An octave with additional controls

Download Example 1
Gibson SG, bridge pickup, Roots - thin, all knobs at unity
Download Example 2
Gibson SG, bridge pickup, Roots - thin, all knobs at unity
Download Example 3
Fender Strat, neck pickup, roots - thick, Fragrance - 2 o'clock, Thorns - 1 o'clock, Merge at unity
All clips played into a Diamond Positron with an Emperor 4x12 loaded with Weber C1265s and recorded with a Shure SM57.
The idea behind a standard octave pedal is simple—grab the incoming guitar signal, drop it down an octave, and blend it back with the original signal. Pitch transposition effects of this kind can range from simple to radical devices like DigiTech’s Whammy and Snazzy FX’s Mini-Ark. Many stompbox makers have added octave pedals to their lines in the last few years, and Rocktron recently brought their own Black Rose to the party.

The digital Black Rose is one of 12 pedals in Rocktron’s new Boutique Series of stompboxes. Each of these units features a rugged, brushed aluminum case with laser-etched graphics, logos, and control labels, as well as high-quality jacks, switches, and knobs. The true-bypass Black Rose runs on a 9V battery or an optional negative-tip DC power supply.

Drop It Down
The first thing I noticed about the Black Rose is that it has both Wet and Dry outputs. But you don’t need two amps to use this pedal. The Dry output has a true-bypass signal that can be routed to a second amp, but single-amp users use the Merge knob to mix wet and dry signals, which are routed via a true-bypass circuit to the Wet output. Additional controls include the Thorn knob, which adjusts the intensity of the wet signal, the Fragrance knob, which controls the wet signal’s tone, and a Roots switch, which toggles between a crunchier or smoother signal. Personally, I could do with more functional names and less cute ones. Themed control names can make troubleshooting on the fly a real pain, especially if you’ve got a whole pedalboard of these things.

Functionally, though, this pedal is great. After plugging my go-to Gibson SG into a Budda V-40, I was immediately able to create a nice, standard octave sound with all knobs set at 12 o’clock. The octave signal tracks quickly, and I wasn’t able to play fast enough to out-pace the effect. (Audio samples on Rocktron’s website demonstrate the Black Rose’s octave-tracking capabilities quite effectively.) The Fragrance knob is essentially a mid-frequency boost that you can adjust between low-mid (minimum) and high-mid (maximum) emphasis. The Roots switch, which allows you to select Thin or Thick settings, provides EQ shaping to the octave signal alone, boosting the low-mid register (Thin) or the ultra-low sub register (Thick).

The octave signal itself sounds very natural and preserves the tonal characteristics of your instrument without any obvious digital artifacts. Though I encountered a few pitch-tracking artifacts when playing polyphonically, even subtle bends and vibrato were tracked instantly by the Black Rose.

The Verdict
With its excellent tracking capability and a versatile tone-shaping circuit, the Black Rose is the kind of octave pedal that you can use in small, subtle doses or as an over-the-top sonic warp machine. Separate outputs open up an additional world of options for users who run multiple amps. Yet for all but the most radical octave-pedal users, the Black Rose and a single amp is enough to significantly expand your tonal terrain.

Buy if...
you’re looking for an octave pedal with tone-shaping options and independent wet/dry outputs.
Skip if...
you’re content playing in just one octave at a time.

Street $119 - GHS/Rocktron -

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