The Darklgass B3K overdrive has been the rave of a lot of bass players on the forums for that past year. So, after reading about so many people praising (and practically drooling over) this pedal, I decided to finally buy one to see what all the hype was about. It's not an inexpensive pedaI at $249, so bought mine from Prymaxe Vintage during one of their 20% off coupon sales, and got it for $199 which seemed pretty reasonable. When it arrived a couple of days later, with much anticipation, I plugged it into several of my amp & cab combinations. After going through all of it settings many times to give it a fair chance, it seems that I'm in the minority, since I didn't care for the tone of this pedal at all, and for me, it was a huge disappointment. I really wanted to like this pedal, but I sold it two days later with absolutely no regrets, so I'm definitely not one of the 'fanboys' that think Darkglass pedals are the greatest things since sliced bread.
The pedal's knobs consist of a blend, drive and level controls, as well as two three way toggle switches, a 3 way 'attack' (flat & two bright settings) and three way pre-gain low end boost switch labeled 'Grunt'). At first I thought that something was wrong with the 'Attack' switch since one of the settings was nearly ineffective, but found that it's bright boost frequency was so high that it just didn't come thru my non-crossed-over cabs, so to me, the extra setting is useless, since I don't care for overdrives running thru cabs with tweeters. Besides that minor issue, several other, more important things bothered me about the tone of pedal. First, I found that it did a weird scoop to the midrange, making it sound artificial and processed overall. Second, the distortion had way too fine of grit for my taste, adding another element to the artificial feel of its tone. A scooped mid with a fizzy top end is not what I look for in an overdrive. In my opinion, the blend control is kind of useless, since the pedal doesn't really lose much, if any, low end, but it doesn't offer all that much drive in the first place to be blending a unity gain clean signal in with it.
To me, it's kind of silly to have 'microtubes' in its name, since this pedal DOES NOT sound at all like any tube amp that I've ever owned or played through, and I've owned a ton of them. IMO, those that do think that it sounds like one have never played thru a real tube amp and are either kidding themselves, or just believing what others that haven't have written on the internet.. Obviously, a distortion/overdrive pedal's tone is a very subjective thing, but this one just didn't float my boat at all. It basically has everything that I don't like in an overdrive pedal, so if your taste is anything like mine, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.
In conclusion, although I may be in a small minority in my feelings about this one, I have read a few other posts on that feel the same way about about it, and they have described it exactly the same way. I was going to try their Vintage Microtubes too, but after hearing that it didn't have that much overdrive available and had the same fine-grained grit, I'm going to have to pass on that one, as well as their B7K. Now that I own more than 250 overdrives, I've found that they are designers like Bjorn Juhl (BJFE), Pete Cornish, Dave Barber, Brian Wampler, Roger Mayer and Paul Cochrane that seem to design their pedals for a sound that I prefer, while there are others have ears that must be tuned differently, that I don't care for their circuit's voice at all.
On their website one of the reviewers says: “Truly bone crushing overdrive pedals. Seriously, this is the heaviest sound I’ve ever had. Beyond stoked.”
The heaviest sound you've ever had? All I can say to that statement is that you need to get out more. ;-)
UPDATED (SEE POST BELOW
I just bought another B3K that will be here later this week. Although I wasn't thrilled with the first one, I did like it A LOT better than the Darkglass Vintage Microtubes. The latest version has been updated with a hi-cut filter (which was my biggest complaint about my previous one having a fizzy top end). Hopefully, this latest version will be more to my liking, and I'll update this page once I've had a chance to put it thru its paces.
The latest version arrived today so I spent about an hour with it running it through all of its settings with my P bass. I do like it better than my first USA made one, but unfortunately I'm still not impressed with it. It still has this weird 'honky' thing going on in the midrange that I'm not that fond of, so while it's definitely better, I'm not sure that it's worth keeping (for me) since I have a lot of other OD pedals that I like a LOT better. I have a feeling that it'll sound better with a Jazz bass so I'll try it with a couple of my JB's next.
Since this pedal's tone is so highly 'colored', I was wondering exactly what the OD,distortion side of the pedal's frequency response looked like, so I ran this TrueRTA frequency response test on it with the gain down and the blend set fully clockwise. After analyzing it, it's no wonder that no amount of additional eq can give you anywhere near a smooth and natural response. Ouch!