It’s the secret sauce of so many great guitar players, a staple of ‘boards worldwide, and a must-have in your armory. Whether you want to add some low-end girth to that heavy riff, or a sparkly high-end to your solos, the best octave pedals are guaranteed to spice up your guitar playing.
The sound of an octave pedal has been all over modern guitar for some time now, with everyone from classic heroes like Hendrix and Page, right through to sonic pioneers like Johnny Greenwood and Matt Bellamy utilizing them. It’s core to the sound of Royal Blood, The White Stripes, and Rage Against The Machine to name just a few, capable of delivering super heavy guitar sounds, as well as some out-of-this-world tones.
Adding an octave pedal to your setup is a no-brainer. It’s the kind of effect that is super easy to set up, yet can make a massive difference to your overall sound. There’s a whole load of choices out there, so we’ve rounded up our top picks for your consideration. If you want to learn more about how to use octave pedals then head down to the ‘Buying Advice’ section of this article. Otherwise, continue scrolling.
Best octave pedals: Our top picks
We debated long and hard about which pedal would take the top spot here, but we’ve gone for the Electro-Harmonix Nano POG (opens in new tab). It tracks incredibly well, managing chords and riffs with equal aplomb, and it’s housed in a small unit, meaning it will easily fit on your busy pedalboard.
Probably one of the most iconic guitar pedals of all time, the Digitech Whammy V (opens in new tab) is way more than just an octave pedal. Of course, it’ll do traditional octave up-and-down sounds, but you can also add specific note intervals for harmonized guitar lines, and use the expression pedal for some crazy-sounding octave sweeps.
Best octave pedals: Product guide
The Electro Harmonix Nano POG may be small but be warned, there are some massive guitar tones in this little box. Utilized by Johnny Greenwood, Joe Bonamassa, and Steven Wilson, this small-scale version of the POG is perfect for busy ‘boards.
You get both a low and high octave, so Royal Blood-style heavy riffing and Jack White-esque pitched-up solos are all within grasp. It also tracks remarkably well, dealing with complex chords to give you an organ-like tone, as well as blending well with other effects in your chain.
We’ve had one of these on our ‘board for years now, and it’s easily withstood the rigors of the constant gigging. The dry-out means it’s super-flexible in complex signal chains too, as well as allowing you to run a dual amp setup à la Royal Blood.
The Digitech Whammy V is an icon of the guitar world and so much more than just an octave pedal. It’s a staple of guitar legends like Tom Morello and Matt Bellamy, both of whom utilized the expression pedal to great effect, adding wild swoops and dives to their riffs and solos.
The Whammy gives you two full octaves below and above your regular guitar sound, making it incredibly versatile. You can also use it as a harmonizer, adding in a fifth to beef up those riffs and solos, as well as utilizing more esoteric intervals like a third or a 7th.
It’s a big pedal, so you’ll need plenty of room to fit it on your board. But we found the expression pedal more than makes up for any sacrifices you’ll have to make for the sake of real estate, as it adds so much potential for creativity to your guitar playing.
Read our full Digitech Whammy review
There are some intriguing features in the Boss OC-5 Octave, so much so that many guitar players are replacing traditional favorites with one of these brown bad boys. The original Boss OC-2 was loved by guitar and bass players alike, and this iteration keeps all that was good about it whilst adding some extra versatility.
The OC-5 has two modes for you to play with, vintage and poly. Vintage mode recreates the mono sound of the original OC-2, which means it’s great for single note lines, but gets confused if you try and add chords into the mix. Switch to Poly and you get a more modern octave sound, tracking excellently no matter how complex your chords are.
One of the most interesting features of this pedal though is the range mode. Dependent on how you set the knob, the pedal will only add the octave to the lowest notes that you play, meaning you can keep things hefty when riffing hard, without having to add any notes to your chord stabs or lead work in the higher register.
Read our full Boss OC-5 review
If you’re the kind of player that breaks out in a sweat when you’re presented with too many knobs, then you’ll love the Earthquaker Devices Tentacle. It has zero knobs, just a footswitch, and a super cool graphic design so less time tweaking and more time rocking!
Taking the all-analog circuit from the popular EQD Hoof Reaper Fuzz, this pedal gives you all those classic octave sounds utilized by Hendrix and Page with a minimum of fuss. Think of the solo from ‘Purple Haze’ and that’s this pedal in a nutshell.
It also has a super cool momentary/latching dual switch. Press once to have the effect stay on, or hold your foot down on the switch, play, and then when you release it the effect will switch off. It may be simple but it certainly gets the job done.
TC Electronic’s Sub ‘N’ Up gives you a lot of options for the money, with three octave sounds and three modes for you to play around with. So if you’re looking for an octave pedal on a budget then this one ticks a lot of boxes.
With individual knobs for each octave effect, plus one for your dry signal you’ve got a lot of flexibility in dialing in your perfect tone. It track’s incredibly well too and even with the low thump of the two octave down setting, still manages to feel really musical with chords and arpeggios.
Three mode switches mean you can get that classic octave glitch sound if you want it, whilst the TonePrint mode enables you to download custom artist presets or even create your own signature sound. With this much versatility and this price point, the Sub ‘N’ Up makes a solid case for the best budget octave pedal.
Read our full TC Electronic Sub ‘N’ Up review
If you want a load of different sounds in a single octave pedal, then the MXR Poly Blue might just tickle your fancy. The original Blue Box was one of the earliest pedals MXR manufactured and has been a staple of their lineup since – but this pedal does so much more than the original.
You get a full two octaves each way, and they all have their own knob so you add just the right amount of sound that you want. A dry knob allows you to mix in your original signal whilst the modulation knob gives you some extra warble, great for when you want your guitar to sound like an organ or a 12-string.
One of the best features is the built-in fuzz. It’s rich and intense, and when combined with the sub -2 knob puts you into blowing speaker's territory. The expression input adds a further creative tool to your arsenal, allowing you to control the rate of modulation, fade in octaves, or just switch the fuzz on and off.
If you're after an octave pedal but don’t want the same sound that every other guitarist is using, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on the Walrus Audio Luminary V2. It does the traditional octave sound well but adds some interesting touches that make it a more intriguing creative tool.
Alongside a classic lineup of two up and two down octave voices, you also get attack, filter, and flutter controls to further augment your sound. Attack determines how soon after your note the octave kicks in, the filter is envelope style to shape the tone, whilst the flutter control adds modulation to the octave sound.
The Luminary V2 covers a lot of ground sonically, giving you everything from classic octave sound to jazz up your blues licks, filter affected funk guitar stabs, or even organ through a Leslie-type tone. The expression input adds further versatility, with five dip switches inside to change which parameter you want to control.
With two great octave sounds and the ability to pitch shift to a fifth, the T-Rex Quint Machine delivers a decidedly classic range of tones to your pedalboard, one that’s both easy to use and sounds great.
The compact enclosure of the Quint Machine houses two octaves and one harmony voice, with a voice that’s lovely and bright. It definitely excels at the more classic, Hendrix-Octavia style effects, but is more than capable of delivering a White Stripes-style sound too should you need it.
It tracks the octaves really well, handling fast runs and chords easily, while the fifth setting gives you the chance for some 80s-style harmony guitars. So whilst there aren’t loads of features packed into this purple stompbox, the quality of the sound is more than good enough to keep you playing.
Despite being the smallest pedal on this list, the Mooer Pure Octave manages to fit in four octave voices whilst still keeping the price sub $/£100. For pure value for money, that makes it a hard one to beat.
This pedal excels in single-note tracking, making light work of bluesy lead guitar and chunky rock riffing. It tracks reasonably well with chords, but you’ll need to tweak settings and adjust your playing style in some instances to avoid glitching out here and there.
The large rotary knob in the center gives you all your octave options which can be a little disconcerting to read at first but helps keep the pedal footprint down to a minimum. There are two octave controls that handle the volume of both low voices and both high voices respectively, as well as a dry control to blend your original and octave voices to your taste.
It’s crazy to think that for around the same cost as a three-pack of strings, you can also add a solid octaver to your pedalboard. Behringer’s Ultra Octaver is part of its line of budget ‘board boxes, delivering fat riffs and wailing leads for less.
Allegedly a clone of the Boss OC-3, the Ultra Octaver features two octave voices with individual controls to dial in each. It copes with single notes particularly well and will stretch to power chords dependent on the settings, but anything more complex than that can result in artifacts.
We’re not going to knock it for that though because for the money it does an incredible job of beefing up your guitar tone. A voice switch allows you to use it with both bass and guitar, adjusting the pedal’s response to suit the particular tonalities of each instrument.
Best octave pedals: Buying advice
If you’re looking to buy your first octave pedal be warned – these things are addictive. Once you fatten up that heavy riff you’ve been playing it just won’t sound the same without it, and ditto for those tasty blues lead licks you’ve been working on.
An octave pedal is a relatively simple thing, but there are definitely some aspects you’ll want to consider before purchasing, as each pedal will have its own voice and idiosyncrasies that make them particularly well suited to a certain playing style or genre.
How does an octave pedal work?
An octave pedal works by taking your original guitar signal, shifting an octave up or down, then playing it alongside your original signal to create the effect of two guitars playing at once. An octave is an interval that is double the original’s frequency or put more simply – the exact same note but one octave lower or higher.
Some pedals do more than one octave up or down and some layer multiple octaves on top of one another to create those organ-type sounds you sometimes hear. Most octave pedals will also allow you to blend your original signal with your octave sound, so you can have the sound of two guitars at once, or just fool everyone into thinking that you’re playing bass guitar.
What is the difference between an octave pedal and a pitch shifter pedal?
An octave pedal only creates a note that is exactly the same as the original pitched up or down, whereas a pitch shifter pedal can create notes that harmonize with one another, also pitched up or down. Pitch-shifting pedals are more difficult to utilize than octave pedals because you’ll need some knowledge of music theory to determine which notes fit together best.
We won’t get too deep into theory and intervals here, but a simplistic way to look at it is to first imagine playing a power chord. The first note is your root, the second is a fifth, and the third note is an octave. The second note is called a fifth because it is five notes away from your original, and due to the way frequencies work, lends it a certain sound that is rather pleasing to the human ear.
A pitch shifter pedal will artificially reproduce notes of a particular interval, like the Digitech Whammy which can 3rd, 4th, 5th, and so on, whereas octave pedals generally only tend to reproduce octaves. That said, some of the octave pedals on this list also give you the option to harmonize too, so if you’d like both features you can certainly get it.
What is octave pedal tracking?
One of the biggest signals of an octave pedal’s quality is its ability to accurately track your playing. As these types of pedals digitally pitch your guitar’s tone up or down, and the guitar is a harmonically complex instrument, sometimes they don’t quite get it right. This results in glitches or artifacts and happens on even the most expensive pedals when you start introducing complex chords.
Notes interact with each other in different ways, so it’s not yet possible to algorithmically recreate things perfectly, but a lot of the pedals here do a phenomenal job, and you’ll have to push them pretty hard to get to this stage. For a subset of players, the glitching type sound can be desirable, as it lends a very noisy, electronic quality to the guitar.
Another factor in tracking is the timing. Typically in octave pedals, there’s a slight delay between your dry guitar sound and octave guitar sound due to the signal processing required. This will only be a few milliseconds for the most part but can be a deal breaker depending on the type of music that you want to play.
Where does my octave pedal go in the chain?
It’s almost always best to have an octave pedal as your first in the chain. This is because you want a clean signal going straight in to ensure the best note reproduction possible. However, as with all things signal chain related, this is not a rule. A lot of players gained satisfying results placing fuzz pedals before octaves, as well as clean boost pedals to ensure a strong signal going in, so play around with the placement and you might be surprised at what you come up with!
Find out more about how we make our recommendations and how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides.
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