Small-scale upstream bioprocess development often occurs in flasks and multi-well plates. These culturing platforms are often not equipped to accurately monitor and control critical process parameters; thus they may not yield conditions representative of manufacturing. In response, we and others have developed optical sensors that enable small-scale process monitoring. Here we have compared two parameters critical to control in industrial cell culture, pH and dissolved oxygen (DO), measured with our optical sensors versus industrially accepted electrochemical probes. For both optical sensors, agreement with the corresponding electrochemical probe was excellent. The Pearson Correlations between the optical sensors and electrochemical probes were 98.7% and 99.7%, for DO and pH, respectively. Also, we have compared optical pH sensor performance in regular (320 mOsm/kg) and high-osmolality (450 mOsm/kg) cell culture media to simulate the increase in osmolality in pH-controlled cultures. Over a pH range of 6.38–7.98 the average difference in pH readings in the two media was 0.04 pH units. In summary, we have demonstrated that these optical sensors agree well with standard electrochemical probes. The accuracy of the optical probes demonstrates their ability to detect potential parameter drift that could have significant impact on growth, production kinetics, and protein product quality. We have also shown that an increase in osmolality that could result from controlling pH or operating the reactor in fed-batch mode has an insignificant impact on the functionality of the pH patches. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2007;97: 833–841. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.