There have been other attempts to do the crossover bass effect thing (, but it seems Darkglass have really hit a sweet spot with their most recent design, the Miccrotubes X.
I'd like to break this review into a few parts: Concept, Use, and Tone.
1 - Concept
As a concept, the crossover/distortion is a relatively new option for pedals, but has a long pedigree of studio use. If you've recorded heavy bass tones it's more than likely that your engineer has used similar parallel processing techniques using plug-ins and/or outboard gear to achieve gnarly yet articulate tones by splitting your tone into high and low tracks, and adding drive to the highs while leaving the low relatively unaffected before mixing the two back together.
Darkglass take this whole signal chain and cramit into a single stompbox, making it readily accessible for the average performing musician. In my limited experience, distortion/OD/Fuzz has always been a compromise: lacking gain, overwhelming lows, bees-in-a-box hissing, or big $$ to invest in a crossover rig. This new circuit takes the compromise out of playing bass with high gain and opens up far more extremes in playing.
I'd highly recommend trying this pedal based on what it does alone. The tonal quality is what makes it truly remarkable, however.
2 - Use
As mentioned, this pedal serves players the same tools engineers have at their disposal while processing your tracks; however, the Microtubes X does this without introducing undue complexity. There's an interview with Doug where he mentions this design has been refined from something like 15 controls down to the 6 we have now, which all feel incredibly impactful.
At the core of its functionality are the high-pass and low-pass controls, which allow the user to chose where in the EQ spectrum the distortion should kick in and cut out. I'd say more than anything else (except maybe the drive) these knobs are your primary tone shaping options. I find these controls are really intuitive and really put whatever tone I want within reach.
If you're looking for a pedal to use as a preamp, I'd probably suggest the X7 with its more robust EQ section and built in EQ. I personally use this after a Tech 21 Sansamp and an MXR M87 and find it plays together extremely well (and makes up for the shortcomings of the Sansamps limited EQ settings).
The pedal operates extremely quietly regardless of the distortion setting, which is fantastic live. The build quality is very sturdy as to be expected of Darkglass, and the switch is nice and sensitive. My only concerns are the weird placement of the 9V and the relatively cheap feeling HP/LP knobs. Also whoever designs the looks of Darkglass pedal deserves a shoutout because everything they put out look super sick.
3 - Tone
Most bass players have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Darkglass in terms of tone, and this pedal is no exception. It has a modern distortion is spades while providing a clean articulate low-end.
Admittedly since having this pedal I haven't experimented tonally too much. I was really happy with the sounds I got after a few minutes of tweaking and just kept playing. Using just a J Bass, Microtubes X, and DI, I have been able to get similar tones to Periphery and Meshuggah without too much trouble. With a subtle drive you can get some more old school metal sounds and into Geddy/Entwhistle territory. With a preamp before it, you can add some OD and get that additional clack for the modern tight death metal sound (CC, Cryptopsy, Rivers of Nihil).
This pedal also does a great job of ignoring the deadness of my strings and making fingerstyle a more viable option when you need impactful articulate sounds.
Darkglass is a company started to build products that offer excellent heavy bass tone. Despite their impressive success in all areas of gear lately, Darkglass maintain the primary benefit of a niche builder- understanding their customer.
The Microtubes X is a really versatile pedal that embraces the latest trends in heavy bass tones while making control and tone sculpting easy for any player. While I have some concerns with the durability of knobs and placement of the 9V, they really are insignificant to the over benefits of this pedal.
I'd say owning a Darkglass pedal is essential for anyone playing bass in heavy bands in 2019, but the Microtubes X may be the most practical of their product line to date.
Darkglass Microtubes X
Bass Preamp - Stomp with integrated parallel processing for distortion