It is no secret that Darkglass is the brand to have when it comes to bass effects, especially when concerning metal. Their drives have become synonymous with modern sounding, grindy, clanky tones that almost every metal band is looking for. It is also no secret that the effects are not cheap; at $200 US (before tax and shipping) the Microtubes X (and their other small pedals) is on the entry level side of Darkglass' product range. However, the Microtubes X is easily worth its price point, given that it simplifies a much more complicated - and expensive - crossover rig set up.
The Microtubes X features six controls; four main controls (level, gain, mix, and a mids control), plus two mini-pots for the low pass and high pass filters respectively. The pedal effectively splits the signal in two paths. The low and low mid frequencies are set clean, while the high and high mid frequencies are distorted. Per Darkglass, the high pass controls the cutoff frequency to be distorted. Setting the High Pass to a low setting will result in a woolier, fuzzier tone while increasing it will focus the distortion, making it more highly defined. The Low Pass controls the cutoff frequency (per Darkglass again) to be mixed back into the high pass side. Set low and you'll get sub bass frequencies as clean; turn it up and your mids will be preserved. The Mix knob controls the mixture of the two filters. Unlike other pedals, there is no underlying clean tone that can be mixed back in. To me this isn't an issue as the Microtubes X is a very defined sounding pedal (and some clean mids can be mixed back in using the low pass filter) but do consider this fact if you want a clean tone underneath. Mids controls the amount of mid frequencies present, with ±12db boost/cut. Turn clockwise to boost; counter-clockwise to scoop.
As said before, this is a modern sounding distortion. Tone is sharp, defined, but at the same time grindy and punchy. If you're looking for a djent tone, this is the pedal to go with. Tone shaping on the whole is very good. With the low pass cranked and the high pass set around 2:00 I can get a very clear tone; add in distortion and set the mix at noon and mids at 2:00 and I have that very modern sound that everybody is chasing. Dial back the distortion and you'll have a tight sounding overdrive; cranking it will give a searing, saturated tone. It also stacks rather nicely; having a Boss ODB-3 in front gooses it a bit further, a Joyo Uzi throws a bit more heat at it while tightening up the low end slightly, and the EBS Multidrive tightens it as well in addition to fattening it up a bit. Having a mid level control is nice, as the pedal does sound a bit scooped out of the box, though I do wish there was either a mid sweep, low and high controls, or all three to give even more flexibility; I guess that's where the more expensive X7 and X Ultra pedals come into play. And oh yeah, this pedal isn't really meant for anything vintage; consider the Microtubes B3K or Vintage Microtubes.
*Build quality is very good though this is to be expected. The plastic mini-pots controlling the filters is a cause for concern with reliability, however I don't see this as too much of an issue if you treat the pedal correctly. I have heard of the soft footswitch failing on other Darkglass pedals, but this seems to be a rare occurrence and my pedal works flawlessly so far. The one major issue design-wise when it comes to this pedal is the 9v power jack. I hate side mounted power jacks, and this one is in the worst possible spot, being right next to the input jack of the pedal towards the bottom. Given the majority of other pedals have the power jack at the top this seems bizarre and contrarian. I feel like with Darkglass equipment everything is designed with a purpose, so why does the Microtubes X (and the rest of their pedals barring the Ultra series) have the jack on the side? This makes absolutely no sense.
*ADDENDUM September 8, 2021: I've had this pedal for a while now and while my review does still stand I do want to mention the footswitch has become loose. Normally this wouldn't be a problem - just tighten the hex nut until the switch becomes tight - but tightening the nut will also cause the footswitch to spin around with it. I have heard of Darkglass footswitches being finicky and being a bit of an Achilles' heal by potentially breaking, so this is a bit concerning. The fact that this is one of the most expensive pedals I own and has this issue while my el cheapo Joyos and used EHXs do not is a problem that is worth bringing up. I also noticed several of the nuts holding the jacks becoming loose. This isn't a problem as they were tightened up easily, but again, it is worth pointing out. A premium pedal should not have build quality issues of an entry level pedal (wonky footswitch, loose parts), especially if the entry level pedal is built better.
And then there is value. Put short, the Microtubes X feels like the only pedal of its kind. It has a unique tone that is hard to replicate otherwise. Ibanez has the Phat Hed PD7, which also can sound modern and does the grindy, clanky thing that the X does but isn't a crossover type pedal and its underlying clean tone is almost impossible to control, and is discontinued and thus rising in price. Boss' ODB-3 does have a modern edge to it, but the tone is wildly different from the Microtubes X. Suffice it to say that if you were to try to replicate the tone of the Microtubes X you'd probably be spending the same amount of money trying to replicate it compared to outright buying it. Play your cards right and you can score this pedal for around $160 before shipping. Pricey, yes, but it seems that Darkglass stuff does hold its value.
In short, the Microtubes X is pretty much the distortion to have currently. It is a bit expensive, but it is so worth it. There is a reason why Darkglass is so popular, and it is because they produce quality equipment that people want to buy. The X here is no exception, and I thus recommend it.
Darkglass Microtubes X
- 4.6/5, 4.6 from 2 reviews
Bass Preamp - Stomp with integrated parallel processing for distortion
A metal distortion for bass done correctly
- 4.75/5, 4.75 out of 5, reviewed May 21, 2021
- Build Quality:
- + Gives that modern, grindy distortion that everybody wants
- + Intuitive controls
- + Soft footswitch
- + Large gain range that sounds great no matter the amount set
- - Pants-on-head stupid 9v jack placement
- - Plastic mini control knobs feel somewhat cheap
- - Could use a bit more tone shaping control given the price
- - A bit pricey at $200 US
- - Footswitch becomes loose way too easily
A distortion for those who know better
- 4.5/5, 4.5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 5, 2019
- Build Quality:
- + Simplified crossover features, excellent familiar distortion, small footprint
- - Weird placement of the 9V jack, plastic HP/LP knobs
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.One member found this helpful.
- Pedal Type:
- None (adapter only)
- EQ / Controls:
- Level, Drive, Mix, Mids, Low-Pass, High-Pass
- Processes distortion separately on high and low bands and allows user to chose the crossover point.
- Other Specs:
- Less featured single stop version of X7.
* From Microtubes website