This is an area that I’ve really only dipped my feet into, and need to put a little more of a concerted effort to figure out what works best for me. Some of these pedals have been touched on before in the ’16 Weird and fantastic Guitar Noise Pedals’ and other articles, but this is the first time all are featured together in 1 category for you to compare and contrast entirely.
I’ve already obtained the BitQuest here, which can be a bit of an oddity really – fantastic, but quite difficult to pigeon-hole – it’s a fuzz pedal really, which can also play clean, but with 8 different modulations like – Flanger, Filter, Bitcrusher, Reverb, Notch Filter, Ring Modulator, Pitch Shifter, and Delay – most of which have lo-fi capable settings, and several of which take you into bitcrusher-type land.
I’ve long been considering the EQD Bit Commander, and the Iron Ether Frantabit – the latter of which will likely be my next purchase – it’s released in batches which generally sell up pretty quickly, so based on the cycle, you may have to wait a while. Also, two of the most feature-rich BitCrushers mentioned are now not quite available – the Head BitCrusher III is out of production, and the WMD Geiger Counter Guru has yet to be released (almost 1 year late) – keep an eye on Reverb and Ebay for the BitCrusher III and you might have the ability to pick up a nice quality second-hand one. There are two more streamlined versions of the WMD Geiger Counter, which may be more to your liking too.
The Meris Ottobit Jr adds a sequencer function into the mix, and the Red Panda Bitmap gives you 3 wave-shape options. Finally, we have the very capable Malekko Scrutator, and the wonderfully miniature Moore Lofi Machine. I also considered including the Alexander Pedals Syntax Error, which though is a slightly different flavour of bit manipulation and just misses this cut.
For me, the purpose of a bitcrusher is primarily to provide me those gnarly crunchy bitmapped synth sounds that Muse like using on basslines, and that encroach on dubstep-alike sounds. There are of course a variety of other flavours , including early sweeps and type of scratched vinyl or damaged tape style sounds as well as different forms of electricity-like crackle – kind of glitchy and oddball at times, but in the best sense.
I do realise that you need a great deal of patience to dial a few of these in, in particular to find something suitably musical, as it is overly easy to end up with something which sounds like the pedal is simply busted or overloaded! It depends upon how long my interest lasts in this category – all of the pedals mentioned are of interest to me. My likely acquisitions though based on my current preferences – would be the Frantabit, Scrutator and the Mooer Love Machine (cheap and small). If in fortune, I might find some of these on Reverb at cheaper rates, otherwise it is a matter of balancing the priorities against all the other wonderful and clearly essential pedals I have in my wishlist.
Pedals listed alphabetically by manufacturer:
Dr Scientist BitQuest – #229
I have already touched on this in the intro – includes a Clean and Fuzz toggle, 6 dials and 8 mode selector – Flanger, Filter, Bitcrusher, Reverb, Notch Filter, Ring Modulator, Pitch Shifter, and Delay. This pedal is a tweaker’s delight, which means lots of to get the right sounds – often through very narrow ranges / sweet spots – but always likely to make something interesting. Because of how much happens within this pedal, it does not always play nice with secondary modulations / waits / reverb, or even Overdrives or Drives before or after. Nonetheless a singularly magnificent pedal, which does OK with pure bitcrushing, even though that is not really its strongest suite. You may be best off considering this as a Modulated Fuzz pedal, as that’s where most of the amazing tones occur.
EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander – #195
This pedal has long been on my wishlist for a some time – sort of straddles octave, synth and bitcrushing – produces some really great gnarly sounds though, and can even be used as a fuzz or octave fuzz. I’d somewhat dismissed this of late, but because re-watching the above video, it’s higher up on the wishlist again!
Hexe BitCrusher III – c#260 (discontinued)
A fantastically glitchy bitcrusher – as ably demonstrated by Dennis Kaiser over – well capable of producing all of the sounds I enjoy a bit crusher to make. Seems to be from production though currently – meaning you need to keep a beady eye on Reverb.com and Ebay – where examples turn up every now and again for approximately #260 or so.
Iron Ether Frantabit – $235
This Bitcrusher is much beloved by bass players wanting to bring a bit of dubstep to their basslines. Works pretty fantastically on Guitar too. As stated in the intro – these are boutique / hand-made in batches – and I have so far watched two recent batches go out of stock as other pedal requirements have taken priority. Once the generic V.X pedal series is fully sorted, the Frantabit will be next!
Malekko Scrutator – #189
This is a relatively recent release, just over a year old or so and one I only caught on my third or fourth sweep. While the Frantabit is my most likely next bitcrusher buy, the Scrutator is not far behind and lumps the Bit Commander down a place. The Scrutator has a smart Preamp dial which lets you find a stronger signal through to affect and control. The mixture of Rate, Filter, Q and Bit dials and smart saying options allow you to get some wonderful synth voicings from this pedal – it’s available locally, and is lower price than the frantabit (no import fees etc.). This might be my next bitcrusher after all!
Meris Ottobit Jr – #319
Juan and Nick over at Pedals and Effects really love the Ottobit Jr – that is another tweaker’s delight, and whose sequencer function takes it into completely new territory for these kinds of pedals. Truly great for creating synthy type music via your guitar – in which you can sort of program stepped sequences and grooves to build up very digital sounding layers. I have still not made up my mind if this pedal is for me, or If I would find proper use for it. It’s definitely a pedal which demands a lot of patience to get right. However, has enormous potential and a lot of flexibility and variety – definitely an innovative bitcrusher pedal as such, and quite a bit more than just tweaking dials or selecting different wave choices. Will see how I get on with the Frantabit / Scrutator first…
Mooer Lofi Machine – #54
Only 3 dials – Mix, Sample and Bit, and a 3-mode toggle – Synth | Guitar | Bass. As with everything Moore – this is really great for its size, somewhat restricted, but gives you enough flavour to be helpful. Renders very musical bitcrushing and is very easy to dial in = quick, simple and cheap – what’s not to like? I’ve already shared my like of miniature pedals, quite a few of which happen to be Mooer. At this price it allows you to fully experiment with this form of category – for minimal outlay to find out if it sticks. Moreover, if you’re limited for space in your board and want to punch in a quick flavour you like – Mooer more often than not truly fits the bill – it’s a win win kind of situation really.
Red Panda Bitmap – #245
Red Panda is among these slightly lesser-known pedal making boutiques that simply don’t know how to make a bad pedal – all their output is exceptional. Probably most famous for their Particle Delay – this renders similar high fidelity for the bitcrushing category. I’d have preferred a slightly slimmer enclosure – but there’s no denying that it generates some fantastic sputtering sounds. Perhaps I want to add this one to my wishlist too. Very suitable demo video above too!
WMD Geiger Counter Pro – c#430 (imminent)
This is the 3rd and most monstrous of the daddy of all bitcrusher – the WMD Geiger Counter – be very aware that this creates some seriously gnarly sounds that will very probably upset as many players as they please – but if you would like the most feature-rich bitcrusher ever generated then this is likely it, or will be once it gets out of development hell. Currently at least one year overdue, and if you cannot wait, WMD still possess the original and incredibly capable regular medium-sized Geiger Counter, as well as the more compact (and more economical )’Civilian Issue’. I am really intrigued to see what the last output of the Pro pedal will be – I can understand that all that functionality will require some serious fine-tuning to create the pedal fully musically usable – otherwise you would likely just end up getting a very expensive white noise generator.