I am using VT999 as my exclusive hi-gain / distortion effect, boosting it using a high-volume compressor and / or a separate tube dirt / overdrive stompbox, for metal riffs and rock / metal leads. I always used it with humbucker pickups.
- Construction: it is sturdy built, metal box, easy to open the bottom for changing the lamp. The pots are very smooth, they are even in action and free of anything reminding of noise. They should not be touched unintentionally, because they may turn a lot at the slightest touch. The switch is also smooth and noise-free. The box is large for the components inside, however, this appears to dissipate the lamp heat better. The metal box of VT999 is not heated compared to other lamp, more cluttered boxes I tried; one barely can feel a higher temperature when touches the area closest to the lamp.
This box is moddable. The lamp, which has a great impact on the sound, can be changed easily. There are mods for it available on the Internet.
- Sound: in the first place, this *is* a distortion pedal. The only vintage thing I can find about it is, perhaps, the design and the fact it is using a real lamp. Whoever tells it is no more than an overdrive either does not drive it sufficiently (low guitar volume, weak pickups, no booster) or uses low gain tube in it. With moderate input signal, gain between 0 and 1 gives a tube-ish warm sound; beginning with gain at 1, the clipping buzz starts occurring discreetly. No middle ground for round, crunch sound. It goes from overdrive to high-gain distortion; for crunch to fuzzy sounds I am using a different tube pedal.
To mention that the Tube Monster's distortion is raw. The sound is not tweaked to be listenable without an amp or amp / speaker simulator, but that's what it should be, in my opinion: with the proper setup, the distortion sounds good and it is very defined, clear, not muddy. The stock, Bugera tube sounds good, just I found it better for my taste, fuller and subjectively more balanced using Ruby Tubes and Electro Harmonics 12AX7 valves. They sound neither too bassy or too treble in this device, and, looking at the waveform in an editor, their attack is neither cut nor oversized against the sustain.
- Features: the noise gate works all the way. It can be set so high it cuts off all sound. Turning the EQ pots makes a real difference and they are not too extreme, neither in range nor in the bandwidths they affect, in my opinion. The sound with the effect engaged and all EQ pots set to middle has more highs and mids, and less bass than the bypassed signal, but it can be tweaked to get close to it, with some differences in the midrange area.
- Cons: the only minuses I could find with this stompbox are almost insignificant. They are: the the lack of tone neutrality I talked about above, which probably might not be possible to keep in order to obtain a proper distortion sound, then it's the non-resistant pots and, finally, the bending open of the lamp holding spring ends, when the lamp is changed often.