While it’s true that most of the stompbox-related fun is enjoyed by electric guitarists, there’s still plenty of room for pedals specifically made for bass – although technically, most if not all guitar pedals also work well with bass.
Problem is, the instrument’s role in rock music (and pretty much any other genre) is confined to a range of frequencies that requires consistency rather than the colorful palette of sonically uneven possibility generated by a creative use of effects. This is why most stompboxes for bass focus on dynamics and EQ, followed closely by distortion, pitch shifting, and chorus – perhaps the only “embellishment” effect that’s used on electric bass.
A Buyer’s Guide to the Best Bass Pedals
In this article, we’ll offer you several shortlist of the best pedals for bass organized by effect type, in the order you would normally place them on your pedalboard.
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Best Filter Bass Pedals
If you are wondering why we start with filter pedals, we’ll quote our friends at EqrthQuaker devices when they say that “Wah-wahs and filters have a wide frequency response and full dynamic range which most players will want to preserve, which is why these effects are most commonly found at the front of the chain.” They can also produce loud peaks that you would want to tame with a compressor or a distortion placed later in the chain.
Here’s a shortlist of the best filter and wah pedals for bass:
Best Preamp/DI Bass Pedals
Preamp/DI pedals for bass are an extremely popular format because they do a bunch of useful things at once: they compress your signal and distort it a little if you wish, they EQ it, and they send it out an XLR out so that you can record or play direct without an amp. Some include extra stuff like a noise gate or a Aux-in and headphones out. If you are a no-frills bass player, one of these pedals may be all you need to get enough options in the depth, dynamics and tone realms to cover any sonic need.
Best EQ Pedals for Bass
Since the palette of effects delivered by an electric bass is rather limited (at least compared to a guitar), an equalizer can add a lot of range to your tone, allowing you to adapt to sonic environments that require a deeper rather than more mid-rangey or “cutting” bass sound. A precise EQ pedal can also be useful to cut out the mid-low frequency occupied by chugging distorted guitars so that both instruments sound more defined and don’t generate unpredictable frequency accumulations/cancellations.
Best Compressor Pedals for Bass
Consistency is the paramount quality of a good bass track, and a good compressor can help immensely in that department, by evening out the loudest and quietest parts of your performance. Few bass players don’t use a compressor – and only extremely skilled players can sound dynamically consistent without one.
These are the top choices:
Best Overdrive/Distortion Bass Pedals
The saturation provided by an overdrive or a distortion pedal on the bass’ low frequencies generates harmonics higher up in the frequency spectrum that make the bass lines more audible. The extra volume also works well in parts of a song that require some kind of push (in most cases, the chorus). Two reasons why having one of these pedals on your board might be a good idea.
Best Fuzz Pedals for Bass
If the devices in the previous category tend to boost the mids of the bass, a fuzz pedal will add harmonics pretty much across the entire frequency spectrum above the note you play – including the high end. A Dry/Wet knob for these pedal is absolutely essential, to avoid losing the uber-important low-end, the bass’s natural sonic environment!
Best Octave Bass Pedals
Adding octaves on top or bottom of your bass note is one of the few creative licenses bassists can indulge in, and can produce some really intriguing results. A lower octave will create earth-shattering lows that will make the wall tremble, while higher octaves add legibility to the tone. By the way, you don’t need to pick between octave up and octave down, some pedals let you do both – which sounds great when there’s no electric guitar in the way!
Best Chorus Pedals for Bass
Why on earth would you want a modulation pedal, which messes up with your low-end frequencies’ phase, on bass? How about BECAUSE IT SOUNDS GREAT AND NIRVANA DID IT? I rest my case. (By the way a Dry/Wet balance with clean-signal emphasis on the low frequencies will avoid phase cancellations on the low-end, for a more consistent sonic foundation).
Best Synth Bass Pedals
YES, modern technology has figured out a way to make your electric bass sound like a synth. Not only that’s a lot of fun, but it also allows a little bit of sonic variety for an instrument that’s by definition frequency-constrained. The pedals in this list can deliver a range of electronic-sounding bass sounds. We’d recommend one even just for personal entertainment!