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Darkglass Microtubes B3K Pedal

Issue #8

Even before this pedal arrived I knew that I was in for a treat. There has been much interest on the bass forums in the Internet world about the Finnish made Darkglass products. In the distortion department, the B7K and its little brother - the B3K model we have here for review - are well in demand from bass players favouring a bit of grunt and drive from our rigs, so now seemed a good time to get to grips with one!

Darkglass doesn't do things by half and promises the very best in handmade products for bass guitar. Both the B7K and B3K feature hybrid J-Fet and CMOS gain stages for a 'more dynamic response' they say - so let's see.

A simplified control layout in comparison to the B7K does not in any way mean any shortcuts taken when it comes to the tones available from the pedal. Darkglass promises the B3K "delivers an immense amount of sounds, from warm, clear, and punchy tube-like Overdrives, to devastating Raging Bass Distortions, all without losing a gram of low end or definition! Doesn't matter if you play pop, rock or metal. This is the Bass Distortion you've been always waiting for".

Well, they're not wrong! In my video review I run through a range of settings to show what the pedal can do but don't forget to take in to account amplifier settings/sound as well as that can have a profound effect on the resultant tone too. Don't fear though, this pedal sounds great with an amp set 'flat'. My favourite sounds of the day were based round the 'just breaking up' settings - the kind that so many distortion and overdrive pedals manage to fall short of whilst favouring all out brutality - something the B3K can also do, but musically. I'm pleased to hear that the low end stayed tight and focussed but those mids warmed nicely with an attack and bite that sounded really natural. Personally, I don't like any distortion pedal that makes the bottom end of my signal go too flabby or mushy. Well done here B3K!

The controls are easy to understand and I was pleased to see that the level knob only affected the 'effect' and not the clean bass sound - so with the blend at zero up to 50 per cent, it was possible to kick the pedal on and off with no loss in clean bass signal. This is very important I feel when remaining 'in the mix' at a gig! Using the level and blend controls judiciously allowed a wide range of tight and usable sounds. In fact, I'll go as far as to say, I don't think there are any bad sounds available in this pedal. Great stuff, I very much enjoyed cranking the drive up for some real tonal filth! The 'grunt' switch is a really nice touch; three levels of bass boost from a section of circuit placed before the gain stage. This means that it's easier to drive the low end in to fuzz territory if that is your wish. Pushing the blend control forward allows the dry bass low end to make way for the fuzzier bass tones delivering a more aggressive sound.

Also very useful is the attack control, boosting the higher frequencies. I could see this being useful for those who choose not to use a tweeter in their bass cabinets but want more top end bite. The test amplifier we were using did have a tweeter and in the studio we could have probably pulled back the highs a little, but I have to say I didn't get any shrill high frequency artefacts coming through  - could this be part of the design too? If yes, well done! There's plenty of pedals I have dismissed for that 'wasp in a bottle' distortion sound! Eeeeshhh!!!

Darkglass is already garnering quite a list of users including Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Alex Webster, bassist Adam 'Nolly' Getgood and guitarist Misha Mansoor from Periphery amongst many others.

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Issue #75

Peter Green / Ivar Bjørnson

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