The concept may be simple, but adding an octave below can be really funky. Let’s find out just how funky it can get with the MXR Bass Octave Deluxe…
I have always loved octave effect pedals on bass, and for the record, I have mostly been using the Boss OC-2, which was made for guitar, but it soon became popular among bass players too way back in the 1980’s. Since then, we have seen a lot of dedicated bass octave pedals on the market and among them you’ll find the MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe, which has managed to gain a position as a modern octave pedal classic.
The MXR Bass Octave Deluxe has three rotating knobs, one push button, two blue LEDs and the obligatory footswitch on the surface. Under the hood, though, you will also find a 2-way dipswitch and a tiny screw that you can adjust – more on that in a bit.
The first knob, DRY, controls the level of your clean signal. The GROWL knob controls the level of an octave below with a punchy, mid-focused character, while the GIRTH knob controls the level of another additional note (also one octave below) with a much softer almost sub-like character. You can use the GROWL and GIRTH knobs individually or mix them to shape the color of your tone as you see fit.
As if that wasn’t enough, MXR also added a MID+ button that will boost the mid frequencies for even more cut-through-the-mix power. Kicking in this switch in will boost the 400 Hz frequency area. As mentioned in the opening of this section, you will find a 2-way dipswitch and a tiny screw inside the pedal. The dipswitch allows you to select either a 400 Hz or 850 Hz midrange boost, and the screw will define the amount of boost from +4 dB to +14 dB. By default the M288 is set to boost at 400 Hz and the screw is in the center position, which I guess will translate into 9 dB attenuation of the midrange if the boost is linear.
The sound clips are divided into 8 sections and takes a methodical approach, going through all of the dimensions of the Bass Octave Deluxe one by one.
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
The M288 is very versatile indeed. As you can hear in the sound clip sections, you can squeeze just about any flavor of octave madness out if this little box. And that was just with one overall setting of the internal MID+ controls.
One thing that is paramount when it comes to octave pedals is how well they track the original notes and the ability to reproduce the notes an octave below without too many audible glitches and artifacts. For instance, the classic Boss OC-2 often begins to struggle at around Bb or A in the low register, but the MXR Bass Octave Deluxe tracked convincingly all the way down to F. Only the open E string started to sound a bit quirky. No doubt, this makes the M288 much more versatile than for instance the OC-2 simply because you can use much more of your fretboard across all of the strings.
As demonstrated in the last round of sound clips, you can use this pedal as a clean boost or tone-shaping device, and even though you probably have other pedals for these purposes and that you should really use the M288 as an octave, it’s great to have the option at hand. You may have one band or project that doesn’t need any octave at any point and in those cases, having a dedicated mid boost can definitely come in handy.
The build quality seems high. The unit I have is pre-owned and it has seen some good use (but apparently no abuse), but still, there were no crackling or other mishaps when turning the knobs (that still had a nice, firm feeling to them too), pushing the switches or connecting cables.
As for the design, I love that MID+ switch that can really be a lifesaver in a dense mix. Obviously, being the control freak that I am, I would have wished for top panel controls rather than internal dipswitch and screw controls. Having said that, I understand how that was likely a matter of priority in several areas and I would probably not have traded that feature for a higher price or a bigger chassis – or both.
In fact, the only obstacle I have is the one I always mention when the power supply input is located on the side right next to one of the jack connectors. Jack connectors with a 90 degree angle just tend to clash with that power input so easily. One last thing is that battery access or MID+ adjustment requires you to remove four crews. That said, I never use batteries and once you have set the MID+ setting, you probably never need to worry about that again. But to some, the battery issue may be a problem, so it should be mentioned.
Today (2015), a brand new MXR Bass Octave Deluxe will set you back $149. The price range for dedicated bass octave pedals is not that wide, and the MXR is not the cheapest of the bunch, but also not the most expensive. It’s quite in the middle of the road and given the impressive feature set and great sound quality, there is definitely value for money here.
The Bass Octave Deluxe really opened my eyes (and ears) and made me want to step outside the well-known Boss OC2 comfort zone. This pedal stays put on my board for now.
High build quality
Good value for money
Power supply input on the side
4-screw battery access