Considering there are so many stompbox exhibitors at the NAMM Show, it’s almost crucial to set yourself apart from other pedal manufacturers in order to get noticed. Such is the case for the dedicated folks from Beetronics FX, who I met at last year’s show. Their booth had a total Comic-Con vibe, with bee-themed graphics and anachronistic, mechanical-styled pedals, which almost gave me the feeling that some rogue melittologists decided to make stompboxes for the Steampunk crowd. But put aside the pomp and circumstance of their presentation and, lo and behold, these guys make incredibly musical pedals. For this review, I decided to inspect the OctaHive (hi-gain fuzz with octave up) and WhoctaHell (low octave fuzz) stompboxes, both of which left me with a serious buzz — and that’s a good thing.
FEATURES The OctaHive and WhoctaHell are military-grade fuzz boxes that look as if someone yanked out a WWII-era submarine control panel. Both have a brushed-metal industrial motif, robust jacks and footswitches, classic amplifier knobs, vintage pilot lamp and mini-toggle switch. The OctaHive is the most straightforward of the two, with three controls: Pre, sets input volume before the circuit; Honey, sets circuit gain, and Vol, master volume. A side-mounted switch turns the high pitch octave effect on/off. A cool feature is that the pilot lamp’s color indicates whether the octave is on (red) or off (blue).
The WhoctaHell changes up the face of the pedal with two dissimilar knobs and toggle-switch: Whocta, sets the volume for the octave tone; Hell, sets the volume for the overdrive/fuzz tone, and octave selector switch (up/one octave down; down/two octaves down). There are also two footswitches for octave on/off and circuit bypass. The master volume knob is side-mounted, and like the OctaHive, the pilot lamp’s color indicates whether the octave is on (blue) or off (red). Both pedals need a 9VDC power supply for operation.
PERFORMANCE Beetronics claims the OctaHive is based on a Seventies Tycobrahe Octavia, and my first impression was yeah, this is pretty much Band of Gypsys-in-a-box. You don’t hear much of that effect lately in popular music, but engaging this pedal really makes you want to bring it back. Turning up the Pre and backing down the Honey really pronounces the octave up overtones, especially when you play on the rhythm pickup between the ninth and 12th frets of your guitar. It’s astonishingly musical and expressive, and adding a tad more Honey draws out even more ring-modulated harmonics. Finding the sweet spot between the Pre and Honey controls makes the Octa-Hive’s fuzz rounded and smooth with no rough edges, but it can get downright woolly if you crank both controls together.
The WhoctaHell is a different beast altogether, with musically fat fuzz and stabs of overdrive, and more ferocity in the lower register. Here, the pedal doles out a bottomless one or two octaves down, which makes your guitar sound like an impenetrable wall of fuzzy low end. The WhoctaHell can be tamed by finding the proper ratio of gain with the Hell control, which has an impressively smooth taper from punchy overdrive to all-out fuzz assault. But man, increasing the Whocta knob ensures all bets are off and you’d better hold onto your hat — the sub octaves add on all the wicked character of a medieval organ or the rumbling undulations of a dying synthesizer.
STREET PRICE: $230/each
MANUFACTURER: Beetronics FX, beetronicsfx.com
● The WhoctaHell is a bottom-feeding octave fuzz machine that can sculpt thick, underlying synth-textures or bulldozing bass tones
● The OctaHive is one of the most fascinating Octavia-type pedals with organic octave-up overtones and silky smooth fuzz
● THE BOTTOM LINE The Beetronics FX OctaHive and WhoctaHell are beautifully handcrafted tone machines for unleashing octave up or sub-octave overtones, with layers of musical fuzz