Established in Finland in 2008, Darkglass Electronics is one of the world’s better known manufacturers of high-end bass gear. Founded by creative leader Douglas Castro and sales manager Hugo Villarroel, Darkglass’ primary motivation is to produce innovatively designed, unique sounding pedals and preamps.
“[When we started] our products fitted perfectly into a gap in the bass market and that was key to becoming internationally recognised in just a couple of years,” says Villarroel. “Today, we have a presence in more than 50 countries around the world and in the case of Australia, the Bass Centre is our exclusive distributor.”
Villarroel and Castro are both bass players themselves, which is what originally connected them. “It´s funny how things turn out, because I was actually one of his very first clients,” Villarroel says. “I was in a hard rock band and experimenting to find the identity of my own sound, but after trying everything in the market I couldn’t find that special device capable of performing the sound in my head. As a bass player, that search was over when I met him and his first creation, the Microtubes B3K [overdrive pedal]. We became friends and later partners in crime.”
The Darkglass range now encompasses everything from straightforward overdrive and compressor pedals to more advanced preamps and amplifiers. “We have three groups of products: amplifiers, pedals, and on-board preamps,” says Villarroel. “In the pedal world, we have the ultra series, the B7K and Deluxe pedals, the B3K, Duality Fuzz and the Super Symmetry compressor. Finally, we have the Tone Capsule preamp. This on-board preamp has a very unique layout based in the versatile EQ of the B7K preamp pedal.”
Products like the Microtubes B7K and the Vintage Ultra make it a legitimate option to forgo a traditional amplifier setup, saving bassists a whole lot of hassle when it comes to lugging gear to gigs. However, rather than emulating or replacing other amplifiers on the market, the preamps offer a unique Darkglass distinction. “Of course Orange and Ampeg are legendary brands when it comes to that ballsy bass, and we respect them very much. But our approach is to offer the best tone, portability and value to bass players in a compact pedal. That is also what drove us to design our own amplifier, expanding the range of possibilities with our own amp and future cabinets.”
The amp in question is the Microtubes 900 – the latest creation added to the Darkglass Electronics range. It’s a 900-watt bass amplifier with an analogue preamp. “It has a tasty clean channel and the Microtubes engine capable of giving the grit of the B3K overdrive or the warm valve vibes of the Vintage Microtubes,” Villarroel says. “There were many bass players asking for this for a long time, but what really motivated us is the same thing that always inspires us – to make the best products we can possibly make. In this case we wanted to make the best Class-D bass amplifier in the market. Sounds like a simple and very concrete goal, but getting there was not easy.
“From Doug´s original idea to the final product that can be seen today, it took many months of work. We all had to push ourselves and from this process we learned so many things that’ll have a direct impact on the future of the company. I’d like to believe that the amplifier, and cabinets we already designed for it and other projects, will set the standard for bass in the near future.”
There’s a lengthy list of recognised bassists that use and endorse Darkglass products. While the majority of them are affiliated with heavier genres – such as members of Cannibal Corpse, Meshuggah, Faith No More and Karnivool – notable exceptions include Jamiroquai’s Paul Turner and The Strokes’ Nikolai Fraiture.
“The Darkglass family is big and most of them are friends or at least close people. What I really love about it is that besides the famous factor, they are people that actually understand our approach and share it their own way. When someone such as Billy Gould [Faith No More] tells you after trying out your amp, ‘Man this is the sound that I was looking for. After 25 years, finally,’ we cannot feel more blessed about it. We are humble enough to appreciate their love and support since our beginning. Superstars or not, they are so close with what we do that they always suggest new ideas, projects and their positive vibes are all around.
“Friendship and mutual care is the word that could describe our relationship. We don’t have signed contracts or weird exclusivity deals. At the end of the day, if you use our stuff you will keep using it for a long, long time.”
BY NORTHMORE PUGIN
Darkglass is distributed throughout Australia by Bass Centre. For more information visit basscentre.com.au.