Pitch shifters can be a lot of fun, and make a great addition to any guitarist’s or bassist’s pedalboard.
Octave pedals give you a lot of options to add additional presence to your guitar, play around with neat harmonies, and can even make your guitar sound like a bass!
They can be a lot of fun, and it’s no wonder that they’re so popular with guitarists in all genres. As a matter of fact, a lot of bassist enjoy octave pedals too!
One of the most popular octave pedals on the market is the OC-3 Super Octave stompbox from BOSS. But it is it actually the best value for the price?
In this article, we’ll discuss this footswitch pedal in detail, discussing its features, strengths, weaknesses, and who its best suited for.
Without any further ado, here is our BOSS OC-3 Octave Pedal review!
What Is An Octave Pedal?
If you’re unfamiliar with octave pedals, they essentially take the signal that comes into the pedal, and shifts the pitch either up and down. The new sound is typically blended with the original sound, allowing you to create perfect harmonies by yourself.
Different octave pedals have different features. Some only allow you to shift the sound one octave down, and that’s it. Other pedals allow you to shift up or down with a much larger range, or even other intervals besides octaves, such as thirds or fifths. This allows you to create natural harmonies, as if you were playing chords with every note that you play! In fact, some octave pedals even allow you to blend together multiple octaves for a much larger effect.
Most octave pedals allow you to blend the original sound with the new sound that the pedal generates to your desired level – even removing the original sound completely if you want to.
Octave pedals are broken down into analog or digital. Digital tracking is more accurate, more flexible and more versatile, so it makes up the majority of modern octave pedals.
Octave pedals can also be classified as monophonic – only able to track one note at a time, or polyphonic. Polyphonic pedals are able to track anything that you play (including chords) and shift the pitch of everything accurately.
The Boss OC-3 is a digital, polyphonic pedal, and was actually one of the first of its kind!
Guitarists That Have Used The Boss OC-3
Just to put things in perspective, I wanted to share some famous musicians that have used the Boss OC-3 either in the studio or while out on tour.
This octave pedal is a professional piece of equipment, and has been enjoyed by musicians such as…
- Slash (Guns N’ Roses)
- John Mayer
- Eddie Van Halen
- Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction / Red Hot Chili Peppers)
- Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy)
- Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs / Deep Purple)
The Boss OC-3 was only released in 2006, but had it been available earlier you could be certain that it would have been used by even more professional musicians!
Features, Performance, And Use Case
The BOSS OC-3 is packed with a number of useful features, that make it a valuable tool for any guitarist or bassist.
Controls, From Left To Right
Taking a look at the knobs across the top of the pedal, let’s look at what each one of them does.
Knob 1 affects the volume of the original signal you send into the pedal – the unaffected notes.
Knob 2 affects the volume of the octave notes created by the pedal. By adjusting both of these, you can essentially blend the two together to your desired mix, or even turn down the original sound entirely so you are only hearing the octave notes.
Skipping knob 3 for a moment, the last knob allows you to adjust what mode the pedal is in – we’ll discuss each mode in detail in just a moment.
Knob 3 allows you to make adjustments that are dependent on what mode you’re in.
And of course, pressing down on the pedal allows you to turn the effects on or off.
1 Or 2 Octaves
The Boss OC-3 Super Octave Pedal can shift down one octave, or two octaves if it is switched to the ‘Oct 2’ mode.
Unfortunately, the pedal isn’t able to shift up octaves, or shift any other intervals besides one or two octaves down.
Still, what it does, it does well.
Using the two octave modes, the third knob allows you to adjust the volume of the 2nd octave, allowing you to blend all 3 octaves (your original sound, + the two lower octaves) together. You can also turn both the first and 2nd knob all the way down in order to hear only 2 octaves lower.
Playing all 3 together allows you to create a really large, grand sound that can make your guitar sound very large.
Switching the pedal to ‘drive mode’ allows you to add additional distortion to the octave notes.
This can help give the notes a fatter, more aggressive tone that can sound great in heavier genres, like hard rock or metal.
We’ve found that the Boss OC-3 is able to handle this well without artifacts or noise coming into the sound!
This mode is really neat.
Essentially, you can make it so the pedal will only shift the notes below a certain pitch on your instrument. For example, only adjusting the notes for your lower strings, while keeping your higher strings normal.
This allows you to play some really neat riffs on the lower string, while soloing above it on your higher strings, for example.
When the OC-3 is set to poly mode, the third knob is used to adjust when the octave notes start kicking in. The further you have it to the left, the more restrictive it will be. If you have it all the way to the right, all of the notes will have the octave notes added.
Works With Both Bass And Guitar
All of the features of the Boss OC-3 work flawlessly with both a bass guitar, and a regular electric guitar.
This adds to the versatility of the pedal, especially if you enjoy playing both instruments.
Note that the OC-3 has separate inputs depending on which instrument you’re playing with, and you’ll need to be sure that you’re using the correct one.
Split Your Signal
Another neat feature of the Boss OC-3 is the ability to split your signal.
Depending on which output you plug into, you can either have both the original and the octave notes go out into one amp, or you can have them split and go out separately.
This allows you to add additional effects through other pedals to each one should you wish to do so.
Alternatively, some people like to send the shifted notes to a dedicated bass amp, which will be able to better handle the lower frequencies.
We’ve seen people get really creative with this, and this feature can be a very neat one to play around with!
Built Like A Tank
Boss pedals are well known for their durability, and the OC-3 is no exception.
This thing is built like a tank, and probably won’t ever break. We’ve heard of people using this pedal for over 10 years and still sounding just as good as the day they got it – even surviving brutal, lengthy tours.
So if you’re looking for something that you won’t have to replace again later, the OC-3 makes a great choice.
To be honest, I hesitate to recommend this pedal as a ‘must-have’, as it depends a lot on what you’re going for.
For the most part, the OC-3 does everything it does, very well. Tracking is mostly flawless, and only really struggles either when you’re out-of-tune, or you’re playing slow bends / vibrato (this seems to confuse the pedal sometimes.) If you’re playing fast, especially in a live setting, it will do everything you need it to in a dependable manner, and the sound quality is very good.
My biggest gripes with the OC-3 is the fact that its a bit more limited than some of the other octave pedals on the market. There is no option to shift your pitch up, or in any other intervals other than one or two octaves down.
I may be a bit biased because I really love playing around harmonizing with fifths, but in my opinion something like the Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork is much more versatile.
Still, if you only care about shifting entire octaves, the OC-3 handles it incredibly well, and the poly mode is incredibly cool for what it does.
If that sounds like you, we’d definitely recommend it!
If you’re in the market for a new octave pedal, you really can’t go wrong with the Boss OC-3. While it wouldn’t be one of our first pedals to buy, it can definitely be a lot of fun.
Although it is not the most versatile pitch shifter on the market, it handles everything that it does quite well. The unique distortion and poly mode features can add a lot of versatility to your setup, and make it easier to craft some really neat tones.
If you have any questions about this pedal, do not hesitate to ask them through the comment form below.
Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the Boss OC-3!