4 Best Flanger Pedals for Bass Guitar

bass guitar player using a flanger pedal

RangeOfSounds.com is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

We’ve all seen it. The guitarist who could be more accurately called a pedal collector with a guitar.

The player who runs their instrument through so many layers of effects that it’s hard to know what is doing what, exactly. Let alone how the instrument sounded in the first place. Not for nothing, an entire genre of music called shoegaze is based on these guitarists, who gaze at their shoes as they cycle through effects on stage.

But why should guitarists have all the fun when bassists can go pedal crazy too?

Well, they shouldn’t and opening yourself up to the wide world of bass pedals can really help you create some unique, engaging, and sometimes weird sounds. I’ve written before about the possibilities you can unleash by playing bass with phaser pedals and even reverb pedals. But have you ever considered how the flanger effect can be used on bass?

In short, it’s awesome and the flanger pedal can pair really well with the bass guitar. We’ll talk more about how to make this work and how to find the right flanger pedal but if you just want to skip ahead and see our favorites you can check out our top three recommendations here:

Best Overall
Boss BF-3
9.9
  • An updated version of the classic BF-2 but with a dedicated bass guitar input
  • Includes 3 total flanger modes and 4 knobs to give you a ton of versatility
  • Easy to use for new players but there's still plenty for experienced bassists to explore
Best Budget Option
MXR Micro Flanger
9.6
  • Small and compact means it's easy to gig with or squeeze into your pedalboard
  • Simple to use with just two knobs
  • Easy on the budget
Premium Pedal
Earthquaker Pyramids
9.8
  • 8 knobs, 8 modes, 5 presets and a whole lot more give bassists endless options
  • Premium pricing gets you a truly premium flanger pedal
  • Could be too many options for bassists that are just getting started with flanger effects

Now let’s get started by making sure we understand that we’re on the same page with the flanger sound and bass.

How (Exactly) Does A Flanger Pedal Work?

The flanger effect is somewhat confusing. It doesn’t help that there are some competing theories about when it was invented, how it was named, and how it compares to the phaser effect. It should be no surprise with any knowledge of musical history that the great Les Paul gets credit for putting together the sound for the first time way back in 1940. Honestly, what hasn’t Les Paul done- from awesome guitars to unique pedals the guy’s name shows up everywhere.

One of the earliest uses of the flanger (though not specifically with bass) was on “The Big Hurt” by Toni Fisher in 1959 and you can check out this old-school classic here:

Many early flanger effects were made by messing around with the attributes of tape machines. Modern flangers and phasers both originate from these experiments.

Flangers and phasers both warp audio in similar ways, but the math behind them is a little different. They lead to a similar overall effect- a warped, “whooshing” sound that’s often described as a “jet plane going by you quickly” type of sound. Flangers and phasers both filter audio by boosting some frequencies and overtones while cutting others.

Simply explained, flangers take the original signal and duplicate it with some shifts in frequency relative to the original sound in order to create the effect.

How To Use Flangers Pedals With Bass Guitar

Comparatively, bassists are known for a more “plug-and-play” approach. A compressor pedal is often the only thing a bassist has at their feet, if anything.

But this is leaving so much on the table! The bass is a powerful instrument- I like to say that people often don’t pay much mind to exactly how much it’s adding until it’s taken away. The bass provides the foundation, the low- to mid-frequency power and depth.

So experimenting with bass tone and playing styles can open whole new avenues. It’s enough to change a whole band’s sound- just try to imagine early Chili Peppers without the ubiquitous slap bass, or Bootsy Collins without the spacey wah effects. That’s the bass, baby!

When it comes to using a flanger pedal with a bass guitar you can, technically, still use the plug-and-play approach. You can use a guitar flanger pedal (or pretty much any guitar pedal for that matter) with bass. However, guitar pedals are designed with guitars in mind, which play a different role in bands from basses. Some effects, flangers included, might cut your bass frequencies in the name of warping your sound. That’s well and good for guitarists, but obviously could be a problem for bassists.

Flangers are most effective when used on tracks with a thick or saturated tone. Flangers are most often used with guitars but you can often hear them on drums or vocals for shorter durations. A classic example of this is the line “dynamite with a laser beam” from “Killer Queen” which you can hear below:

But on bass, flanger will be used to the greatest effect when the treble and mids are cranked on your instrument, and a compressor pedal or even some subtle overdrive to crank your tone further is not a bad idea.

Words only go so far though when it comes to music so you should listen for yourself and check out the light, tense funk playing on “For the Love Of Money” by the O’Jays which is also one of the most famous uses of the bass flanger:

And how about “Tempus Fugit” by Yes. Chris Squier is one of the most slept-on bassists, in my humble opinion, because the entire band were such monstrous musicians but you can hear more famous bass flanger here:

Just between those two tracks, you’re probably already getting a good feel for when the flanger pedal can really shine with bass!

Our Favorite Flanger Pedals For Bass

It’s time to close the bass guitar history books and start looking at some flanger pedals starting with our best overall pick.

Best Overall: Boss BF-3

Best Overall
Boss BF-3
  • An updated version of the classic BF-2 but with a dedicated bass guitar input
  • Includes 3 total flanger modes and 4 knobs to give you a ton of versatility
  • Easy to use for new players but there's still plenty for experienced bassists to explore

Boss-Flanger-Effects-PedalBoss is one of those companies that you can really count on. Where even if you know nothing about the different options available, the Boss offering is probably a reasonable price and does the job well.

Sure, Boss usually isn’t the absolute premium pick on the market, but that’s not exactly what we’re looking for here. Instead, we want something that will work for just about any bass guitarist that wants to start experimenting with the flanger sound and that’s where the BF-3 comes into the picture.

I’m also a big fan of the class Boss BF-2 which is associated strongly with flanger’s widespread popularity in the 80s. As such, the tone is inextricably tied to that era. And while it’s out of production, it’s still possible to get your hands on one if you look hard enough. But there was one big problem with the BF-2 and that was the lack of dedicated bass inputs.

That’s why we’re talking about the BF-3 which is the follow-up to the original 80s classic.

And in terms of the feature set, the BF-3 is a worthy successor. The Boss BF-3 now features dedicated bass and guitar inputs, as Boss is aware the BF-2 was pressed into service with basses on more than one occasion. That means we aren’t just making a guitar flanger pedal work and the BF-3 was actually designed with the bass in mind, at least in part.

The formerly mono output now has a stereo option- did you notice the satisfying stereo effect on the O’Jays tune?

And the BF-3 now has an additional mode-selecting knob, allowing you to choose between a few different presets for a greater variety of expressions. I’m a big fan of the gate setting, which creates a uniquely immersive tone, and the temporary setting, which only engages the flange while the pedal is physically pressed down. That can be very useful for a bassist that doesn’t want to “overdo” the flanger effect.

But as always, words can only go so far so check out this great demo of the BF-3 being used with bass to get a great idea of exactly how it sounds:

 

As you can see, there are four knobs and they’re pretty consistent with what you’d usually see in a flanger pedal. They include a Manual Knob (adjusts the center frequency which controls the overall flanger effect), Res (adjusts the amount of feedback), Depth (modifies sweep depth), and finally Rate (adjusts flanging rate).

You also get a total of 3 flanger modes (compared to the single previous mode in the BF-2). Ultra offers a flanger effect that’s stronger than the standard mode and it can actually be a little subtle on the bass. Gate/Pan produces a rotation effect by changing the output level in mono while alternating panning in stereo. It’s definitely one of my favorite features of the BF-3.

Of course, you also have the classic standard mode which produces a classic flanger effect.

Overall, it’s hard to beat a classic. Or in this case, the successor to a classic and while the BF-3 doesn’t have the same history as the BF-2 it doesn’t have improvements that make it much better suited to the bass player. You can take a closer look at the four knobs, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Budget Option: MXR Micro Flanger

Best Budget Option
MXR Micro Flanger
  • Small and compact means it's easy to gig with or squeeze into your pedalboard
  • Simple to use with just two knobs
  • Easy on the budget

I’m always happy to recommend MXR pedals. I’m a little biased because I have their classic Dyna-Comp pedal, a very simple yet elegantly satisfying compressor. MXR is also the company launched on the strength of the Phase 90, which became a mainstay of the 80s and featured all over Van Halen albums.

MXR actually has a few options when it comes to flangers for bass and some will already be familiar with the Bass Chorus pedal, which despite its name also has a flanger effect.

But we’re focusing on the MXR Micro Flanger which is a great budget option. It’s also appropriately named since this little flanger pedal is 7 inches (17.78 cm) less wide than the featured Boss pedal and 5 inches (12.7 cm) shorter.

That’s a big difference in size and while that’s not going to be a selling point for some bassists, the small size, affordable price, and simplicity will all draw them towards this little guy. Instead of the usual 3 or 4 knobs that you see on most flangers, we’re looking at just two here: Rate (which controls the speed of the effect) and Regen (which controls the feedback levels).

That makes this a great pedal for bassists that are just getting into flanger since you don’t have to worry about getting totally lost in the sauce as you twist knobs and switch modes. You still have plenty to work with and the video below does a great job showing off the sound with bass. Pay attention to just how good this flanger effect sounds when the rate knob is turned low:


You’ll also notice there’s not any loss at the low end which is always the big test when it comes to porting pedals for the guitar to bass. Even though it’s a budget option, this little flanger pedal is still more than enough for the serious bassist. You can read more reviews, take a closer look at the size specifications and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Premium Pedal: Earthquaker Devices Pyramids Flanger

Premium Pedal
Earthquaker Devices Pyramids Flanger
  • 8 knobs, 8 modes, 5 presets and a whole lot more give bassists endless options
  • Premium pricing gets you a truly premium flanger pedal
  • Could be too many options for bassists that are just getting started with flanger effects

If you find yourself glancing at my other suggestions and asking “yes, but how could I be fancier?” Then here’s your upmarket boutique small-run offering. Earthquaker Devices is a premium brand but they produce premium pedals. In other words, you’re getting what you pay for here which isn’t always the case in the pedal world.

But it is true when it comes to the big, beefy, and bursting with features flanger pedal from Earthquaker. There are 8 knobs (double the usual for a flanger pedal) and 8 different settings to go with that. It’s honestly a little insane and no one is going to blame you if you want to just go back to the comfortable simplicity of the MXR Micro Flanger.

I mean, just listen to the rep from Earthquaker list of all the features on this pedal:

For those that didn’t get all that, in addition to the 8 knobs and settings already mentioned, there are also 5 presets, positive and negative feedback, multifunction modification control along with a wet and dry mix option. Yeah, it’s a lot.

And while it’s not for everyone, it is perfect for bassists that want to dive deep into the world of flanger effects. The video does a great job going over the different settings so I don’t want to list them all here (you can also see the full list here) but I do want to highlight the Barber Pole Down setting which can give you a low pass or high pass filter. I think the high pass filter sounds surprisingly good with a bass and from there you can adjust the Modify and Manual knobs to really dial in the sound.

Of course, that’s just one way to use this pedal and there are thousands of options so if you’re looking for endless flanger options this is probably worth taking a look at. You can read more reviews, take a closer look at all the knobs and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Flanger/Chorus Combo: Electro Harmonix’s Electric Mistress

Best Flanger/Chorus Combo
Electro Harmonix's Electric Mistress
  • Both Flanger and Chorus in one pedal to give you more space on your pedalboard
  • Marketed for bass but still works great without loss of low end
  • Easy to use with a simple design

I’m not about to argue with the company responsible for the classic Big Muff Pi fuzzbox. On top of that, Electro Harmonix re-issued the discontinued-way-too-soon Mu Tron III envelope filter. This is the “auto wah” effect that you are likely hearing on any of the funkiest 70s tracks you can think of, such as Higher Ground.

So it should come as no surprise that Electro Harmonix also introduced the very first flanger stompbox with the Electric Mistress. This flanger pedal was a good choice for bassists in 1975 when it was first released and it’s still a good choice for bassists today.

Even though it’s marketed for guitar players (and doesn’t have a bass-specific input like the BF-3) it’s still very bass-friendly. You’re not going to run into any “bass suck” with this- in other words, your low end will be safe when using this flanger. You can hear what I’m talking about here:

Like the BF-3, a stereo out is available if you want to send your audience into space. And the Mistress also features a chorus circuit, with the unique ability to blend chorus and flanger at whatever balance you like. That’s one of those things you probably didn’t realize you wanted but once you use it you’ll end up wondering where it was all your life.

Okay, it might not be that dramatic for everyone but that flanger/chorus combo is something that works a lot more smoothly than you might expect at first and you can hear the chorus setting here and even though the thumbnail is the same these are different videos:

Both are super smooth and the flanger effect in particular really brings out that Pink Floyd vibe.

You have three knobs to work with and they’re the Rate (controls the speed of the flanger and chorus circuits), Flanger Depth (adjusts how much flanger-affected signal is mixed with the original signal), and Chorus Depth (adjusts how much chorus signal is mixed with the original signal). Simple and easy to use despite having a lot of functionality.

While the Electric Mistress has just as much history as the Boss line, they are missing the bass input so I just couldn’t give them the best overall spot on this list. But the interesting combination of chorus and flanger in one pedal is definitely worth exploring. You can read more reviews and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Conclusion

I personally think we are ready for some more funk. Music in the 90s got very droning, with all the grunge and skatepunk and alt.

The 2000s followed up with some very forgettable, blah trends in RnB and dance pop. The indie world responded by retreating into introspection and self-importance. Now it’s 2019 and I’m happy to see that some of the greatest hits of the 2010s were funky and downright fun. I mean check out Can’t Stop The Feeling, which was way better than a track written for Trolls needed to be. Or how about Get Lucky, Attention, or Uptown Funk.

I for one welcome the return of this disco funk, vibey pop music. I was worried that we’d seen the end of it decades ago. Get your hands on a bass flanger and you can start grooving too, and who knows? Just ten years ago you would have been a fool, but now you could have the next throwback disco hit on your hands. Keep working, and feel the joy of the music!