JP's Gear Review v2.0 - Ep. 3 - Little Bear G3: A tube-based overdrive for 65$! Is it any good?


Shortly after my latest purchases (that I still have to review), I fell into a Google Search rabbit hole of pedals that use a vacuum tube. The Blackbird, the AMT SS-20, the Ashdown Engineering Original Valve Pre-DI, and the Behringer VT999 were commonly discussed and I considered getting one of these, but quickly changed my mind. The first 3 are outrageously expensive (760$ for the Original Valve Pre-DI...) and the Behringer is difficult to find. The used ones go for roughly the same price as a new one, and it's not really worth it.

However, another model showed up in the form of an eBay listing: Nobsound Little Bear G3. It looks completely unassuming and very different than your typical pedal. It sells for about 65$CAD on eBay and has generally positive reviews. For the price, why not? I ordered it on the 23rd of August, and received it in my mailbox this afternoon.


Unboxing was uneventful. It was well packaged it lots of foam, and the tube was already installed. A 12V AC, 600mA power supply was included, which is nice as it was not specified in the listing. The power supply was in a plastic bag, and wrapped in one of these thin foam bag instead of being placed inside it. It was well protected but it was odd that it was not inside the foam bag...

The box had the weirdest "happy/not happy" card thing I've seen so far in it... It's creative for sure, but I'm not sure how I feel about the caricature-ish drawings.

The device itself

The "pedal" itself - if we can call it a pedal - is quite different to what you might be used to see. It is obviously larger and thicker than a normal pedal to accommodate the tube, and it's using a completely different type of enclosure than the Hammond or Eddystone we're used to. The front and back panels have 4 screws that you need to remove in order to dismantle the thing. You might have noticed that there is an on/off switch as well as a footswitch. The reason is simple: to allow you to keep the pedal plugged in without leaving your tube lit all the time. The footswitch is just a true bypass for the input signal and does not control the power to the tube. It would be a very fast and sudden death for the tube if it was toggled on and off by the footswitch...

On the pedal, was a piece of paper with what looked like instructions. It specifies a few things about the supported tube types and the power supply. The circuit supports two tube "modes": 6N2 and 6N4. In 6N2 mode, it will accept 6N2, 6H2, and 6H2N tubes. In 6N4 mode, it will accept 6N4, 12AX7, 12AX7B, and ECC83 tubes. (Editor's note: 12AX7 and ECC83 are synonymous and 6N4 is just the Chinese/Russian designation of the 12AX7. Any letter after the tube type is only to specify the sub-model from the maker and these tubes will work with any circuit requiring that type of tube.) (Editor's note, again: 6N2 and 6H2 tubes are NOT pin-compatible with 12AX7 tubes. There's a switch you need to toggle near the tube socket when switching the tube type.)

The power situation is non-standard. It works on either AC or DC, which is unusual. It needs 12V to 15V, with a current rating of at least 500mA. The bundled PSU is an AC 12V 600mA, and it is center-positive. The "instructions", however, mention the polarity as center-negative with a positive sleeve... I'm not sure I'd try a DC power supply with this device. The markings below the DC jack are also slightly different than what the instruction says. They mention 9 to 12V AC, or 12 to 18V DC, with no polarity markings.

Of course, the next thing I did was to open it. I removed the 4 screws of the back panel and the top 2 screws of the front panel. This allowed me to remove the bottom plate and access the insides. The PCBs are clean, no soldering blotches anywhere, but there seems to be some flux residue here and there. The unused pin of the footswitch was not soldered on its PCB. It should not really matter, but I'd have soldered it just for consistency. The components looks to be of good enough quality, and the tube socket is in ceramic. You'll also notice that some weird things happened with the silk screen printing on the PCBs (the pictures are not mirrored; the printed text on the PCB however, is...)

By default, the toggle switch is set to 6N2 mode and a 6N2 tube is fitted in the socket. There's absolutely no markings except some remnant of what used to be a logo on the tube. It's most likely a Chinese Shuguang or a Russian Voskhod, but it's impossible to say for sure (Editor's Note: it's definitely not a Russian tube). I can definitely say it's a NOS tube, as the pins are quite corroded where they meet the glass.

The only negative point so far, is the tube socket and how it is positioned. Removing or inserting the tube is a pain in the rear-end. The socket is excessively tight and there is no manoeuvrability because of the horseshoe design of the PCB, and the jacks, wire headers, and capacitors that are millimeters away from the tube limiting all movement. Of course I bent some pins when I pulled the stock tube, and I obviously bent some pins when I attempted to insert the 12AX7 I wanted to try. The PCB the socket is on is held only by 2 3-pin headers, which are luckily soldered on both ends. It is still very much wobbly and inserting a tube would not be possible without the footswitch installed to provide some hard support when you exert excessive force to shove the tube in. I swear, I thought I was about the break the tube...

The controls

There are 3 knobs on the pedal: a drive, a volume, and a tone. The drive controls the amount of gain, the volume controls the output volume, and the tone. It seems to be a standard kind of bass-cut tone control: the more of turn clockwise, the less bass you have.

According to the web page, this is a tube AND opamp pedal. My guess is the opamp provides the first stage (or stages, if it's a dual opamp and both are used) of gain, and the tube just provides the natural overdrive. The drive knob is quite responsive, and it starts to crunch quite early. The volume is your standard volume control. I did not check whether it is placed at the beginning or the end of the circuit i.e. if it affects the input or the output. My guess is that it's at the end.

The on/off toggle switch allows you to power up the tube when needed and keep the pedal plugged in. There is a red LED letting you know the tube is on, and a blue LED when the effect is toggle on.

The footswitch is solid and feels great. It needs quite a bit of force to actuate.

How does it sound?

It sound awesome. The stock tube has some good bite, but it is extremely noisy. You can hear a very distinct hum when the drive is cranked up and no notes are played, and it's even more obvious when the tone cuts almost all the bass.

The official web page says it does not work on bass, but it's a lie: it works great. The 6N2 tube is wonderful with a bass and the overdrive is warm and thick.

How good is this tube, really?

It's "OK" at best. It does have a lot of gain, but, as I mentioned earlier, it is ridiculously noisy. I'm not sure if it's the tube that's going bad or my instrument pickups (the noise is the same on my Stratocaster equipped with noiseless single coils and my P-Bass equipped with a split-coil; I'd need to test with my SG with humbuckers). It seems the tube is a teeny tiny bit microphonic, and it's not as warm as I'd hope. It sounds a little dull.

I ended up changing it for an actual 12AX7 (that I pulled from my Bassbreaker when I retubed it; more on that in a future review), and the noise is much, much more subtle. It's still there, but now it's tolerable. There is slightly less overdrive with a 12AX7 than with the stock 6N2, but it sounds fuller and warmer. I'm tempted to order a new 6N2 from and see if it's better than the stock one.

I tested with both my Orange Crush Bass 50 (solid state) and my Fender Bassbreaker (tube). It sounds great on solid state amps, but it sound pretty "meh" on an actual tube amp. I'm not sure why one would want to use a tube preamp/drive in front of a tube amp, but I had to test it and it's not that great. When both the preamp and the amp are overdriving, it felt like the amp was on the verge of gating and the signal quality was degrading quickly. All in all, don't do that. Keep it for your solid state amps, tube amps don't need the extra warmth.

This first video is the guitar test. I first try on the Crush Bass 50, then switch to the Bassbreaker. It's only randomly strumming strings (it's not easy to play when you have to film at the same time).

This second video is the bass test. I only tested on the Crush Bass 50 this time. Again, it's just random plucking for the same reasons as the previous video.


For 65$, it is well worth the price. The included tube is OK, but there are alternatives available that are much less noisy. The alternatives might have slightly less gain, though. The pedal is well-built and looks solid, but the toggle switch in front could be relocated on the top face with the knobs to not stick out in front. It does limit where it can be installed on a pedalboard. The only major issue I noted is the tube socket; both its placement and the socket itself. The way it is mounted makes it extremely difficult to remove and install a tube in. I would have preferred to have the tube stick out on top, or at a minimum the PCB the socket is on should be removable so you don't risk bending pins when trying to change the tube.

It is a fun little gadget that will add some nice natural overdrive and tube warmth to your sound without breaking the bank. A spare 6N2 tube can be found for about 20$, and 12AX7 tubes are about the same price. Be careful when you change it though...

The Little Bear G3 can be found on Amazon at about 100$, and on eBay from the manufacturer for about 65$.

The All-Important Rating™

Build quality: 7.5/10
Effect quality: 8/10
Ease of use: 8/10
Old school tone: 8/10 (9/10 if you change the tube)
Force required to remove/insert tube:
About 34.323275 kilonewton.Or three-fiddy tonne-force...

Header image: FreeImages


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