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Wolverinebass

Dug DP-3X vs Darkglass X Ultra

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So, I recently acquired a Darkglass X ultra for my studio. I'm using my Tech 21 Dug Pedal in one of my bands. 

I'm sure some people I'm sure will be interested in the comparison? I sat down the other day with my Rick 4003 and set to work.

Firstly, both pedals are brilliant. There is no denying that. Now, let's get down to the meat. The Dug is obviously based on achieving his own tone. Now, not everyone wants that. I don't. However, despite it having a fixed crossover it's amazingly versatile and even at more extreme gain settings is still musical. Now for the downside. The mid scoop. It's there where the problem lies with this. Even with fiddling you can't get it back as the pedal eq just isn't voiced that way. Most of the time this isn't a problem though. The clean tone is a bit so-so and it's impossible to switch from clean to dirty with settings that are workable for either.

This then brings me to the Darkglass. It has both a filter for the lows to keep them clean and one for how much frequency wise of the signal gets distorted. Sharp bite to brutal fuzz is possible. The 7 band eq is great as well, so a clean tone is easy enough to achieve. This brings me on to the distortion. It has a different character than the Dug. The only way I could describe it is "Darkglass." It's just what it is. So, can you get the same sounds out of each? Yes, but it takes some effort.

At harsher settings the Darkglass fizzes a bit and at higher low end settings the bass turns a bit mushy in my view. However, unless you're mental, you're not going to do that.

So which is better? Depends on your point of view. The Dug is £150 cheaper give or take. But it's less flexible. The Darkglass has more things to get used to, but is much more agile to change on the fly. Is that worth the price difference? Depends.

On a personal note, I'd use the Dug live as I know it better. However, I feel that more can be wrung out of the X ultra if you choose to try to. The fact  it has switchable cab emulation is another bonus. Maybe the inherent "Darkglassness" of it might put people off, but in many ways it's better than the Dug. Possibly, the Dug has a more musical distortion, but that is a very personal choice for the player. I'm a Tech 21 person for life, but always like trying new stuff. 

Take your pick. I doubt either would disappoint anyone.

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@Wolverinebass cheers for that chap, been wanting someone for ages who is sensible and unbiased to compare the 2.

Couple of things to flesh out, which will inevitably happen with a review like this when people put their 2 pence in.

Value - DP3X has a very good tuner, which makes a big difference for a one stop shop.

Distortion - i will have to bow to you on the ins and outs, but if you say it is ‘Darkglass’ in its sound, I will have an idea, and no doubt the DP3X will be more musical as you say. Even at extreme settings of ‘clank’ on the DP3X, using the tone knob on your bass really tempers that bright cutting sound and can give a very organic sounding drive. Did the Darkglass do the same admirably?

Clean tone - I personally have found settings where I can switch between the clean and dirty with no knob tweaks and get great sounds with it, but that’s just me. Minuscule turns can lead to pleasing differences, it’s not one for your Andertons review where they play and wildly twiddle.

Mid scoop - can’t disagree, but for me this is a pedal to use with other instruments and not triple kick drum demos like most of the Darkglass videos. Yes you hear it when playing on your own, but between the 2 frequencies and the shift button, it gives the presence you need to fold around others, and keeps a very tight bass sound.

Also the DP3X is VERY responsive to how you play, is the DG the same?

All in all, great work chap, and these are just my thoughts on top of yours which I agree with 🤘🏾👊🏾

Edited by Cuzzie

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Interesting review, thanks!

I am tempted to check it out, although the idea of another scooped mid tech 21 pedal doesn’t initially fill me with much enthusiasm.  They tend to sound great solo’d in the bedroom but not so useful in the real world.... Obviously the extensive mids controls on the X will get it to cut through anything, but can the DP3X do a decent impression in that sense?

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I had similar reservations about the DP3X until I tried it in a mix. You end up punching under and cutting through above the guitars - it's like it was made to work with a band mix rather than sound good solo. There's still plenty of midrange grind on tap if you boost the mids.

I'd very much like to try the X Ultra though, might treat myself once I've offloaded all the pedals I no longer use.

Edited by dannybuoy
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7 hours ago, Kev said:

Interesting review, thanks!

I am tempted to check it out, although the idea of another scooped mid tech 21 pedal doesn’t initially fill me with much enthusiasm.  They tend to sound great solo’d in the bedroom but not so useful in the real world.... Obviously the extensive mids controls on the X will get it to cut through anything, but can the DP3X do a decent impression in that sense?

Other way round for the DP3X at its peak of powers with other instruments in a band

There is a shift button with the mids centered at 325 or 700, unity gain at 12 o’clock, +/- 18dB boost/cut - you can get a decent amount of mid presence 

Edited by Cuzzie

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Following on from the above, question for the OP:

Applying Cuzzie's shift button and mid boost - does that sort out the mid scoop on the DP3X which you flagged as being the key drawback of that pedal and get it to a comparable mid punch that the DG delivers?

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22 hours ago, Kev said:

 

I am tempted to check it out, although the idea of another scooped mid tech 21 pedal doesn’t initially fill me with much enthusiasm.  They tend to sound great solo’d in the bedroom but not so useful in the real world.... 

I too was very concerned about the mids of the Dug, but I've now owned one for a year and played it continuously and it has never been an issue. Yes, there is an inherent mid scoop when the mix is engaged, but I've come to realise that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've certainly never been lost in the mix with it.

As I read on Talkbass,  there is a 'mid scoop', not a 'mid void'.

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When I said mid scoop, it can be overcome to my liking mainly by engaging the mid shift and virtually maxing out the mid dial. It works perfectly well in a band mix. 

The darkglass has a natural tendency to be slightly "thick," but it's just different architecture anyway.

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9 hours ago, Wolverinebass said:

When I said mid scoop, it can be overcome to my liking mainly by engaging the mid shift and virtually maxing out the mid dial. It works perfectly well in a band mix. 

The darkglass has a natural tendency to be slightly "thick," but it's just different architecture anyway.

Thanks for that, although it seems to me that maxing out in that fashion is a pretty extreme adjustment to overcome the mid scoop - I can't think of any other pedal or bass EQ where I'm needing to super-max out the mids in order to overcome a mid scoop. I guess you either need to like the baked-in mid scoop and accept that it's part of the DP3X sound, which a lot of folk clearly do, or simply get something else.

Just to make sure we are on the same page on the DG Xu: when you say "thick" = not thin / meaty or "thick" = muddy? If the latter, worth being aware of as this could be a little off-putting.

I think I read on another thread that you've now got your own recording studio? If so, some sound samples of the two pedals side by side would be brilliant!

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If you’re muddy with the XU then you need to take a slower approach at understanding how the filters work and how you should set the levels and comp.  You have full control of the frequencies and how they need to be set will vary from rig to rig.

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2 hours ago, Reaper said:

Thanks for that, although it seems to me that maxing out in that fashion is a pretty extreme adjustment to overcome the mid scoop - I can't think of any other pedal or bass EQ where I'm needing to super-max out the mids in order to overcome a mid scoop.

To be fair controls on a pedal/amp are meant to be turned until the desired effect/sound is achieved not to where they 'look correct'! Ears over eyes!

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2 hours ago, Reaper said:

Thanks for that, although it seems to me that maxing out in that fashion is a pretty extreme adjustment to overcome the mid scoop - I can't think of any other pedal or bass EQ where I'm needing to super-max out the mids in order to overcome a mid scoop. I guess you either need to like the baked-in mid scoop and accept that it's part of the DP3X sound, which a lot of folk clearly do, or simply get something else.

I bump my mids to 2 o'clock with the mid shift pushed in. This raises the mid frequency, so I still have a fairly big gap around 500KHz. But this is where the guitars and vocals are most prevalent, so it serves a purpose.

If I play lightly, I can only really hear bass and low mids <250KHz, as if you'd rolled the tone control off. The compressor is really punchy too, it's not just a leveller/limiter, it accentuates the attack of each note so that it really hits you in the face - but of course only in the low freqs since there is no compression of the highs. The high mids / drive channel only becomes audible when I dig in, so I play that way sparingly to accentuate certain parts. But when you do so, it pokes out above the other instruments to complement them without battling for the same sonic space.

 

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3 hours ago, Reaper said:

Thanks for that, although it seems to me that maxing out in that fashion is a pretty extreme adjustment to overcome the mid scoop - I can't think of any other pedal or bass EQ where I'm needing to super-max out the mids in order to overcome a mid scoop. I guess you either need to like the baked-in mid scoop and accept that it's part of the DP3X sound, which a lot of folk clearly do, or simply get something else.

Just to make sure we are on the same page on the DG Xu: when you say "thick" = not thin / meaty or "thick" = muddy? If the latter, worth being aware of as this could be a little off-putting.

I think I read on another thread that you've now got your own recording studio? If so, some sound samples of the two pedals side by side would be brilliant!

Maxing out an EQ is not really an issue, it’s using what there is to the best of its ability. The old Fender tone stack used on amps and pedals  at neutral is 2-10-2 bass-mids-Treble but is infinitely musical despite seemingly having no further to go on the mids, and never lacked for presence, so there is stuff available.

Aside from all the stuff mentioned here by folk, ultimately the dials are very sensitive, and small tweaks give big changes, so for sure as @krispn says it’s ears not eyes, it doesn’t matter how far the dial is in any direction.

I’ve heard the DG pedal in a ‘proper’ demo, it does sound wicked

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Just to clarify, "thick" meant "meaty with an emphasis on the lower mids." You have to go to pretty extreme settings to get mud with the Darkglass.

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3 hours ago, krispn said:

To be fair controls on a pedal/amp are meant to be turned until the desired effect/sound is achieved not to where they 'look correct'! Ears over eyes!

Fair. However if you're having to max something out just to get to a desirable tone then you've got nothing left in the tank should you need to tweak for venue etc. IMO better simply to get something where you're a fan of the core tone in the first place and plenty to choose from!

2 hours ago, Wolverinebass said:

Just to clarify, "thick" meant "meaty with an emphasis on the lower mids." You have to go to pretty extreme settings to get mud with the Darkglass.

That actually sounds really good, thanks for clarifying. Combine that with the hpf and lpf features and there does seem to a lot of plusses about this DG Xu. Shame it costs nigh on £400! 

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3 hours ago, krispn said:

 

To be fair controls on a pedal/amp are meant to be turned until the desired effect/sound is achieved not to where they 'look correct'! Ears over eyes!

You're not wrong, but I get uncomfortable 'pushing' a circuit so hard just to get a unity sound.  It indicates something is wrong for me. I feel it would also generate noise in the signal.

Before I removed the preamp and pickups from my Ibanez and replaced with US Bartolini, I found myself having to boost the treble to almost full and cut the bass and mids heavily to get a decent sound out of it, which I didn't like doing.   Since I replaced both I don't know what the culprit was, but I presume it was the cheap licensed barts.  Very dark, but proof that its best to start with something near the mark and adjust to taste, as opposed to forcing something.

Edited by Kev
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20 minutes ago, Kev said:

You're not wrong, but I get uncomfortable 'pushing' a circuit so hard just to get a unity sound.  It indicates something is wrong for me. I feel it would also generate noise in the signal.

Before I removed the preamp and pickups from my Ibanez and replaced with US Bartolini, I found myself having to boost the treble to almost full and cut the bass and mids heavily to get a decent sound out of it, which I didn't like doing.   Since I replaced both I don't know what the culprit was, but I presume it was the cheap licensed barts.  Very dark, but proof that its best to start with something near the mark and adjust to taste, as opposed to forcing something.

It’s not really ‘pushing’ the circuit, each person who has it will have a different value for their mid control, and of course whilst compression is linked to the low end, it will also bring out low mids as well with it, so these 2 dials work bee interactively, and their will be some inherent crossover with the highs and high mids.

Maxing the Mid dial produces no further noise, any noise generated will be when you start using chunk and drive on the DP3X, this can be further tempered still with a tone knob.

This is all the pedal on its own, you may choose to use it front the amp with further EQ.

@Reaper there is plenty in the tank with the shift button as @dannybuoy described which gives it a whole different emphasis and may cause you to dial back the mids

DG gives you loads of tweaks with labelled frequencies, yes on the face of it the DP3X May appear more ‘limited’ and the learning curve at the start is long, you have to sit and make minor tweaks , even a couple millimetres at a time to properly rule it in or out, but that  doesn’t mean it’s hard to use.

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@Reaper @Kev

I'm just illustrating that controls are not always meant to be 'set at noon'. I'm presuming you both have had to tweak gear for a sound and pushing a freq won't automatically introduce noise...well perhaps pushing the treble. In relation to the dUg having the mids there to boost sounds like it counteracting the scoop and therefore makes sense to push those to get the desired sound. If it's not introducing any noise then it's simply working as intended.

Personally the dUg sound isn't a sound I'd gravitate to but it would be good to hear the range it offers if one weren't a King's X fan.

 

 

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Of course, everyone has a different mids preference or requirement, it just sounds like the mids control isn't balanced right if it has to be maxed out, to be honest.  What use would there be for cutting the mids, presume none for those who are maxing it out?

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31 minutes ago, krispn said:

@Reaper @Kev

Personally the dUg sound isn't a sound I'd gravitate to but it would be good to hear the range it offers if one weren't a King's X fan.

 

 

I'm a King's X fan and love Dug's tone - but it's not a sound that works for me (although it is fun to mess around with). This pedal does a lot more than just the Dug sound we expect to hear.

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12 minutes ago, Kev said:

Of course, everyone has a different mids preference or requirement, it just sounds like the mids control isn't balanced right if it has to be maxed out, to be honest.  What use would there be for cutting the mids, presume none for those who are maxing it out?

Being a Sig pedal, the mids are centered to the artists preference, but it’s been made tweakable enough for all, and across the threads on TB etc people are using it across all genres. Dood did 2 reviews for I Guitar magazine on it, and if interested, well worth checking out - not for everyone, but is pretty good.

The good thing about this thread still is though that it’s an honest appreciation of 2 leading crossover pre-amp pedals out there

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Kev's right in that it's not generally good form to filter out most of your mids with a HPF then apply a vicious mid boost to bring them back again. That can lead to noise issues, as well as the fact each EQ stage introduces phase shifts which you want to minimise. It would indeed be beneficial to have a freq control like the DuG amp does and the Darkglass pedals, that way if you wanted more upper mids you could simply lower the cutoff frequency rather than try to boost the mids back after the crossover.

But in my experience you don't really need to boost that much, and it's a non-issue for me. You should definitely try one out Kev!

My wishlist for this pedal would be a dial to control the HPF frequency, get rid of the Mix switch and have it control the mid shift instead. Shift in to boost the high mids sounds better in a busy mix, but if it strips back to just bass and drums, it sounds better with the shift off.

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5 minutes ago, Cuzzie said:

Being a Sig pedal, the mids are centered to the artists preference...

That, is a good point

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