||Download Example 1
Bass: 1987 Kramer Striker into a a Gallien-Kreuger 700 RB-II bass head to a 1970 Orange 8x10 cabinet.
||Download Example 2
Guitar: Cycle through 4 settings. 2008 Fender American Standard Stratocaster into a Fender Twin Reverb reissue
Ask a bassist, and he will probably tell
you that the needs and wants of bassists
have largely been ignored in the pedal
world—at least until relatively recently.
Guitarists seem to get all the cool toys and
nifty gadgets, while bass players have often
been relegated to carving their tone out of a
less-abundant assortment of accessories. But
the picture hasn’t really been that dark for
bassists. In the ’70s, companies like Maestro
recognized that bassists, like guitarists, were
always looking for something new and different.
Black Cat Pedals also sees this need,
and issued the Bass Octave Fuzz, a modern
and compact re-creation of the Maestro
Echoes of the Past
It’s no wonder that the Bass Octave Fuzz’s
main inspiration is the Bass Brassmaster
pedal, which originated in the late ’70s. The
Brassmaster has been used by some of rock’s
most famous bassists, including Chris Squire
of Yes and the Who’s John Entwhistle.
Since the Brassmaster’s debut in the heyday
of aggressive and progressive rock, it has
become a highly sought-after collector’s
piece, likely commanding hundreds of dollars.
Its sputtery, sometimes synth-like sound
defined an era of rock ’n’ roll when bassists
began to take a stronger role in a world
dominated by huge guitar tones.
The Bass Octave Fuzz employs the same
control scheme as its ancestor, using three
knobs and two toggle switches to manage its
wide range of tones. The Bass control is effectively
a mixer control to balance the effected
and dry signals, and I was happy to have this
simple but useful feature available on the
Bass Octave. It allowed me to alter the mix of
clean bass tone with the distorted signal for
plenty of nuanced tonal tweaking, and my
desired mix really came through with only
slight adjustments—depending on the amp
and bass being used. It’s an indispensable
control and thankfully being added to more
and more bass effects manufactured today.
The other two knobs—Drive and Fuzz—
work in tandem to produce the pedal’s fuzz
effect. The Fuzz control doesn’t affect the
amount of fuzz as it implies, but rather controls
the volume of the fuzz tone itself. It’s
the Drive knob that manages the additional
signal gain needed for the desired distortion.
The Filter and Harmonic toggle switches
are the unique features of the Bass Octave.
They’re designed to react in the same fashion
as the Brass and Harmonic switches on the
original Brassmaster, altering the harmonic
range and intensity of the octave-up effect.
Using different combinations of range and
intensity can produce tones that not only
sound drastically different from one another,
but also change the playing feel considerably.
Getting Down to Brass Tacks
Grabbing a 1987 Kramer Striker USA
bass, I plugged the Bass Octave into a
Gallien-Krueger 700RB-II bass head cabled
to a 1970 Orange 8x10 cabinet. Both of
the toggle switches were set to their left
positions, and all of the controls were set
directly at noon. A massive wall of fat fuzz
hit me in the back after plucking the low E
string, with the grit and snarl of unwieldy
early ’70s fuzz tones. Interestingly, the pedal
was dead silent as I turned the Drive knob
up to higher settings. It also remained super
tight on the low frequencies—even while
doing chord work.
The Orange cabinet has strong midrange
tendencies, and in some cases, the sheer
amount of air that the cabinet was pushing
with the pedal engaged was almost too
much. This is where the simple mix control
came into perfect play, allowing me to easily
dial back the raunchy fuzz tone and have
it sit nicely on top of the smooth and naturally
clean tone of the rig.
Once I achieved the tone I was happy with,
I moved into further sonic exploration by
switching the toggle controls into various combinations.
The left position of the Frequency
toggle seemed to let the natural high end of
the fuzz cut through a bit more than the right
position, which slightly rolled off the sharpness
of the effect. The tonal change resulting from
switching the Harmonic toggle back and forth
was much more evident. Some really trippy,
lo-fi tones with scooped mids can be coaxed
out of the pedal with the Harmonic switch
in the left position. When toggled right, the
switch coaxes the pedal into some utterly
bizarre, space-age tones with increased volume
The key to getting a great sound out
of the Bass Octave is to approach it with
a conservative and “not-so-knob-happy”
attitude. Just a touch of drive will go a
long way with this pedal, so rely on your
fingering or pick attack for producing
subtle dynamics. All said, really pushing the
Drive control will give you some extremely
aggressive sounds, reminiscent of the opening
dirge to King Crimson’s "Red," by bassist
John Wetton. But if you’re in the mood
for adding fuzz as more of a texture, start
with lower settings and use different combinations
of the Filter and Harmonic toggle
switches to find what you’re looking for.
Though gear companies traditionally
haven’t given bassists the amount of attention
bestowed on guitarists, bassists have
had a few gems to call their own in the
past—such as the original Maestro Bass
Brassmaster. Like its predecessor, the
modern-day Black Cat Bass Octave Fuzz
produces a powerful, detailed, and—most
importantly—unique fuzz tone that harkens
back to that famous bass grind of the
’70s. Though the pedal can be dialed back
and tamed, it’s not meant to be a smooth-sounding
device, meaning these tones are
not for everybody. But that’s what made the
original Brassmaster pedals so popular in
the first place—tones that stand out from
you’re in the market for a vintage
Brassmaster, but are shy on the
scratch it takes to get one.
you need a smooth, subtle overdrive.