Bass Blender Shootout: Comparing 6 Unsung Heroes of Low End

In my opinion, the blender is the second most important effect pedal you will ever buy as a bass player. The only reason it isn't the first is because you need a single pedal—any pedal—to make use of it. Bringing in a clean bass signal to mix with an effect opens up the bass guitar to unlimited creativity because you don't have to abandon the key role you play in the rhythm section of your band. Thanks to the brilliant boxes I'm about to overview, you can keep the low end anchored and still push the envelope. With each, I'll share my own little blender recipe you can experiment with.

MBS Parallel Universe Blender

MBS Effects Parallel Universe Bass Blender

I previously got a chance to demo this pedal, and you can read that review right here on Tone Report. The Parallel Universe falls into the category of a more feature-enhanced blender, with the ability to adjust the signal input and output levels. I thought it worked great in the capacity of a bypass option for expanding the possibilities of a vintage pedal you may not want to modify.

Try this: Run a phaser into a delay pedal in the send/return loop of the Parallel Universe. Adjust the delay so you have a single repeat with a somewhat short delay time and adjust the phaser to have a medium speed. Start the blender at 50 percent dry and play some quarter notes. Listen as the delayed signal fills in notes, creating an eighth note pattern. Each delayed note is a little different from the previous, because each clean note is first filtered through the phaser for a mysteriously funky rhythmic feel.

Barge Concepts DVB-2 Dual Blender

Barge Concepts DVB-2 Dual Blender

Sadly, this pedal is made by a company who seems to now be out of business. You can still find these for sale used or for trade online, and they’re worth checking out. Mine had two separate channels with a blend knob each, which you could activate with a footswitch. The secret weapon of this pedal was a well-built buffer, which helps keep a strong signal passing through long effects loops. This effect made it possible to alternate between channels, and also to turn both channels on together, making for some very intriguing interactions.

Try this: Run a pitch shifter in each of the effect/send loops. Set the first to a harmonized third above your signal, and the second to a harmonized fifth above. Play a riff, and as you move through it, tap the 'A or B' footswitch to alternate between loop A and B. Slam the “A and B” footswitch to suddenly have a richly polyphonic chorus sound. This gets really fun when you adjust each pitch shifter to have wildly diverse sounds that still combine well. Finally, you can feel like Geddy Lee and have your Chuck Taylor sneakers be the band's synth player.

Boss LS-2 Line Selector

Compared to many of the other pedals listed here, the Boss LS-2 is very reasonably priced. You also can count on there being units floating around for sale in the endless sea of used Boss pedals. The LS-2 has many routing options, letting you play around with two separate channels by combining them and blending your dry signal against them. The trick to using this pedal as a blender is routing one channel's output to be its own input, letting you “mix” between effects in one loop with your dry signal through an empty loop.

Try this: Appease the dark Boss lords by running your clean signal into a Boss OC-2 Octave pedal, then running this into the LS-2 Line Selector. In the LS-2 effects loop, use the inimitable Boss FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz. The Hyper Fuzz's Mode II is a very aggressive scooped sound that almost completely destroys the low end of a bass. With the magic of blending, adjust it to let that fat generated sub-octave from the OC-2 blend with the bite of the FZ-2, channeling one incredible stoner rock or doom metal sound!

Xotic X-Blender

The Xotic X-Blender is a full-featured choice that lets you have an internal equalizer to adjust the bass, treble, and volume of the effects loop. Its biggest feature (literally) is the ingeniously huge Blend knob that is perfectly adjustable with your foot! For quick live adjustments of blend levels, this is a huge time saver. For some effects, particularly distortion pedals, relative volumes between blended effects makes the apparent volume of the output feel different than you might expect. Giving a quick spin of the knob with your big toe can cure some of these discrepancies in a pinch.

Try this: In the effects loop, place a tremolo pedal before a delay pedal. Keep the delays to a single repeat and set the tremolo effect to be rapid enough for a “shuttering” effect. Start the blend pedal at 100 percent wet and play whole notes. The tremolo effect seems to chop your note up, letting the delay repeat the chops into a little tornado of sound. Using your foot, start to slowly turn back the blend setting as you play. This is something truly amazing about blenders: sounds that are otherwise unusable can become usable in a real band setting, like this interesting interlude as it fades into a more complimentary texture.

One Control Mosquite Blender

A diminutive option is the One Control Mosquite Blender. It's one of the smallest blenders you can buy, making it a good fit on a crowded board. While it features only a single blend knob and a solid internal buffer, its big feature that separates it from other choices is an expression input jack, letting you control the blend level with an expression pedal. If you're a skilled wah player, you'll love the kind of interactions this can have with your filter and modulation pedals especially.

Try this: turn your phaser to that full-speed “underwater” sound, and rock the wah connected to the Mosquite blender with your funkiest slap riff. Letting such an overwhelming sound rock in and out creates a filter effect that can really emphasize your playing without the sound being a distraction.

Wounded Paw Effects Loop Blender V3

Wounded Paw Effects Loop Blender V3

In the world of blender pedals, Wounded Paw offers what amounts to a supercomputer in the V3. Its line of blenders are truly weird science experiments unto themselves and allow you to have nearly full control over all aspects of the signals in, out, and through the blender. Want to have your delay trails leak into the bypassed signal? Want to blend one channel against another, then blend those against the dry signal? Want control over three different effect loops? There's knobs and switches for all of it, if you're interested in truly exploring them. This kind of control is most fun for the table-top player, synthesist or noise maker, because quick turns and tweaks of the various levels can creature some truly wonderful havoc.

Try this: run a drum machine or sampler into the instrument input of the Wounded Paw V3. Put a distortion pedal in one channel and a chorus in the second channel. Make it a goal to adjust every knob and every switch at least once as you rip up, double, filter, and distort the beat.

While all of these pedals accomplish the basic goal of blending your dry signal with an effected one, they each have their own quirks and advantages. If you're into a bass making far out sounds, you owe it to yourself to try a couple of these and see which one makes the most sense for you. Your band will probably thank you for throwing them a little clean tone during your truly far-out pedal explorations!

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