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Best Bass Synth Pedal Shootout – The ULTIMATE 2020 Guide

BEST CHOICE

Electro Harmonix Bass MicroSynth Pedal

Electro Harmonix Bass MicroSynth Pedal
Our Rating:
4.8/5

PREMIUM PICK

Source Audio One Series C4 Bass Synth

Source Audio One Series C4 Bass Synth Pedal
Our Rating
4.6/5

BEST VALUE

Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer Pedal

Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer
Our Rating
4.4/5

Table of Contents

As much as I hate to say it, many times you know when you’re hearing a good bass player when you don’t notice them at all – they are locked in and ingrained into the framework of the song.

So you may be wondering: “how can I change things up a bit”?

There’s no doubt that bass effects pedals are a great way to make your bass tone unique. Sure, getting all funky and stuff by using playing technique is one sure way to get yourself noticed, but being able to add something totally different – such as a distortion, chorus, or some other kind of modulation effect just takes things up a notch.

What can completely take your bass lines to a new level altogether is by using a bass synth pedal. And I mean – an entirely new set of notches! Once you try one, you may never think of your bass in the same light again.

Moving into synth-land can be a daunting experience, for sure. No worries though – I’ve taken a look at 8 of the best bass synth pedals around and have answers to your most burning questions.

The 8 Best bass Synth pedals:

ImageBass Synth Pedal
Electro Harmonix Bass MicroSynth PedalElectro Harmonix Bass MicroSynth
Boss SYB-5 Bass SynthesizerBoss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer
Electro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth PedalElectro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth
Digitech Dirty RobotDigitech Dirty Robot
Electro Harmonix SYNTH9 Bass Synth PedalElectro Harmonix SYNTH9
Source Audio One Series C4 Bass Synth PedalSource Audio One Series C4
Electro Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay MachineElectro Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay Machine
Earthquacker Devices Bit V2Earthquacker Devices Bit V2

Electro-Harmonix Bass MicroSynth Effects Pedal

If you’re looking for a bass synth pedal that will give you that ‘old school’ analog synth sound, then you don’t have to look any further than the Electro-Harmonix Bass MicroSynth.

It gives you the ability to emulate those early Moog tones that made synths popular to begin with, and it lets you do it with a pretty impressive array of parameters to adjust.

The Voice Mix section has four separate voice settings (ranging from Sub-Octave to Square Wave), along with several attributes in the Filter Sweep portion that will let you craft those vintage tones we all know and love.

Ease Of Use
4.5/5
Sound Quality
5/5
Features
5/5
Electro Harmonix Bass MicroSynth Pedal

The MicroSynth is in a 100% ‘knob-free’ zone; all of the adjustments are made with sliders – great for seeing where you are at visually.

It’s housed in a gig-worthy die cast chassis and offers true bypass as well, which is meant to keep your tone from getting colored by the analog circuitry during those times where you don’t feel like getting your freak on.

Positives

  • 10 separate parameter sliders will easily take you use your bass to take you back in time when analog synths were all the rage
  • There’s nothing digital here - the analog circuitry is specifically voiced for use with a bass guitar
  • Four unique voice settings allow you to tweak your sound in just the right frequency ranges

Negatives

  • Preamp gain can only be adjusted by an internal trim pot - this may have been better served as a slider on top of the unit

Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer Pedal

There are some brands where you expect nothing but the best, and one of those is Boss. They have hit yet another effects pedal homerun with the SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer, giving you traditional synth sounds with functionality that typically isn’t found in many other bass synth pedals.

The SYB-5 was designed to produce 11 different analog-type synth sounds, which are created by modifying saw, square, and pulse synth waveforms.

The overall sound quality is enhanced over its predecessor (the iconic SYB-3), thanks to improvements in the Wave Shape mode to make tones more distinct.

Ease Of Use
5/5
Sound Quality
4.5/5
Features
4.5/5
Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer

Other innovative features include an expression pedal input (which allows real-time modification of LFO rates and filter cutoff parameters), and a Pitch Hold function that holds a note when you press the foot switch, letting you solo over your own synth tone background.

Positives

  • 11 different analog synth tones, created by altering three different types of waveforms (saw, square, and pulse)
  • Expression pedal support allows modification of LFO rates and filter cutoffs ‘on the fly’
  • A unique Pitch Hold feature that holds a tone constant (by pressing the foot switch), providing a backing tone to solo over

Negatives

  • While the preloaded sounds are of high-quality, having more control over their parameters would make this pedal more flexible

Electro-Harmonix Bass Mono Synth Bass Effects Pedal

The technology and terminology behind how a bass synth pedal works can be intimidating for the everyday player, but Electro-Harmonix makes it a piece of cake with their Bass Mono Synth Bass Effects Pedal.

11 different synth sounds are preloaded, and navigating between them is as easy as turning a knob. Additional features include complete blending control, with the Dry knob for the base tone along with a Synth knob for the effects level.

Bass synth effects can be particularly prone to tracking issues, and EHX has worked to solve that with the Sens (sensitivity) control. This makes it easy to set at what point your input signal will trigger the synth effects.

Ease Of Use
5/5
Sound Quality
4.5/5
Features
4/5
Electro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth Pedal

While the synth tones are impressive (and the intent was to keep things simple), there may actually be not enough control over them for some players.

A CTRL (Control) knob will modify only one parameter at a time, and while some control is better than none I think more would have been better in this case. There is an option to use an expression pedal, though, so that alone helps to give you more control over your bass-synth destiny.

Positives

  • Preloaded sounds with waveform parameters preset, making sound selection simple and easy with a single knob
  • Blend control over the dry and wet signals enable the player to add ‘just enough’ synth for their tastes
  • Included support for an expression pedal allows for further tone adjustments as needed

Negatives

  • Sometimes ‘simple’ may be too simple; some expanded control over the individual synth tones would be a welcome addition

Digitech Dirty Robot Bass Synth Effects Pedal

With the Dirty Robot, Digitech not only lets you create great analog synth sweep tones, but you also can mimic a vocoder/talk box as well (does Frampton or Walsh ring a bell?)

Switching from one mode to the other is as easy as…well…flipping a switch that’s mounted near the top of the unit.

It’s got a lot of power packed into its small package size, and a lot of that has to do with Digitech’s use of several (three, to be exact) concentric knobs to modify various parameters.

To the uninitiated, a concentric knob has an inner knob and an outer ring that functions just like the knob portion, but it alters a different setting.

Ease Of Use
4.5/5
Sound Quality
5/5
Features
4.5/5
Digitech Dirty Robot

You can add more color to your synth tones (regardless of the mode you’re using) by adding chorus (by adjusting – you guessed it – one of the concentric knobs) or vibrato, which can be done by stomping and holding the foot switch.

Positives

  • Two separate voice settings - one for traditional synth sweeps and another to emulate vocoder or talk box effects
  • Concentric knobs give a lot of flexibility for parameter adjustments while keeping a small package size
  • Chorus and vibrato effects add variety add sonic thickness and variety

Negatives

  • The vocal/talk box voicing sets the Dirty Robot apart from other synth pedals, but the overall tone and definition of this setting could be enhanced

Electro-Harmonix SYNTH9 Synthesizer Machine Bass Pedal

The SYNTH9 from EHX stuffs 9 of the most classic synth sounds into one compact foot pedal, making it a great choice to help spice up your bass guitar’s sonic landscape.

There’s really nothing too complicated from a user-interface standpoint.

The synth tones are selected with a single knob, and there are two other knobs (CTRL 1 and CTRL 2) that let you modify certain parameters that are different based on which tone you are using.

Ease Of Use
5/5
Sound Quality
5/5
Features
4.5/5
Electro Harmonix SYNTH9 Bass Synth Pedal

Blending wet and dry signals is super easy with a single level control knob for each, along with dedicated outputs as well. On top of that, each tone is tight and punchy thanks to the built-in compressor.

Positives

  • The SYNTH9 is loaded with 9 of the most popular vintage synth sounds, all easily selectable by a turn of a single knob
  • Super simple controls let you dial in great tones without suffering from ‘option overload’
  • Compression is built in to keep things snappy...that’s so your tones don’t slide into Mudville

Negatives

  • There is no way to recall particular parameter settings from the CTRL knobs when you go through the various synth tones, which makes you dial your favorite sounds back in each time
  • While the SYNTH9 may be a great synth pedal overall, its usable tracking range goes only as low as the open A string on a bass guitar

Source Audio One Series C4 Bass Synth Pedal

The saying ‘big things come in small packages’ certainly rings true for the C4 Synth Pedal from Source Audio. It may not look like much on the outside, but it’s what’s under the hood that makes all the difference.

At first glance you may think ‘what’s the big deal’? It’s small, and it only has 4 knobs (Input and Mix for blend control, and Control 1 and Control 2 for parameter adjustments). Pretty underwhelming, right?

Here’s the kicker though – thanks to support for Source Audio’s Neuro Desktop Editor (or the Neuro mobile app), you actually have parallel voices, several waveforms to play around with, envelope followers, modulation filters, tremolo, pitch-shifting, harmonization…(I’ve gotta stop because I’m gonna run out of space to type)…

Ease Of Use
5/5
Sound Quality
5/5
Features
4/5
Source Audio One Series C4 Bass Synth Pedal

Add 128 MIDI selectable presets, a three-way toggle switch that will let you select one of three locally saved presets, and a whole library of sounds created by the Neuro community, and you have a bass synth pedal that has almost limitless potential.

Positives

  • It may be small, but don’t be fooled - the C4 houses a lot of potential processing power and functionality
  • Use it in conjunction with the Neuro Desktop Editor or Neuro mobile app to unlock a range of parameters that you may not find in most self-contained foot pedals

Negatives

  • The greatest feature may be a weakness as well, as most of the power to create impressive synth sounds is baked into the desktop editor instead of the pedal itself

Electro-Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay Bass Pedal

Do you remember the iconic intro to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’? That was the flute sound on a Mellotron, which was one of the first commercially available synthesizers on the market.

What if I told you that you could get a similar sound from a foot pedal? No, I’m not crazy…well, that can be debated, but in this case I’m rock solid, thank you very much!

The EHX MEL Tape Relay is a mind-blowing example of how technology has evolved over time, packing 9 of the most classic Mellotron tones into a convenient foot pedal package.

Ease Of Use
4/5
Sound Quality
4.5/5
Features
5/5
Electro Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay Machine

This is one synth pedal where the intent is to sound like a completely different instrument. Tones include the flute, saxophone, brass, and cello, amongst others. It has several control knobs to control the level of blending along with attack/sustain control as well.

One thing that would have been nice would be the ability to modify any of the tone parameters, just so you could customize your sound a little more. It’s not a deal-breaker, though, as the MEL9 is pretty impressive to get that old-school vibe right out of the box.

Positives

  • The MEL9 comes with 9 vintage tones based off the Mellotron, which was one of the original synthesizers produced
  • It features a simple controls layout, with knobs for blending and attack/sustain adjustments; preset selection is done through a knob as well

Negatives

  • While the included sounds are truly reminiscent of the Mellotron, there is no method to alter the tones to give you individual creativity
  • Tracking is relatively good, but it will only support going down to an open A string when using it with a bass guitar

Earthquaker Devices Bit Commander V2 Bass Pedal

Some bass synth pedals are fancy with a ton of features, and some are simple enough to give you exactly what you need, when you need it.

The Bit Commander V2 from Earthquaker Devices seems to fall squarely into the latter category.

It gives you the ability to create synth tones based off of a simple square wave modulation across a 4 octave range (sub, down 1, base, and up 1).

Each octave level can be individually adjusted, allowing a high level of creativity in crafting a full, rich tone or even one that may be a little out in left field.

Ease Of Use
5/5
Sound Quality
5/5
Features
4/5
Earthquacker Devices Bit V2

Analog octaves can be a bit unpredictable when used in a synth context. This is particularly true with the lower frequencies from a bass, so you may find yourself either pleasantly surprised or kind of freaked out (not always a bad thing) at what you can extract from the Bit Commander.

Positives

  • Simple and no-frills synth tone creation, with a single knob to modify the base sound by using square wave modulation
  • A full four octave range, with individual level controls for each, allows for a wide range of full and thick synth sounds

Negatives

  • Lower frequency tones may cause unexpected results; tracking is much better at higher registers

What Is A Bass Synth Pedal?

While most ‘traditional’ effects modify the chemical makeup of the dry signal coming from your bass, a good bass synth pedal takes that concept and pretty much turns it on its head.

A synth pedal takes the basic signal waveform and allows you to twist, distort, modify, and completely freak it out.

Really, it allows you to alter the signal using specific parameters where you can mimic the output of a real honest-to-goodness synthesizer (which, for those who may not know, are those keyboard-looking thingys that got really popular starting in the 80’s, but have been on the scene since the late 60’s).

Let’s level up your expectations here, though.

Most synth pedals are waveform modulators that give unique synth-type sounds, and they aren’t intended to completely mimic other instruments. If you think that you’ll be able to make your bass sound exactly like a trumpet or a violin just by running it through a foot pedal then you may be disappointed.

Sure, you can trick it out and create sounds you may never have imagined before, but there are limitations to what a pedal-based unit can accomplish. If you wanna get super fancy, then you should expect to pay a LOT more money and get a unit that has a LOT more processing power…and which probably has some sort of computer interface as well.

Bass synth pedals? Well…those ain’t that. The closest I’ve seen a pedal come to doing this is the EHX MEL9 that I reviewed. Don’t get me wrong – it’s good – but it doesn’t copy the tone footprint of other instruments exactly, especially when using a bass.

How can I get my bass synth pedal to track better?

One of the most basic – and potentially frustrating – issues when using a bass synth pedal is getting it to track consistently.

What do I mean by that?

‘Tracking’ is the ability of a synth pedal to take the incoming signal and have it be processed as it was intended to be.

Trust me, you’ll know if you are having tracking problems – you’ll be getting sounds and results that are completely out in left field, unexpected, and not the same from note to note.

Fortunately there are a few tips and tricks that you can do to help your synth pedal to track as smoothly as possible:

Better Playing Technique

To be blunt, if your playing tends to be a little sloppy then you may be asking for tracking trouble. Synth pedals work best when the incoming signal is as clean as possible, giving it something solid to lock onto when it’s doing it’s magic.

Issues such as fret noise and letting other strings ring out when they shouldn’t have no place here; simply put, your playing should be as clean and precise as possible.

Tone It Down!

Believe it or not, the tone knob on your bass can fight against you when trying to use a bass synth pedal. Some players have better tracking results if they roll it back a bit.

If your bass has a neck pickup, using that for your synth lines can make a big difference as well.

Some may even to the point of using flatwound strings for a sound that isn’t so bright.
Why would all of this matter? Beats me.

All I know is that, with some synth pedals, the higher frequencies can make things glitch out more than you will want them too.

Can I use a guitar synth pedal with bass Guitar?

Yeah, you can. In fact, a good amount of the synth pedals that I’ve taken a look at here are ‘technically’ for the guitar.

Here’s the deal – the same is true for bass synth pedals vs. guitar synth pedals as it is with most other types of effects pedals. Models that are specifically meant for use with the bass are designed around the lower frequency range that the bass guitar produces.

You may find that a guitar synth pedal may give you better results than one targeted towards the bass. The best thing to do is to simply try out a few different models, and then pick the one that gets your mojo flowing the best.

As Eddie Van Halen said: ‘The heck with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”

(…but he didn’t say ‘heck’…use your imagination…I’m running a ‘family-friendly’ site here so let’s keep it clean…and yes, Eddie HAS played the bass before…)

Bottom Line

Let’s face it – bass synth pedals aren’t for everyone. In fact, you may not ever see the need for one based off your playing style and the type of music you typically play.

That being said, a good bass synth pedal can bring you one of the most prized things that you can receive as a musician – inspiration.

Taking things out of the box (which…yeah, for sure…a synth pedal will certainly do) may lead to to experiment and try things that you may never have before.

The Electro-Harmonix Bass MicroSynth Effects Pedal is, in my opinion, one of the best bass synth pedals around. Its simple slider-based interface lets you get into those ‘otherworld’ spaces with ease, and it may be just the thing for you if you’re into vintage synth sounds.

So are you a synth-kind of player? Or are they just novelty boxes to you? Make yourself heard to the world by leaving some comments below…

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