Octave pedals work by copying the input signal from your guitar and shifting the pitch up or down by a full octave (doubling or halving it). In this buyer’s guide we review the best out there.
Among their many uses, they give you a fuller tone that is great for beefing up a solo, for example, and are used to great effect in modern music.
You can also use them to create a 12-string guitar, organ or bass string from your six-string.
In this article, we show you the best on the market and explain why.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Octave Pedals Available
- Electro-Harmonix Micro POG
- Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork
- Mooer Tender Octaver MK II
- Digitech Whammy 5
- TC Electronic Polyphonic Sub n Up
- Boss OC-3
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information on Amazon.
- Product Round-Up and Reviews – Best Octave Pedals
- What is an Octave Pedal?
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
- So, Which Should I Buy?
Product Round-Up and Reviews – Best Octave Pedals
Electro-Harmonix Micro POG
The original POG won a lot of plaudits from every major magazine on every continent for its flawless polyphonic tracking and musical flexibility.
But had one problem: it was on a the large side.
The Micro POG solves this by packing the same gadgetry into a small pedalboard-friendly die-cast chassis.
POG stands for Polyphonic Octave Generator, and therein lies the secret to its success. It can handle single notes and chords with ease. That means you can play fast solos and it will polyphonically track them flawlessly with no latency whatsoever.
As well as this, the pedal is compatible with bass and guitar, so is a great option for musicians that play both.
You get an octave up and an octave down, both with independent volume controls and you can also control your original pitch volume with the dry knob.
Overall, the Micro Pog is great for any guitarist looking for a great pitch-shifter tone with straightforward controls.
- Polyphonic super fast tracking: play chords, arpeggios, or single notes with no latency
- Clever pitch-shifting algorithm
- Capable of both up and down shifting octaves
- Lets your guitar sound like a 12-string guitar, an organ, a bass, etc.
Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork
Another much-venerated pedal, the Pitch Fork from EHX is another essential pedal to consider. Despite its somewhat complicated-looking dials, it’s actually a breeze to use and really versatile.
It lets you select between 11 pitch shift intervals, such as Minor 2nd, Perfect 4th, and Minor 7th
In addition, it has a wide range of three octaves making this a +/- three-octave range pedal.
All the octaves can be used simultaneously, making this pedal very good at creating chorus-style effects.
- 11 pitch shift intervals
- +/- three-octave range pedal (wide range)
- Can shift up and down octaves or do both at the same time
- Has expression pedal input for extra creative control
Mooer Tender Octaver MK II
Now for the cheapest of the lot, the Mooer Tender Octaver MK II.
Its three different EQ modes add a lot of versatility to a product which would otherwise be very basic due to its single up and down octaves – although a dial can control these, along with a dry/wet blend.
Rather than relying on pitch range as a selling point, this pedal offers a lot of control over the character of the sound.
It’s also one of the thinnest octave pedals around, making it great for traveling musicians or those who have a lot of gear already.
Another fine feature is its superb tracking. The pedal doesn’t muddle up when playing fast riffs or low notes. Additionally, the polyphonic aspect is also great, as it doesn’t create any harsh or unwanted noise when playing full chords.
The only downside is the octave range can only reach +1 or -1 an octave from the original signal, which may not be enough for some musicians,
- Budget choice
- Three different EQ modes.
- Independent sub / up octave dials
- Very small and light
Digitech Whammy 5
The Whammy 5th Generation by Digitech is another polyphonic pitch-shifter rather than a pure octave-pedal. A cool but rather unusual feature here is the option to also switch to monophonic mode, although whether this would be of any use beyond sheer novelty is very subjective.
Of course, the built in-expression pedal is the best part of this device, seeing as you can use it as a whammy bar, to bend a note’s pitch as you play. Digitech have also included a helpful series of lights to show exactly how far you’ve shifted the pitch for maximum control.
Better still, pitch shifting using either the whammy or harmonizing mode can be done both up and down several octaves and increments.
The Whammy 5 also has upgraded circuitry that enables it to switch between chord and classic mode without sacrificing any tracking. The downside is that this pedal is pretty big and heavy, as well as lacking an octave blend control.
- Built-in expression pedal
- Up and down pitch shifting
- More increments than just octaves
TC Electronic Polyphonic Sub n Up
Looking for something really fun, you have to check out the Polyphonic Sub n Up from one of the pioneers of modern guitar-based technology, TC Electronic.
It can perfectly perform all the duties you’d expect of an Octave pedal (e.g. take your music on octave or two up or down), but that’s not the half of it. This pedal is Toneprint enabled, letting you access a ton of signature octave effects (via an app) recorded by many of the great guitarists.
So rather than spending hours trying to fathom out the best mix, you can choose the setting your favorite guitarist uses. In addition, it’s a polyphonic product with true bypass
It’s pretty affordable for what you get too.
- Download octave presets
- Lots of fun (almost a toy!)
- Affordable way of getting a ton of octave effects
Boss OC-3 Super Octave is sub-only polyphonic, giving it a somewhat reduced application. However, if you only need to add a bassline, this is an excellent choice due to the wide range of features packed in.
The best thing about the OC-3, is that you can have up to three notes playing at once, the original, one down and two down, for a really chunky sound.
Boss have also included distortion and have set up separate inputs for guitars and basses for maximum input efficiency. There is even an option to select what range of notes are processed by the polyphonic octaver, allowing for some to be skipped. You’ll be happy to hear that the OC-3 comes with a five-year warranty, so you can stomp away knowing this unit will handle the hits.
Overall, this device perhaps suits single guitarists that need to beef up their tone without a bass player. Saying that, the OC-3 would also work well with a bass to create super-heavy low-end riffs.
- Allows you to use multiple sub-octave levels simultaneously.
- Separate guitar/bass inputs for maximum signal input efficiency.
- Adjustable polyphonic range for tonal diversity.
What is an Octave Pedal?
Octave pedals are known as ‘pitch-modulation’ effects pedals. They work by copying the input signal from your guitar and shifting the pitch up or down by a full octave (doubling or halving it).
The output signal is then heard as both the original note plus the pitch-shifted note, or just the shifted note on its own. For example, if you were to play the two open E-strings on a guitar at the same time, you would have the same result as playing the E6 open with an octave pedal set to -2 octaves.
The track ‘Seven Nation Army’ by the Whitestripes is a great demonstration of the effect. As a two piece-band, an octave pedal was the perfect way to bring in a bassline to round out their sound. The result is a warm, almost lo-fi production that has enduring popularity and as easy guitar riffs go, it’s right up there.
Also take a listen to ‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel for an example of one being used with a bass guitar to brighten up the tone.
So, why use one?
Guitarists without a good grasp of music theory will benefit as you won’t have to spend as much time hunting around on your fretboard for the right note if you’re looking to play two octaves at once – this can also help to accommodate those who struggle with the fretting of certain combinations of notes.
You may also wish to achieve a ‘fuller’ tone – adding an octave up and/or down can be a good way to do this. Doubling up on notes in this way is an effective way to improve sections of music which sound underdeveloped or too quiet, similar to the ‘Wall of Sound’ recording technique developed by Phil Spector. This may be done for a whole song, or intermittently depending on what other instrumentation occurs.
Another way you can use them is to play at a much higher or lower frequency range than usual and remove the original pitch. This works really well if you’re performing music which was originally written for instruments with a much broader range of pitches than the guitar.
Using one in a solo will also be a convenient way to fill the sudden emptiness that comes from having the rest of the band suddenly go much quieter. In this way is a very subtle way to avoid a massive dip in the sound levels that may leave a solo feeling underwhelming in comparison to the rest of a track.
They’re also prone to adding a synth-like tone to your guitar, and this can be used intentionally to create a smooth and full sound or even to add some variety without going overboard. They will often have extra controls for additional purposes such as EQ and dry/wet ratios.
Finally, if you’re a guitarist who plays in a band with a more unusual lineup, you may find that an octave pedal is the only way you can reach the same pitches without sacrificing the use of half of your frets. Furthermore, having the ability to play any note across a range of octaves simultaneously easily can help your sound to come through when you’re playing alongside instruments that are just naturally more dominant or ensembles.
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
Analog vs. Digital
There are two main types: analog and digital. Analog octaves sound the best, but good as they are, they did tend to introduce a certain level of ‘fuzz’ and inaccuracy to the result. Those which rely on analog circuitry can be prohibitively expensive too.
Polyphonic vs Monophonic
If you need something that can handle chords or even just double-stops, then a polyphonic octave pedal is going to be the only way forward. On the other hand, if you’re only using one for single-note sequences, then there’s no need to splash out on a pedal that does more than you need it to. Bass guitar players will be able to get more out of a monophonic one, as well as those guitarists who are looking to fill in for a bass player if one isn’t available.
Number of Octaves
These days you will find that most of these products will let you choose between shifting between one or more octaves. This is a very basic consideration, and knowing in advance how far you’ll need to move the frequency of a note by will make this choice much easier.
Up or Down
They don’t all allow you to apply the octave effect in both directions, and again this decision will be informed by how you intend to use it. For those that allow for shifting in both directions, you should carefully test it to ensure that the quality is equal in both directions. You may find that a pedal that allows for shifting both up and down does not do so by the same number of octaves.
Many will allow you to set a dry/wet ratio (how much of the processed signal is heard alongside the original signal). Having this option ensures that you can hear both the original note and the one which is shifted by an octave at the right levels giving you the ability to emphasize one of them at any particular moment.
An octave pedal without this control may only output the pitch-shifted note and not the original one, so be sure that this is good enough for your purposes if that is the case before you buy.
Latency and Tracking
Although not a ‘feature’ as such, it is crucial that you look carefully at how well the pedal tracks your playing. If the tracking is poor, then it won’t be suitable for anything other than low tempo music played through a clean channel. A good quality octave
can handle fast tracking of music and correctly gauge what the output should be.
Latency is similar but refers to what delay there is between playing a note and the output signal. If latency is very poor, it can make it difficult to keep in time and may compound any existing issues with tracking inaccuracies. This should be your priority, as no amount of additional features will improve a poorly made product.
The inclusion of gain/overdrive controls allows for the octave effect to be combined with the characteristic ‘roar’ that tube amplifiers have when pushed hard. This is good because it adds another layer of authenticity to the post-processed signal, making it sounds less synthetic and also helps to disguise any issues in tracking by muddying the overall sound.
So, Which Should I Buy?
If you want the best out there, the hands-down winner is the Micro POG from renowned pedal makers Electric Harmonix. Their pitch-shifting algorithm is unrivaled in this space.
A decent mid-way point is the Pitch Fork from the same makers (EHX) – this pedal gives you a wide range of octaves (three up or down) and a total of 11 pitches. Plenty to play with.
Finally, if you’re on a budget or you just want to dabble without dropping a load of money, the Mooer Tender Octaver is a decent shout.
Whichever way you go, good luck and enjoy!