Darkglass B7K Ultra Review by Kilian Duarte…
2016 marks a new chapter for the boys from Helsinki and their pursuit of the ultimate tone. Launching their first ever amplifier and speaker line, as well as expanding their product range, Mr. Castro and the rest of the Darkglass Electronics gang show no signs of slowing down. While the company has clearly set its sights forward and upward, they have not forgotten about their roots or their core users it seems. Their crown jewel, the B7K, has been revised with some new, more user -friendly options based on customer input in the Ultra model. While the beating heart of the Darkglass overdrive circuitry stays the same in the B7K Ultra, the company decided to offer even more tone sculpting options, as well as general control options for the bassist on the go. Lets go over the features shall we?
The Familiar (for the uninitiated):
- Slick and sturdy aluminum chassis with black front and solid feel. 10.7cm X 12cm.
- 4-band sweepable EQ with High (12db at 5kHz), Bass (12db at 100 Hz), Low and Hi Mids.
- Attack Switch (Sets the amount of treble content to saturate: The “Boost” setting emphasizes the treble content extra clarity and presence. The “Flat” position leaves this register untouched while the “Cut” position will reduce the amount of high frequencies being saturated).
- Grunt Switch (Sets the amount of low frequency content to saturate by selecting between three different bass boost levels.
- Drive (Sets the amount of saturation in the overdriven signal).
- Direct Output (Perfect for use as a straight DI).
The New for 2016:
- Master (Whereas the Level Knob controls the output of overdrive section the Master volume adjusts the overall volume of the unit, for fine tuning the output in clean mode. It also serves as a DI level control).
- Low Mid selector switch (+12db switchable 250 Hz, 500 Hz, 1kHz).
- Hi Mid selector switch (+ 12db switchable 750 Hz, 1.5 kHz, 3 kHz).
- A dedicated footswitch to engage the overdrive section independently.
The mix of the customer requested changes, along with the familiar circuitry provided for a definitive upgrade to the original product. Through my Brubaker JXB, a Fender Japanese PJ, an Ibanez Soundgear SR1806 and an NS CR5 Radius, the pedal responded evenly through a myriad of preamp and pickup configurations. The biggest plus being the clarity that was present regardless of the bass in question and regardless of the saturation of the drive. Each bass varied between completely passive to an 18 volt preamp, with both humbuckers and single coils cutting cleanly and musically with the drive engaged.
I took the B7K Ultra out for some progressive metal gigs and chose to run it both through the effects loop and separately as a straight DI. I received zero complaints by the sound engineers in question and I was able to rely on the onboard preamp without having to compromise my central tonal dial-ins. The learning curve with the new Mid selector switches was minimal and the frequency option presets were all ones that had practical, musical applications. I personally found the Low-Mid frequency selector to have the highest practicality for really sitting in the mix with the kick drum comfortably while still retaining punch and articulation.
For the studio, I chose to utilize a passive Fender PJ bass to give the demo video the most familiar base tone and simplified electronic package before entering the B7K. Running straight into the pedal, and then straight into the console, I was at the mercy of the pedal and the pre amp to deliver a workable tone. We decided for Bass Musician Magazine to do something different this time around for a pedal demo. Instead of just a simple bass only demo, we wanted to give it a true test and put it in a full mix with two guitars, drums, and a full spectrum of vocals. I wanted to really try and dial in a tone that was able to cut while still standing out in the mix and allowing the bass to stand on its own. I felt that for the price the B7K accomplishes that bi-amped tone that many bassist seek out for decades and spend thousands to achieve. Overall I give it a 9.5 out of 10 for its price range. Out of the park with this one guys.