4 Best Octave Pedals for Acoustic Guitar

acoustic guitar player using octave pedal

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

When it comes to pedals and guitars, it’s usually the electric guitar that gets all the attention rather than the acoustic.

And I think a lot of acoustic guitar players are missing out as a result. Sure, most acoustic players know that adding reverb where it’s needed can drastically improve your sound but the basic octave pedal is often overlooked.

Simply put, an octave pedal adds a note below or above the note you’re playing without actually changing the original sound. It’s a straightforward effect but has a massive amount of room for creativity.

It’s not always easy to find the right octave pedal and that’s even more true if you’re an acoustic guitarist. I’ll break down some of the basics of octave pedals, what makes some a good fit for acoustic guitars along with a quick review of my favorites. But if you just want to skip ahead and see what made the list you can check out the top three here:

Best Overall
Boss OC-3
9.9
  • The polyphonic setting is perfect for many acoustic styles of playing
  • Option to add notes up to two octaves above or below your sound
  • Burns battery quick so be ready with back ups if you're using this for a gig
Best On A Budget
Donner Octave
9.6
  • Functions as both an octave and pitch shift pedal
  • More than 12,000 five-star reviews on Amazon
  • Easy on the budget
Premium Pick
Electro-Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator
9.5
  • Features polyphonic mode which is ideal for many acoustic players
  • Includes 4-octave options, 3 effects, and resonance controls  for a huge range of options
  • Premium construction and design

Now let’s get started by clearing up one important point of terminology.

Pitch Shift vs Octave Pedals

I’ve seen a few articles around the internet that suggest pitch pedals and octave pedals are pretty much the same things but that’s just not true.

A pitch shift pedal takes the original sound of your acoustic guitar and lowers or raises it. It changes your sound and can allow you to reach notes that otherwise wouldn’t be possible on the acoustic guitar. An octave pedal adds a note above or below your sound while leaving the original sound the same.

And that’s the big difference: an octave pedal adds and maintains the original sound while a pitch shift pedal modifies the original sound into something new.

While there is the occasional overlap, the two effects are quite different so make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Octave Pedals and Acoustic Guitar

Why use an octave pedal with an acoustic guitar at all? After all, octave pedals are more well known in connection to the electric guitar and the first (and probably most legendary) example of this is Jimmy Hendrix’s riff on “Who Knows”:

That riff was made using the original octave pedal, the Octavia which was made by Roger Mayer and focuses on more of a crunchy sound. But with an acoustic guitar, we’re looking for something a little different.

By adding a note one octave below, you can create a warmer tone that sounds as if you have a bassist playing along with you. This is where I recommend most acoustic guitarists start and especially those who like fingerstyle playing or strumming.

By adding a note one octave above, you can create a lighter sound that feels more upbeat. However, I do think that this can quickly lead to a coffee shop background music vibe which isn’t always what you want so it requires a little more effort to make this work. But from my experience, adding one note below on the acoustic guitar almost always sounds better. It’s also worth pointing out that the most basic octave pedals don’t even offer the option to play one note above which just makes things even more straightforward.

There’s absolutely more to it than that, including polyphonic features on some octave pedals that add a whole new layer to your sound. But when it comes to the basics, that’s all you need to know about making an octave work with your acoustic. Yep, it can be that simple.

What To Look For In An Octave Pedal?

Now that we know how to use one, let’s quickly take a look at what you’ll need to consider before picking out an octave pedal.

Digital Vs Analog

Historically, all octave pedals have been analog and they’re still the larger portion of the market. But as with all things music, digital is taking over and it’s easier than ever to find a digital octave pedal that can do a lot more than just add a lower note.

If you’re an acoustic player looking for classic tones, then sticking with analog is usually a good way to go. Not only will this be more in line with the old-school sounds but analog pedals are usually easier to use. However, easier to use also means that you’re going to be missing out on some options like polyphonic settings, adding a note one octave up, and more.

Both can work for acoustic players and the easiest way to think about it is to ask yourself whether you’ll be happy with only adding a note below your sound. If so, a budget-friendly analog is probably a good match. If that feels too limiting to you, then a digital pedal is probably a better fit.

Simplicity

Similar to the above, how complex do you want your octave pedal to be?

While octave pedals are usually pretty simple on their own (at least compared to flanger pedals that sometimes go nuts with the knobs) they can still get pretty complex if you’re willing to drop the cash on them. The Electro-Harmonix POG2 for example has a dozen different controls compared to the simple Donner pedal with just a few knobs. You really can go as complex or as simple as you want.

So ask yourself how much you want to experiment compared to how much you just want to get it to work. For most acoustic guitarists, simple is usually better and it’s the electric guitarists that get a bit more out of extra knobs (looking at you phaser pedals).

Budget, Gig-Ability, Battery Life, and More

Just as with any pedal, you can go premium or stick to a budget. But the good thing with octave pedals is that because the effect is so simple, it’s definitely possible to get a great effect on a budget. Even more so when we’re talking about the usually simple sound of an acoustic.

Beyond the price, there are the other usual concerns with any pedal like durability, portability, etc. I can tell you that I’ve used or seen every pedal on this list and can attest to their durability so any of them should be able to hold up to your gig work. However, some of them are major battery-hogs and I’ll make sure to point that out since it can have a big impact on gig-ability.

Best Octave Pedals for Acoustic Guitarists

Now that we know exactly what we’re looking for it’s time to get into the reviews starting with the best overall.

Best Overall: Boss OC-3

Best Overall
Boss OC-3
  • The polyphonic setting is perfect for many acoustic styles of playing
  • Option to add notes up to two octaves above or below your sound
  • Burns battery quick so be ready with back ups if you're using this for a gig

Besides being reliable and awesome, the Boss OC-3’s other claim to fame is that it was the first polyphonic octave pedal and was released back in 2004.

This pedal will give you the usual octave adjustments (up to two in this case) along with some options for distortion to create a more aggressive sound but what really stands out for acoustic players is the polyphone feature.

With a little adjusting, you can set this pedal to apply octave notes only to specific frequencies. For example, you could apply the octave note to just the E and A strings. Or just the E string on its own. Or any other combination of frequencies. This allows the acoustic player to get the best of both worlds: the feel of a bass player backing you up on certain notes without changing the melodies that are so important to the acoustic sound.

More aggressive styles may not get as much use out of this feature but for the acoustic player, it can completely change how you use your octave pedal.

However, this isn’t a one-trick pony and you also get the octave adjustments you’d expect along with some additional distortion effects that many guitarists will enjoy experimenting with. This video does a great job explaining all the settings and showing you how they sound (with a special focus on the polyphonic settings which is most interesting for acoustic players):

Yeah, this little octave pedal does a lot.

If you’re already familiar with the world of octave pedals, you might be wondering why I’m not recommending the newer offering from Boss called the OC-5. Even though the OC-5 was released in late 2020, it’s hard to find today. Amazon is frequently out of stock and it’s hard to track down new options on Reverb but you can check their used options by clicking here.

With availability as the deciding factor, I have to stick with recommending the easier-to-find and just as awesome OC-3. While it’s not the newest model, it does have more than a decade of history behind it and I’ve seen several Boss OC-3’s that are more than 12 years old and still going strong. It’s hard to beat that kind of field testing.

So even though you can’t go wrong with either model, I still think the OC-3 is the best for most acoustic players. You can read more reviews, take a closer look at all four knobs and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best On A Budget: Donner Octave

Best On A Budget
Donner Octave
  • Functions as both an octave and pitch shift pedal
  • More than 12,000 five-star reviews on Amazon
  • Easy on the budget

This little octave pedal is ideal for acoustic guitarists that want to experiment with the octave effect without breaking the bank. But if you’re doing any kind of professional or gig work then this little guy probably isn’t the pedal for you and the best overall pick will be a better fit.

Still, this pedal is a bargain and allows you to go both up and down which is a little more unusual for an octave pedal at this price point. You also get pitch shift functionality which is great for acoustic guitarists that want to do some experimentation. And to get both in a nice little affordable package is a bit of a steal.

Even though it’s an electric guitar, you can see this pedal in action in this quick video:

As mentioned in the video, you also get the option to use a wet or dry sound along with the option to change your tone by  2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, or 24 semitones.

Yeah, this thing is jam-packed with features and I know I’ve already pointed it out but it’s a lot more than you’d expect for a budget option.

Even though it doesn’t impact the sound, you can also choose from 11 different design choices which is another nice-to-have feature. I honestly wish more pedals offered a color choice option as it’s easy enough to slap on a new color at the factory (unless we’re talking about a boutique pedal of course).

This pedal is also a true bypass pedal and while I think that debate is a little overhyped, it’s still going to be a big factor for some of you and a welcome feature for the acoustic guitarist.

It also helps that there are more than 12,000 five-star reviews for this pedal on Amazon. It’s hard to find that many total reviews for most pedals of any kind and so to find that many five-star reviews specifically is definitely an outlier.

You can check out all the colors, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Premium Pick: Electro-Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator

Premium Pick
Electro-Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator
  • Features polyphonic mode which is ideal for many acoustic players
  • Includes 4-octave options, 3 effects, and resonance controls  for a huge range of options
  • Premium construction and design

It’s rare to see a pedal with sliders, let alone 8 sliders. But when knobs are not enough, it’s time for sliders and the POG2 from Electro-Harmonix is doing a lot.

You get the octave options, both up and down, that you’d expect but you also get a wide range of other effects. You can also apply these effects to your dry signal- in other words, you don’t have to use the octave effect at all and you can still get a lot out of this pedal. You can check out a quick overview of all the knobs, dials, buttons, and sliders (yes, it has all those) in this video:

You also get a super strong die-cast design that’s more than ready for getting kicked around. So even though this pedal is large, it’s a great option for gigs or similar types of professional work.

The POG2 includes a similar polyphonic feature that we saw in the best overall. The polyphonic feature allows you to set your octave effect to specific strings which can make a huge difference for the acoustic player.

But if both the Boss OC-3 and the POG2 have the polyphonic feature, how do you choose between the two?

If you want as many options as possible, then the POG2 is probably a safe choice. The OC-3 definitely has a lot of versatility but it’s just about impossible to beat all the options that the POG2 offers. If you play electric guitar in addition to your acoustic, you’re also more likely to get even more out of the POG2 as some of the features will pair really well with the electric.

When it comes to sound, the POG2 has what I’d call a bit of a metallic sound. It’s not bad (and it’s very subtle) but it doesn’t always pair as effortlessly with the acoustic guitar in the same way that the OC-3 does. In the right hands, this won’t be a problem, and depending on what you’re playing it might not even be a factor but it’s still worth pointing out as you figure out which one makes more sense for you.

Overall, the POG2 is ideal for the pedal enthusiast that wants all the octave options and more. You can read more reviews, take a closer look at the specs and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best For Fast Playing: TC Electronic SUB ‘N’ UP

Best For Fast Playing
TC Electronic SUB ‘N’ UP
  • Flawless tracking means that this octave pedal can keep up with even the fastest guitarists
  • Includes an app that can give you a huge range of options
  • Polyphonic function which is almost mandatory for acoustic guitarists

In order for an octave pedal to work, it needs to be able to track the dry signal that comes out of your guitar and lower quality octave pedals may not be able to keep up with fast playing. This is usually more of a problem for electric guitar players but there are plenty of acoustic styles that rely on fast playing as well.

If you’re playing faster than your octave pedal can keep up then your entire sound is going to sound off.

That’s where the TC Electronics SUB ‘N’ UP can help and their claim to fame is flawless tracking that can keep up with even the fastest players. You can check out the folks at Sweetwater trying to unsuccessfully beat this little pedal (along with a good overview of the other features):

Besides the fast-tracking, which is pairs well with the polyphonic functionality, you get access to TC Electronic’s Tone Prints app that allows you to create an almost endless variety of custom tones. It’s also helpful for those that don’t want to mess with the settings individually and you can just find a tone you like from the app.

When it comes to ease of use, the extra app makes this pedal both easier and harder to use. Once you get the hang of the app, you can easily find the right tone for your acoustic guitar. But you have to master the app to do that and for most folks, that’s going to mean checking a YouTube video or two to figure out how it works.

However, you aren’t required to use the app at all and this octave pedal functions just fine on its own with 4 simple-to-use knobs. That makes a good option for acoustic guitarists that want something simple out of the box but still have a wide range of options (and tones) to grow into.

You can read more reviews, take a closer look at the specs and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Closing Thoughts

Overlooked but awesome, the right octave pedal can really flesh out the sound of your acoustic guitar. It’s like a bass player in a box…or in this case a pedal.

The polyphonic feature that was pioneered by Boss can be especially helpful for acoustic players but you can still get your feet wet (but not your strings) with a budget option too.

But what I really love about octave pedals is how simply adding a note one octave below just works. It can be as simple as that but you also have a huge range of sounds that you can experiment with from there.

What do you think? Which octave pedal did you go with?