Synth pedals and bass guitar are a match made in heaven.
Synth pedals just sound better on bass than they do on guitar.
Whether you’re looking for experimental sounds, to fatten up or tone, stand out in a mix, or to cover any keyboard synth parts in your band, bass synth pedals are exciting and fun to play with.
In this article we’ll be taking a look at the best bass synth pedals on the market in 2021.
Snapshot: Top 5 Bass Synth Pedals in 2021
- EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander V2
- Electro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth – Best Budget Option
- Source Audio C4 Synth – Best High End Option
- Electro Harmonix Micro Bass Synth
- Boss Synthesizer SY1 – Best Overall
Shopping for a Great Bass Synth Pedal
While synthesizers are typically associated with keyboards, as this is how most popular synthesizers were designed at first, how synthesizers work can be applied to any instrument. In the case of keyboards, the keys usually didn’t create their own sound. They were digitally created and then modified.
In the case of bass guitars, however, the note is being organically created from the instrument, so the main purpose of the synthesizer pedal is to track this note and then modify/filter/distort it.
This is important when buying the best bass synth pedal for your playing because not all synth pedals work the same.
If you want a pedal to work as advertised/expected, it’s best to do your research on how the pedal tracks, then think about how it sounds. There are two kinds of synthesizer tracking: monophonic and polyphonic.
Monophonic tracks one note at a time. Polyphonic tracks multiple notes at the same time. Keyboard synths are labeled this way too, and as a result a lot of monophonic synthesizer keyboards were used for bass lines, as bass often just plays one note at a time.
In compiling this list I wanted to include pedals that were monophonic, as well as polyphonic, but however they worked I wanted to include pedals that could serve as experimental platforms. Guitar synth pedals were included on this list if they received positive reviews when used with bass. I also wanted to include pedals for any budget, however most bass synth pedals are a little bit pricey, so even my “budget” option on this list is more expensive than normal.
The Best Bass Synth Pedals in 2021
1. EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander V2
- A monophonic analog guitar synthesizer with four octaves of vintage square wave synth tones
Synthesizer pedals can get complicated fast. If you’re looking for a simple, but great sounding monophonic synth pedal to use with your bass, the no-nonsense design of the Bit Commander is going to be the pedal for your.
The Bit Commander V2 is an all analog designed monophonic synthesizer. Though originally designed for guitar, this pedal works incredibly well with bass and has no problem tracking those lower frequencies. The Bit Commander controls up to four different octaves (2 below, one original, and one octave above) through a square wave filter, resulting in a plethora of vinatge sounding synth tones.
It has true bypass switching, top mounted jacks, and a metal enclosure. Considering all the sounds it can make, this is a straightforward pedal and I’m all here for it.
Instead of requiring the user to dial in filters, the Bit Commander sticks to a square wave sound and lets you dial in the amount of each octave that you want. There is a control for Level, which works as a Master Volume for the pedal, as well as Filter, which works like a Tone control.
Then there are four different octave levels, including Base (squared input level), Sub (two octaves down), Down (One octave down) and Up (one octave up). That’s it!
This is the pedal for bassists going after vintage synth tones of the seventies. There are a lot of sounds in this pedal that remind me of what I’ve heard from Arturia MiniBrute synths, as the pedal can get quite aggressive. However, by dialing in the right settings this pedal can also sound really round and soft.
While the rest of the synth pedals on this list have an array of voices and characters to them, the Bit Commander has a single voice that can be manipulated in a satisfying number of ways. But no matter how you set it, I think the tones it creates are identifiable. I consider this to be a positive for anyone looking to create a distinguishable voice to their playing.
- Effect Type: Monophonic Synthesizer
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9V DC (25mA)
- Dimensions: 4.75″ x 2.50″ x. 2.25″
- Features: True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander V2
The Bit Commander V2 from Earthquaker Devices is a great pedal for those who are new to this style of effect. The interface is easy to understand and is sure to yield a great tone in minutes without any need to crack open a manual. Though it may be too limited for some more experimental players, it functions, feels, and sounds like a vintage synthesizer.
2. Electro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth – Best Budget Bass Synth Pedal
While the Mono Synth’s price hardly makes it a true budget pedal, it is one of the most accessible synth pedals out there and is packed with features for those looking to expand the tonal range of their bass as inexpensively as possible.
The Electro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth packs eleven different vintage synthesizer voices into a compact pedal. The pedal is designed to be easy to use so that players of any level can dial in a usable synth tone in minutes. What separates it from other pedals within its price range is that it includes the ability to assign and recall presets.
It features stereo out as well. The one feature that I would like to see on a pedal such as this is the ability to control it with MIDI, however the ability to use presets at all is still something that makes this pedal worth purchasing.
As I mentioned before, the controls on this pedal are designed to be simple to understand and to use. The Dry control lets you dial in the bass’ dry sound in with the effected tone. The Synth control lets you dial in how much of the synth sound you want in the mix. Sensitivity controls the input Gain of the pedal before triggering.
The control that may require some experimenting or opening the manual for is the Control knob itself, which modifies a unique parameter for each of the eleven synthesizers. Finally, the Preset pedal lets you switch to the Preset mode, giving you access to 11 presets, selected using the Synthesizer selector wheel.
The Mono Synth seems to focus on synthesizer sounds of the eighties, creating massively textured and unnatural sounds that are fun to play around with. Whether you’re looking to create bass tones for the club, fusion, or for the Terminator soundtrack, this pedal has something from that era in it. The pedal tracks well and is quiet, even when paired with distortion pedals.
My one critique of the pedal is that the high end frequencies can get a bit out of control and would benefit from a high frequency shelf, and the pedal isn’t without its artifacts, which will be cool to some and an annoyance to others.
- Effect Type: Mono Bass Synthesizer
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: 9V (125mA)
- Dimensions: 4.75 x 4 x 2.25”
- Features: Preset Mode, True Bypass, 11 Synth Modes, Expression Control
Final Thoughts on the Electro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth
The Bass Mono Synth is an affordable and easy to use bass synth pedal that is great for players looking to expand their tonal capability on the instrument. It has its quirks and lacks the feel of some higher end or analog synth pedals, but the expansive voice selection and preset mode makes it worth having.
3. Source Audio C4 Synth – Best High End Bass Synth Pedal
- Three styles of flanger including Classic Flange, Thru-Zero Flange, and a highly resonant style of flanger called Shadow Flange.
Designed to be used with any electronic instrument, the C4 Synth from Source Audio is one of the most expansive synth pedals ever created. This is for the synth enthusiasts out there.
Inspired by the Eurorack effects unit, The Source Audio C4 Synth is a seriously expansive pedal that borders on intimidating as part of Source Audio’s One Series of pedals. Hours and hours of tonal tweaking lye ahead of you should you choose to take on this pedal.
The pedal itself is simple enough in its design, with two inputs and outputs allowing for two audio paths that can be processed separately. However, the pedal’s true power and potential like within the Neuro Mobile app, which gives you access to over 128 presets that can be controlled via MIDI.
The pedal itself is bare bones in its display, with just four controls. The Input controls the sensitivity of the synth, while Mix dials in the volume of the effect. Controls 1 and 2 can be set to work with just about any parameter for the preset you have selected, which is accessed with the three position switch in the middle for two banks, giving you six presets on the pedal itself.
Beyond that, all the controls are accessed through the Neuro Mobile App, giving a seemingly endless number of vintage synthesizers to pair with your bass guitar.
It’s difficult to describe the sounds that can come from this pedal, because there are simply so many. What I can say is that every sound clip I’ve heard has had me completely submerged in the instrument it is emulating. This is by far the best tracking pedal out there, with zero glitches or artifacts to my ear. Y
ou can capture everything from vintage mono synthesizers to modern polyphonic synths, and every aspect of the synth can be customized to your liking through the Neuro App. Even though the pedal is 100% digital, it comes across as a classic analog synth.
- Effect Type: Synthesizer
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: 9V (165mA)
- Dimensions: 2.0 x 2.8 x 4.5”
- Features:Neuro Mobile App, Expression/Tap, True or Buffered Bypass, Cloud Access, MIDI
Final Thoughts on the Source Audio C4 Synth
The C4’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to recreating vintage synth tones. While the pedal’s greatest strength in the Neuro App by be its biggest deterrent for those that prefer simple effects (myself included) or beginners, it can’t be denied that this pedal sounds amazing if you’re willing to sink the time into it.
4. Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synth
- 4 Voice mixer section mixes: sub octave, original, octave up and square wave
This all analog bass synth pedal looks intimidating at first, but is quite easy to use and gives you ample control over the filtered sound. This is a more streamlined and focused synthesizer pedal, but it offers a lot to be discovered.
The Micro Synth is a beast of an effects unit. It’s 100% analog and is specifically designed to be used with bass, meaning that the frequency range is spot on. The pedal’s enclosure is made of a diecast chassis and includes the required power adaptor.
It’s quite the large pedal, measuring in at 5.75 x 4.75 x 2.5 inches, so this may be best reserved for the bassist that plans to use synth tones frequently. It is a monophonic bass synth pedal that uses a square wave to distort the signal, making it an awesome distortion pedal as well.
While the all-fader style controls look intimidating at first, the pedal can be broken down into three sections: Voice, Attack Delay, and Filter Sweep. The Voice section has controls for Trigger (determines the input volume that the circuits activate at), Sub Octave volume, Guitar (original signal volume), Octave up volume, and Square Wave volume.
The Attack Delay controls the time required for the voice signals to reach their full volume level. Finally, the Filter Sweep section includes faders for Resonance (sets the Q of the Filter), Start Frequency for the sweep to begin as well as End Frequency, and a Rate control for setting the speed of the filter sweep.
The tones that come from this pedal are like a middle ground between the Bit Commander V2 and the EHX Mono Synth. It is an AGGRESSIVE sounding pedal thanks to the square wave distortion, but your low end is preserved in full should you set the pedal to retain these frequencies.
It can get you everything from vintage mono synths to modern synth tones when paired with other modulation and time based effects. This is a statement pedal that is sure to catch the ear of your listener, as there is nothing subtle about this pedal.
- Effect Type: Mono Bass Synth
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9.6VDC-200mA power adapter included
- Dimensions: 5.75 x 4.75 x 2.5
- Features: Square Wave Overdrive, True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the Electro Harmonix Bass Micro Synth
Though this pedal may have set the standard for “Micro” back when it was first released, this is a big pedal with even bigger sounds. I would recommend this pedal to those looking for a distinct and easy to use synth pedal that is distorted and aggressive. Listen to the band “The Dead Weather” and you’ll get some great inspiration for this kind of bass synthesizer.
5. Boss Synthesizer SY-1 – Best Overall Bass Synth Pedal
At first, I thought that the Boss SYB-5 Bass Synth would be the Boss pedal worth mentioning in this article, but I was pretty disappointed by the sounds it produced. The SY-1, though often used by guitarists, has a Bass setting that turns this pedal into the ultimate bass synth pedal.
The SY-1 has eleven different synthesizer modes, each with eleven variations therein, giving you a total of 121 different synthesizer voices to select from in this one small pedal. The most important aspect of this effect for bassists is the inclusion of the Bass mode on the top of the pedal, which modifies how the pedal tracks and EQ’s the effects.
It is expression pedal compatible and features a great buffer for combating longer cable runs.
The first stack of knobs on the SY-1 are for mixing your dry and effected signals, giving you the ability to blend in your original tone with the synth sound. This really helps to preserve your bite and attack if you’re stacking the SY-1 with an overdrive pedal. There are global controls for the Tone/Rate, as well as the depth of each of the synth effects.
The Type knob lets you choose from one of the eleven voices including Lead, Seq S(Sequencer), SFX (Sound Effects), Bell, Organ, STR (Strings), Bass, PAD. From there, you can use the Variation knob to select from the 11 variations of those synths.
This is another pedal that has so many different sounds in it that it’s difficult to describe them all in a concise manner. However, I like that the SY-1 managed to pack all these sound into a small pedal and to make them selectable on the pedal itself, instead of requiring you to pull up software. You can get 80’s polysynth sounds, Nintendo style glitchy tones, and much, much more.
Combining this box with an expression pedal is almost a necessity, as it really unlocks the pedal’s potential. It sounds great when paired with overdrive and distortion pedals as well, making this a great pedal for everything from Avant-garde jazz to experimental metal.
- Effect Type: Synthesizer
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9V
- Dimensions: 2.87 x 5
- Features: 121 Synth tones, Buffered Bypass, Guitar/Bass modes
Final Thoughts on the Boss SY-1 Synthesizer
Boss managed to cram in a massive amount of synth sounds into a small footprint, which is more and more of a perk as bassists try to include more pedals on their small boards. The effects are unique and wildly fun to experiment with. This is by far my favorite synth pedal for bass in terms of sounds, design, and price point.
Bass Guitar and Synthesize Pedals – One in the Same
Just as guitars seem to pair so intimately well with overdrives (as do bass guitars), I feel like synthesizer pedals are simply meant to be paired with bass. The low end growl adds to the character of the effect and when listeners hear it they can help but react.
Thankfully, great synthesizer pedals have been around for some time and continue to evolve, so there is no shortage of great sounding units that are inspired by vintage tones and new ones alike. Everything from fuzz to harmonizing can be achieved with the right synth pedal. They can be pricey and intimidating, but that isn’t always the case.
Whether you’re looking for a pedal that works in Mono or Polyphonic sounds, there are pedals on this list that will get you started on your synth journey, even perhaps end the search for the best bass synth pedal entirely.
If there is one type of effect that guitarists can’t help but be jealous of bassists for is the bass synth pedal.
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.