The Custom Shop "Dual Ultra Red Dragon." Upright players take note! This is an overdrive pedal.
First of all, this is a custom pedal this I just received. I ordered it in August after weeks of talking with Max and deciding what I wanted. I was going to order a kitchen sink pedal with everything I could ever want, but ultimately decided to pare it down to one pedal does one thing and go modular. I still need versatile though, because I want to use it in the many situations I play in.
Based on the Micro Red Dragon overdrive pedal, I made the following tweaks in my order:
•2 independent channels
•5 MegOhm input impedance, active even when pedal is in bypass mode (more on that later)
•the "Ultra-tone" control vs. the regular one (more on that later too)
•3-way mid switch on each channel. Cut (800hz), flat, boost (1khz). My ears tell me maybe about 6 db.
•custom cosmetics and layout to my liking.
Since earlier this year, I have not played a gig without my beloved F-Deck HPF-Pre. It is transparent with a 10MegOhm input load. That really thickens the low end up and controls the treble, making piezo pickups full and round sounding, not brittle and harsh. My other choices are .5 or 1 Meg, depending on what I plug into first. My Walter Woods amp is 1 MegOhm. The upright pickup sounds kind of middy and quacky. EQing it out totally scoops out all the punch. Te F-Deck fixes it, but sometimes i feel like I can't get enough definition And boosting mids and highs cause more problems. I have heard that 4-5 MegOhm inputs for upright pickups tend to be balanced and pleasing, so that is what I went with. And I wanted it buffered even in bypass mode so when bypassing the overdrive, it would still load the pickup the same. It makes for a very smooth tonal transition turning the pedal on and off.
The Ultra tone is basically flat in the middle. As you turn it up, it gives a shelving high boost and a shelving low cut. Turning down gives you a sloping high roll off and a shelving bass boost. The center frequency is around 450 I think. That is the fulcrum.
Last night I had a trio gig that had a variety of jazz, Latin standards, Christmas tunes, and modern pop tunes. Ordinarily playing an upright gig I and most others would want to dial in one tone and that is it for that gig. Especially in a Dixieland, big band, and singer type gig. Changing tones and processing is usually an idea used by modern, experimental, avant-garde players. Most yearn for that "my bass, only louder" tone.
Let me say that it was well worth it to get that 5 MegOhm input. It really loads the pickup well and in bypass mode the tonal balance is perfect to my ears. My bass is a 1988 Englehardt plywood heavily modded and strung with year old Zyex light gauge. A realist pickup. I plugged into the red dragon, then into the house amp, an old AI Clarus into an Aguilar Gs210. I left the amp EQ flat.
Bypassed, my bass sounded like a balanced, miked carved bass with robust lows and clear highs. Think recordings of Dave Holland or Drew Gress. That was kind of my middle of the road sound.
I set the blue channel clean (gain 10:30, output max, this is the same volume as bypass, no overdrive) with the mid switch on cut and the ultra tone dialed back to about 10:00. There is no saturation, but the circuitry sounds subtly warmer, like a clean tube Pre. That setting put me into vintage Paul Chambers, Oscar Pettiford land. Warm thump, and the lower notes really had a lot of sub to them, like a good carved top bass. There was a nice resonance and it never made it muddy or unclear. I used that for the Sinatra tunes and the Vince Guiraldi Christmas tunes and such.
The red channel was my wild card setting. I turned up the drive to 1:00 or so, compensated with the level, and tinkered with the tone and mid. We played Sting's "Fields of Gold" and I set the tone at 11:00, and left the mid switch flat. I had amazing warmth and sustain. Slightly compressed, it nailed Sting's amazing tone for that song. The tone of this overdrive is so warm and perfect for bass. It almost adds a clean sub to the sound. Ironically, it seems to enhance the fundamentals.
For a few modern jazz tunes (like Pat Matheny stuff, etc.) I boosted the mid switch and turned the tone up just past flat. That gave me a mid-forward, woody point on my attacks and more growl on the sustain. It never got too nasally or honky. I could cop the European jazz bass vibe. George Mraz, NHOP, Eddie Gomez, and Bobo Stenson's bassist were all cop-able depending on my touch and the tone knob. So by a flick of my foot I can cop Dave Holland, Chambers, and Sting all on the same upright bass. Amazing!
This is an amazing piece. Simple, brilliant, versatile, and utilitarian. I understand that a drive pedal is not exactly what comes to mind when it comes to amping an upright. But I already know properly set drive has a pleasing effect to my ears. Even though I had this use in mind I still didn't expect it to do so much so well. And that is just with the upright! I have learned lately that driving pickups has a huge impact on your bass's character and tone. I think I have found this bass's sweet spot. For louder gigs I will still use the HPF-Pre, but I will experiment on which order to use them in, for the different input impedances.
For general overdrive on a bass, I imagine the production Micro Red Dragon would have a pleasing effect. I am very happy with my custom.