particularly like a pedal but not its construction, this can be a worthwhile investment.
Pedals That Fit Within Your Budget
Budget is always an important factor when you’re trying to figure out what pedals to buy. Generally, you get what you pay for. But there are also times when you pay a lot for a pedal, only to find out it doesn’t do everything you hoped it would do.
At the end of the day, effects are just that – effects. There’s no need to go into debt to pay for what you can’t afford. Spend strategically.
Do I Need Effects Pedals As A Bass Player?
It depends on the situation.
Again, many bassists prefer a pure tone and opt not to use many effects. Some amps have built-in effects. Bassists may also take advantage of effects in the studio, or have the producer choose sounds that fit.
The style of music you play can also come into play, but not in a major way. A fuzz or overdrive effect would be equally at home in metal, rock, punk, and in some cases even funk. Compression can work great in these types of scenarios, and can also be great for any situation where you’re doing a lot of slapping and popping.
Delay, chorus, and other “atmospheric” type effects may not have their place in every musical style, but can still work great for intros, interludes, and smaller segments of a song.
It is necessary to acquire pedals? No. Can effects create more interest and variety in your music? Used sparingly, yes.
Will I Require Any Additional Gear To Run My Pedals? Or Can I Do This For Cheap?
Yes. The first thing you'll need is more cables. You can generally find shorter cables to connect one pedal from the next, which will help you save your tone.
For most if not all your pedals, you may want to purchase AC or DC power plugs, depending on what the pedal takes. Though pedals can run on batteries, you don’t necessarily want your pedals dying out on you in the middle of your set. Keep lots of spare batteries around if this is how you intend to run things.
Finally, because you’ll need to plug in all your pedals, a power bar just won’t do (unless you’re only running a couple of pedals). Instead, you’ll want to purchase a power supply brick for your pedals, and find one that accommodates all the pedals you intend to use.
That should about cover your bases as far as extra gear is concerned.
What About Rackmount Effects Units?
Rackmount effects units are generally dedicated effects solutions and are more common among professional players and studios. They are usually more expensive but produce a higher quality sound too.
If you have a big enough budget, you can purchase rackmount units of your own. And, if you only buy a few, you can probably find a way to haul them around.
But if you go overboard and purchase several racks full of effects units and don’t have roadies, you’re going to regret it. Your setup and teardown process will be laborious to say the least. Plus, you might end up wishing you had a dedicated sound tech to maintain your settings and do all the cabling.
Floor pedals are a reasonable compromise, and are comparatively lightweight, low cost, and take up less space. High quality compact effects units can sometimes rival the sound of rackmount units too, though not always.
So, ultimately it depends on your situation. Rackmount effects units can produce some incredible tones. But they are also more costly, heavier, and take up more space.
Comparing The Best Bass Pedals, Final Thoughts
Whether you’re playing funk, metal, or rock, the above pedals can enhance your sound in different ways. And, if you’re looking for something different, don’t fret, there are many other effects to choose from.
Effects are generally used more by guitarists and sometimes keyboardists, but that isn’t to say you can’t use them as a bassist too. Plus, if you’re just looking to have some fun, you could even check out multi-effects units that allow you to play with a broad range of different effects before you decide what you like. That’s a relatively low-cost way to get started in effects.