Swing Low: A Side-By-Side Comparison of *some* Bass Octaves

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by cosmicevan, Jun 16, 2019.

  1. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

    tl;dr - long post about comparing octaves...pictures and sound clip within for those who don't like words.

    *** ** * ** ***
    Back in 96 I was on a quest for a bass octave and I stumbled across the Ampeg Sub Blaster at a Bass Player Live event and was immediately blown away by the tone and tracking. I had a hard time getting ahold of one but did snag one eventually and the rest was history...until lately.

    Apparently very few of the Ampegs were made and they sell for quite a bit if you are lucky enough to find one for sale. Although it sounds unreal, it is big/clunky/heavy, the knobs are very easily moved, there is no LED to indicate on/off, the gain structure is kinda sucky/it gets to unity at almost cranked levels...BUT I LOVE it! The sound is just natural and the tracking goes all the way down and is spot on. It's been a while since I really explored octaves and based on what I like in an octave (not OC-2), I checked out some demos online and I hunted down a few to compare and thought the results might be interesting to share/talk about.

    For submission are:
    - Ampeg Sub Blaster - the one to beat
    - COG T-16 - based on everything I've seen this was my early guess to dethrone the king
    - Broughton Synth Voice - I'm an admitted Broughton fanboy, but for good reason - this gets a lot of buzz as being one of the better tracking octaves and fairly natural
    - Boughton Broughctave - recently hunted this down, it's an OC-2 clone enhanced, but why not
    - Meris Hedra - wasn't expecting this to be included, but recently acquired it and after playing with it a bit, there are some killer octave sounds to be had. This pedal goes way beyond just unicorn farts.

    I've been playing around with some of these for a while and have already started to formulate opinions, but the test set up for this example is that I dialed in each pedal to mimic what I like about the Sub Blaster to see if any could do as good or even better at a really well tracked natural sounding octave. I'll run additional tests with stacking other effects (as that's a key thing about the sub blaster is that it plays really nice with everything) and I'll see if I can source a few other octave examples locally.

    Basically, I took my octave loop on my ES-8 and fed it to a separate board:
    > Ditto Looper > Meris Hedra > Ampeg Sub Blaster > COG T-16 > Broughton Synth Voice > Broughton Broughctave


    I cut a little loop with fingerstyle playing and then toggled through the pedals. The clip goes:
    dry > Ampeg (x2) > dry > T-16 (x2) > dry > Synth Voice (x2) > dry > Hedra (x2) > dry > Broughctave (x2) > Broughctave w square fuzz engaged (x2) > dry

    Here's what the settings used were for each pedal. I'll run more tests and share more clips, but what do you think? I initially felt that the T-16 had it, but since discovering the Hedra, I think that might take the spot (not even considering everything else it does - it just sounds amazing and I'm only leveraging 2 of 3 possible voices).






    Share your thoughts.

    Stay tuned for more clips and hopefully more octaves to be added.
    jw112, Vunz, AlexanderB and 11 others like this.
  2. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Those are cool, I like them all. The Hedra and the Synth Voice were standouts in your demo.
    I don’t think the Broughctave was dialed in. I’m used to it sounding cleaner. I can hear a ground loop hum in the recording. Depending on when it was introduced into the signal, it may have muddled the Broughctaves tracking as the notes decay. Or something.

    I think you should keep them all. Sub octaves are wonderful.
    cosmicevan likes this.
  3. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

    Yeah, there is a slight hum. I haven't tracked it down yet. I also left a mic (w heavy reverb) open in the mix. That may have been causing some hum. My daughter was singing from it the other night and the cable was popping a bit from the connection to the mic. Definitely needs some investigation...I was just eager to get some sound clips posted. I wish I could keep them all. I will likely be keeping more than I intended to. I'm not a huge OC-2 guy, but I really enjoy what the Broughctave brings to the table, especially with the option to dial in the square fuzz. At this point I really thing the Hedra will take the sole spot. Something about having 3 (plus original) voices to work with gives it such a rich sound and the tracking is second to none. We'll see though.
  4. The Hedra definitely sounds the cleanest and most solid for the riff you're playing. The others all get glitchy to different degrees, especially on that lowest note. But then again, you'd expect the digital Hedra to track better on low notes than analog octavers. I was surprised to hear the Cog jumping around that much. Out of curiosity, what is the lowest note in that riff?
    cosmicevan likes this.
  5. For me, and what I would use an octave pedal for, a clean, natural sounding octave that tracks well, the Ampeg was the clear winner. Surprisingly, I liked Josh's stuff the least. The Hedra sounded nice too.
    johnk_10 and cosmicevan like this.
  6. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

    I played a little something in the mid register of the instrument...hovering around the 7th to 12th frets. I plan to cut more clips with a variety of playing styles, this was just to get the ball rolling a bit since I was excited to get my recording setup up and running (mostly).

    I've been exploring all of the pedals beyond just this test and the COG initially was the clear winner next to the Ampeg, but I've since found a better way to dial in the synth voice and the Hedra arrived so everything has changed.

    I have also noticed that these pedals respond differently to direct playing vs playing a loop into them. The dynamics of your playing really plays a big part in how the tracking works.

    I feel the same that the Ampeg is head and shoulders better than the others for what I seek in an octave...it also tracks the best (though Hedra might have it beat, but digital). The Ampeg also tracks low notes (first 5 frets on the E string) better than any. I dig the Broughton stuff and it is super high quality...plus the pedals are all way more versatile than my little experiments show off.

    Other thoughts on the pedals from my experimentation:
    - COG T-16 -- There is so much to love about this pedal. The size for one thing, but the tonal flexibility covers the natural sounding octave and a subby buzzy OC-2'ish kind of sound by twisting the filter knob all the way counter clockwise. I don't see myself letting go of this pedal any time soon. Even if it ultimately doesn't land a space on my main board, having a small high quality octave that I can toss on a separate board for jam sessions where the big board is just dumb.

    - Synth Voice -- when dialed in right, this one probably tracks the best. I'm not a massive fan of the 3 separate volumes for the different voicings and I find it makes small tweaks difficult since you need to compensate for a bump on one voice with a drop on another. The tone is really nice and overall the pedal is more versatile than my Ampeg and most other octaves...feels like there is more to this one than I need and that the sub voice is totally wasted on me.

    - Broughctave -- this doesn't really deserve to be a part of this conversation as it is the oddball that is more OC-2 than natural. I don't have an OC-2 to compare, but I REALLY dig the Broughctave more than any OC-2 clips I've heard. The added bonus that there is a square wave fuzz that you can toggle on/off make this a keeper. Here's another one that has more functionality than I need...again 3 separate voice volumes but each also has tone shaping. For some reason this pedal was easier to dial in for me than the synth voice.

    - Meris Hedra -- late comer, wasn't even supposed to be a part of this shootout...not sure why I hadn't considered it for it's octave use, but it sounds damn good and tracks amazingly. If I can get my MIDI hooked up, this one will probably claim the spot since I want it on the board anyway and it's about the size of the Ampeg so a nice hot swap for octave functionality along with everything else seems like the way to go.

    I reached out to some local players and might be able to borrow a octabvre for the next round. All-in-all, I think I know what's going to hang out and what I will probably pass on to the next owner. All of these are worthy octaves though for sure.
    Nefarius696 and JimboP like this.
  7. I too have and had lots of octaves, the search just never ends...
    I love the oc-2 but instead use the oc-3, because it simply suits me better.
    Also have the cog (t-47) and it is great, but can be wobbly at times with some basses.
    Mxr submachine is another one I really like, fat and round like the Ampeg.
    Many times i use subs from my h9, when i want the best tracking or more of a ultra deep synth sound.
    Still, analog sub is hard to beat for its tone and feel.
    cosmicevan likes this.
  8. Diegombass


    Sep 19, 2012
    It was the first thing I thought about Hedra: 3 octaves. OCD:smug:
    cosmicevan likes this.
  9. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    For me the Ampeg wins by a huge margin.
    I think I kind of liked the meris too,although the tone was a little less interesting to me.
    Broughtave was my least favourite by a few country miles at least and then some...
    That was very closely followed by the synth voice.

    I was really surprised to hear what sounded like glitching from the T-16...

    Thanks for doing this!!
    johnk_10 and cosmicevan like this.
  10. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

    Been spending more time exploring these octaves. I decided to cut some more clips stacking a few effects that I regularly use together w each before taking things down and going w just one. Cutting the clips made things even tougher to decide.

    * sorry for the clipping I didnt realize how hard I was pushing things when I hit record.

    Ampeg is still my overall favorite but I found that the Hedra does not sound great w my bug crusher (at least not what I was going for). The T-16 is glitchy on the low register, but sounds great stacked and has a really nice natural tone. The Synth Voice tracks and stacks amazing...and the Broughctave is a different animal entirely. I really want to keep them all... :help:
  11. jacoby75

    jacoby75 Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2010
    Coldwater, MI
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Guitars, DR Strings
    Interesting. I'm not an octave guy at all, so take my opinion for what it's worth, which is nothing. But The Ampeg also sounds the best to me. Great tracking, and sounds really smooth. I think second place would be the Hedra. It sounded the punchiest and most interesting to me. The Synth Voice sounds massive, if you're into that kind of thing. The rest I could do without in my life, probably. Very interesting shootout.
    johnk_10, cosmicevan and labeledbass like this.
  12. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

    I largely agree with you...except I really enjoyed the COG and kept that one too.
  13. Does anyone make an Ampeg clone?

    Edit: I see that JohnK did one at one point.
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  14. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

    I'd love that one in a smaller inclosure with a boost to it. The Ampeg is so sweet.
    cnltb likes this.
  15. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I'd buy that!

    Is the meris analogue or digital?
  16. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

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  17. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    So we are comparing apples with oranges here. No?
  18. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive Supporting Member

    Yes, you are correct...but we are still comparing fruits.

    Hedra was thrown in for giggles since I had just got it at the time I was doing the shootout. It also wasn't really a strict analog thing, more of a personal shootout for myself and since the way I was doing it was to record them and listen to them side by side and experiment, so I shared. Ultimately the reader gets screwed cause my favorite was still the ampeg but it isn't on the board because the Hedra won more on a technicality that it does more and has MIDI control and blah blah blah.

    If you are ranking at home and focusing on analog, you should disqualify the Hedra
    Andy V. likes this.
  19. Correct: "No".

    We are comparing digital Apples to analogue Oranges... so computer sims vs tube amps.
  20. 4Mal

    4Mal Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    If you don't have the C4, Spectrum amd Future Impact in your comparo.. In my opinion (highly valued no doubt ;-) you're probably missing a potential winner...
    cosmicevan likes this.