Submitted May 28, 2019 by Russell
"Strong choice in this price range"
I bought this because I needed something very powerful and compact. I play with overdrive, so it was an obvious choice.
This thing definitely sounds good. The clean section sounds expensive- it has a lot of headroom but it is warm and musical sounding. Not stiff like a lot of solid state bass amps out there (we've all played them). Really liked my active bass and responded well to the tone controls on it. Comparable to an Eden or something like that. But you don't buy this thing for the clean channel. Both drive options deliver the goods like you would expect. This company has had wild success by only selling expensive bass overdrive pedals. They really are that good- otherwise they wouldn't be able to do as well for such a niche product. The "vintage" drive is a more traditional bass overdrive type of sound- mid focused and sounds like a guitar amp. It's the one I preferred and I found many usable tones with it, even at very mild or very extreme settings. It feels "loose" like it should but your overall tone is always tight on the low end so it's never out of control. The B3K section is more scooped and seems designed for metal and noise rock. It sounded better to me with Jazz bass pickups than with a P bass, and vice-versa with the vintage drive. Very tight and tons more gain, overall way darker but more grind-y. Very cool but likely not something I would ever use since the vintage covers all the bases I need.
Darkglass really added a ton of new features for this second revision. Most obviously, there are more EQ controls- you have six. This is more than most amps, save for those that have a full graph like the SVT PROs or the Eden World Tour Pros. Darkglass are trying to make a compact amp though, so I appreciate the economy of the six bands. I would personally prefer a fully parametric EQ like on a mixer. I would get way more out of two midrange controls I can sweep than with four fixed ones. This is my first strike against this thing. I thought I wouldn't miss this so much but I did. I think a "pro" level amp should have parametric mids so you can fine tune the sound. Different venues will have different sweet spots and where you cut lows mids and boost high mids is critical. There is a compressor which was interesting but I didn't experiment with it too much. The headphone out sounds decent and is nice to practice to at home or use as a tuner out. One of the coolest features is the cab emulation. If you hook this thing up to your computer you can pick out from these different impulse responses that they have as cab sims. There are three slots on the amp for them but you can choose from about a dozen. Or add your own! I'm not an IR guy so I just picked out three that sounded the best on the headphones and rolled with that. Every sound guy I gave a post-eq out to had great things to say about it. I know when running front of house you want a pre-EQ DI, but for distorted bass tones the DI is often unwieldy and hard to make sound natural. Everyone who took post with the IRs I had loaded said it was the best distorted bass tones they had ever gotten live, and had to do little to the signal to make it work in the mix. Forget micing the cab! Seriously, the five different sound people who took the emulated out felt the need to say something to me after the set they liked it that much. These were 150-350 cap rooms too. I didn't expect that. The only other feature of note to me was that you can run this at 2 ohms. They do this by applying a limiter so you don't break the amp. Cool idea but I can't imagine ever needing that.
Ease of Use
Strike two is ease of use. Since the distortion circuit is in parallel with the clean circuit, it's not like most other amplifiers or dirt pedals we might be familiar with. It took a few different pairs of ears and some trial and error to get the right tone out of it. Once it was there, it was money though. The clean and dirty sections each have their own preamp gain AND a balance knob for controlling them which is a bit mystifying. I'm still having a hard time getting a clean sound I can go back and forth with the dirty sound with using the footswitch. That being said, it is hard to make this thing sound BAD. The very nature of integrating a distorted bass tone with a band is tough to begin with so you can't really knock this thing too hard when it comes to ease of use. All said it is actually very versatile once you get the hang of things. The footswitch is a little frustrating too. It engages when you lift your foot UP from the switch, not when you press DOWN on it. To activate the mute, you hold it for three seconds. This is really tough to get used to. I've used gear that activates on the release of a switch but I had to have the switch pushed down for a while before to time it correctly. You can't do that with this because it will mute after 3 seconds. Using the switch also deactivates the mute button on the amp. I had grown very accustomed to using the mute button on my previous amp, so using the footswitch is still awkward for me.
This thing looks like expensive stereo equipment. I didn't open it up, but it is made in the EU and it seems like it.
I forgot to mention that it's LOUD. The main reason I got it is because I needed something louder, and it delivers. I never took it past 1/2. Most rehearsals it's TOO loud which could not be said for my previous amplifiers. It also fits in my bass bag (with just enough room for a pedal tuner and the footswitch). It's not super small, but it is small enough. I doubt there are amplifiers that are as powerful that are smaller. The 800 watt Ampeg portaflex is almost twice as big. It isn't feather-light but I can lift it with one hand so all things considered it delivers in the size deparment. It also has a lot of tonal versatility and good sounding overdrive. Two overdrives even. At this price I kinda feel like I should be getting something "big" like an SVT but I am happy to overlook that due to the fact that there are no tubes on this thing to replace and loading it in and out is an afterthought compared to what is usually the worst peice of gear to load after the drum hardware bag. The Genzler amps are obviously a new threat to this thing- they are very competitively priced. However, they are not EU-made and who knows how the overdrive sounds. They do have some attractive looking tone shaping capabilities, though. I think I could have done a lot worse for an amp at this price. I really would like a better EQ section though.
Warranty is three years. I think the paperwork I got with it says it's transferable but online says original owner only.
The Wow Factor
This thing is super cool. It lights up really cool and changes color depending on what distortion you are using. It's cool to fit it in a gig bag too, considering how loud it is. And it really does sound good. I can't think of another distorted bass tone as good that blended so well AND came out of a loud amp.
20+ years. Tour and gig regularly on bass
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