Acoustic Image 300IA vs. Darkglass AO

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jtrom, Jan 25, 2020.

  1. jtrom


    Nov 22, 2008
    Kelowna BC
    Just curious if anyone has any experience with both of these amps? About 10 years ago I took a blind jump into the Acoustic Image world. I've enjoyed their gear for both upright and electric. I primarily play a P-bass with Bill Lawrence pups... amazingly thick and warm with a whisper of contemporary edge. I also play a Gibson Grabber (mostly in the studio). So far, I have enjoyed the amp "amplifying" the bass tone and signal. It's simple, clean, and easy. For live gigs, I usually blend my Sans Amp DI about 25% to give it a little more bass and tube character. I like to push the drive a little and keep the presence at zero. I say all this to give you a vague idea of what I'm going for.

    However, in the last few years I've had opportunities to play vintage Ampeg Portaflex, Ampeg SVT's, Genzler 350, and even new Traynor combo amps. All of these were either in studio or on a festival stage. Now, I realize that there is a HUGE difference between all of these units (tube, solid-state, class D etc). HOWEVER, they all brought something to the table that my AI + Sans Amp DI was not giving me.

    To cut to the chase: I only buy new gear every 10 years or so (I've had the same cab for 15 years, which could be a part of the problem as well) and I'm really wanting to get some opinions on the Darkglass stuff. Aesthetically, they are amazing and I really like the idea of what they're going for. I live in Vancouver and the only way I can try one of these bad boys is if I buy it... or drive down to Seattle or Portland or something.

    Would love to hear if any of you have similar setups or if you are able to bring insight to the tonal qualities of AI vs. DG.

    Thank youuuuuu :bassist:
  2. Low Class

    Low Class

    Jul 4, 2005
    You might consider the newer Acoustic Image amps as they are much better for electric than the earlier models, especially the 300ia.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
  3. macteacher

    macteacher Supporting Member

    I've never played through a Darkglass rig so I can't give you a comparison to AI.

    Hopefully someone else will chime in, but here are my thoughts below on the AI.

    I had an old acoustic image 300W amp which I had sold when I took a break in playing out and I just acquired a Clarus SL-2.

    I'm still putting the CL-2 through it's paces, but the main thing to realize is that whatever your instrument is putting out is mostly what you're get from the AI.

    That's a very good thing IMHO, as I used the old 300W AI amp for bass, guitar, keyboard, etc.

    It's been mentioned in other threads that the EQ on the AI for some is not their favorite, while it works just fine for others.

    I'm finding that there's a much bigger frequency palette on my new CL-2's controls then there was on my original Clarus by a big margin.

    The amps have come a long way from the older models IMHO as Low Class mentions above.

    Also, I usually use a preamp anyway to dial in my sound regardless. (for electric I also use a Sans Amp DI too Jtrom)

    I've also noticed with the SL-2, besides having additional power, there is more presence in the voicing with all the knobs at center setting so there has been quite a bit of advancement over the old 300W in this respect as well.

    I also owned a Walter Woods 1200W blue light which I consider to superior in it's voicing to almost anything else that I've ever played through.

    But I was always a little afraid to bring the WW to gigs as I couldn't afford another as a backup, so it was my ear candy at home.

    The old 300W AI amp served as my backup and main stage amp at times, and while the depth of character wasn't that of the Woods, it certainly made due.

    I also knew that AI had my back with the AI guarantee and the great service, (I used the service for my 300w at one point), so it's a good choice for me to revisit another AI amp.

    I think that it's definitely worth checking it out.

    From the PUPs standpoint, they make a difference.

    The first bass that I played through the CL-2 was an inexpensive Ibanez Mikro bass that I defretted.

    I usually play it at lunchtime through a VOX headphone amp.

    I had big hopes when I plugged it into the CL-2, but no matter how I dialed it in, I couldn't get a satisfying sound, so cheap Pups = cheap sound...

    HOWEVER, when I took it home and plugged in my main electric and upright with quality PUs, the CL-2 showed it's colors and shined.

    So again, what goes in, comes out.

    I'm not sure if this rig will ever catch up sonically with my old WW 1200W Blue Light and Bergantino HT-112 that I had, but an AI rig that certainly sounds professional, is lighter weight, dependable, more affordable, and backed up with a great guarantee was certainly worth a try for me.


    If you want to followup with me, PM me next week when I'll have a better handle on the new AI amp.
  4. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    I have been using AI amps for electric since around 2000 (started with original Clarus, now have a Focus 2 and first version Clarus SL which I think sounds sweeter than the Focus). I play mostly jazz with a few occasional forays into louder music. I tried the Markbass amps (and maybe a few others over the years) and didn’t find them any better sounding than AI. The AI amps are really reliable and they are top notch when it comes to service. I am sure there are prettier sounding amps out there but all factors considered I would be hard pressed to switch. I have checked out the DG amps on YouTube. They sound and look nice but you can’t tell what they ‘feel’ like.

    They have DG amps at MF ... would be pretty easy to buy one and send it back if it doesn’t float your boat.
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