WHICH BETA IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
As with most overdrive pedals, the input gain, or how hard you're pushing the pedal, has great effect on the sound of all three Betas. I'm starting with the volume knob on my bass cut by about 25% and the pedals' gain knobs set all the way down to the left, tone up the middle and volumes set equally. With these settings, all three pedals act like tone shapers. The MkII has a fat, spongy, round sound while the Germanium has a gently darker tone and the High Gain model has a subtle mid-range push. There's very little overdrive going on at this point, more like warm tube saturation. With all three, the harder you dig in the more the pedal reacts. By cutting your input gain, any of the three Betas will give you warm, tube saturated tone. Now to crank up the volume on my bass.
I'm using my American Fender precision bass with stock pickups and LaBella flatwound strings. Now the volume is all the way up, but I haven't changed the pedal settings. The MkII still has its characteristic warmth, but the increased input from the pickups has made it spongier and super saturated. When I dig in a little bit the overdrive is apparent but not aggressive. Power chords sound great all over the neck. The room is shaking. The Germanium now has dark and present overdrive that is even and warmly rich across the whole neck. It sounds like a tube amp pushed just past the point that the tubes begin to overdrive. With the increased input level, the crispier drive of the High Gain beta is starting to push through. It's sounding a little more like an overdrive pedal, and not necessarily just emulating an over driven tube amp. The room is still shaking. Now let's crank up the gain on the pedals themselves.
With the gain at 12 o'clock and the tone down the middle as well, the MkII is sounding huge, warm, blissfully over driven with very natural feeling tube-like compression. I'm hearing Paul McCartney's round rich sound on Come Together. A twist of the tone knob to the right gives the bass more definition without over brightening or losing any low end. I still feel like I'm playing through a giant Ampeg, not a pedal. The added gain makes the Germanium Beta's characteristic differences much more obvious. Somehow, the overdrive is darker in the lows than the MkII, but crunchier through the high mids. This would stick out more in a mix, I think, without sacrificing any of the creamy overdriven lows. This Germanium is thunderous when I turn up the amp a little, and it's starting to generate some sweet rich harmonics when playing around the 10th fret that fill the room corner to corner. The mid-range push of the Beta High gain is also becoming obvious now, and I'm loving the sound with a pick. It's still spongy and fat, but has a more aggressive edge to the drive. The high frequencies of the Beta High Gain are closer sounding to the MkII than the Germanium I think.
Now it's time for all out, no holds barred, to the roof overdrive! I'm cranking the gain knobs on all three Betas to about 80%. The MkII still feels largely like a tube amp cranked to ten. Many times, tube amps will start to lose low end and definition when you crank them up to get this level of overdrive because the actual speaker is being overworked. Because the Beta is doing the work in this case, not the speaker, I'm getting all the drive without any loss of bass or definition. The Germanium is a lot brighter and more assertive at this level of gain. The tube style harmonics it's generating are incredibly rich and saturated. At times I'm hearing octaves and 5th's above the actual note I'm playing. Really cool. The Beta High Gain is doing exactly what it's supposed to. We are out of the realm of tube distortion at this point, but not losing any low end. The mids are pushed forward and spongy, the highs are aggressive but not at all harsh. It's fat and nasty. With a pick, the bass really screams.
I love that you can start off with less input gain and lower gain settings on all three of these pedals and get a fairly similar fat, rich, old school tone across the board. Adding input gain and adjusting the pedal settings brings out the unique colors of each Beta. The MkII with it's full on tube warmth and saturated bliss, the Germanium with it's natural harmonics and edgy drive, and the High Gain with it's melt your face off while rattling your bones at the same time aggressive character.
Which Beta is right for you? If you're still not sure, here is a little video demonstrating some of the differences between the pedals.