This is an area that I’ve really only dipped my toes 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 Wonderful Guitar Noise Pedals’ and other posts, but this is the first time all are featured together in one category for you to compare and contrast fully.
I have already acquired the BitQuest here, which is a bit of an oddity really - fantastic, but very difficult to pigeon-hole - it is a fuzz pedal really, which can also play clean, but with 8 different modulations including - 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 territory.
I’ve long been considering the EQD Bit Commander, and the Iron Ether Frantabit - the latter of which will likely be my next acquisition - it is released in batches which usually sell up pretty quickly, so depending on the cycle, you may have to wait a while. Also, two of the most feature-rich BitCrushers mentioned are currently not quite available - the Hexe BitCrusher III is out of production, and the WMD Geiger Counter Pro has yet to be released (almost 1 year late) - keep an eye on Reverb and Ebay for the BitCrusher III and you might be able to pick up a decent quality second-hand one. There are two more compact 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 Mooer 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 give 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 here, including warbly sweeps and kind of scratched vinyl or damaged tape style sounds as well as various forms of electricity-like crackle - kind of glitchy and oddball at times, but in the best sense.
I do realise that you need lots of patience to dial some of these in, in particular to get something suitably musical, as it’s overly easy to end up with something which sounds like the pedal is simply busted or overloaded! It depends 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 Lofi Machine (cheap and small). If in luck, I might find some of these on Reverb at more reasonable rates, otherwise it’s a matter of balancing the priorities against all the other wonderful and obviously essential pedals I have on my wishlist.
Pedals listed alphabetically by brand:
I've already touched on this in the intro - features 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 knob-twiddling to get the right sounds - often through quite narrow ranges / sweet spots - but always likely to produce something interesting. Because of how much happens within this pedal, it does not always play nice with secondary modulations / delays / reverb, or even Overdrives or Drives before or after. Nonetheless a singularly magnificent pedal, which does OK with pure bitcrushing, although that's not really its strongest suite. You may be best off considering this as a Modulated Fuzz pedal, as that's where most of the fantastic tones occur.
This pedal has long been on my wishlist for a a while - 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 had somewhat dismissed this of late, but since re-watching the above video, it is higher up on the wishlist again!
A fantastically glitchy bitcrusher - as ably demonstrated by Dennis Kayzer above - well capable of producing all the sounds I like a bitcrusher to make. Seems to be out of 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 around £260 or so.
This Bitcrusher is much beloved by bass players wanting to add a bit of dubstep to their basslines. Works pretty fantastically on Guitar too. As mentioned 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 requirments have taken priority. Once the generic V.X pedal chain is fully sorted, the Frantabit will be next!
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 purchase, the Scrutator is not far behind and bumps the Bit Commander down a place. The Scrutator has a smart Preamp dial which allows you to get a stronger signal through to affect and manipulate. The combination of Rate, Filter, Q and Bit dials and smart expression options enable you to get some wonderful synth voicings out of this pedal - it is available locally, and is lower cost than the frantabit (no import charges etc.). This could be my next bitcrusher after all!
Juan and Nick over at Pedals and Effects really love the Ottobit Jr - which is another tweaker's delight, and whose sequencer function takes it into entirely new territory for these sorts of pedals. Truly great for producing synthy type music via your guitar - where you can sort of program stepped sequences and grooves to build up very electronic sounding layers. I've still not made my mind up if this pedal is for me, or If I would find proper use for it. It's definitely a pedal which requires a lot of patience to get right. But has enormous potential and a great deal of variety and flexibility - definitely an advanced bitcrusher pedal as such, and quite a bit more than just tweaking dials or selecting different wave options. Will see how I get on with the Frantabit / Scrutator first...
Just 3 dials - Mix, Sample and Bit, and a 3-mode toggle - Synth | Guitar | Bass. As with everything Mooer - this is really great for its size, somewhat limited, but gives you enough flavour to be useful. Renders very musical bitcrushing and is very easy to dial in = quick, easy and cheap - what's not to like? I've already shared my like of mini pedals, quite a few of which happen to be Mooer. At this price it allows you to fully experiment with this sort of category - for minimal outlay to see if it sticks. Also, if you are limited for space on 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 type of situation really.
Red Panda are one of those slightly lesser-known pedal making boutiques that just don't know how to make a bad pedal - all their output is excellent. Probably most famous for their Particle Delay - this renders similar high fidelity for the bitcrushing category. I would have preferred a slightly slimmer enclosure - but there is no denying that it creates some fantastic sputtering sounds. Perhaps I need to add this one to my wishlist too. Very suitable demo video above too!
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 which will very likely upset as many players as they please - but if you want the most feature-rich bitcrusher ever produced then this is likely it, or at least will be once it gets out of development hell. Currently at least one year overdue, and if you cannot wait, WMD still have the original and still incredibly capable regular medium-sized Geiger Counter, as well as the more compact (and cheaper) 'Civilian Issue'. I'm really intrigued to see what the final output of the Pro pedal will be - I can understand that all that functionality will require some serious fine-tuning to make the pedal fully musically usable - otherwise you would likely just end up with a very expensive white noise generator.