Beetronics Octahive v2 review: same lusciously thick fuzz tones, new footswitch trickery
The new Babee Series version of this chunky-voiced octave fuzz pedal is smarter than the original in more ways than one
Most things start out shiny and new, then eventually become scuffed and battered. Beetronics appears to be going in the opposite direction.
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Five years after the launch of the original Octahive, this three-knob noise machine with switchable up-octave has had a drastic facelift for v2. Like the recent Zzombee and Seabee, it’s traded the ‘retrieved from a skip’ chic of the company’s early designs for a kind of miniaturised rococo grandeur… and the result is one of the cutest little fuzz pedals in stompbox history.
But it’s not only the relic-style paint job that’s disappeared – so has the octave switch on the side. That’s because the Octahive v2 has a very clever footswitch that does it all, allowing you to flip between modes as well as bypass states without having to bend down and interrupt your venue-emptying 20-minute solo. It even has a non-latching option: hold your foot down for a momentary burst of fuzz – or, when it’s already engaged, a momentary burst of octave.
Elsewhere the controls are the same as before, with knobs for preamp gain, honey (fuzz) and output volume. They’re now on the top surface of the enclosure – and as they’re Marshall types with no side markings, that will surely make them a nightmare to read in the heat of on-stage battle. But at least we have three LEDs to gaze at instead of just one: red near the footswitch to tell you the pedal’s on, white at top-left for normal fuzz, and blue at top-right for octave fuzz.
Did the Beetronics dudes choose that brand name because they always planned to build pedals specialising in the kind of thick, sweet tones that are easily described as ‘honeyish’? Or do they just like bees? If it’s the latter, they got lucky – because honeyishness is this California brand’s speciality, and the Octahive v2 has enough of the stuff to hospitalise Winnie the Pooh.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard the original Octahive since I reviewed it in 2018, so I can’t swear that this version sounds identical; but looking back over that write-up, it’s all uncannily familiar: the “full, sticky, grainy fuzz”; the ability to freshen up the attack by pushing the pre-gain instead of the honey; the “snarling midrange” unleashed by the octave circuit, which is more about abrasive textures than distinct added notes – it was all a lot of fun then, and it’s still a lot of fun now.
So really, sexy new look aside, the news here is the footswitch. And for the most part it’s a clear improvement, simply because all the promised features work: you can double-tap to jump in and out of octave mode, and you can press hold for a momentary departure from whatever the current state might be.
The only real snag with this, besides a certain amount of confusion while you’re learning the ropes, is that double-taps don’t work in bypass – so if you’ve just switched to your clean sound from octave mode, there’s no way to go back to normal fuzz without passing via a second or two of the clangy octave tone.
Obviously, dual footswitches would have been a much simpler approach here, but that would never have fitted with the compact Babee Series form. As compromises go, it’s a decent one… and as buzzy fuzzes go, this is a more than decent one.