Bassists Jonathan Hischke and Juan Alderete put up their dukes and get their stomp on.

Bassists can sometimes be neglected when it comes to the weird and wacky side of effects. Holding down the low end is of utmost importance in an ensemble, so for many players, anything more than compression, chorus, and dirt can get in the way. But that’s not the case with Juan Alderete and Jonathan Hischke. Both bassists are top-notch sidemen who aren’t afraid to dive head first into sounds that are peculiar, if not downright obscene.

Alderete’s resume ranges from the hip-hop of Deltron 3030 to the twisted prog jams of Mars Volta. Hischke’s main gig these days is with experimental shoegazers Dot Hacker (though Hischke wasn’t allowed to borrow anything from bandmate Josh Klinghoffer’s seemingly endless pedal stash).

Premier Guitar had a challenge for Alderete and Hischke: Can you come up a more interesting, useful, and versatile set of 10 bass stompboxes than your fellow four-stringer? Both guys were up to the challenge, but first we set two ground rules: Once a pedal was picked, it was off-limits—no repeats between boards. Also, you must actually own each pedal you choose.

The following 20 pedals run the gamut from boring but essential to outlandishly geeky and specific. Alderete and Hischke recorded a short audio example for each device to give a hint of what it does. Be sure to tell us in comments section which player you feel emerged victorious.

Round 1

DOD FX32 Meatbox

Jonathan Hischke: I have to kick things off with the DOD FX32 Meatbox. I’ve had one since 1999, when I heard that it was obnoxious and awful. All the people who bought DOD pedals and played them through Gorilla amps in their bedroom didn’t understand what the Meatbox was about. They just thought it sounded like crap. I thought it probably had something interesting in it, and it turns out it’s this gigantic, enormous, earth-shattering, bowel-quaking harmonic synthesizer pedal. It’s very useful in a lot of contexts, especially ones that involve big PAs. It’s a really great dynamic tool because if you just want to make everything bigger than you can even imagine, you hit that one little pedal and it just brings the whole room down. I think I do damage to every piece of equipment when I use the Meatbox. [Laughs.]

DigiTech PDS 20/20

Juan Alderete: This next choice is purely strategic. In addition to the Meatbox, the DigiTech PDS 20/20 is the other pedal I have to credit Jonathan for turning me on to. Actually, in thePremier GuitarRig Rundown, I think that pedal got more comments than anything else. It’s a sampler that regenerates in the delay, so you can do some wild stuff. I used it atonin Mars Volta, especially anyplace I get to sustain a note. I hit the multiplay, and it modulates it down or does weird skipping stuff. I also use it at the end of songs. There are a lot of Mars Volta bootlegs where between songs you hear this rotating [sings stuttering sound], and that’s it.

Hischke: Damn. This is getting competitive.