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What pedal can do SUBTLE overdrive?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Sparkdog, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. Sparkdog

    Sparkdog Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    Hey all you pedal-philes, I need your expertise!

    I've read a million threads and listened to a million clips but still haven't found what I'm looking for (apologies to U2)

    I am a guy that hates distortion on bass, I mean really hates it. But I now play with a trio that is doing more and more hard rock and an overdriven gritty tone is really called for. To that end I have been shopping for a pedal to cover it. I have a Sansamp VT Bass on order and from what I have read on TB it sounds like that should do a convincing SVT tone, right?

    I have also demo'd a bunch of overdrive pedals, including:

    Fulltone Mosfet Bass Drive
    EBS Billy Sheehan
    Pigtronix Fat Bass
    Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff Pi
    MXR Bass Fuzz Deluxe
    Aguilar Aggro
    Xotic Bass Boost
    Boss ODB-3

    My complaint with all these pedals is that I really could not dial in a subtle overdrive that would still cut through the mix. It's basically clean, or fuzzed out and muddy (to me anyway)

    To my surprise, the Boss actually came closest to giving me a crunchy overdrive that didn't overwhelm the solid underlying bass tone, so I bought it. It works, but I'm still not completely happy with it.

    I've learned that there MUST be EQ on the pedal or I can't get what I want from it. The Darkglass BK-7 sounds like it would be great for me, but I just can't justify the price for a pedal I use so sparingly.

    I'm hoping the VT Bass is the ticket, but are there any others I should check out?

    Just so you know what I'm using, my setup is a Lakland DJ4 with Dimarzio Model J pickups, Roto 66 strings, running into a Gallien Krueger MB212 combo. I play with a pick for most of the material, but lots of finger style too.
  2. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    I can dial in a nice subtle OD with my Agro - but I have it rolled WAY back.

    I had a VT bass and was underwhelmed. I don't know why - it just didn't do it for me.
  3. johnbegone

    johnbegone Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I think you'll find it in the VT bass. Note that the Character / Drive / Mids knobs are all kind of related to eachother and it takes some finagling to really figure out the sound you want (or you might get very lucky and figure it out right away). For a subtle / tube like drive I run Character at 11, Drive at 1 and scoop the mids a bit. You can hear samples of that in my preamp shootout page, which might just be a good resource for you in general.

    I use the Fairfield Circuitry Barbershop to add just a bit more drive to my VT. Sounds very transparent, fits right in. If you're just looking for a subtle overdrive on your current amp's sound, you might just look at the Barbershop (without the VT). I use the VT for pretty heavily tone coloration. The way I have my amp setup, it sounds very bland without the VT on.
  4. srcTW

    srcTW Practicing my tail off Supporting Member

    Nov 16, 2013
    Houston Metro Area
    Darkglass B3K does this. Blend and drive knobs allow you to find the right amount of dirt and it is sensitive to your plucking dynamics.
  5. p0k

    p0k I play the bass and design things.

    Feb 6, 2007
    Brockton, MA
    Not sure everyone would say this, but I'm able to get very subtle overdrive sounds with my Darkglass B3K. Keep the gain low, and roll back the blend and it gets very subtle...at least with my passive jazz bass anyway.
    FaithNoMan likes this.
  6. p0k

    p0k I play the bass and design things.

    Feb 6, 2007
    Brockton, MA
    beat me to it!
  7. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Blend is the key. Being able to mix in a little overdrive while keeping most of your dry signal.
    jimmyb likes this.
  8. Happynoj


    Dec 5, 2006
    I like turtles.
    Try the Digitech Bad Monkey. Its super cheap, does a nice subtle drive, has a two band EQ and is green. What more could you want?!
  9. jimmybc91


    Oct 8, 2013
    Los Angeles
    +1 blending is definetly what you need here.

    On another note, my EBS Valvedrive does this perfectly! It's like having a tube preamp on your pedalboard, not much colouring.

    Also +1 on the B3k, I own the VMT and it can also have a grittier tone, only complaint is that it favors the mid range a lot.
  10. JonnyAngle

    JonnyAngle Dropping Acid Pedal Etching .com Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Maple Grove, MN
    Try the Fairfield Barbershop. There is no eq, however it's extremely transparent.
  11. Randy S

    Randy S

    Jul 7, 2008
    Western WA
    Tech21 VTBass DI.
  12. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I'll add the Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive to the list. It has both blend and EQ. As a side "benefit" for you, once you set the blend to around 50/50 or so, the pedal is fairly subtle even at high gain levels.
  13. groovaholic

    groovaholic The louder the better. Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI
    The Way Huge Pork Loin EXCELS at subtle "leave it on all the time" drive...
  14. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Another recommendation for the Fairfield Circuitry Barbershop. It's an always-on pedal for me.
  15. Going against the grain here, but I say you do not need a blend with a subtle overdrive, unless it's compensating for an inherent lack of low end in the drive circuit. A mild overdrive that naturally keeps the low end will always sound better IMHO. I've tried blending all kinds of overdrives, with an Xotic X-Blender and an SFX X&M, and never liked the result.

    I do however, find a blend essential on heavy distortion / fuzz, mainly to retain some dynamics.

    And I wouldn't prescribe a Darkglass B3K or Vintage for someone after mild transparent OD, they are far too coloured for my liking.
    Catbuster likes this.
  16. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

    Even though my current goto pedal for mild OD is a Darkglass B3K, I think you may actually like the Way Huge Pork Loin better.
  17. RedMoses

    RedMoses Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2012
    Yes it does but its not subtle on your wallet. So far this is the best drive pedal ive used in terms of keeping the "Booty" of your tone when engaged and that is most important as most of the drive pedals ive used suck all the Bass goodness out of your tone. The Woolly Mamouth retains Booty but it is NOT subtle at all.

    I will say this, i find myself wanting just a bit more drive on the B3K and i also find it to be a bit bright but otherwise it is the finest drive pedal ive used to date and it worth the coin.
  18. The Pork Loin does roll off a lot of top end from what I remember though, the OP wanted something that cuts through without sounding muddy.

    If you have the VT Bass, I would set that to a cleanish tone, then use a dirty boost to kick it up a gear when required.

    I've been quite impressed with the Earthquaker Devices Speaker Cranker lately for this. It might not be quite what you were looking for, and only has one knob (gain), but set all the way down it gives a nice subtle drive with no low end loss and a slight upper mid / treble boost. I was using a Phat Phuk B into my VT, but the Speaker Cranker replaced it, and it's cheap too!
  19. JimmyThunder

    JimmyThunder Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2008
    New Hampshire
    +1 on the Bad Monkey, or even better, the modded Badder Monkey
  20. My favorites for subtle are the Fairfield Barbershop and Accountant, the Recovery Electric and 9 volt Disaster, the EQD Monarch (at minimal gain), and Greyscale Devices Amulet. I've also heard very good things about the Wampler Euphoria in this kind of role.