Review – Darkglass Electronics Vintage Microtubes…
Full Disclosure: I am a Darkglass Endorsee, but clearly for matters of journalistic integrity for our readers as well as consumers, I am giving an objective analysis of the Vintage Microtubes, the good and the bad.
The Vintage Microtubes Pedal is the brainchild of Finnish bassist and audio engineer Douglas Castro. The Founder and CEO of Darkglass Electronics based out of Helsinki, Finland. Darkglass has been quickly moving up in the ranks as a formidable name in boutique bass pedals that has seen their artist roster grow with the likes of Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse and Billy Gould from Faith No More among many others.
The Vintage Micotubes pedal is described by Darkglass, as “The Microtubes Vintage is our tribute to some of the most legendary sounds in rock history. It provides warm tube-like tones with a natural dynamic response that echoes the organic compression of old tube amps and reel-to-reel tape machines.”
The solid steel chassis of the pedal was what I would expect from a pedal at this price point (retails at $250). The construction was that of a professional level hand made product for a working musician, with all the knobs feeling solid and well attached. It came included with 4 rubbed grippers to add on as an option, which was a nice touch considering that pedals rarely stay in one place without them on stage. The lettering was very well designed and there was nothing amiss or faulty when it came to assembly or construction (which should always be the case in this price point.)
You can definitely tell that these are given a little extra TLC for the fact that each are individually hand signed to assure that they were inspected and tested before shipment. Certain models have Douglas Castro’s signature on the back to show that he individually made your respective pedal.
Features: the Vintage Microtubes includes four knobs with four respective functions.
LEVEL: Sets the volume of the overdriven signal
DRIVE: Sets the amount of saturation in the overdriven signal.
BLEND: Mixes the clean input signal with the overdriven signal gain while the Level knob, allowing for fine control of the blend ratio, sets the volume of the overdriven signal.
ERA: Interacts with the Drive knob to shape the character of the pedal. Dial it down to get the warm midrange tones of the 70s or crank it up to get the punchy metallic tones of 80s and 90s rock.
WARNING: The Vintage Microtubes has a current draw of 20mA. Only use a regulated 9V DC adapter with a center-negative plug. Due to ecological reasons it does not accept batteries. Unregulated power supplies and/or higher voltages may result in suboptimal noise performance and even damage your unit, voiding the warranty.
One slight bummer is the lack of a 9 volt adapter for the pedal included, which unfortunately is very common in the more high end pedal world, so while it is a bit of a hassle it is the norm in that market.
Overview: I decided to test try out the VMT with my Marcus Miller Sire V7 4 string, my Kiesel/Carvin JB 5 and my Ibanez Soundgear SR1806. I was able to do a little bit of recording, jam out with it in a band setting, as well as in the enjoyment of my own home. While the pedal clearly sounded more at home on the more traditional sounding Sire Jazz Bass, it gave a very interesting and warm option to some of my more modern basses. I found the “ERA” knob to be the most important as it acted as a kind of tone knob that shaped the sound in how we would associate the contrast between darker 60’s sounds and brighter, barkier 80’/90’s tones.
I see a lot of online examples of people utilizing the pedal in more modern scenarios, and while that works well, I think this pedals strong suit is in more classic heavy bass scenarios. The way the pedal gives some grit to the bass for me screams more punk rock/classic rock than Djent per say, but one could utilize this if the sound was to give a warmer vibe to a modern sound. Their B7K model has been described as “A T-Rex eating cars”, I would describe the Vintage Microtunes as a “T-rex wearing sunglasses driving a convertible”. Still badass, just more mellow and for the old school rocker guy.
One awesome thing I did enjoy about the pedal was how well it was wired and did not produce excess unwanted noise. Pedals many times get thrown out of the option by producers because they are honestly too annoying to mix or just cause way too much noise or unnecessary sound clutter when mixing. The VMT was studio capable and tracked incredibly well, the blend knob worked well in that it allowed me to balance the natural bass tone with the pedals to a perfectly desirable balance. Pick style playing as well as finger style both came out very clearly with both styles. Though a not to the wise, in 60’s mode it will round out your tone, as it was common at the time to sound, so expect some low end boost there. I personally found my favorite setting to be the more modern tones, with the gain cranked, gave me a very punchy and aggressive pick style tone that worked very well with my single coiled jazz bass.
The cool thing as well is that with the ERA option all the way “60’s” and the Drive cranked to 10 it could pass for a pretty sweet, cleaner FUZZ pedal.
In the Audio examples below, I go from “60’s”, to “70’s” to modern with the blend nearly all the way up and the Drive substantially pushed as well. I felt that while you will obviously want to vary it on your own, I owed it to you so that you could hear the “Overdrive” part of the VMT to its full potential and how the ERA’s were the coolest thing to check out.
Overall I give the Darkglass Vintage MicroTubes a 4.7 out of 5.
The strongest areas being value and construction. You could tell it was assembled well with no corners being cut and attention to detail set as a priority.
The Value for me is what makes this pedal a worthy buy, in one pedal you basically can model a variety of tones that you could only once get by purchasing thousands of dollars in vintage amplifiers. While $250 does seem steep for a simple overdrive pedal, I think if you are looking for a pro piece of gear that at the end of the day will save you on trying to EBAY some 70’s 100 lb amps and cabs it is definitely a steal. The noise, even when cranked was at a minimum and when tweaked you could get some really, really cool tones for rocking out. I would def put this in your favorite pick style players birthday wish list.
More audio examples for the pedal: