They say, “Tone comes from the hands of the player.” That’s true…well mostly. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of playing through a Markbass amplifier, you quickly discovered that some amazing tones could also be delivered from one small magic knob, the Variable Pre-shape Filter (VPF). Here’s the news, Markbass has decided to offer their VPF knob in a stomp box for a fraction of the price of a full-blown rig (Street $129.99).
The unit is housed in a bombproof aluminum enclosure that’s powder painted a bright school bus yellow. It’s obvious that some thought went into this design because the control knobs for the boost and the VLE and VLF filters are recessed, which can save you some real heartache if you tend to be a little rough when stomping on the switches. On the back of the unit there are ¼ inch input and output jacks, a ground lift and an additional balanced and processed DI (XLR) out which will allow a convenient connect up when recording directly into a microphone preamp. A Markbass supplied 12-volt DC wall wart powers the unit. The base of the unit sports a very small recessed switch that lets you choose between buffered or true bypass output. A peek inside reveals precisely soldered electrical connections and all components firmly attached to the enclosure. NOTE: There are no rubber feet on the bottom so the base of the unit will sit flat on the floor – which may be an issue if someone spills a drink nearby.
The Super Booster is easy to use with a maximum boost of 14 dB’s available with the knob maxed out, just set it to taste and turn it off and on with the left footswitch. The right footswitch actuates the tone filters, which can either be used individually or in tandem. The first of the two tone filters on the unit is the VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator), it rolls off some of the high end to give you a more vintage-like tone. There’s nothing wrong with this filter, but I don’t really don’t see the use of dedicating limited pedal real estate to something that can be achieved by rolling off the tone control on your bass or your amp. The second filter, the VPF, is what this pedal is all about. With the twist of this single knob the lows and the high are boosted and the middle frequencies are cut and the resulting tone is the sickest, slickest slap bass tone just this side of Marcus Miller. In a direct comparison to two other name brand tone-shaping units, I found the Super Booster to have a much more transparent and pleasant high end. The other two units both produced a slightly harsh and fatiguing tone when set with the same parameters. As an added bonus the VPF gives older strings a new lease on life, allowing you to save a little by stretching out the time between string changes.
About Eric Scott Parsons
I am 52 years old and have been playing bass guitar since the 7th grade. I started gigging by the end of the first month of playing (I cringe to think of those poor people who had us play their wedding….). By the time I was in 8th grade I was building my first bass amplifier under the watchful eye of my father, who spent his whole life in electronics. I would also modify the electronics in my basses in pursuit of the perfect tone. I learned to read bass clef in high school and was able to take time out from my college career to play for a touring jazz ensemble throughout the West, Southwest and up into Canada. I still actively play and record bass for the Peter Morgan Band.
I have also just retired after 27 years with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Laboratory of Forensic Services. During my tenure ant the Crime Laboratory, I provided forensic support in the following disciplines: Crime Scenes, Firearms, Explosives, Arson and Alcohol Analysis. I have written and presented scientific papers and material at the local, state and national level. I have been a supervisor for the last twenty years, culminating in running the Quality Assurance Program for a technical group of approximately forty analysts. I am a team player and take direction well. I was also an instructor in Forensic Science at California State University, Sacramento. I am happily married and have two fantastic daughters.