Boss OC-3 Review (Worth It In 2020?)

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Boss OC-3 Review (Worth It In 2020?)
VERDICT
If you are in the market for an octave pedal and you're not after anything super expensive then the BOSS OC-3 Super Octave is a top contender, if not a must. For a fair price, you get great, complex octave effects in a pedal that is solidly built, so whether you are in a studio or touring, this pedal will last a very long time.
Sound
9
Build Quality
9
Value
9
PROS
You precisely dial in the right amount of drive.
OC-2 emulation is a lovely touch.
Poly mode sounds great and functions beautifully.
CONS
Some users report it can become temperamental with heavily down tuned guitars.
9
OUR SCORE

Boss OC 3 Review (In Summary)

If you are looking to add texture or depth to your sound, then you might be tempted to consider adding the Boss OC-3 Super Octave pedal to your rig.

The OC-3 offers 3 modes of octave effects including an emulation of its predecessor, the Boss OC-2, which has been produced since the ’80s and is still sought after today. These three modes offer an array of options that would otherwise require multiple pedals. The OC-3 is the first compact pedal with true Polyphonic Octave effects.

The dirt/grit of the drive mode and the artefacts produced by the algorithm sound dark and eerie which I personally quite like.

You precisely dial in the right amount of drive with the octave level, and you can get a great blend with the direct signal too. This effect does sound better when you use the direct out and (mono) output together but you still get a great sound just using the “mono “output.

The OC-2 emulation is also great on the OC-3. Having that second lower octave deepens your tone and really adds weight to your sound driving it much further in the mix. And again, you have such control with levels for all three signals so you can tune it in just right.

But I have to say my favorite is the Poly mode. As I like to play a lot of chords and I really only want the effect on the lower notes, this mode meets my requirement perfectly. It sounds great and it handles multiple notes flawlessly. It really adds power to my riffs and again, having the effect separate from the pedal means I can distort the direct output or both if I need to and still have a big massive sound.

BOSS OC-3 Super Octave Guitar Pedal
$128.99

World's first compact pedal with true Polyphonic Octave effects. New Drive mode adds distortion to octave notes for a fatter, more aggressive tone.

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10/25/2020 03:39 am UTC

What Does The Boss OC-3 Do?

It focuses on octave based transposing as the name suggests and can be used for both bass and guitar with very satisfying results.

The 3 modes cover most of what you could ask for when dropping an octave on an instrument but one thing to note is that the pedal doesn’t just drop the pitch of the overall signal, it reads your note and separately snaps it to the closest note to then transpose it down to your selected octave 1 or octave 2 for your effect signal. However I will point out, you don’t hear the snapping, it is purely for the lower octave creation.

The Boss OC-3 has a “Direct Out” socket so you can process and blend the effected signal independently to the dry signal. When nothing is connected to this socket, both the wet and dry signals are passed through the regular output. But when the pedal detects a cable in “Direct Out”, the signal is split so that only the octaved signal is passed through the regular output, and only the dry signal is passed through “Direct Out”.

With the first two modes, the pedal doesn’t do so well with chords. But thankfully the third mode is designed specifically with chords in mind! Poly Mode offers a very sleek solution that sounds great with chords as well as the usual “monophonic” sounds.

Boss OC-3 Features And Specs

The OC-3 is your standard BOSS pedal in terms of size and build quality. It’s got a solid metal chassis with a rubber bottom and requires a standard 9V power supply or a 9V battery.

Buttons & Inputs/Outputs 

  • Guitar Input – ¼“ Jack
  • Bass Input – ¼“ Jack
  • Direct Output – ¼” Jack
  • Output (Mono) – ¼” Jack
  • Direct Level Knob
  • Octave 1 Level Knob
  • Mode Select Knob
  • Knob 3 (which changes depending on the mode selected)
  • Stomp flap (FX on/off)

“Knob 3”

This is the third knob from the left, and its function changes depending on the mode you are in.

  • In Mode 1, it is your distortion / overdrive gain level.
  • In Mode 2, it is the level for the second octave.
  • In Mode 3, it is the active “range” for the effect (more on this later).

Direct Output

The Direct Out and the Output (Mono) sockets serve two purposes. If you are sending to one source then you would use the Output (Mono) and this will sum the direct and effected signal into one output. One thing to note is when using only this output, the Octave 1 level is also directly proportionate to the Direct level but you still have extra control with the Octave 1 knob.

But ultimately using both outputs is something I would recommend as you get more flexibility with how you want to shape the sound. You can get some seriously cool effects by treating the dry and wet signal differently and making it sound like two separate instruments playing the same part.

Bass

Unlike many other pedals which are designed for either electric guitar or bass, the Boss OC-3 Super Octave works with both! The bass input allows for those lower frequencies to have FX applied correctly and sound its best so both guitar and bass sound equally great through this pedal.

Modes

Mode 1

This is the “Drive” mode. It adds additional distortion/overdrive to the Octave 1 signal (one octave below). You can then adjust the Direct Level knob and the OCT1 Level knob to blend the two signals to suit your taste. The overdrive is only applied to the octave FX meaning you will always be able to blend in more dry “Direct” signal for clarity or punch. This is great for a bit of grit in your mix.

Mode 2 (OC-2 Mode)

This is the OC-2 Emulation. In this mode you have three signals – the original guitar tone, and two separate octaves below. With all three signals you get individual level controls so you can really customize the overall character of the effect.

This mode is better suited to single notes or arpeggiated chords but it is still an amazing effect regardless. Unfortunately this mode does not have the added distortion / overdrive, but this is all a part of it being an emulation of a classic effect.

Mode 3 (Poly Mode)

In my opinion, the Poly Mode on the Boss OC3 is a masterpiece! Firstly, it allows you to select a cut-off note for the octave effect, meaning you can get it to function only on lower notes. This means you can set it up to only add an octave to the lowest two or three strings, leaving your higher strings untouched.

It must be said that this mode also handles chords a lot better and is my main mode as I like big chunky chords. Another great thing about Poly Mode is that your “cut off” point isn’t a hard cut. This means that as you progress up past the selected range, the effect lessens until you are just listening to the direct signal. This makes it a very smooth transition rather than an effect that suddenly drops off.

Boss OC-3 Super Octave Bundle
$139.99

World's first compact pedal with true Polyphonic Octave effects. Includes instrument cable, patch cable, guitar picks, and polishing cloth.

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10/25/2020 03:39 am UTC

Boss OC-2 vs Boss OC-3… Who Wins?

BOSS have been playing with pitch and octave effects for many years. The BOSS OC-2 has been a success since its release in 1986. The pedal features a blend of direct signal, Octave-1, and Octave-2. It was a simple concept done very well and people have either held on to their OC-2 from the 80s and 90s or are still looking for them to add to their collection. Needless to say, it is a classic pedal!

Well, the BOSS OC-3 has emulated this pedal well with its “OC-2 Mode”, so in my opinion, the OC-3 is no doubt the winner in this comparison! Not only do you get the sound of the OC-2 but you also get the amazing “Poly” mode that lets you design your sound in a different way, letting you dial it in to precisely where you want it instead of just giving you an on/off function.

Why Choose Polyphonic?

Polyphonic means to produce many sounds or voices as opposed to the single note effect on the first and second modes. In “Poly” mode (Mode 3), the algorithm is designed to interpret multiple pitches/notes and in turn, create lovely octave effects for each note.

That’s not to say that Mode 1 isn’t lovely, it just produces different artefacts that give it its own unique sound. If you haven’t heard the difference, trust me when I say that it will open up new dimensions for you. This is why Poly Mode is a must, it’s a gateway to a bigger world of modulation and effects!

The Verdict

If you are in the market for an octave pedal and you’re not after anything super expensive then the BOSS OC-3 Super Octave is a top contender, if not a must. For a fair price you get great, complex octave effects in a pedal that is solidly built, so whether you are in a studio or touring, this pedal will last a very long time.

A lot of retailers are bundling this pedal with accessories such as patch cables for the separate outputs. So it pays to look at a few options before committing (especially if there’s free shipping!) but ultimately this is a great value pedal that won’t let you down.

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