The ’60s saw its share of radical fuzz boxes, but the Octavia was perhaps the wildest one of all. Roger Mayer’s creation gave Jimi Hendrix another weapon to redefine lead guitar (as if he needed it), and with the release of “Purple Haze” in 1967, the sound of octave fuzz became a yowling part of a radical new electric guitar vernacular.
The Electro-Harmonix Octavix recreates much of the sound and vibe of the original Octavia. Packed in the company’s Nano-size enclosure, it comes with a pretty diminutive price tag too.
For a newbie, it can be tricky to get the hang of an octave fuzz box. The controls, however, are fairly straightforward. The master volume knob is self-explanatory. The boost knob controls the fuzz amount, and the octave knob controls the amount of octave-ized output you hear along with the dry signal. Turning the octave value completely counterclockwise defeats the octave effect. A very useful addition is the center-mounted voltage toggle, which switches between 9V and 24V input power.
The 9V position approximates the same battery power that would have driven an original Octavia and adds a little vintage sag to the output. The 24V setting adds tightness and accentuates high-end detail in the octave effect. A 9.6V power supply ships with the Octavix, but you can also use a 9V battery. With its Rick Griffin-inspired, back-to-the-Fillmore psychedelic paint job, the Nano-sized enclosure is a little flashier than most EHX Nano pedals.
An Octave Above
Putting an octave fuzz to the Hendrix test demands a Stratocaster, but I also used a Jaguar and Gibson Les Paul to help the Octavix drive an Orange OR50. With Stratocaster in hand, boost at 3 o’clock, octave at 2 o’clock, and the center toggle in 9V mode, you’re squarely in the Purple Haze ballpark. You can also get cool Hendrix-style lead tones in 24V mode with the boost kicked up at 4 o’clock, but to my ears, the extra headroom makes things a little too sterile for the more chaotic side of Jimi’s tone, and the tail on any given note lacks that essential sputtering quality. That said, the 24V mode is perfect for more precise picking and lead flurries, and highlights both the octave effect and the richness of the overall fuzz spectrum.
The Octavix lives by the same rules that apply to most octave fuzzes. Humbuckers lend a smoothness and uniformity to the fuzz and octave content. Single-coils accentuate the splattery qualities of the octave fuzz—especially in 9V mode. With a wah in the mix, I got the best results by placing the Octavix before my RMC wah in the chain. (Placing it post-wah means obscuring the octave effect when your wah filters out high-end content.) The Octavix will sometimes sound less effective with other fuzzes, which can turn the octave output into a mangled mess. These limitations aside, the Octavix is pretty versatile, and even the straight-up fuzz tone, which you get by dialing out the octave, is cool on its own. In 9V mode, the Octavix has a burly, growling quality. With the 24V toggle engaged, it’s a bit cleaner and less rebellious, but very hot.
The street price for this little octave fuzz is damn near a steal. The octave tones are rich and authentically ’60s, and the 9-24V toggle switch makes it a lot easier to tailor your sound to a specific musical setting than in the old days. If you’re looking for an Octavia-type effect on the cheap, this is a great solution that works well with any pickup configuration.
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