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Love the possibilities of synthesizers?
Want to turn your favorite stringed instrument into a synth?
We’ve got you covered with our roundup of the best synth pedals for guitar and bass!
Many guitar and bass players love the sound and possibilities that synthesizers offer. Naturally, having a typical keyboard-controlled synth on stage is not realistic for most guitarists or bassists whose hands are busy elsewhere.
Guitar synth pedals have become a great solution for many, and the same is true for bass synth pedals. There are plenty of options on the market, and we’re gonna break down the best ones for you…
What are the 7 Best Synth Pedals for Guitar and Bass?
In true EHX fashion, you can just place this unit in your pedalboard like any other effects pedal, and it’s good to go. Nine presets give you access to some of the most iconic synth sounds from the ’70s and ’80s.
And thanks to an extremely wide playable range, the Electro-Harmonix Synth 9 pedal delivers precise tracking, making it our top pick for this list.
Continuing their line of effects pedals designed to render keyboardists obsolete (just kidding), the Electro-Harmonix Synth 9 Synthesizer Machine pedal allows you to coax classic synth tones from your guitar or bass.
The Synth9 features 9 patches to choose from. Each patch has parameters that can be controlled via the two control knobs (CTRL 1 and CTRL 2).
It features the following 9 patches offering a tremendous amount of choice and flexibility. First, there is the OBXn which is an emulation of the fat-sounding Oberheim OB-X. This is followed by the PROFIT V, an emulation of the legendary Prophet-5 synth.
Next up, the VIBE SYNTH is a polyphonic synthesizer with decaying harmonic content and vibrato. Continuing on, the MINI MOOD is a big-sounding Moog-inspired synthesizer that blends a portamento synth with a non-portamento synth (the blend is controlled via the volume knob).
We then have the EHX MINI which is an emulation of the classic Electro-Harmonix Mini Synth. Next up, the SOLO SYNTH is a fuzz-synth preset where a synth oscillator and fuzz square wave guitar are combined to create one single extreme synth tone.
Next, the MOOD BASS was inspired by the Mini Moog and Taurus bass pedals. This is followed by the STRING SYNTH, an emulation of an ARP string synth. Last but not least, we have the POLY VI inspired by the lush Korg Polysix.
Overall, the EHX Synth9 is a relatively simple but extremely useful synth pedal with superb character and patches inspired by some of the greatest synths to ever be created.
2. BOSS SY-1 Guitar Synthesizer
The BOSS SY-1 guitar synthesizer pedal is a simple synth pedal in a stompbox form factor. It packs a large range of synthesizer sounds into a compact, easy-to-use format that can fit nicely in a pedalboard setup.
This polyphonic guitar synth doesn’t require any extra hardware on your guitar, and offers a streamlined plug and play approach, but still packs tons of features.
This is our budget choice for the beginner guitarist and bassist that needs some decent synthesizer sounds and capabilities but doesn’t have much cash to spare.
121 total sounds, featuring 11 synth types with 11 variations for each
No perceivable latency
Hold function for sustaining synth sounds to play over
Independent volume controls for instrument and synth
Parallel send/return loop for integrating effects pedals
The BOSS SY-1 synthesizer pedal offers quite a bit of firepower for such a comparatively small unit that is so budget-friendly. It features 121 sounds, 11 core synth types like leads, pads, and bass, and 11 variations of that core synth sound.
The SY-1 synthesizer does not require a special pickup system to deliver expressive and dynamic sound. With this unit, you can select a mode to optimize its pitch tracking for either guitar or bass, ensuring it’s set up correctly for whatever you play.
The SY-1 synth offers eight modes. The first one is Lead 1/2. It offers a wide range of sounds suitable for single-note soloing. Pad offers full tones that work nicely with chords, from layered pads to synth brass and more.
Use Bass for fat synth bass sounds, including filtered and sub-octave tones. Str offers classic analog-style strings, including layered voices and sweeping textures. Organ unsurprisingly offers a few organ sounds, including many with rotary-style modulation.
Bell features percussive synth sounds with metallic resonance. Sfx 1/2 offers a variety of synth sound effects, including explosive one-shot sounds, animated pitch/filter voices, and more.
And finally, Seq 1/2 offers pulsating sounds with rhythmic pitch or filter changes. Using the blend control, you can mix your guitar or bass tone along with the synth tone.
The SY-1 synthesizer features a great send/return loop, which opens up a lot of creative possibilities. This loop can be mixed in parallel with the main synth output, allowing you to use other effects pedals to add another layer to your synth sound.
Additionally, you could also use the send as a direct output, routing the synth sound to a different amplifier. Overall, this is a great choice for those on a budget that want synth sounds without much tweaking.
3. BOSS SY-1000 Guitar Synthesizer Pedal
The BOSS SY-1000 synthesizer pedal for guitar and bass was refined over decades of player feedback. It features three distinct synthesizer instrument engines that can be played simultaneously for deep and rich sonic textures.
You can either plug your instrument via a 1/4″ or you can use Roland’s GK pickup for the most precise pitch tracking and per-string parameter tweaking. Additionally, there is an effects loop, multi-effects, instrument modeling, external control inputs, and freely assignable footswitches.
Factor in its built-in effects loop, multi-effects capabilities, instrument modeling, external control inputs, and freely assignable footswitches, and it's clear the BOSS SY-1000 is the most advanced synthesizer pedal ever devised.
Updated synth engine with custom DSP and 32-bit/48kHz processing
Layer up to three simultaneous instrument sounds
Independent control of pitch, level, and panning for each string, when used with GK pickup (sold separately)
Dynamic Synth engine follows your instrument’s natural volume envelope for exceptional expressive playability
Dual 16-part sequencers allow you to modulate pitch, filter, and amplitude
This is an extremely powerful and flexible guitar/bass synth pedal by BOSS. It features an updated sound engine driven by custom DSP and featuring 32-bit/48kHz sound quality.
The tracking is very precise, with no latency or other issues. With this unit you can dial in three simultaneous instruments, from synth leads and pads to bass and more, giving you a lot of freedom and flexibility to explore.
The BOSS SY-1000 features footswitches that are configurable, as well as assignable outputs, making it easy to split up your signal path however you like.
You can use this unit in conjunction with the GK pickup (sold separately) and your instrument’s 1/4″ output, for a vast array of sonic textures. Using the GK pickup will give you ultra-precise pitch tracking for synth sounds, while your 1/4″ output will inform the synth’s envelope shape and how it responds.
It is worth noting that when used with a GK pickup, this unit gives you instant access to alternate tuning for your guitar or bass.
The Dynamic Synth engine features two 16-step sequencers that you can use to add whole new dimensions of movement to your synth patches.
Each step of each sequencer can control pitch, filter, and amplitude independently, with 13 different envelope curves to explore. You can either use this with subtlety to obtain musical results or go all out if need be.
The OSC Synth is based on classic analog synth architecture, with lots of filter options, a versatile ADSR envelope, and impeccable sound quality.
To delve into the iconic sound of ’80s guitar synths, the GR-300 synth engine features a faithful recreation of the classic Roland GR-300.
4. DigiTech Dirty Robot Stereo Mini Synth Pedal
The DigiTech Dirty Robot synthesizer emulation pedal turns your guitar or bass into a wild, synth-like sound source.
This unit features two unique voices: a warm sound with envelope sweeps for classic analog synth tones and a vocal formant effect that delivers fantastic vocoder and talkbox-style tones, all of this without the need for a special pickup.
The Digitech Dirty Robot is a unique synthesizer emulation pedal for guitar and bass that can fit nicely in your pedalboard.
It features two different synth voices for creating varied sound textures using a guitar or bass without the need for any special pickup.
Synth voice V1 gives you warm analog synthesis with subtle to extreme envelope sweeps just like classic synths from the ’70s and ’80s. Synth voice V2 offers a vocal formant synthesis effect that can be used for vocoder emulation or talk box style effects.
Additionally, this unit also features built-in chorus and vibrato effects for increased versatility. The Dirty Robot’s effects are complimented by stereo ¼” inputs and outputs for routing flexibility, a bi-color status LED indicator, and true bypass circuitry.
This unit is built like a tank and in a compact size format, featuring a vacuum-style footswitch and striking graphics for that extra visual touch.
The Digitech Dirty Robot uses a 9VDC power supply to conveniently integrate into your existing pedalboard and is a great choice for players that like a simple yet powerful synthesizer unit for guitar and bass.
It features a blend control that sets the balance between guitar and synth. This unit offers just one oscillator, so the synth effect is monophonic.
It can double the pitch of precisely performed single-note phrases, but if you play more than one note simultaneously you get chaos. However, this might be a desirable option if you’re looking for more experimental sounds.
The Keeley Synth-1 features a switch that toggles between three basic waveforms: a fat-sounding square wave, a buzzy sawtooth wave, and a smooth sine wave.
The Synth-1 does not feature a standard ADSR (attack/decay/sustain/release) envelope generator, or even a simplified ASR or AR—just a minimal attack control that makes synth notes (and your unprocessed signal) swell gradually as if being controlled by a volume pedal.
It is packed with features, yet the C4 Synth Pedal remains easy to use, with great tracking capability, and fantastic tonal options. And if you want to dig deeper into sound design, you can connect the C4 to Source Audio’s free Neuro Desktop Editor.
With four simple controls, a choice of three guitar/bass synth effects, and multiple methods of patch storage and recall, the C4 is remarkably easy to use and it boasts wicked-fast response, incredible tracking capability, and limitless sonic potential.
24 filters, controllable with an envelope follower or independently modulating LFOs (Low-Frequency Oscillators)
14 onboard LFOs to control modulation of filter, vibrato, and tremolo
Eight available LFO wave shapes, including sine, square, sample and hold, sawtooth, and more
Can run 2 simultaneous 16-step sequencer patterns
Choose from pre-programmed sequencer patterns or create your own custom patterns
The Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal features 128 MIDI-accessible factory presets via an optional 3rd-party MIDI controller/USB host (sold separately).
This unit lets you create custom C4 Synth presets that can be stored on the pedal, saved to your private cloud library, or shared with an ever-growing online community where you can also find your favorite sounds to incorporate in your rig.
The C4 features a 3-position toggle switch to select from the three pre-loaded synth patches. You can mix any of the C4’s four independent voices or assign any voice to an oscillator wave shape, monophonic or polyphonic pitch shifter, intelligent harmonizer, and sequencers.
This synth pedal features two modes of operation: Standard Mode for classic stompbox operation or Preset Mode to save user presets to each of the three toggle switch positions.
Additionally, the C4 features a USB port for plug-and-play with Mac and Windows recording software; connectivity with Neuro Desktop Editor for deep editing, and pedal firmware updates.
Overall, this is a very powerful unit in a compact and durable chassis.
11 DSP variations of Saw, Square, and Pulse synth waves
Control filter cutoff and LFO rate via EV-5 Expression Pedal (sold separately).
Enhanced Wave Shape Mode provides sharper sounds.
Hold notes with the onboard pedal and jam over the top.
The SYB-5 employs digital signal processing technology to offer a zero-latency pedal that produces the sound of monophonic analog synths. The bass signal at the input is used to control a three-oscillator engine.
Depending on the mode, an LFO or an envelope may control the sound of the synth. The rate of the LFO or the decay of the envelope can be adjusted via the Decay/Rate knob.
An expression pedal can be connected to control the filter along with the LFO.
This unit lets you hold notes by pressing down the footswitch, letting you play dry notes over the top. It comes in BOSS‘s well know durable stompbox form factor, and it a great option for bass players that want a simple but powerful option for bass synthesis.