It is no secret Darkglass has taken the bass world by storm with their distortion pedals. With their unique gritty tone, they have almost taken the spot on many a pedal board. That being said, one of the bigger disadvantages to a Darkglass is the cost. A new Darkglass B3K or Microtubes X will run you about $200 before shipping and tax, and a used B3K will cost around $140 (at least at time of writing), and I haven't even mentioned their preamp pedals. So for someone like me who can't stomach the price of one of those pedals but wants that type of sound, I had to go looking. Which leads me to this pedal, the long since discontinued Ibanez PD7 "Phat-Hed" Bass Overdrive.
The Ibanez PD7 is more of a bass distortion than overdrive, first off. Second, it is very modern in its tone. There's no vintage wooliness about this pedal at all. The pedal has 4 knobs (drive, level, and a High-Low EQ stack) plus two switches controlling mode. These modes are clean (where the pedal acts as a quasi-EQ pedal), overdrive (which is more of a warm distortion), and distortion (itself a more highly pitched, trebley distortion). The attack settings change the overall tone shaping of the pedal to accentuate attack. Mode 1 scoops the mids, boosts the high end, and adds a layer of background distortion, making it react a lot like a Darkglass in a way. Mode 2 is a larger scoop, though some high mids do get accentuated, and the character of the background distortion changes slightly. Mind you, this will get you the grindy, clanky distortion that everyone loves these days, though there are some drawbacks. The background distortion on any of the modes cannot be controlled. This means you are stuck with the background distortion whether you like it or not. If Ibanez were to reissue this pedal, having two small knobs controlling the amount and character of distortion would be a welcome improvement. Second is that there is way too much scooping going on at times with the attack modes, meaning if you want to run more mids you'll have to crank the mids on your amp, which might screw up your clean tone. I feel like a Boss Metal Zone style 3 band EQ with mid sweep would be much more beneficial and would be easier to dial in tones (though of course not to the extremes that the infamous Metal Zone performs). I did feel that running a more basic overdrive into the pedal (in my case, an EBS Multidrive) did help fatten up the sound, but of course this didn't help with any clean tones with the pedals disengaged. Keep this in mind if you're going to be running this pedal all the time or if you'll be turning it on and off.
Construction is very good. There is a good amount of weight to it, comparable to a Boss pedal. The "Tonelok" recessable knobs are a genius idea and I am surprised it has not caught on. Having the option to set the knobs and recess them so they are harder to move is great and I feel that more manufacturers should do this. The pedal itself appears to be made of aluminum, and the writing, while a bit thin, is legible. The switches feel a bit cheap but considering this pedal wasn't expensive new (I am guessing around $70 new; these are again long discontinued) this was expected. The same could be said about the knobs; while the potentiometers have decent resistance the knobs feel cheap and thin, though since they do recess into the pedal I am less concerned about breakage than if they couldn't. Battery access is easy; just push the button on the bottom of the pedal and the footswitch springs open.
Then there is the question about value. A while back these pedals could be found for $50 and lower, at some points even around $30. However, this is not the case now. They have been climbing in value. A cursory glance at Reverb shows them around $106 (which I think is way too high considering I got mine from Guitar Center's used section of their website for $70), while on eBay the cheapest is at $70 (before shipping and tax). As to why I think they are going up I can only think of a few things:
1: They're out of production (but for instance the Ibanez SM7 Smash Box overdrive from the same Tonelok series seems to be hovering still around $50-$60).
2: They're cheap (for the time being) alternatives to modern distortions, especially of the Darkglass variety.
3: Youtuber tax (Patrick Hunter did a review of one of the PD7 for his "finds $50 and under" series though these have been going up in price anyway and I doubt that the influence he had was as great as other examples.
Right now I think these are great, more inexpensive alternatives to the likes of Darkglass. However, with these going up and with more used Darkglass pedals appearing I suspect the value of these as alternatives to said Darkglass pedals would go down. With all that said, I would love to see Ibanez reissue this pedal with some changes. The distortion mode switch could be changed into a simple knob to change distortion character. Two other small knobs can be added to the attack section to change the amount and character of background distortion added to the attack. A 3 band EQ with a mid sweep would make it a lot easier to dial in tones. With all of this, Ibanez could legitimately have a Darkglass competitor, especially if reasonably priced.
Would I recommend this pedal? Sure; it's a good cost effective method of getting grindy, clanky tones without breaking the bank. Would I recommend one over a Darkglass if a Darkglass - or the inevitable clone of a Darkglass - were available? Probably not. Will this stay on my board? Sure, until said Darkglass comes around. But for now I'll enjoy those grindy tones, with all the quirks the PD7 provides.
A possible cost-effective alternative to any modern style Darkglass pedal
- 4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Feb 7, 2021
- Build Quality:
- + Sturdy construction
- + Recessable knobs are a great feature and more pedal manufacturers should be doing this
- + Can get some great grindy modern distortion tones, comparable to some more expensive pedals
- + Still relatively cheap despite being out of production for a while now
- - Attack modes can scoop out mids a bit too much depending on amp and bass settings
- - "background distortion" on attack modes cannot be controlled
- - Getting harder to find due to it being out of production
- Pedal Type:
- 1 9V
- EQ / Controls:
- 4 knobs; Drive, EQ (low and high), and Level. Two switches underneath knobs allow to choose between distortion type (clean, overdrive, distortion) and attack setting (accentuates high frequencies while scooping mids and adding a thin layer of distortion)
- Ibanez's Tonelok pedals have knobs that can be pushed into the pedal so they have less of a chance being moved out of setting.