6 Perfect Polyphonic Octave Pedals

Of all the wonderful developments in guitar gear brought forth by the rapid advance of digital technology, the proliferation of polyphonic octave effects is one of the most exciting. Everyone loves a good octave, whether to add some meat and complexity to a solo, or to make a big riff sound even bigger. However, while often sounding awesome in the right context, the monophonic analog octave effects of days gone by are also notoriously glitchy and temperamental. The tracking is sluggish and unstable, and sometimes unusable, depending on where on the neck one plays and what pickup is being used. If you aren't careful, things turn into a garbled mess very quickly, thus limiting the usefulness of these effects to only a very narrow set of musical circumstances. And of course, getting musical results from chords or arpeggios is not possible.

All of this changed when digital processing came on the scene. Early digital octave and pitch-shifting effects had their own problems, including stability and latency issues, but as the technology grew and matured many of these problems were sorted out. Today, we have seen a veritable explosion of digital polyphonic octave effects that track quickly and reliably. The beauty of these boxes is that they can expand the voice of a regular old guitar or bass in dramatic ways, letting a six-string guitarist mimic a twelve-string guitar, a bass, or even keyboard instruments like organs and synthesizers. In addition, they offer tremendous potential for new, unexplored sounds, especially when combined with other effects like modulation, delay, and varying shades of dirt. The opportunities for creative application of polyphonic octave effects are nearly endless, and as the technology has become more commonplace, it has also become much more affordable, putting these effects within reach of most everyone. Here is a proper grip of our favorite polyphonic octave pedals.


Boss OC-3 Super Octave

Once again, we owe it all to Boss. Released in 2003, the OC-3 was the world's first compact polyphonic octave pedal, and it changed everything. Replacing the excellent, analog OC-2, the OC-3 wisely kept the functionality of its predecessor with a dedicated OC-2 Mode, while adding polyphonic capabilities, separate guitar and bass inputs, and even built-in overdrive. Unlike anything that had come previously, one could actually play chords and arpeggios with it without everything devolving into a glitchy mess (not that there's anything wrong with that, necessarily). The Super Octave can also be dialed in to affect only a specific range of notes, allowing the user to do very interesting things, like confining the effect to just the lower three strings of the guitar for faux bass line effects, for instance. The OC-3's clean, full-range tracking and comprehensive tweakability made it an instant hit with guitarists, bassists, and other instrumentalists, and it remains a strong performer in the Boss compact pedal lineup to this day.


DigiTech Whammy V

The classic Whammy pedal was not polyphonic (though it ruled in plenty of other ways), but the most recent Whammy V is, featuring a Classic/Chords switch for selecting between old-school Whammy mode and the new polyphonic mode that allows glitch-free chords and arpeggios. Of course the Whammy does a lot more than just octaves, with expansive pitch-shifting capabilities, a fabulous detune mode, and crazy dive bomb effects, but its polyphonic octave capabilities are top-shelf. And lately DigiTech began releasing a series of pedals that package some of the Whammy's individual effects in compact, affordable boxes, including the Luxe detune pedal, the Drop drop-tune pedal, and the Mosaic polyphonic 12-string simulator. It's a wise business move on DigiTech's part, and it allows players who don't want (or can't fit) a Whammy pedal on their board to make use of some of the pedal's coolest effects.


Electro-Harmonix Micro POG

The original POG was way cool, offering deep tweakability and reliable tracking for fake organ sounds, bass tones, simulated 12- or 18-string guitar sounds, and whatever else one might come up with while pushing its little sliders around, but it was also housed in an impractically big-ass box. The POG2 shrunk things down significantly, squishing even better sounds and more functionality into a much smaller enclosure. And while the POG2 offers presets, and is better for copping super realistic organ tones or really dialing in your 12-string impression, it's the newer Micro POG that I love the best. Its basic interface, with knobs for dry mix, sub octave, and octave up, still allows plenty of sonic flexibility, but makes for a more elegant, straightforward user experience. The Micro is also significantly cheaper than its more feature-packed sibling.


Earthquaker Devices Organizer

Earthquaker's Organizer is the first polyphonic octave pedal purpose-built to allow the user to convincingly mimic organ tones with a guitar, and it does quite a good job, with excellent tracking and big, warm tones that manage to evoke something of an analog aura. The pedal's "Choir" control is the key to getting the big, room-filling, organ tones coming out of your guitar amp. It regenerates the octave up and octave down tones, mixing and mashing them, blending in another two octaves up, two octaves down, a bit of direct signal, and a bit of delay, with the end result being a remarkably convincing church organ tone that just might make you think you've found religion.


Mooer Pure Octave

Like most Mooer products, the Pure Octave is extremely affordable and packs a shocking amount of functionality into a very small package. This pedalboard and wallet friendly polyphonic octave pedal has 11 modes that offer different combinations of octave tones, up to two down and two up, with mini-pots for dialing in the ideal mix of dry, sub, and upper octave levels. It's a really well thought-out pedal that sounds pretty darn incredible for less than 70 bucks. The tracking is quite good overall, though not quite as good as the POG and some other more expensive octavers, especially on the low notes. For players that just need to fatten up some riffs, add some shimmering textures to their repertoire, or whip up a fake organ sound now and then, the Mooer Pure Octave is a big winner.


Taurus Dexter

This pedal, from Poland's Taurus Amplification, is getting a lot of attention lately for its accurate tracking and big octave tones. Dexter's "Range" knobs are key to this capability, as they allow the user to roll off extreme upper and lower frequencies that can otherwise interfere with tracking and tonal clarity. It's a cool feature that we haven't seen on any other octave pedals, and it results in some uncommonly focused and tight octaves, especially when Dexter is stacked with heavy distortion or a big, gnarly sounding fuzz pedal. The drawback is that the pedal is fairly large and pricey, but for players that need a quick response and big, focused tone, Dexter is where it's at.

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