In case you haven't heard about Darkglass Electronics, they have a tidy selection of dirt boxes to cover all your dirt needs. They are known for clarity and especially excellent compatibility with bass guitar, thanks to their liberal use of a Blend control on most of their devices. Guys as wide ranging as Jamiriqoui's Paul Turner and Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse use their stuff, so you know it must be at least a wide ranging product line, right? All within the realms of dirt though, but since dirt of some kind is usually the basis of anyone's sound, this is a good thing.
Controls and features:
The Vintage Deluxe is based on the previously released Darkglass Microtubes Vintage. An interesting overdrive pedal capable of many tones, spanning through many decades. With a suite of additional controls and features, the Vintage Deluxe takes things more than just one step further. Like the Microtubes Vintage, the Vintage Deluxe has Blend, Era, Level and Drive controls. Topping it all off with a full three band EQ and a new XLR direct output and a 1/4” Parallel output. These features take the Vintage Deluxe beyond overdrive and into the realm of preamp. Ultimately their goal was to improve upon the Microtubes Vintage, while still providing the natural dynamic response of classic tube amps and tape machines. The important question is, did they accomplish this goal? Don't worry, I'll get to that in time!
The Level control does the obvious volume duties and Drive sets the amount of grit and saturation. The full three band EQ sets the Bass, Middle, or Treble to flat at 12:00 for each knob. With ability to cut or boost each frequency 12dB! Era is a control completely unique to Darkglass. It's highly interactive with the Drive control to bring you through 70's, 80's, and even 90's heavy tones. Anytime we get a drive pedal in at Rogue Guitar Shop with a Blend control, I always get excited. For bass players especially, and I find it nice to be able to add varying amounts of clean signal to my grit with guitar.
Now lets plug the Vintage Deluxe in to see what it's all about. The instructions actually have no suggested settings, instead blank control layouts for you to put your own settings into. This asks the musician to dial in their own sounds and invites us to find our own way with the pedal. Very cool thing if you ask me. I start with the Drive at 9:00, Level at 1:00, EQ neutral at 12:00, Era all the way down, and Blend all the way up. With Blend all the way up, you get 100% pedal drive signal blended in. I'm greeted with a very warm low gain overdrive that immediately got me to turn the Mids up a hair and play some blues. Turning the Blend back counter-clockwise to noon, and the Drive up just a little bit from 9:00. I am really digging the low gain drive tone of this thing with the blend dialed back to let some clean in. Lots of note definition, folks.
With the Era set back all the way, it sounds very vintage, meaty and warm. Turning the Era control to about 11:00 yields some awesome “80's like” tones. In this setting, bringing the Drive past 12:00 yields heavier tones. Higher Drive settings with this particular Era setting immediately make me want to play some New Wave of British Heavy Metal tunes! Era past 12:00 brings more modern tones, along with the Drive high can yield tighter very tube like distortion sounds. Era set past 12:00 with the drive low yields a more crisp and slightly less warm tones. Very useful for certain sounds, for sure. I know bass players love a Blend control on their drive pedals, I'm the same way with guitar. For this particular pedal, the Blend control brings in a very dynamic, less compressed sound. It also seems to bring in a little thickness, to me. As well it seems to just meld with my amp more to make the pedal even more amp like. It's like adding a different sounding drive channel to my amp, and that is a very cool thing. Lastly, I ran the thing direct into my recording interface to my DAW and it works great as a preamp and pedal platform. Retaining all of it's amp like qualities.
So to summarize everything, you get an overdrive that can knock around Tube Screamer, Blues Breaker, and Klon territory. All thanks to it's versatile EQ, including the Era control which I honestly consider part of the EQ section. All the way to almost Rat levels of gain and crunch, not quite that high gain though. But with the Drive all the way up, it sits right in the most usable section of the Rat gain range. To put it short, I dig it, I dig it a lot. It may have been designed with bass guitar in mind, but it works superbly with guitar. I thought I had seen it all here at Rogue Guitar Shop, I'll never think that again.
An overdrive pedal and beyond, used in conjunction with a mildly breaking up amp or boost, this can cover all of your grit needs.