Red Witch Factotum Suboctave Bass Drive Review
A powerful analog suboctave and overdrive for bass.
After guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page started incorporating octave pedals into some of their notable tunes, it wasn’t long before bassists wanted to get in on the action by mixing their clean signal with a synthesized lower octave. Now New Zealand’s Red Witch brings something new to the table: a combination overdrive/octave that lets you use the two effects together or separately.
While pedals like the Boss OC-3 and Fishman Fission Bass Powerchord FX offer drive options as part of their primary octave function, Factotum provides independent suboctave and overdrive in one analog stompbox.
The chrome-plated pedal is simple to use. Individual footswitches activate each effect. The LED glows blue when the suboctave is engaged, red when overdrive is active, and purple when both effects are on. The octave mix control sets the dry/suboctave blend, while “D mix” specifies the dry/overdrive blend. “D tone” determines the high/low balance, and “D volume” is a master output control. The big drive knob sets the distortion amount. (The mix, tone, volume, and drive knobs are inactive when overdrive is bypassed.)
Some analog octave pedals just sound funkier and more elastic than their digital counterparts, and Factotum proves the point with its thick, synth-like sound. Playing a passive Fender Jazz through an SWR SM-500 head and SWR Megoliath 8x10, I relished the suboctaves’s girth and body, even at relatively dry mix settings. I also discovered that a little octave effect goes a long way.
Even at moderate volume, the suboctave tests the speakers’ endurance at high mix settings—and that’s before activating the overdrive. Whether you’re enhancing your tone with a hint of suboctave, or going for a full-bore synth-bass sound, Factotum delivers. In fact, I found myself growing partial to just a taste of the effect as a set-and-forget enrichment tool.
Activated independently, Factotum’s overdrive is punchy and vibrant, with a sound somewhat reminiscent of the MXR Bass Overdrive. Suitable for rock, metal, and alternative riffs, the overdrive sound alone is strong enough to warrant its own pedal.
With the tone and drive knobs cranked, the overdrive is heavy and deep, with none of the thinness or deterioration that can plague some similar pedals. The mix, tone, and volume knobs provide plenty of room to play while getting the overdrive right where you want it.
I plugged in an active Music Man StingRay and found a sweet spot for true grit. (Drive mix at 12 o’clock, tone at 2 o’clock, volume at 1 o’clock, and drive at 3 o’clock.) The sound was equally suited to fast shredding and gritty whole notes, whether playing fingerstyle or with a pick.
When Worlds Collide
The real fun begins when you unleash the two-headed beast of simultaneous suboctave and overdrive. This is where having independent mix knobs for both tones comes in handy, allowing players to create highly customized sound and even explore uncharted sonic territory.
The two effects work seamlessly together, never competing for space or compromising the low-end intensity. With octave mix, drive mix, tone, and drive all raised to 3 o’clock, the result is mighty—monstrous, even. Yet you can still distinguish the punchy suboctave and overdrive frequencies.
You know you’re going to do it, so don’t be shy about pushing octave and drive to their limits for the deepest synth-meets-distortion tone you could want. Just keep your amp’s volume in check so the thunder doesn’t blow a speaker.
The all-analog Red Witch Factotum is fun pedal with a tremendous range of sounds. It’s extremely simple to use and doesn’t suffer from any low-end loss. It’ll cost you some buck, but there’s nothing else on the market quite like it.
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