Envelope filter pedals are a great way to generate experimental and unique effects. If you want to bring sounds from the world of electronic music into your guitar or bass playing, these pedals are filled with options and controls to achieve that.
In this in-depth article, I'll look into some of the best envelope filter pedals out there and explain who they might be for, so that you can make the right selection to enhance your sound.
Best Envelope Filter Pedals for Bass & Guitar
1. MXR M82
MXR have been providing quality effects to guitarists and bassists for nearly half a century now, and the quality of their pedals seems to improve with each passing year.
The M82 is designed in a similar fashion to many of their stompbox offerings – compact and full of tweak able options. This pedal is essentially classic analog envelope filter perfect for playing funk bass.
Using the Dry and Effect controls on the M82, you can add the ideal amount of filtering to your instrument without unnecessarily sacrificing any low end. The sensitivity control allows you to set the attack level, basically affecting the harshness of the filter.
The MXR M82 is an all-analogue pedal and features a true bypass mode which ensures that there is very little noise produced even when it is not active. The pedal is powered either by a 9v DC battery or a standard power supply.
I’m a big fan of the Nano range of pedals by Electro-Harmonix, and this Bassballs twin dynamic filter doesn’t disappoint. With a simple switch and knob design, this compact pedal is build upon two sweeping filters which boost the presence of your bass.
Although the number of controls on the Bassballs Nano pedal may seem limited at first glance, the sweep effect can be adjusted in a variety of ways. By adjusting the response control, you can create a number of different filter sweeps accurately.
A cool add-on is the distortion switch, which when activated creates a fuzz-like effect. When combined with the response control this switch produces everything from sharp pulsating filters to long dramatic sweeps.
Like all Electro-Harmonix pedals, the Bassballs Nano is solidly built. It has a true bypass so your original tone isn’t negatively affected when the pedal is switched off, and runs with an AC adapter or 9v DC battery.
The Filter Twin by Aguilar is an awesome little pedal that sounds as good as it looks. With a pair of identical filters that sweep in opposing directions, this dual-envelope filter pedal is able to produce organic effects with varying characteristics.
The three built-in controls are easy to navigate. You get a blend control for setting the mix level between the two filters, velocity control which adjusts the speed of each filter and threshold control for tweaking the sensitivity level.
Another feature worth noting is the “Gig Saver” which allows the signal to pass through the Aguilar Filter Twin pedal even if the 9 volt battery dies. For such a small and compact pedal, I’m quite impressed by the detailed envelope filter effects it can produce.
The Keeley Neutrino V2 Envelope Filter Pedal is a classic analog auto-wah in a smaller, more concise packaging. Made with 100% analog circuitry, this pedal produces a range of authentic sounds filter effects which are completely under your control.
There are three individual filter types built into the Neutrino V2, with a peak resonance control and two sweep direction controls. Adjusting these will provide you with a variety of sweeps and intense wah-like filters.
On the side of the pedal lies a recessed direction switch, when activated transforms the output from closed/open “wah” to open/closed “aw”. There is also a mini output control so that you can make any necessary adjustments to compensate for volume loss.
Not only is the Keeley Neutrino a great addition to your guitar rig, it also sounds just as good when used with a bass or a keyboard. With true bypass switching, you don’t need to worry about any tonal degradation either.
The fast growing Boston based Source Audio used all of their experience and knowledge of designing filters to create the Spectrum. The result in a powerful, extensive stereo pedal that produces some brilliant envelope sounds.
With an array of classic envelope filter effects based on popular pedals of years gone by, the Spectrum Intelligent Filter gives you everything from warm distortion, 80s style octave synth effects to trippy phasers.
Although this is technically an envelope filter pedal for bass and guitar, with all of the processing options it is capable of producing, it could pass for a multi-FX pedal too! It’s extensive to say the least.
In terms of controls, you get an input dial which determines how much of your clean tone gets into the mix. The depth, frequency and speed controls can be used to add or remove color from the filter effects, and the ALT button creates right parameter controls.
It’s impressive how effectively Source Audio have managed to cram so many options into this small pedal without making it feel or look overcrowded. If you want multiple filter options and enjoy experimenting with FX in general, I’d highly recommend the Spectrum.
Positioning an Envelope Filter Pedal in Your Signal Chain
Typically speaking, an envelope filter pedal should be positioned as early in your signal chain as possible. This is particularly important if you are using it in conjunction with many other stompbox effects pedals.
Similar to a classic Wah pedal, envelope filters have a dramatic effect on the input signal. Because there’s more sensitivity earlier in the signal chain, placing your filter pedal there will ensure that the maximum amount of the effect is present.
Let’s say you positioned the envelope filter pedal after overdrive or distortion in your chain. The result would be that the sweeping effects would be present on the already distorted signal, creating a more unpredictable and unbalanced output.
However, if you place the filter pedal before the “dirt” in you chain, only the original input will be affected. Then the distortion can be added to the filtered signal which will provide you with a much better level of control. A typical setup would be:
Output – Reverb/Delay – Distortion/Overdrive/Fuzz – Envelope Filter – Tuner – Input.
I hope checking out my top picks has made it easier to choose your filter pedal. There are some truly brilliant options on this list; each with differing characteristics which I’m sure will add another element to your bass or guitar setup.