Embracing planetary collaboration,
Finland’s Darkglass Electronics does a neat trick of designing the
company’s pedals in Helsinki, but has them handmade in the United
States by Seattle’s 3Leaf Audio. The Vintage Microtubes is definitely
a “vintage”-styled overdrive pedal for bass, but there are no tubes in
the equation—just crafty emulations of amp overdrive, tape compression,
and mic-preamp coloration. But while disciples of ’70s, ’80s,
and ’90s bass grit will absolutely find a lot to like about the Vintage
Microtubes, the pedal offers more than just a trip back in time. For
example, a little edge and gronk can help a bass line drive a track a
bit more aggressively. Overdrive can also help the bass blend with
distorted guitars, or add vibe and impact to a song that seems rather
lifeless. These are just a few situations where the application of overdrive
can render low-end sonics that enhance a work of any style.
The Vintage Microtubes comes gig ready in a UFC-tough, brushed
aluminum casing. The footswitch—which employs 3Leaf’s truebypass,
soft-touch relay—is near military grade, and it effortlessly
clicks on and off with no glitches or noise. The Blend, Era, Level,
and Drive knobs are big and turn smoothly, although they are positioned
so close together that you can inadvertently move one of the
top knobs while you’re tweaking one of the bottom ones. The pedal
requires a 9-volt adapter for operation. That’s actually a benefit in
my book, but the 9-volt jack is placed very low on the bottom right
of the pedal, which can mean the power cable may bunch up towards
the lip of your pedalboard.
Vintage is definitely spoken here, but the Drive, Blend, and Era knobs
let you dial in a ton of tones that just about cover rock, blues, funk,
and dance styles from the Beatles to Daft Punk. The fun is in finding
the sounds that evoke those eras for you, because the Era knob
is cagily “un”-labeled. You can assume the left-knob positions are
earlier, and the right-knob positions later—and you’d probably be
right—but even that doesn’t begin to detail the subtle variations
you can craft by auditioning different Blend, Era, and Drive levels.
What you’ll definitely find by spinning the knobs are these sonic
jewels: a fat, ’60s-style compression that evokes vintage Urei and
LA2A units, a frizzy buzz that simulates overdriving, say, the mic
preamp on an old Trident mixing console; stunning, amp-like mid-range
grit (think Ampeg SVT rumbling on a wood stage); and near-distortion
with frayed lows and smeared mids.
Adding to the coolness is that you can tweak the Blend to completely
pummel your bass tone with processed madness, or just sneak
in a taste of overdrive to a predominantly clean low end. There’s
almost no end to the versatility of the Vintage Microtubes, and, furthermore,
the pedal’s Level knob has enough volume on tap to send
your bass solos and/or signature riffs right over the top of the mix.
If you love experimenting with different overdrive characteristics,
you could slap down the bucks to work in a recording studio
populated with racks of vintage signal processors. Or you could
borrow every compression, preamp, and overdrive plug-in you can
get your hands on. Or you could plug in a Vintage Microtubes and
be done with it.
Pros Accurately emulates tape compression,
old-school console preamp
drive, and amp overdrive
Bottom line A no-fuss option for crafting
versatile overdrive tones.