Darkglass returns with a souped-up version of the ace Microtubes B7K bass distortion. Joel McIver steps up
One of the best jobs on this magazine is testing bass distortion pedals. It’s a great opportunity to remind yourself that deep inside your middle-aged soul, a snake-hipped rock star still stirs, and also a useful way to scare the mice out of BGM’s secret command bunker. We’ve got to know the ins and outs of quite a few of these pedals over the years, from units that cost close to tuppence and are useless for anything but a feeble bumblebee buzz to expensive artefacts that give up the goods after long and careful coaxing.
The Darkglass Microtubes B7K, one of the best fuzz pedals we’ve ever seen by any standards and at any price point, was hardly in need of an upgrade in our opinion – but now that one is here, we’re only too happy to stamp on it. Most obviously, the new ‘Ultra’ variant has added a second stomp switch so you can shape the tone of the bypassed signal. This is useful, of course, but you know how too many tone options can annoy us here at BGM, so given your existing EQ options on bass and amp, this extra range of controls may simply be redundant, depending on your needs.
More usefully from our point of view, the tone-shaping facilities themselves have been expanded and made more tweakable, if also more complex. A Master volume controls the overall output while a Level pot controls the output of the distorted signal alone: so far, so familiar. The four-way EQ is traditional too. However, Darkglass fans will really enjoy the addition of four three-way toggle switches: not so weeny that they’re invisible, but also not so chunky that they confuse the control panel completely, these are both the balls and the brains of the Ultra, wielding a fair bit of tone-shaping power between them.
Of these, Attack is the most obvious, offering flat, ascending and descending options for the fuzz. Grunt is the most fun, and has been given its name because of the sound it adds to your signal – a kind of gritty bark that will help you cut through all those pesky guitars. Lo Mids and Hi Mids, operating at 500Hz, 1kHz and 250Hz, and 1.5kHz, 3kHz and 750Hz respectively, really alter the tone you’ve chosen. If you don’t know what those frequencies really mean in real-world terms, and let’s face it, many of us don’t, never fear – what these switches do will be made abundantly clear as soon as you start messing with them.
What we love about this unit is its unhurried nature. You need a while to get through its many, many fuzz options, which range from the slightest of crunch, via a punchy, JJ Burnel tone, all the way through to the ‘full Lemmy’. Once you’ve explored them all, a whole shedload of options will be at your fingertips.
You may wish to ask yourself if you really need all these fuzz tones, of course, especially as you’re paying the thick end of 300 quid for them – but if you do, this amped-up version of an already classic pedal will reward you hugely.
Price | £289
Made In | Finland
Features | Master volume, Blend, Level, Drive controls; three-position toggle switches to boost/cut/shape Attack, Grunt, Lo Mids and Hi Mids; four-band EQ (Bass, Lo Mids, Hi Mids, Treble); Distortion and Bypass stomp switches; ground lift; direct out
Power | 9V DC (adapter not included)
Dimensions | 107 x 96 x 42 mm
Weight | 434g
What We Think
Plus | Genuinely useful upgrades to an
Minus | Pricey – and do you really need this many tone options?
Overall | High-quality distortion with a stack of useful options. Try it!