If I’m being completely honest, bass gear is complicated. I mean, jeez, there’s a reason that the famed bass player John Deacon of Queen needed two extensive EQ units to get that round, but present sound. Not just that, on a gig of any measurable size, there’s so much going on in-between us plucking a string and the sound our bass makes out of the house PA system, not the least of which is having your average sound guy want you to give a DI signal pre-EQ so that your sound doesn’t resemble anything you’ve paid all that money (and weight to carry) in gear to get. I don’t think there is a more obvious example of this than trying to get a good distorted sound that’s not going to get screwed with.
It wasn’t long ago that I heard Tim Lefebvre (Tedeschi Trucks Band) using a quizzically great sounding fuzz pedal from a small company called 3Leaf Audio called the You’re Doom. (Most bass players are geeks, so I’m sure enough will get the Frisky Dingo reference…is it a bad sign that I laughed at this pedal before really evaluating it?) After hearing some of that sound, I knew I had to kick one around for a bit.
Let me quickly get the jargon out of the way. Aesthetically, the pedal is housed in metal and freakin’ heavy. Kind of like what Electro-Harmonix tries to pull off, but even more dense. The on/off light is bright and easy to see in daylight. Also, the stomp button has a fluid motion, as opposed to a direct snap like most boxes. Honestly, I like this way much better. If you’re concerned with “knowing the pedal has engaged” thanks to the snap, then refer back to my comments about the red light (as well as that it’s a fuzz pedal…you should know if it’s on). As far as specs go, the You’re Doom has four knobs on it. The two large ones are “Volume” and “Mix”, while the smaller ones are “Gain” and “Tone”. There’s also one “Shape” switch.
The “Volume” knob only affects the level of the fuzz tone, but it definitely never gets out of control. Some distortion pedals (either fuzz or overdrive) can get overall up to about 300% of the volume of my direct signal. The You’re Doom never gets insanely loud for me. This is really nice.
The “Mix” knob is also exactly what you think it is. Turn it to the left, very little distortion with your clean signal, which gets an ever so slight boost. Turn it to the right and you get nothing but distortion. A number of “modern” fuzz pedals are using a separate knob these days to add in an amount of clean signal, but this is one effect where I don’t really want to hear the reference tone independently. When you have that, you end up with the distorted signal automatically pushed to the back, and the ear draws to the clean attack. No, I want that noticeable change. If I’m going for a hairy fuzz tone, I want you to know I’m doing it!
The “Gain” knob is, to me, where the real magic in the You’re Doom lives. When the knob is all the way to the left, you experience much more chunky synth-like sounds. In all actuality, those sounds are very reminiscent of a ring modulator to me than anything else, if that makes sense. When you turn the knob right, the sound compresses and streamlines more. However, there’s absolutely no loss of clarity to it. All the mids and cutting tones are still there, but you’re getting plenty of crinkle.
The “Tone” knob is a 2-pole low pass filter that deals with the upper harmonics that the You’re Doom has great quantity and control of. It’s important to remember that this functions as a low pass filter because as you turn the knob “up”, you’re allowing more lows into the sound, which will take away more of those upper harmonics, as opposed to assuming the knob will add more of those harmonics the farther it is to the right. I’ll admit, I definitely dropped the ball trying to dial in some tones on it.
The last piece of control you have is the “Shape” switch, which is a rough-and-tumble EQ adjustment. To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of use for the down position, which is basically a mid-scoop. The up position is incredibly flat and leaves the harmonics in tact. I liked this better because I felt like I could control the harmonics with the “Tone” knob and not sacrifice the attention-grabbing mids (which are one of the things I liked best about this pedal) by applying the scoop.
Ok, so how did it do out in the field?
The package containing this pedal got picked up at 9am as I was on my way to van call for a road gig that night and I had the You’re Doom on my board by the afternoon. This…was a mistake. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but to really use this, you’ve got to know how to dial it in and then make it work with your bass. Spencer at 3 Leaf has made this not a bad thing by making the functions of the unit easy to understand with the one-sheet manual. There are some really interesting tidbits in there that we’ll get to later. Very helpful.
Once I got a general working tone established, I played a couple of things by myself to see how it held up. The first thing, I think, any self-respecting fan of fuzz bass should do is try playing at least the opening section of Cliff Burton’s “Anasthesia (Pulling Teeth)” from Metallica’s debut album. That was played with an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff pedal, clear and crunchy. The You’re Doom handled the notes with an even greater clarity and definition to the notes than I thought could have come out of it. Every note, played at a quick pace, had a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
When it was actually on the gig, the You’re Doom had some really great applications. On the road with Sean McConnell, I had the gain knob mostly to the left and was getting a nice, overdrive sound without being too much. Then, rolling the gain up much higher, I was able to have some dastardly sounding long swells from the D on the B-string. That was very much what you would get out of a very distorted low organ note. On a pop/country/rock cover gig, I put a vintage octave pedal in front of the You’re Doom and played the refrain of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven”, which is a big sustaining synth patch. I’ll tell you this, I had a very large synth pedal on my board for just that purpose, and it will be left at home from now on. The You’re Doom immediately helped the sound to be far more authentic.
There are a few more tricks up the sleeve of the You’re Doom that can be gleaned from the one-sheet. It’s like the pedal has its own personal Rosetta Stone. The first is that Spencer mentions the idea of the pedal interacting interacting uniquely with other stuff in your setup. Thanks to this recommendation, I tried the You’re Doom in basically every position of my board other than before the compressor (which comes right past the tuner in my signal chain). Eventually I settled on keeping it at the very end and letting it affect every other tone I’m putting out. There’s enough Killface (again, Frisky Dingo…) in here to make me want to put it on everything. It’s like distortion hot sauce.
The last trick to come from the sheet is a direct order to try palm muting the bass, which will produce a Moog-like tone by slightly changing the engage and decay of the notes, making it really similar to an analog synth. This can also be further instigated by different degrees of rolling the tone knob off on the bass. Playing with a pick will give even more diverse results.
Oh, one final feature that, seriously, EVERY PEDAL ON EARTH SHOULD HAVE. The You’re Doom (like, it appears, all 3Leaf pedals) has a soft-touch relay true bypass system that switches to bypass automatically in the event of power loss. Now that you’ve heard of it, you think it’s dumb of pedals not to have it, right?
Overall, I have to say that the You’re Doom from 3Leaf Audio is one insane stomp box. If you don’t know any better, you’ll simply call it a fuzz pedal because you can turn the knobs a bit and, at worst, get a fuzz tone that you’d get out of any other pedal. However, Spencer has gone and put the clue right on the box, calling it a “dynamic harmonic device”. This should be the dead giveaway that the You’re Doom is much more of a synth engine than anything else. Since Spencer is also trusted with assembling products for Darkglass Electronics, you can tell his “give a damn” factor is wired pretty high. When you have that involved in making any kind of synth pedal for bass, you’ll end up with something special. This pedal will provide you with clear and crunchy tones as a distortion pedal and some really surprising non-aggressive synth tones, as well. If you want quality, highly malleable sounds in a tough, sturdy housing, you should probably invest some money in the You’re Doom and let your brain go wild.