Gear Review: Darkglass Electronics Microtubes B3K

Darkglass Electronics Microtubes B3KFinland-based Darkglass Electronics, a company focused on bass effects and boasts handmade pedals, is the brainchild of Chilean-born Douglas Castro. Castro started the venture to create effects and tones that he heard in his head but couldn’t get with other pedals.

The company’s flagship is their Microtubes B3K Bass Overdrive, a compact pedal featuring hybrid JFET and CMOS gain stages.

Out of the Box

The Microtubes B3K arrived in bubble wrap with no documentation… a break from the norm to say the least. Castro explains that the pedal will not come with physical documentation due to ecological reasons, though PDFs will be available on the website.

When asked about it, Castro explained, “We feel very strongly about the environment, and about our responsibility as a company to pollute the least possible!”

For the same reason, the pedal no longer includes battery snaps, and runs only on a regulated negative tip 9V power supply that is not included. Not a big deal for most gear heads who have several, but if you don’t have one you’ll have to pick it up for about $10.

The pedal is smaller than I expected, and at first I was put off by the proximity of the Blend and Level knobs, though it turned out to be a non-issue. The brushed stainless steel chassis and overall construction is solid as a rock. The controls on the pedal include Blend, Level and Drive Knobs as well as an Attack switch and a Grunt switch. The Grunt switch has three settings: Fat, Thin, and Raw. All of the controls are intuitive and make it easy to dial up your effects tone and blend.

In Use

The pedal has several voices in it, ranging from warming up your tone to adding a little punch to an all out distortion. The Blend between the clean and affected signals is smooth, giving a more natural sound while not losing any low-end. Between the Blend and Level knobs, you have a lot of control over the balance of the two.

Part of the design philosophy that shines and sets the pedal apart is the lack of mid-scoop. The pedal is designed for a flat response, which allows the midrange to add growl for an aggressive grit. It also helps cut through the mix without being overbearing, even in a heavy metal setting. From there, the Grunt switch has a big role in the pedal’s tone.

The Raw setting is an aggressive yet clearly defined tone, where the Fat setting adds some heft to your sound. For a thicker fuzz, you can flip it to Fat and roll off some high end from your bass.

The only setting that didn’t melt my face was Thin, which as you can imagine, takes out a little “oomph”. It definitely has it’s place in a world where versatility is key, but I found myself gravitating towards Fat and Raw.

All of these are brightened and tightened up by the Attack switch, which acts like an “Ultra Hi” switch. The effect can be somewhat subtle, but I typically left it on to add some bite.

Bottom Line

Overall, this pedal roars. It’s got a warm touch or a mean bite that’s easy to dial in and its distinct voicing allows it to cut through the mix. The Thin setting didn’t strike me, but it certainly has its place. The pedal is a little steep at €220 (~ $330USD at press time), but great quality comes at a price and the Microtubes B3K is top notch.

For more, check out the Darkglass Electronics website.

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