When it comes down to it, bass players just don’t get the same love from effects pedal manufacturers as their guitar-totting bandmates and honestly, it makes perfect sense – the main duties of the bass just aren’t a natural fit for some of the more exotic effects out there today. And what is the main duty of the electric bass guitar? Keeping that back beat alive by accentuating the rhythm, of course! Reminds me of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” when Sly sings “I’m gonna add some body so that the dance rhythm just won’t hide” just before the bass kicks in, but I digress. Delay for example can add plenty of emotion and sound to a guitar but on a bass it just makes keeping the syncopation of the back beat a tad bit more difficult for audience to groove along with. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of instances where an effects pedal and a bass can’t take things to a higher level, although you have to make sure it doesn't interfere with that beat. Not only that, but as with any effect, especially bass effects, one must show restraint! Imagine that your bass tone is the main course of your meal but it feels a bit bland while an effects pedal is the sauce meant to spice it up. Just enough sauce and that bland meal tastes a dozen times better but too much and it’s ruined. That said, there is power in just knowing we can move a mountain if necessary with the slight shift of our feet. And if that mountain happens to be on stage with a horn section and a groovy funk beat, then the MXR Bass Octave Deluxe might be just for you. Let’s find out what this baby is all about...
The MXR Bass Octave pedal comes in your standard single effects pedal size with all the usual traits. You have your input/output jacks, your stomp switch and control knobs. As per usual, the pedal can either be powered by a 9 volt battery or via a separate 9 volt ac adapter. As far as the weight and build, feels exactly like an MXR pedal, right down to the solid housing. If this baby can last as long as my Phase 90 did, expect this pedal to give you years of service.
As mentioned above, this bass pedal is pure analog which is undoubtedly critical in giving bass players that vintage seventies funk tone, or any vintage tone, really, as a digital pedal can sometimes sounds a bit too… digital, fake.., unnatural even. Also, this pedal features true bypass so for any of you out there unfamiliar with the term, it means that the signal from your guitar can travel through the pedal and out to the amp (or to another pedal) with a raw, untouched signal, even when the pedal itself is completely off – great for those who love to chain up their effects. Also featured on the MXR Bass Octave is a MID + switch that adds a good amount of punch to both your low and high mids which in essence shows that MXR definitely had funk in mind when creating this pedal.
The pedal’s main tone controls come via three knobs labeled Girth, Growl and Dry and it will be the combination of these three that you will be using for any and all sound variations along with that MID + button that I actually feel is one of its better features, but more on that later.
With everything at 12 o’clock, the pedal produced some really nice tone and after about three minutes of trial and error, I was playing every lick I knew in D minor and then some. After a while, my hands started branching out, and before I knew it, I had completely lost track of time just like the good old days discovering the bass. Any pedal that expands your thinking and increases your musical vocabulary is a good find. The Mid+ boost was really nice. Imagine finding your tone, then hitting a sweetener button. It added the frequencies that get lost in translation with a bass octave effect. The pedal seemed to favor the modern amp more for the punch and clarity, as opposed to the mellow tube sound of the vintage amp. All of the basses felt at home with the MXR, with the Bass VI opening itself up to some really cool tones. The electric upright was a bit left of center, but I’m sure some mad scientist will put the two together somewhere. More power to him.
The heart and soul of this pedal are its aptly named controls: Growl and Girth. The Growl knob is the mid-range, slightly edgy octave-below control, and the Girth knob is for a smoother octave-below. The beauty of the separately voiced controls is that they are independent of each other, so you can use as little or as much of each as you like. I really liked this feature because of the tonal possibilities available to me. The pedal let me dictate the sound, as opposed to just offering up a limited effect. That means you can use any of your basses with the MXR and dial in the exact voicing you are looking for. The Dry knob also helps you get the precise blend of effect to signal ratio that your funky self requires.
All in all, it comes down to one main thing; do you want the octave tones for your bass? If you play any sort of funk, this pedal has plenty to like, but for those of you looking for a more versatile bass effect that can be used with several different genres, the octave effect is probably not the one you’re looking for. So with that said, if you want to add just the right amount of that signature seventies funk bass to your sound, the MXR Bass Octave will get the job done outstandingly with plenty of variations in tone – all in a strong and comparatively inexpensive package!