This is a big one… a very very big one. Bigger than a Volca, almost as large as my MicroBrute, and weighting in at almost 1,5 kg. This pedal is a monster, not only in its name, but also in its size and sound.
The Vintage Tube Monster, Model VT999, from Behringer is a relatively old overdrive pedal, but it is still available from a number of dealers, such as amazon and amazon UK.The most prominent feature of this pedal is the presence of a BUGERA 12AX7B vacuum tube on it. This should give the pedal an analogue distortion feel to it. The valve rests on a special socket (not soldered) and can be easily replaced by any other 12AX valve. Indeed, I was planning on buying one Electro Harmonix Voc Rock 12AX7 valve and check if changing the valve affects the tone, but shipping it to my address costs more than the valve itself, so I gave up on the idea and reviewed the pedal only with its original valve. Regarding valve equipment, many people advocate that valves must be “burned in”, i. e., they should run for about 48 hours before judging their effect, since this treatment allows their inner components to somehow loose some additional resistivity/conductance from the factory environment. So my impressions were taken only after having the pedal on and playing for about 48 hours, although I didn’t notice any change in the tone comparing with my original out-of-the-box initial testing.
There is another issue with using a tube on the pedal: tubes usually require large voltages to become conductive… Considering what I’ve seen about tube amplifiers for headphones, I cannot be sure that the valve is actually doing anything in the pedal. Indeed this is a 9V pedal with a nominal consumption at about 120 mA, which give about 2.25 W of electrical power. If somehow this power can be converted to enough voltage to drive the valve (about 168 V), the current going through the valve is only about 10 mA, which then must be amplified in order to give the range of voltages and currents compatible with other audio equipment. I’m not saying this is impossible, but perhaps the contribution from the tube might not be all that important. Nevertheless, there is a counter example on YouTube from a guy who tried different valves on this pedal and apparently obtained slightly different tones.
Another negative aspect of the pedal is the fact that the different knobs on it have different feel to the touch: some provide a nice resistance to travel, while others appear to be too fiddly and prone to move at the slightest touch.
Having said that, the pedal does sound great. The three EQ knobs (Bass/Mid/Treble) give you a large amount of freedom to sculpt your sound. The Gain knob controls the overdrive amount and there is also a Master volume knob you can (or to be clearer: you HAVE to) use to prevent this pedal from clipping. This is a loud pedal, and this master knob is a welcome feature. Increasing the Gain a little bit, and the Bass quite a lot gave me a very creamy texture to the sound coming from the Volca Bass. Other settings gave me more distorted sounds that reminded me of some metal pedals, or bright sounds that resembled the TB-303 with a lot of distortion in traditional acid tracks. In addition to this, other sounds were robotic and metallic, and totally unexpected to come from the Volca Bass.
This may not be the pedal for everyone: it is big, and it is heavy, and it does carry a glass vacuum tube that can break. So I see it more of a studio device I can use to get unusual overdrive sounds rather than something to carry around. The build quality is not great, but it does sound good and gives you more soundscaping freedom than your average digital distortion/overdrive/tube emulation pedal, specially considering its price range (about 50 euro). If you are interested in buying one, I recommend using the following links to amazon and amazon UK. These links are part of referral program, so by using them, you are also helping me maintain and develop this site and the YouTube channel.