Bass effects are more in vogue now than they’ve ever been. Partially this is due to the increasing influence of pop, hip-hop, and dance music. As genres that embrace synths dominate the charts, the electronically derived sounds that define them are increasingly trendy. I think the Internet, globalism, and desktop manufacturing are responsible, too. Never before has it been so easy to get detailed effect schematics, solicit advice from experts in online forums, and order cheap parts from factories all over the world. Just as with basses, a player looking for a new stompbox has a range of big-time manufacturers and boutique builders to choose from.
MXR is one of those big-time manufacturers, with a rich heritage spanning decades, but over the last several years it’s released an onslaught of pedals that ooze all the vibe and tone of a top-dollar boutique brand. The company has some great bass players in key positions, including former BP Technical Editor Scott Shiraki and Bay Area heavyweight Darryl Anders—and it shows. MXR’s latest offering, the Sub Octave Bass Fuzz, exhibits a design awareness that only experience in the trenches can provide.
If distortion is the most sought-after bass effect, octave is a close second. And whether it’s to emulate a synth or simply call up an assertive sound for a rock tune or lead passage, the combination of distortion and octave is de rigeur for savvy and adventurous players. The M287 combines the “growl” section of MXR’s popular M288 Bass Octave Deluxe with a flexible fuzz and 2-band EQ.
As with all MXR pedals, the M287 is housed in a rugged metal box, is well constructed, and uses smooth-turning pots and confidence-inspiring switches. The flip-top battery compartment is easily accessed on the bottom, although it isn’t flush with the case, making adhering the pedal to a pedal-board with Velcro a little trickier than necessary. The included adhesive feet are necessary to ensure good contact with the floor away from a pedalboard.
Using the M287 is simple. The bypass switch turns the effect on and off, while the octave switch engages the octave effect. The octave and dry knobs work as expected, controlling the level of the two signals. The fuzz is slightly more complex: The fuzz pot governs the amount of fuzz in the signal, but its intensity also depends on the setting of the gain control. The backlit button between the two fuzz-section knobs switches the fuzz timbre from midrangy and throaty to fizzy and aggressive. A 2-band EQ is on tap to further sculpt the fuzz sound. Also, it’s not obvious at first, but the pedal can be used as a standard octave pedal when the fuzz knob is all the way down.
The M287 proved itself a powerful multi-trick tool for quickly getting a useful array of fuzz and octave tones. On its own, the octave section is one of the best-tracking, least-glitchy circuits out there. The octave-down timbre is smooth, but with a touch of the hollow square-wave growl that best evokes a synth-y sound. Adding in the fuzz quickly introduces a spectrum of intense upper harmonics, easily controlled with the gain and fuzz knobs. Of the two fuzz tones on offer, I much preferred the more midrangy of the two; the other voice sounded a bit edgy for my personal taste. Given the fact that distortion of any kind involves the addition of harmonic content, MXR’s thoughtful inclusion of a 2-band EQ significantly enhances the effect’s flexibility. It can take time to dial in, but the pedal’s insightful feature-set make it a remarkably versatile tool and a superb addition to MXR’s already top-notch stompbox lineup.
Sub Octave Bass Fuzz
Pros Smooth and buttery octave down; versatile fuzz; skillful construction; insightful design
Cons Battery door isn’t flush with the base, making pedalboard mounting a bit tricky
Bottom Line A cleverly designed one-stop shop for two of the most useful effects.
Power 9V tip-negative Boss-style power adapter; 9-volt battery
Made in USA