Just the mention of ‘bass multi effects’ evokes different emotions (and not always favorable ones, I might add) from many bassists – and guitarists as well.
Many musicians tend to look down on multi-effects pedals as ‘not as worthy’ of their time, and that amassing a collection of individual bass effects pedals is more functional and that they ultimately sound better.
If anything, I don’t hesitate to give my opinion (that’s kind of why you’re reading this, right?), so I’ll just lay it on you – bass multi effects pedals are certainly NOT the bane of any bassist’s existence.
In fact, I’d throw it out there that there are many scenarios where a good model could far outshine an individual pedal board.
Don’t come at me with pitchforks and torches just yet…hear me out…
To help prove my point (or, at the very minimum, to at least get you to consider the other side of the coin), I’ve taken a good look at 9 of what I feel are the best bass multi effects pedals around. And trust me – there’s a lot of ‘em out there to consider.
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So, without further ado… let’s dig in!
The 9 Best Bass Multi Effects Pedals Reviewed
Boss ME-50B Bass Multiple Effects with COSM
Boss has been one of the big boys in the individual pedal market for years, so it only makes sense that they would branch out and take their experience into the bass multi effects pedal market.
And with the ME-50B, I’m certainly glad they did.
Using Boss’ proprietary Composite Object Sound Modeling (COSM) technology, getting great sounding effects with a high level of fidelity is the name of the game. Six distinct effects sections (from compression to modulation) gives you a wide palette to work from as well.
It has a knob-based interface, making it a great choice if scrolling through menus just isn’t your thing.
It has some other features that may make it the right choice for almost any bassist, such as a kick drum effect to help keep time, a built-in expression pedal, and a Sound Hold function that will hold a note so you can play over it.
Zoom MS-60B Multi-Stomp Bass Pedal
Bass multi effects in an individual-sized pedal package? That’s what you get with the Zoom MS-60B. It’s an incredibly flexible unit, especially when you consider how small it is.
The MS-60B features 52 different effects, with a simple interface that combines a small screen with three knobs that also double as push buttons. You can tweak to your heart’s content just as you could with a single pedal.
An onboard chromatic tuner, a tap tempo feature for time-based effects, and the ability to change the preset order make this a big winner in a little box.
For those that want multi effects capability but don’t want the size and bulk, the MS-60B may be your answer.
Topping it off is USB support for firmware updates, and it has the capability to be a direct recording device as well.
Fender Downtown Express Bass Multi-Effects Pedal
Not all bass multi effects pedals are beasts with a bajillion effects. Some are meant to do just a few things, but do them very well.
The Fender Downtown Express is a perfect example of that approach, as it has ‘only’ three main effects to work with – compression, overdrive, and a 3-band EQ section.
In this case, Downtown is a menu-free zone, as the controls setup is completely done with several knobs (with LED backlights), similar to most individual effects pedals. Each effect has its own foot switch, along with a Mute switch that will allow for silent tuning.
Digital technology is nowhere to be found Downtown either, as the Express is based on a 100% analog design – giving you those warm tones that some digital units may find hard to reproduce.
Boss GT-1B Bass Multi-Effects Processor
Boss has earned another spot on my list with the GT-1B. It resembles more of a ‘traditional’ multi effects unit than the ME-50B, and it certainly packs a punch.
Sound quality is provided by the latest version of Boss’ sound engine (frequency tweaked just for the bass), and that alone may make it the right tool for the job. The menu-driven interface may take a little time to work through but the results are worth the effort.
A big feature is the capability to interface with the Boss Tone Studio, which will let you download pre-defined patches along with additional editing software as well.
Overall it’s a lot to be housed in its relatively small package size, even with the onboard expression pedal. Small is still powerful, though, and that’s a big deal if you plan to use the GT-1B as your go-to effects solution for live environments.
Zoom B1 FOUR Bass Multi-Effects Processor
The B1 FOUR from Zoom focuses on being more than just an effects unit, with a feature set that makes it lean towards a one-in-all solution.
Beyond the fact that it has 70 effects at your disposal, it also includes a rhythm machine with close to 70 different patterns, which is great for practicing or live use in limited environments.
Adding to that appeal is a looper setup where you can play against your own backing tracks which you create on the fly.
The Auto Save feature is handy to have, as it will automatically recall your last settings for a particular effect, keeping you from having to reinvent the wheel.
You can also go far past what’s preloaded, as it’s compatible with Zoom’s free Guitar Lab software. This free resource offers numerous artist-based patches and effects which are downloadable on command.
VOX StompLab 2B Bass Multi Effects Pedal
The StompLab 2B isn’t the largest (or smallest) model on my list – It’s kind of at the midpoint between an individual pedal and some of the larger multi effects units that are on the market.
Size doesn’t matter much here, as it offers a lot considering its footprint size.
It features close to 100 effects, with the unique approach of combining them into genres (such as Pop, Rock, Heavy, Funk, and Dance). That’s a lot of options, but getting to where you want to go is super easy thanks to the menu-less, knob-centric user interface.
Additional features include an integrated expression pedal, the ability to have up to 20 user-defined patches, and sound quality that is derived from the same engines used on the Vox VT+ amps and Tone Lab pedals.
Digitech BP90 Bass Multi-Effects Pedal
Digitech may have changed its business model recently (focusing more on individual effects), but they still have some legacy multi effects pedals worth taking a look at.
Case in point is the Digitech BP90 – it may not be ‘new’ tech, per se, but they’ve kept in their current lineup for a reason.
If you’re looking to get into multi effects while keeping things easy on your wallet, then the BP90 may be the way to go. It has 50 factory presets along with room for 50 user-defined ones (each having the ability to run 9 different effects at the same time), and it also has an expression pedal built in.
Add a drum machine to the mix and you have a bass multi effects pedal that’s pretty impressive given it’s relatively smaller size and even smaller price point.
Tech 21 Fly Rig Bass Multi-Effects Pedal
They call them ‘fly rigs’ for a reason, right? The Tech 21 Bass Fly Rig is a great example of an all-in-one solution that may be perfect for those gigs where you don’t want to lug around an amp and a bunch of effects pedals…
From the multi effects end of things, the Fly Rig gives you chorus, compression, and a Tech 21 feature called Octafilter (which is a good tool to get all kinds of filter and synth sounds, from subtle moods to flat-out-whacked-out).
A big feature is the inclusion of the Tech 21 SansAmp modeling technology. I haven’t touched too much on amp modeling here as that’s a whole different topic, but the SansAmp was one of the first kids on the block and it has an excellent reputation for top-notch tones. It’s fair to say that you can’t really have a ‘fly rig’ without it!
Also included is a tuner and a boost function for those times where you just absolutely positively HAVE to get over the mix.
Zoom B3n Multi-Effects Bass Guitar Processor
One thing that some pedal junkies complain about with multi effects units is the interface. There’s a simplicity to twisting a few knobs to lock your tone in that is kind of hard to beat compared to endless menu scrolling. The Zoom B3n may be the bridge between the two.
There are three individual ‘banks’ built in to the B3n. Each bank can be considered as an individual pedal in its own right, with its own foot switch, set of knobs, and a small LCD screen.
Want to have a new pedal? It’s as simple as loading a new set of effects by using the bank up/down pedals located right below the three banks.
Additional features include a looper with up to 80 seconds of recording time, a chromatic tuner, and over 60 rhythm patterns from the onboard drum machine.
What is a bass multi effects pedal?
A bass multi effects pedal is exactly what the name implies. It is a single unit that has the ability to provide more than one effect. While that’s a simple explanation to be sure, the scope of all that a multi effects pedal can be really can be mind blowing if you truly consider the possibilities.
Accessing the different effects is typically done with a bank of individual foot switches, each with an assigned effect. Yeah, it can certainly get much more involved than that, as the user interface between different manufacturers can differ greatly. Some may only allow you to turn individual effects on and off, while others can be configured to change complete banks of effects at a single time.
We don’t necessarily have the time or space to get into all of those types of details, but let’s just say that the level of flexibility that a good bass effects pedal can offer you truly is worth you taking a hard look.
You may come to realize that all of that multi effects hate out there in the ‘real musician’ community might be unfounded.
Single function vs. multi effects bass pedals
Nothing is ever a complete, clear winner over another option – there is always a set of pros and cons that have to be considered. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and try to separate fact from fiction…
The cost difference
Think back – when was the last time you really took a look at what individual effects pedals cost? It’s not uncommon to see price tags on them that run from the sub-$50 range all the way up to several hundred dollars apiece.
Let’s just take a very simple effects setup of a tuner (a must-have), compressor, distortion/overdrive/fuzz, chorus, and delay. Add a good quality pedal board with some sort of bag to safely lug it around from gig to gig. Then throw in some sort of power solution into the mix (you really shouldn’t rely on batteries to run a ton of individual pedals, especially if you do a lot of live performances).
Oh, and patch cords…can’t forget patch cords…
It certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it can all add up – and add up really fast.
Contrast that to a bass multi effects pedal. It’s not uncommon to have upwards of 20 or 30 different effects (even more with some models). And, you can get a good bass effects pedal for the overall cost of a good pedal board with relatively few individual pedals.
Probably the biggest thing to keep in mind here is that, for the most part, multi effects pedals use digital technology.
That’s really the way that so many effects can be packed into the typical package size of a multi effects unit.
The ‘analog vs. digital’ debate certainly isn’t new, and it’ll be thrown around for the foreseeable future. It’s certainly true that some effects just sound better in an analog setting, with distortion being the usual culprit here.
From my experience, however, the differences can be subtle enough where the benefits of a multi effects can outweigh any perceived sound concerns. This is particularly true as technology advances and multi effects units become more true and realistic in comparison to their analog counterparts.
In the end, it’s a subjective call – you have to decide which is best for you and your tastes.
Ease Of Use
Individual effects can be easier to use from a setup standpoint. They typically have knob-driven controls interfaces, and I’ve gotta admit it’s pretty easy to tweak a knob to where you like it, then just leave it alone.
The majority of bass multi effects units (particularly the higher-end models) do not have that level of ease. Many have a menu-driven interface, which requires some sort of screen were you scroll through parameters for each effect and set them in that manner. That certainly isn’t the quickest or the most intuitive method, especially if you are playing a gig and find that you want to change a setting on the fly.
One area where a multi effects shines, though, is avoiding the dreaded ‘tap dance’. If you’ve ever used an individual effects pedal board then you know exactly what I mean.
If you are going from a clean, compressed chorus-ey tone to one with some dirt and delay, the only way you’re gonna get there is to dance all over the pedal board to turn effects on and off. Not the best thing to do if you have to change sounds in a quick time frame, plus your ‘tap dancing accuracy’ might not be up to snuff.
With a multi effects, changing entire sonic landscapes can be done with very few – if not just one – foot switch. You can’t really get any easier than that, and it’s the perfect answer for a live setting.
Just recently I was at a gig where I let someone borrow my amp. It was a multi-act bill so getting set up quickly was expected. He plugs in and – nothing. Not a peep out of the amp. The guy started freaking out a bit, understandably.
I came up and started troubleshooting (I mean…it WAS my amp…). I plugged his instrument directly into the amp, bypassing his individual pedal board completely. Guess what? The amp worked just fine. There was a problem with the signal chain in his board.
Since individual boards are typically daisy-chained together, it’s not hard to believe that if one patch cord dies or one effect fails, then the whole thing is a bust. Kind of like the old-school strings of Christmas lights…one goes out then the whole shooting match isn’t any good.
The moral of the story is we kept isolating pedals until we got to a point where it worked. He had a few pedals he couldn’t use that night, but the show must go on…
This isn’t the case with a multi effects. For the most part they are pretty reliable. Sure – you could argue that If they fail, then the whole thing fails. Sounds catastrophic, right?
It can be for sure – but I’d bet a broken bass string that an individual board would fail more often.
That’s my experience, anyways.
How many effects are built into a Bass multi effects pedal?
It completely depends on the model of the pedal. Some are geared towards only having a few, while others can have a hundred or more.
And there’s a really good chance that you’ll never use even a fraction of what is available. But for the price of a good unit, there’s no doubt that having a certain type of effect right at your fingertips is pretty awesome if you find you may need it, instead of having to go out and buy one…
Can I use a guitar multi effects pedal with a bass guitar?
Yup. Bass players do it all the time. It’s really the same thing as using a bass with an individual pedal that was designed for the guitar.
Now…will the results be what you expect? Maybe not.
Bass guitars produce lower frequency signals than a regular guitar. That means some effects may not be as clear or sound as distinct as ones that were designed and intended for the bass guitar. But some people like those unexpected differences, and use them as the baseline for their personal tone.
It’s super simple – take the time to check out a multi effects pedal before you commit. Most retailers have some sort of return policy, so even if you buy one online you can typically return it if you aren’t happy.
Hopefully all of this discussion has shed some light on what a good bass multi effects pedal should be.
There’s no getting around the fact that some bassists will prefer individual effects, both the way they sound and how they work to develop a pedal board that perfectly matches their need.
And truthfully, becoming a pedal junkie can be a bit addicting!
All of that being thrown out there, I think it’s fair to say that multi effects pedals need to be given their fair shake. There certainly are many benefits to using one as opposed to individual effects, and if you gave one an honest shot you may find yourself converted.
That’s why the Boss ME-50B is at the top of my list. With many great sounding effects at your disposal and a knob-driven user interface, you don’t need a doctorate in electronics to figure out how to dial ‘your tone’ in quickly and easily.
If you’ve taken the time to read this far, then I’m sure you have a strong opinion over which is better – individual effects or multi bass effects pedals. I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave some comments below and let’s see what y’all got!