If there’s one thing guitar players love, it’s a new effects pedal to fool around with. Some pedals, like overdrive, delay, chorus, or reverb are no-brainers and need to have a spot in every player’s pedal board. Others, like the humble octave pedal, are a bit more esoteric, and guitarists, especially beginners have a hard time pinning down how to use them.

Sure, an octave pedal will never get as much burn on your pedalboard as the primary effects you use daily, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. Bands like Rage Against the Machine, Led Zeppelin, and Queens of the Stone Age have used octave pedals in some of their most popular songs to great effect.

While some guitar players still have a hard time embracing octave effects, they’re among the most popular pedal board additions for bass players, and virtually any octave effect designed for guitar also works great for bass.

Whatever your instrument, an octave pedal is a great way to add a rich texture and far-out sound to your music. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at what octave effects are and how to use them. We’re also going to check out 11 of the best octave pedals you can purchase today for your rig.

What is the Best Octave Pedal?

What exactly is an octave pedal and what does it do?

Octave pedals are one of the most exciting and poorly understood effects pedals. But, what they do is quite easy to explain.

The first octave pedals worked by analyzing your guitar’s signal and synthesizing the note you were playing, shifting it one octave down from your original note. So, instead of you hearing your original note coming from your amp, you hear your original note, as well as a synthesized note that’s one octave down.

As new technology emerged and digital octave effects became the norm, new functionality became available. These digital versions were able to produce a note an octave above the note being played, as well as an octave below.

Digital octavers also can understand polyphonic notes, instead of monophonic ones. This means that today’s octave pedals are also capable of playing chords, intervals, and other more complex passages.

This effect can add incredible depth and weight to your sound. Octavers provide that heavy groove you’d otherwise be unable to attain without the help of a bass player. They also allow you to take your solos and leads into the stratosphere with the octave up effect.

What makes a great octave pedal?

When it comes to octave effects, they all accomplish the same primary function. However, there are several areas where a great octave pedal is set apart by a mediocre imitator. When you’re shopping for an octave pedal, you’ll want to look for one that checks each of these four boxes:

  1. Ability to produce octave down and octave up effects
  2. Polyphonic capability
  3. Independent controls for both octave down and octave up
  4. Road-ready build quality

Octave Down & Octave Up

One of the most important things to consider is whether or not the pedal can produce effects an octave down from the signal pitch, as well as an octave up. To compare buying an octave pedal to purchasing a car, having a pedal that only produces the octave down effect is like buying a car that was missing its front wheels.

Since octave pedals are usually only used occasionally, you’ll want to get as much versatility as you can from your pedal so that you’re able to apply it in more scenarios.

Pedals that only produce an octave down effect are usually analog in design, and while there’s something to be said for the warm, classic sounds of analog effects, this is one area where analog falls flat compared to its digital counterparts. Chances are, if the pedal only produces an octave down, it also can’t handle polyphonic notes, either.

A good octaver will allow you to use the effect to produce either an octave up or an octave down, and most also allow you to blend the two effects at once as you search for your unique sound.

Polyphonic Capability

The first octave pedals were only able to track one note at a time, which rendered them useless if you ever wanted to apply the effect to intervals or chords. It’s quite funny to listen to a monophonic octave effect try and make sense of what you’re doing when you play more than one note at once.

Not only do polyphonic pedals add additional functionality to your effect, allowing you to get more mileage from your pedal, but they also just tend to track better than monophonic effects.

One characteristic of monophonic octavers is that they produce a bit of a “warble” in the signal. This is caused by the pedal trying its best to understand what you’re playing, and this is usually a pretty undesirable effect that you don’t want in your playing.

Polyphonic octavers do a much better job at analyzing and faithfully reproducing what you’re playing, so the tone you hear through your amp is precisely as you intended it to sound.

Independent Octave Up/Down Controls

One of the coolest effects that an octave pedal is capable of is a mix of both the octave up and octave down effect. Unfortunately, not every octave pedal allows this functionality. Some pedals can only produce either the octave up or octave down, but not both at once.

Being able to mix both signals at once will allow you to unlock new and different tones that you’d be unable to achieve with just one effect or the other.

When it comes to your tone, you’re rarely going to find that a balanced mix of your original signal with the octave effect is the best representation of what you’re going for. But, if you’re able to independently control how much of your wet and dry signals come through, you can more easily strike the perfect balance to create a tone you’re happy with.

Road-Ready Build Quality

One of the most critical and often overlooked aspects of shopping for guitar pedals is their build quality. Whether you throw your gear around without a care, or your baby all of your instruments, amps, and effects, the fact of the matter is how well a pedal is built will mean the difference between you enjoying your gear for years to come, and you shelling out money to replace broken pedals.

For pedal manufacturers, creating an effect that delivers performance and value is a delicate balancing act that’s difficult to get right. Some companies go the extra mile when it comes to the internal workings of the pedal, but skimp out on the case and external components, which are most likely to take a beating over the years.

When you’re shopping for an octave pedal, examine how it’s built and evaluate whether or not it’s going to be able to stand up to years of practicing, gigging, and traveling. The last thing you want to do is have to replace your pedal prematurely because it couldn’t take what you were dishing out.

Well-built pedals will feature solid metal cases, heavy-duty potentiometers, and heavy-duty input and output jacks. They should also allow you to run your pedal off either battery or AC power.

Octave Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Electro Harmonix Micro POG

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

For years, the Electro Harmonix POG has been the industry standard octave pedal, winning virtually every major guitar magazine award in the process. If there was one knock on the POG, it was its price, which was too expensive for most players to justify. With the Micro POG, EH has made the signature POG sound available with a friendlier price tag and a compact design.

  • Octave up, sub-octave, and dry mix controls
  • Wet/dry outputs
  • Polyphonic operation
  • Made in the USA

The Micro POG provides smooth and accurate tracking, and its tone is synonymous with the octave effect. It’s easy to control, with knobs for the dry mix, octave up, and octave down. Within a few minutes, you’ll easily be able to dial in a great tone for your sound.

This pedal can’t be run off batteries, but it does include its own power supply, which is a major plus. One thing to note is that the power supply runs at 9.6 volts instead of the standard 9, so it may not behave well with other power supplies.

What Customers Like

  • Incredibly fast and smooth tracking
  • Built like a tank
  • Includes power supply

What Customers Dislike

  • Cheaper than the POG, but still expensive
  • Can’t run on batteries

TC Electronic Sub ‘N Up Mini Octaver

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

The main reason that many guitarists forgo an octave pedal is that they’re too expensive to justify for occasional use. Fortunately, TC Electronic has that problem solved with their Sub ‘N Up octave pedal, which provides the same functionality as the top of the line options for around half the price.

  • True bypass construction
  • Provides octave up and sub-octave effects
  • Compatible with the TonePrint app
  • Polyphonic effects engine

The Sub ‘N Up brings boutique quality construction and sound quality to the masses with its true bypass construction, polyphonic operation, and easy to use controls. Similar to the Micro POG, there are controls for the dry mix, as well as octave up and sub-octave.

This pedal is also compatible with TC Electronic’s innovative new TonePrint app, which allows you to try out custom made settings from top pros, and other users. There’s also a visual interface for creating your own tones.

If the absolute best tone is all you’re after, you may find that this pedal falls slightly flat compared to the high-end options. But, for the occasional user looking for a convincing sound, this pedal may be just what the doctor ordered.

What Customers Like

  • Easy to use
  • Compact and pedalboard-friendly
  • The TonePrint app makes it easy to find new sounds

What Customers Dislike

  • Loses character when sub and up octaves are used together
  • Doesn’t play as well with bass as other octavers

BOSS OC-3 Super Octave

What Makes It Special?

The first ever polyphonic octave pedal, the Boss OC-3 has been a staple on top 10 lists and the pedalboards of top guitarists for years. Coming on the heels of the popular OC-2 pedal, the OC-3 adds two additional modes, which allow you to get even more from your octave pedal.

  • Three mode operation – polyphonic, OC-2, drive
  • Bass and guitar inputs
  • Battery or AC power
  • Five-year warranty

The OC-3 is arguably the most functional octave pedal of all time, and it’s a great way for solo guitarists to fatten up their sound without adding new members to the band.

It features a polyphonic mode which allows you to configure a specific note range that will engage the octave effect, the popular OC-2 mode which provides an octave below, and two octaves below your dry note and a drive mode which adds a rich, harmonic overdrive to your sound.

Use with a 9v or a power supply, the OC-3 is perfect for pedalboards, and it could be the best overall pedal for solo guitarists.

What Customers Like

  • The polyphonic mode can really fatten up the bottom end for solo players
  • Pedalboard-friendly
  • Built like a tank

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t provide an octave up effect
  • Guitar input doesn’t track lower notes accurately enough

CNZ Audio Octopus Octave Pedal

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

For a solid sounding octaver that’s easy to use, it’s tough to beat the Octopus. Add to that the affordable price point, and you have a winning formula for a solid pedal if you’re looking to dip your toes into the octave effect pond.

  • Offers octave up, sub-octave, and dual operation for up to 4 octaves
  • True bypass construction
  • Nano size is perfect for pedalboards or stashing in a gig bag or case
  • Saved settings mode

This pedal delivers convincing octave tones with a twist, thanks to some additional functionality that’s unseen with other pedals. With three modes, players can choose between lower octaves, higher octaves, or both. Controls for each octave as well as the dry mix allow you to dial in how much (or how little) of each octave is part of your sound.

The Octopus features true bypass construction, and by holding the footswitch down, you can save a preset, or recall your saved preset. The compact size is ideal for pedalboards, and the pedal runs on 9V AC power. Oddly, it doesn’t include a power supply, even though there’s no option to run the pedal off batteries.

What Customers Like

  • As many as four octaves at once
  • Great price
  • Easy to use controls

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t include power supply
  • Doesn’t run off batteries

Donner Harmonic Square Octaver/Pitch Shifter

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

The Harmonic Square from Donner provides impressive functionality and true bypass operation that will thrill players who are on a tight budget. It may not be the best, but it does provide plenty of fun at a low price.

  • Seven different settings – octave and pitch shifting effects
  • Three mode operation – sharp, flat, and detune

The Donner Harmonic Square is an interesting little pedal that packs a ton of functionality into a pint-sized stompbox. This pedal allows you to apply an octave up or down, two octaves up or down, and a whole bunch of different harmony options to your dry tone.

Once you’ve selected a mode and setting, adjusting the effect is as simple as adjusting the controls, which affect the amount of wet and dry signal in the mix.

At this price, it’s hard to expect much, but this little stomp provides impressive tracking, a myriad of different octave and harmonizer effects, and even true bypass operation.

What Customers Like

  • Can’t beat the price
  • Tracks surprisingly well
  • Provides octave and harmony effects

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t include power supply
  • Can’t run on batteries

6 More Really Good Octave Pedals

Digitech Whammy Wah (5th Gen)

One of the most interesting and captivating effects pedals in the world, the Digitech Whammy is one that every guitar player needs to experience. This pedal is more a pitch shifter than an octaver, so it didn’t make our top five list. That said, the octave settings it does have are fun and functional, and they track quite well.

Now in its 5th generation, the Whammy Wah continues to evolve. This pedal offers true bypass construction, polyphonic operation, and the ability to mix multiple octaves or harmonies with the use of the expression pedal.

The 5th generation pedal includes a chorded function, which provides a much smoother take on the classic functionality of the expression pedal, and the ability to switch tunings, which is sure to be a much-loved feature for hard rock and metal players.

All of the same functionality from past iterations of the Whammy Wah carry over to this new pedal, making it a great swiss army knife for your pedal board; allowing you to unlock octave sounds as well as pitch, harmony, and tuning effects as well.

Electro Harmonix POG 2

If you’re looking for the most comprehensive and full-featured octaver on the market, the Electro Harmonix POG 2 is going to be right up your alley.

The POG 2 provides the same functionality as the industry-leading micro POG, and so much more. The POG 2 provides twice as many voices, allowing you to independently blend 2 octaves lower and 2 octaves higher than the dry note. There are also effects including a low pass filter, attack control, and detune function.

The pedal saves a total of 8 presets that you can access with the help of the secondary footswitch on the pedal. Simply put, if you can dream it, you can dial it in with the POG 2

Mooer Pure Octave

The Pure Octave pedal from Mooer is an interesting little pedal that’s similar to the Donner Harmonic Square. Whereas the mode selector for the Harmonic Square allows you to choose octave and pitch effects, the Pure Octave allows you to choose between eleven different octave modes, including every permutation of octave up and sub-octave functions.

Controls for the sub-octave level, up octave level, and dry mix allow you to dial in a signature tone within a few minutes, and true bypass operation ensures that your dry sound remains true when the pedal isn’t engaged.

MXR Slash Signature Octave Fuzz

Fuzz and octavers go together like peanut butter and jelly, and this MXR pedal created especially for Slash of Guns N Roses delivers both with convincing accuracy.

This pedal provides a dedicated fuzz circuit with controls for volume, tone, and fuzz as well as controls for sub-octave and up octave. When the fuzz is rolled back, the pedal produces accurate octave tones which can be used for all styles. All the same, it can be used as a standalone fuzz pedal when the octave level dials are both rolled down.

This pedal also features road-ready construction with Slash inspired hot-rod graphics, and it’s sure to look great on your pedalboard.

Ammoon Octa Polyphonic Octave Generator

This recently released pedal is essentially a clone of our top choice octave pedal, the Electro Harmonix Micro Pog. However, it’s available for considerably less than half the price.

The Octa offers controls for octave down, octave up, and true mix, and it features true bypass construction to ensure your dry sound comes out every bit as pure as it went in. Simple and easy to use; this pedal is ideal for beginners and players on a budget.

While it doesn’t track as convincingly as heavyweights like the POG line or the TC Electronic Sub ‘N Up, considering its bargain price, it may make perfect sense for including on your pedal board.

NUX Roctary Octaver and Rotary Speaker Effect

Chances are, if you’re interested in octave effects, you’re down to explore some other far-out effects as well, so the NUX Roctary should be right up your alley.

This unique effects pedal blends a polyphonic octave pedal with a rotary speaker effect, and it also includes a drive circuit for adding some extra dirt to either effect. This effect is also expression pedal compatible so that you can unlock additional functionality with your foot.

The rotary speaker effect accurately reproduces the sound of the iconic Hammond organ, and the addition of an octave up and down effect is a no-brainer for this type of effect. For many players, that iconic Hammond sound is exactly what they’re looking for in an octave pedal, and this one may be the most compelling case.

Independent controls for the sub-octave and up octave allow you to dial in a signature tone, while drive and level controls allow you to handle how much of the dry signal makes it through, and how much gain is applied to the effect.

This is a pedal I’d recommend giving a try before you decide on the best octave pedal for your sound.

5 FAQ’s About Octave Pedals

How do you use an octaver?

One of the coolest aspects of octave effects is that there’s truly no right or wrong way to use one. Octave pedals are unique, and their application is limited only by your imagination.

One popular way to use an octave pedal is to add an octave down from your original note, which will add roundness and bass to your sound. This comes especially in handy if you’re playing without a bass player because this effect will allow you to add bottom end to your sound with only your guitar.

Adding an octave up to your original note will allow you to explore all sorts of far-out tones in your riffs and lead work. Few guitarists have been able to use this to better effect than Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Morello and guitarists like him will regularly add an octave up to add a unique and piercing tone to their lead passages.

You’ll also want to experiment with adding both an octave up and an octave down from your original tone. This will provide you with the “best of both worlds,” allowing you to achieve a rich bottom end at the same time as a piercing lead sound that will help carry your guitar to the forefront of the mix.

Another thing to note is that octave and fuzz are an extremely popular combination, and they add a completely new dimension to all styles of rock, from the classics of the ‘70s through to the more modern sounds of today. A regular overdrive or distortion will do you just fine for this sound, but it’s impossible to beat the lo-fi sensibilities of fuzz when paired with an octaver.

When you’re first getting started with an octave pedal, the best thing you can do is consult the owner’s manual for the pedal. Most manufacturers provide a few different recommended settings so you can dial in a great tone right out of the box.

Not only do these presets tend to sound great, but they also provide you with a perfect starting point to tweak the settings and find your own unique sound.

Where do you place an octave pedal (in the chain)?

One of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of playing with pedals is where you place your pedals in your effects chain. Where you place your pedals in the chain can dramatically affect how your pedals behave and interact with each other.

As a general rule, you’ll want to place your new octave pedal at the front of your chain. If you use a tuner, volume pedal, or graphic EQ, those should be the only pedals in your chain before your octaver.

The idea behind this is that you want your truest tone possible feeding into your octave pedal. If you were sending a wet signal with effects like overdrive, chorus, or delay through your octaver, you’re going to wind up with a muddy mess at best, and a complete failure at worst.

When you’re setting up your effects chain, you want to first start with any pedals that don’t affect your actual tone. This includes pedals like a tuner or volume pedal. From there, you want to place any effects which shape your tone but don’t necessarily color it, like a graphic EQ.

Next comes your dynamic effects, like a wah, pitch shifter, harmonizer, or octaver. Following those, you’ll add any gain effects you use, like distortion or overdrive. Next comes modulators such as chorus, flanger, or phaser. Finally, you’ll add time-based effects such as reverb or delay.

Some amps also have an effects loop, which is a set of inputs on the back of the amp that is positioned after the pre-amp, but before the power amp section. You may want to experiment with adding certain effects to the effects loop instead of through your amp’s input. Try adding any time-based effects you have into your effects loop and note how it affects your tone.

What are the top octave pedal brands?

With more popular effects, it seems like every pedal manufacturer has their hat in the ring, but that’s less so with octavers. When it comes to octave pedals, there are only a handful of manufacturers that make these effects, here are some of your best options:

Boss is arguably the leading manufacturer of all guitar effects. They’ve produced a full line of quality effects pedals and pro audio equipment for over forty years, and virtually every guitarist in the world has at least one Boss stompbox on their pedal board. They’re well known for their pedals, and also for their bulletproof five-year warranty on all their effects.

Electro Harmonix is another premier manufacturer, and many players swear by their POG pedal as the best octaver that’s ever been made. Founded over 50 years ago, Electro Harmonix first began as a producer of high-end processing gear and vacuum tubes. In the ‘70s, they began releasing their first effects pedals, which were met with universal acclaim. Today they make a full line of high-end effects bordering on boutique quality, including the POG octaver.

Digitech is a newer company that rose to prominence during the ‘90s when multi-effects processors became the industry standard. Multi-effects allowed guitarists to unlock a full pedal board worth of gear at a considerably lower cost. While these effects quickly fell out of favor, the Digitech Whammy Wah is still an extremely popular pedal and a favorite octave effect among many guitarists.

TC Electronic is another popular pedal manufacturer that makes some of the most popular octave effects on the market. TC Electronic manufacturers a full line of effects pedals, including their popular Sub n’ Up octaver.

Beyond these four brands, there are still some quality manufacturers we haven’t covered that make great octave pedals. While these four brands are a great starting point, you’ll want to explore all the brands you can before deciding on the best octave pedal for your sound.

How much does a good octave pedal typically cost?

Octavers tend to be a bit more expensive than other effects pedals you may be familiar with, and the most popular models vary widely in price.

Quality octave pedals are available in the $100 range, and they go up from there. Depending on the level of functionality the pedal provides, you’ll see models in the $200-250 range as well.

A basic octaver that provides an octave down and an octave up should run you around $150 or less. But, more advanced models, like the original POG, for example, will set you back around $250. However, these models tend to offer much more functionality than a typical stompbox, including the ability to move your sound two octaves up or down, instead of just one.

You’ll also be able to find budget models available for well under $100, and while these models tend to not perform quite as well as some of the more well-known octave pedals, they’re still a great option for occasional use.

Where can I learn more about octave pedals?

When it comes to learning more about a particular pedal, there are a few great resources online.

Sweetwater is one of the best. Sweetwater is an online music store that really goes the extra mile when it comes to gear reviews, product demonstrations, and other learning resources.

Guitar fella is a relative newcomer, but it’s quickly become a go-to resource for all things pedal and guitar related.

Guitar.com is also a great resource, and they’ve been a go-to for guitar players since the dawn of the internet, pretty much.

Conclusion

An octave pedal can add a wholly unique dimension to your signature sound, and it’s a pedal that every guitar player should experiment with. The models we’ve covered above are all great options, and they represent the best octave pedals on the market. In addition to octave pedals, guitarists also usually consider purchasing these effects as well:

  • Fuzz
  • Flanger
  • Pitch shifter
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