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Review

Darkglass Vintage Ultra bass pre-amp

Issue #46

This is a great pedal. One of my favourites for sure - especially for dealing-up those fat punchy lows with the mid range just on the edge of break-up.
Dan Veall

Pros:

Analogue circuitry mimicking amplifier characteristics
Switchable Clean and Driven tones

Cons:

See comments about Drive and Clean EQ settings

Darkglass Vintage Ultra bass pre-amp

Looking for vintage valve bass amp tones but don't want the hassle or cost of actually owning one? Dan Veall might have found the answer...

We’ve covered a few Darkglass pedals down in the Bassment over the years but this is certainly a new favourite to add to the pile. The Vintage is designed to faithfully recreate the tones and feel of our favourite valve amplifiers of yesteryear but with additional functionality to take us up to the gritty and aggressive Rock and Metal tones of today. From subtle recording warmth to the edges of low end Armageddon I think the Vintage Ultra has most of those areas covered!

The layout of the pedal is very similar to the Vintage Deluxe (which followed on from the original Vintage Microtubes pedal) and in my video review I let you hear each control and how it affects the pedal tones. I will cover them in detail here. The top row is more about your drive/distortion sounds and the bottom row handles EQ. However, they are interactive so that it is easy to sculpt the drive section sound using the EQ, rather than using it to try to get a good sound out of the pedal.

Top left hand corner, the master volume sets the output level of the pedal and that includes the DI output. Top right hand side, we have a drive control for the amount of saturation the distortion section offers and, like a normal distortion pedal, a level control. Backing up, finally on the top row the blend control. This knob allows us to mix between the clean sound of the instrument and the driven sound, enabling a blend of timbres - the punchy clean lows of a direct bass signal mixed with the gritty mids and top of the distortion section. To enable sculpting of the driven signal alone, two switches have been added to the new Ultra pedal. One called ‘Attack’ the other ‘Growl’. The first is a top end pre-drive boost or cut. The latter does the same for the low end. This is a nice touch; you can control the amount of top and bottom end being pushed in to the drive section - a fatter low end saturation sound or extra top end sizzle. I should add that this is affecting the amount of drive you are hearing, not just boosting the top or bottom end level, which is governed by the EQ section. However, the two together alone create such a wide variety or tones. You can tweak for hours, ha!

Once blended, the signal is passed to the powerful yet easy to use equaliser section on the bottom row. Neatly arranged are controls for bass, low midrange, high midrange and treble cut and boost, with the option to select the centre frequency from a choice of three centres in the two midrange knobs. The low mids get 250hz, 500hz and 1Khz and the high midrange allows for a centre of 750hz, 1.5Khz and 3Khz.

Down at the bottom of the pedal lives an overall bypass switch and on the left hand side is a distortion bypass/enable button. Disengaging the distortion doesn’t cancel the EQ section, so this will offer a ‘pseudo two channel’ operation. My only reservation with this is that I opted to use the onboard EQ to create my driven sound. As I’d mentioned earlier, there’s interaction between the drive and EQ, so maybe, just maybe, you will find that the EQ on its own having been set up to use with the drive not quite right for your instrument. In fairness, the designer has managed to cram in a huge amount of control into this one pedal, and I guess it’s very difficult to cover every requirement possible and still deliver something this good in such a small package.

In use, the Vintage Ultra is happy being plugged in to the front of your amplifier but if you are running direct to a PA system or a recording device, there’s is an included XLR socket for D.I. applications.

We miked-up the reference amplifier, so that you could hear the drive through a real speaker. The EQ was set more or less flat on the amplifier, so have a listen and see what you think. What did we think? Read on!

This is a great pedal. One of my favourites for sure - especially for dealing-up those fat punchy lows with the mid range just on the edge of break-up. There’s natural compression on there when you push the dynamics a little, too. It’s all analogue circuitry feels really touch sensitive and reacts nicely to fingers or pick playing. It also looks superb and is encased in a solid metal shell that will endure life on the road I am sure. This is definitely one to add to the 'wants' list!

 


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Issue #48

Tosin Abasi

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