Begged, Borrowed or Stolen #1 – Behringer Vintage Tube Monster VT999

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This new feature is gear that I’ve essentially borrowed from peers and students to do a quick review for your amusement. I promise nothing was actually stolen, honest. The first pedal for this feature comes from a student via the liquidation stock of a local guitar store. Let’s take a look at this pedal.

Overview

This pedal is part of an interesting development from Behringer, as it isn’t a ‘clone’ of another brands design, in fact it has been designed by a team in Germany. The result is a chunky, retro-styled pedal which utilities an 12ax7 tube for a portion of its gain, a three band EQ, optional noise gate and a hard-wire bypass.The pedal requires 250mA of power and comes with a dedicated power supply and has a master power switch. The active three band EQ give a lot of tonal control although extremes can always be harsh on the ears. The noise gate has a small pot to adjust the threshold of the gate, and works rather well although I didn’t find the noise-floor to be of great concern it’s actually rather quiet unless set to the highest gain and EQ settings.

The use of tubes in pedals is nothing new and is still popular with the Blackstar HT pedals and offerings from Vox (years ago I had a Vox Cooltron Big Ben Overdrive pedal, very cool). The problem with using tubes in pedals is that the 9v power supply means the tube isn’t receiving the voltage required to obtain the usual pre-amp gain sound. That doesn’t mean it isn’t impacting the pedals tone, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’ll have quite the same characteristics. I have split this review into two uses for this pedal, as a traditional overdrive for a tube amp (a Tiny Terror in this case) and as a valve gain sound on top of a clean solid state sound (in this case an unforgiving and pedal hating Roland JC20E).

Solid State Test

As I mentioned earlier the amp for this test is a small vintage practice amp designed by Roland the JC20E. The reason for using this amp, with its transistor clipping diodes and twin 4 inch speakers, is that it hates pedals and I’ve found if a gain pedal sounds good through this, it will sound good through almost anything else.

After setting the amp to a balanced clean sound I began with lower gain sounds (set to 1) and very quickly found that the clipping wasn’t very smooth and the EQ was harsh when set to far from 12o’clock. Not a great start. Dialling in some more gain to around 3-4 get a a chunky crunch rhythm tone, think early ACDC although still a little thin for lead work. About 6-7 we get a great a solid hard rock rhythm tone although trying to get enough mid-range bite for lead work is tricky and needs the bass boosting with the mids.

With the gain around 8 the saturation reaches the last point were it is bright and touch responsive and is great for a bit of metal by cutting the mids slightly (around 3-4) and boosting the bass (7-8) and treble (6-7). With the gain at full saturation the lows have a lot of resonance so watch your EQ. Beyond that point the gain behave  more like a fuzz pedal and it heavily saturated, I actually enjoying rolling the guitars tone off and getting some 60’s style fuzz lead tones ala Clapton and Santana.

Sadly it isn’t as responsive as the equivalent gain on most valve amps and doesn’t really clean up when rolling the volume down the way you’d expect. Instead on higher gain settings it does that power starved fuzz tone, an surprising feature. I think this gives a valve flavor to gain sounds and works well as the gain rhythm sound for clean solid state amps, personally I felt it needed another mid-boosted overdrive pedal in the front end to work for lead sounds. A respectable effort, especially for £35 and still better that most transistor pedals at that price point.

Valve Amp Test

Like many valve amp users I tend to prefer the gain sounds available within the amp. As a result I tend to use overdrive type effects to push the front end a little harder. I found the best overall setting for this type of work to be; Gain 0-1, Master 8-10, Bass 6-7, Mid 6-8 and Treble 4-7. With the amp set clean I found the boost tended to scoop the warmth out of the sound, leaving the overall treble very thin and brittle, it was a relief to turn it off again. Sadly adjusting the EQ didn’t help this as it seemed to effect of the most extreme bass and low mids. With a crunch sound dialed in on the amp the pedals boost sounded a lot better, still thinner then the bypassed signal but giving a sharp and cutting rhythm tone. With the amps gain turned up to saturation, the boost (with the treble cut down to 4) added a thick, dark boost to the gain. It’s very unlike the Tubescreamer and SD-1 type circuits with their mid heavy and bass cut boosts that guitarists have become used to.

Placing this pedal in the chain as a distortion effect yields much better results. The sound has a great bass end response which is useful for boosting 1×12 cabs with enough sharpness to cut through the mix. The only thing the pedal lacks is the high end harmonics, brilliance and clarity you get from natural distortion giving it a distinctly ‘pedal’ gain sound. The more gain that is dialed in, the better the pedal works for lead applications and thankfully it still touches on that faux 60’s fuzz lead sound I enjoyed with the solid state test.

Sample Settings – Adjust to your taste and rig.

Clean Boost – Gain 0-1, Master 8-10, Bass 6-7, Mid 6-8 and Treble 4-7

Crunch – Gain 3-6, Master 5+, Bass 6-7, Mid 6 and Treble 4.5-6

Hard Rock Rhythm – Gain 6-8, Master 3+, Bass 6-7, Mid 5-7 and Treble 4.5-6

Metal Rhythm -Gain 8-10, Master 3+, Bass 8-10, Mid 3+ and Treble 7-9

High Gain Lead – Gain 8-10, Master 3+, Bass 8-10, Mid 6-7 and Treble 7-9

Faux 60’s Fuzz – Same as Lead but with tone rolled off.

Final Thoughts

The real test for gear that I’ve borrowed is whether I’m going to need to get one for myself, and as far as this pedal goes I won’t be. I prefer, and rightly so for the money spent, my Fulltone OCD (£140 when I bought it). That being said if I had encountered this pedal years before when I was only playing solid-state amps then perhaps. It does work well for a valve-esque rock and metal rhythm tones on a budget, with more warmth then the Boss pedals retailing just above that price point. When used with a valve amp it took away the high end clarity too much for my taste and I always preferred the gain of the amp. One of the biggest problems is the need for a lot of power and given the its size the sound won’t be worth the pedal board real estate, especially given the continued rise of the micro pedals craze. Perhaps we’ll see this pedal shrunk in years to come. One area I didn’t look at was changing the valve and many users have said that this dramatically warmed up the pedal. Thanks to Pete, Tom and Angus for lending me this for a review. Guess it’s time to give it back.

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2 thoughts on “Begged, Borrowed or Stolen #1 – Behringer Vintage Tube Monster VT999

    • I only had the pedal for a couple of weeks while the owner was out of town, so sadly didn’t get a chance to try a tube swap. I’ve found when I tried tube swaps in other valve driven pedals that a 12AU7 usually gets the gain down but changes the EQ slightly. Worth a try though. Thanks for reading!

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