To synth or not to synth your bass – that is the question

In this day and age, effects pedals come in all shapes and sizes. You might think that I’m exaggerating, but actually I’m not. You can purchase a stompbox for any instrument and effect you can think of, be it distortion, vibrato, modulation and etc. You can easily find dedicated models for guitars and basses. We’ve talked a lot about the former, so we’ll focus on the latter now. Today we’ll be diving into the world of the best bass synth pedal. What is it? What features should it have? What makes it so special? We’ll answer all those questions in this article. But before we do that, let’s list down the top picks on the market so that you are aware of all the options you have. You might be a synth-aficionado, or you might not even have an idea of what it is. Either way, the fact that you’re here means that you’re interested. I don’t want to waste any more of your time, so let’s get down to business!

Top 5 Best Bass Synth Pedals

ImageAmplifier Model
Rating
Check Price
Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)Check on Amazon
Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synthesizer/a>4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)Check on Amazon
BOSS SY-1 Bass Synthesizer4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)Check on Amazon
Electro Harmonix Bass Mono Synth4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)Check on Amazon
Keeley Synth 1l4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)Check on Amazon

Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal

Features:5 out of 5 stars
Controls:4.9 out of 5 stars
Sound:5 out of 5 stars
Value:5 out of 5 stars
Average:5 out of 5 stars

Check on Amazon


We’re used to manufacturers who dictate what we must sound like. They engineer pedals with their own vision and taste, leaving us with a lot to be desired. But what happens when they change their attitude and focus on the players instead? – breathtaking units such as Source Audio C4 are born. It’s not a single pedal with only one task to fulfill. It’s a number of various stompboxes combined within a single body. I don’t even know how they managed to shove all those options into this package, but somehow they did. This bad boy enables you to store 6 presets in two memory banks. You can tweak them however you want and access them with ease during a live performance or practice. But if that’s not enough for you, you can connect a MIDI unit and access 128 more options. You can also utilize Neuro Desktop Editor, which will give you the option to sculpt your tone to perfection. Source Audio C4 has wonderful tracking, it can work with a guitar as well, offers stereo inputs and outputs and comes housed in a compact package. Do you know what that looks like? – the best bass synth pedal!

Pros:

  • Extremely versatile
  • Built like a tank
  • Great tracking

Cons:

  • Includes the learning curve
  • Some of the effects are hard to tame

Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synthesizer

Features:4.9 out of 5 stars
Controls:4.9 out of 5 stars
Sound:5 out of 5 stars
Value:4.9 out of 5 stars
Average:4.9 out of 5 stars

Check on Amazon


It would be impossible to compile this list without mentioning Electro-Harmonix somewhere along the way. They always have a powerhouse stored in for us regardless of the effect we’re talking about and bass synth isn’t an exception either. Their Bass Micro Synth is a versatile beast that enables you to tweak countless properties in your sound. It has an analog signal path for maximum clarity and the authentic feel we all love about such pedals. It offers four main voices: Guitar, Sub Octave, Octave and Square Wave. These effects can be used in conjunction or individually – it all depends on your experimentation. There’s another section which enables you to alter properties, such as Resonance, Start Frequency, Stop Frequency and Rate. You can make changes to them with the help of sliders that let you know what’s going on even on the darker stages. Bass Micro Synth has excellent tracking and each movement on the faders makes a huge difference to your tone. Though it might not last you through all of your lifetime, it will definitely be part of your pedalboard long enough.

Pros:

  • Excellent visibility, even on stage
  • Total control over your sound
  • Powerful tone

Cons:

  • Might not last through years of vigorous utilization

BOSS SY-1 Bass Synthesizer

Features:5 out of 5 stars
Controls:4.8 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.7 out of 5 stars
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars
Average:4.8 out of 5 stars

Check on Amazon


While designing a synthesizer, Boss knew that not all players would have the advanced knowledge of sonic engineering. They understood that synth isn’t an easy effect on its own, so they made sure it wasn’t overcomplicated with the features of the pedal. The result is SY-1. It comes in a typical Boss package i.e. it has a bulky shell and a couple of controls. But they have stored versatile options in those encoders. What you get is a selection of 11 types of sound in 11 categories. If you’re too lazy to do some math on your own, I’ll tell you that you get 121 options to choose from. Let’s face it, not all of them are usable. But you’ll definitely be able to find the ones that suit your style and taste. It would have been nice to store some presets into the pedal, so that you wouldn’t have to craft your tone each time you plug it in. That could be particularly useful considering the amount of options you get, but unfortunately we don’t have that here. What we do have here is a simple stompbox with straight-forward control. What else could a workhorse need?

Pros:

  • Versatile sonic options
  • Great tracking capability
  • Usual Boss durability

Cons:

  • You can’t store presets into the pedal
  • Some of the sounds aren’t usable for everyone

Electro-Harmonix Bass Mono Synth

Features:4.9 out of 5 stars
Controls:4.7 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.8 out of 5 stars
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars
Average:4.8 out of 5 stars

Check on Amazon


And we’re back to Electro-Harmonix. The fact that we’ve included two of their pedals proves that they are really cranking up their game. But that doesn’t mean that these two are similar. In fact, you get even more options with this model. Bass Mono Synth enables you to experiment with 11 types of synth: Laser, X-Fade, Acid, Cosmic, Sub, Growl, Wub, Unison, Twin, Spectre and Oblivion. They can be utilized to produce percussive, pulsating, throaty, warm, polyphonic tones and etc. And I’m just scratching the surface here, as there are even more options available with some proper tweaking. I’ll be honest with you – it’s not the easiest synth on the market. It will certainly take you some time to master, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be absolutely stunned with the results. Let’s not forget that you can store 11 presets within the stompbox itself, making it possible to recall them whenever needed. I don’t think that anybody will disagree with me if I say that Bass Mono Synth is easily the best bass synth pedal.

Pros:

  • Quite affordable
  • Offers 11 versatile sounds
  • You can store 11 presets in the pedal itself

Cons:

  • Can’t be powered with batteries
  • Monophonic (it can handle only a single note at a time)

Keeley Synth 1

Features:4.7 out of 5 stars
Controls:4.6 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.8 out of 5 stars
Value:4.7 out of 5 stars
Average:4.7 out of 5 stars

Check on Amazon


And we’ve approached the end of this list. We wanted the last piece to be equally mesmerizing as the rest, so we picked out Keely Synth 1. No, it’s not impeccable because none of us are. Yet it offers a wonderful performance if you know how to use it. What I mean is that it’s a monophonic device, in other words, it can only track a single note at a time. If you play your notes carefully, you’ll definitely hear the synth doing its job. But if you get overboard and hit it with complicated chords, it won’t be able to track accurately. The result will be an indistinguishable mess and unless you’re into that, that’s not something we want, right? With the help of Keely Synth 1, you can produce fuzzy synth, volume swell effect or enter the chaotic mode for even diverse results. Either way, you should always remember what the unit stands for and how it should be used. If you do that, this puppy will saturate your playing with interesting layers.  

Pros:

  • Fast and accurate tracking
  • Enables you to achieve slow attack
  • Versatile effects

Cons:

  • Monophonic  
  • Limited controls

What is a Bass Synth Pedal?

The best bass synth pedal can be a funky and fun tool to play around with if you want to diversify your bass game. Other effects could be really useful for that as well, but let’s face it, there’s nothing similar to a synthesizer. It will be hard to achieve the craze that these units can bark up on the human kind with anything else. But the main question is, what is a bass synth pedal and how it alters your sound.

The simple answer would be to tell you that it’s basically a classical synthesizer shoved in a tiny package of a stompbox. But that wouldn’t explain the working mechanism and whole philosophy behind it. So I’ll allow myself to get a bit technical. This unit tracks the waveforms in your bass sound and enables you to mess around with them as much as you want. You can twist them upside down, distort the hell out of them or add subtle modifications. Either way, your sound will be changed completely and you’ll be left with a weird, yet appealing synth tone. You can create virtually anything that you can think of, just keep in mind that your bass won’t suddenly turn into a whole new instrument. It will retain its basic characteristics that will show themselves through the chaotic lens.

How to Use a Bass Synth Pedal?

Even the best bass synth pedal can be tricky to use. The reason is that due to the character of the effect itself, dedicated stompboxes can be quite confusing and difficult to deal with. You purchase something that’s supposed to turn your world upside down, yet you end up with a crappy sound. And that’s not the fault of the pedal itself. The reason can be simple: you just don’t know how to use it. Learning the basic methods that should be used with a synth will help you understand your gear better.

First and foremost, you should know what playing techniques to use with a specific synth pedal. I know that we all want to show off our craftsmanship every time we have the chance, but this unit might not be the right one for that. What I mean is that the majority of bass synth pedals out there can only track a single note or simple chords. If you unleash all the chord knowledge you have on them and engage in some serious rhythm playing, trust me, you’ll end up with a mess (and not in a good way).

Secondly, you should always take it slow and take smaller steps when you’re starting out. Don’t just crank up all the available controls and wait for the magic to happen, because it won’t. You should take your time to scrutinize the pedal you’re working with in order to understand its peculiarities. Remember, less is more here!

And finally, don’t let your bass controls just sit there unused. Mess around with them: tone this down and crank that up. Eventually you’ll start noticing which settings track better and work with your bass synth pedal in general. Trying out different things is a key factor if you want to take full control over such a crazy stompbox.

Conclusion

A bass synth pedal is a real treasure that has been given to mankind. It goes without saying that it’s not for everyone, but that’s the case with everything you might get your hands on. It’s a device that will unleash your creativity, force you to step out of your comfort zone and play with the sounds you never thought could exist. It’s a crazy effect, probably as unpredictable as it can get, but when used properly, it will surely yield distinctive and breathtaking results. Just remember that you’re not limited in anything. Oh, there’s one last thing you should keep in mind: though a bass dedicated pedal will have higher chances of better tracking, you can absolutely use a guitar synth pedal if you want to. The main thing is to listen to the results. If you like them, then forget about all the rules and recommendations. The best bass synth pedal is the one that awakens every bit of excitement in your body, and it doesn’t matter if it was made for bass or not. Good luck!

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