Few effects can force a transformation in playing style quite like octave pedals. They can make single notes scream like birds of prey or add a beefy sub-octave thump that makes every string pluck sound like it weighs 300 pounds. But no matter which extreme you pursue, an octave pedal will make playing a familiar passage feel very different—and, on good days, prompt musical invention.
Digital design has made octave pedals more flexible and friendly to experimental, inventive approaches in recent years. And clever manufacturers can now deliver some of the wider, interactive functionality of treadle-based designs like the DigiTech Whammy in compact pedals. TC Electronic’s Sub ’N’ Up, the latest addition to the company’s TonePrint series, is a cool study in how much octave-tweaking fun you can stuff into a little enclosure without a treadle.
One Monster, Many Growls
The surprisingly basic, relatively simple layout of the Sub ’N’ Up includes knobs for controlling dry/effected mix, the amount of “up” or high octave, the amount of first sub-octave, and the intestine-rumbling frequencies of the pedal’s second sub-octave engine. There is also a three-way toggle switch that allows selection between polyphonic settings, a TonePrint selector (our demo unit came loaded with a killer faux organ sound, complete with its own modulation), and traditional, non-polyphonic mode (labeled “classic”). It’s an intuitive pedal, even if you’re a neophyte octave pedal user.
The polyphonic sounds the Sub ’N’ Up brings to the table are superb. An oft-heard complaint from octave addicts is that most octave pedals track poorly—glitching out when chords or odd interval bends enter the picture. Even some of the best octave pedals can still get confused and glitch if too much complex harmonic information is thrown their direction. So it’s impressive that Sub ’N’ Up handles these musical situations as well as it does. In polyphonic mode—even with the ominous low rumble of its second sub-octave engaged—chords ring and rumble with surprising clarity and without pronounced latency or glitchy artifacts. But if glitchiness is what you’re after, the classic setting provides those raw, crooked sounds with ease. The second sub-octave is a huge part of the fun, especially when utilized on bass guitar through a proper bass amplifier. Truly filthy textures lurk in the upper range of this control.
Beam Me Sub ’N’ Up
TC’s very useful TonePrint technology looks more impressive and practical with every new release and TonePrint library addition. It’s a big part of what makes Sub ’N’ Up so versatile, too. The organ TonePrint the Sub ’N’ Up came with generated warbling, lush polyphonic swirl that evoked classic combo organs, stoked rhythmic ideas, and lent economy to my playing as I picked riffs to match the fat, bubbling tones. Paired with a Stratocaster loaded with Seymour Duncan APS-1 single-coil pickups through a Fender Pro Junior, comped chords became a great alternative rhythm guitar texture. With a distorted 100-watt Marshall JCM800 head and 4x12, it sounded like Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore melded into a single musician! Diving even further into the TonePrint editor enables you to craft tones that range from more esoteric keyboard sounds to very convincing 12-string guitar tones.
Between the killer polyphonic tracking and the nearly limitless flexibility afforded by its TonePrint technology, the Sub ’N’ Up might be the only octave effect you need. The lack of treadle means some extremely radical octave-shift maneuvers remain impossible. But the available tones are fantastic, and surprises abound—especially when you consider the small size. At just around $130, the Sub ’N’ Up is another great value from an increasingly impressive pedal line.
Watch the Review Demo: