DARK HORSE

HARD EDGE DISTORTION

This pedal is discontinued, but it available until November 29 as part of our Klein Bottle launch.

The DARK HORSE is a hard-edged distortion beast. From bluesy hints of low-gain grit, to face-melting doom in a box, the DARK HORSE distortion pedal defies genre classification. The active Baxandall tone stack adds a huge range of tonal variations: from mid scoop to mid hump, bass boost to treble boost, and any shade between. The unique COMP control lets you control the pedal’s dynamics, from long, singing sustain to earth-shaking distortion.

Click the different parts of the pedal to learn more.

Demos

How It Works

Features

Tech Specs

Story

Older

Versions

DARK HORSE BLOCK DIAGRAM

Click on any section to learn more

FEATURES & CONSTRUCTION

TrueSoft  Bypass

Variable HCC

We combine durable true bypass relay switching with an effect-side FET switch for pure and smooth switching.

Variable HCC circuitry allows you to fine tune the harmonics, compression, and clipping character of your tone.*

*Applies to COMP control only.

USA Made PCBs

PRP Audio Resistors

Our circuit boards are made in the USA by Advanced Circuits (large PCB runs) or OSH Park (small PCB runs).

We used low noise, low inductance resistors made for audio circuits by Precision Resistive Products in the USA.*

*Alpha Dog & Alpha Dog Glass only.

Extended Headroom

DualMode Switching

A simple voltage inverter circuit was used to effectively turn 9V into 18V. More voltage means more headroom & bigger tone.

DualMode Switching can convert the footswitch into momentary operation.

To use, wait 5 seconds, then press the sequence tap+tap+hold until LED flashes.

All VFE Pedals are built with these quality components and features:

 

- Rugged diecast aluminum enclosures

- TrueSoft + DualMode true bypass switching

- Industrial-grade Carling switches & Neutrik audio jacks

- Alpha pots soldered directly to PCB

- 5% WIMA film capacitors & 1% metal film resistors

- Cardas Audio ultra-pure, eutectic silver solder

- P3 system phantom-power compatible

- Built by hand in Puyallup, WA, USA

- 1 year warranty on parts & labor

DIMENSIONS:

Enclosure dimensions: 2.37"W x 4.37"L x 1.16"H  (60 x 111 x 29mm)

With knobs & jacks: 2.6"W x 4.4"L x 2.1"H  (66 x 111 x 53mm)

 

POWER:

Standard 2.1mm, negative-tip 9V to 15V power supply or 9V battery.

 

INPUT IMPEDANCE:

909K-ohm

 

CURRENT DRAW:

~15ma continous

+30ma surge for 4ms during on/off switching

BY THE NUMBERS:

23 RESISTORS

21 CAPACITORS
1 INDUCTOR

2 TRANSISTORS

10 DIODES

1 OP AMP

3 INTEGRATED CIRCUITS
7 POTENTIOMETERS
3 SWITCHES

3 JACKS
2 CIRCUIT BOARDS

HOW THE DARK HORSE CAME TO BE

THE STORY

The early hand-painted Dark Horse pedals were built from the original DS-1 distortion circuit. The circuit had a great biting edge to the distortion, but was really limited in its bottom end response. I completely overhauled the circuit, from the pre-gain, post-gain, EQ and clipping sections, plus a charge pump for extended headroom, I changed nearly everything in the circuit.

 

The final design allows the user to fine tune the character of the distortion with the internal FAT trimpot, from tight & punchy to thick & meaty, and from there is an endless array of tonal and compression controls to shape the perfect hard-edge distortion tone.

-- Peter Rutter, founder of VFE Pedals --

Here is the list of versions of the Dark Horse circuit:

 

#1 - The original was a clone of the Boss DS-1 circuit with 3-way clipping, 3-way bass, and MID control that adjusted the mid response of the tone section (a lot like the v1 Fiery Red Horse). Internal trimpots tweaked pre-gain & bass response, plus post-gain treble & compression.

 

#2 - The second revision revision featured a few internal tweaks, bu the primary change was the variable pre-gain bass response control.

 

#3 - The third revision deviated from the DS-1 circuitry, using a quad op-amp, including two gain stages. The passive EQ section was updated with a unique subtractive approach that blended variable bass/treble pathways.

 

#4 - The first production version used 2-band active Baxandall EQ for greater tonal versatility and ease of use. The internal compression/treble trimpot was moved to an outside COMP knob.

 

Here is what is new in the current version:

- COMP control circuitry updated to be more tone neutral

- Overall tonal balance is brighter (by customer request)

- Dual-Mode switching