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Darkglass Alpha Omega Ultra - blend & level clarification

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by HeavyFingers, Aug 11, 2020.


  1. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    Greetings,

    I've read through a decent amount of threads so I'm pretty sure I have a proper understanding but since I have one of these in route I wanted to make sure.

    I know that the blend determines the percentage of clean and dirty signals with 12 noon being a blend of 50% each. Based on this, I was wondering if the same sound/blend would be achieved if blend was at 9o clock and then you just increased the level knob that controls the volume of the overdriven signal to a certain point. Is this correct logic or would a different type of tone be produced using this method? Does overdriven signal volume equal or not equal blend percentage?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Adamixoye

    Adamixoye A PT Pro is cool for worship, right?

    Apr 9, 2012
    Occasional Beta Tester for Confusion Studios, Singular Sound, and Source Audio
    In principle I think you are correct that you should be able to get the same sound with a lower (cleaner) blend + increased distorted level knob, but it's probably worth experimenting with it and using your ears rather than just assuming how it should work in theory.
     
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  3. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    I'll have the pedal in the next day or two so I'll definitely be testing it out. I was wondering if you could get a pseudo cross-over/bi-amp effect by keeping the blend low and raising the level up.... probably not but that would be neat.
     
  4. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    Yes this works, I think the tone is basically identical either way though the volume is different as the clean side has no separate volume control (so the clean level is stronger at 9:00 than noon). Because the Ultra has a Master that affects both the Clean and Dirty modes, the different methods of getting the same mix are useful in getting the dirty blend you want at different volume levels relative to the volume of Clean mode.
     
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  5. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    Ah, that makes more sense now. It didn't dawn on me that the clean only had the Master as it's volume, relatively speaking. Thank you!
     
  6. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    Just to clarify, the Blend is only in operation when you engage the Distortion/Drive footswitch. I think the level of the Clean on the blend is perhaps slightly boosted when blended all the way towards that side, then progressively less as you blend towards the dirt. This means most of the boost available from the Distortion part of the pre is via the dirt side of the Blend since it’s separate Volume control allows significant boost. If you want a more mild Blended drive tone but with a decent boost then it actually works best with the Blend set low and Dirty Volume higher because you get a higher clean signal mixed in this way (So it still stays fairly mild).
     
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  7. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    Excellent - that's exactly where I'll be starting. I was deliberating between this one and the newer Tech 21 Geddy Lee DI-2112. I already have some other Tech 21 gear (and along with the AOU have the cab sim, on/off switches and smaller footprint), I figured I'd give Darkglass a try. This pedal seemed like the best out of the DG range for the mid grunt (the B7K and X seem a little shrill on the top end for me), so fingers crossed its a good fit.
     
  8. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    The drive on the AO line is my favorite of the Darkglass range for sure- the most amp-like and organic. It can be a bit fuzzy on its own, but really roars in a mix. I haven’t tried the Geddy series, but have tried a few other Sansamps and the only one I’ve really connected with is the Oxford (but I use that with a crossover effects loop to add bass back).
    The DG Vintage series is also great, but I use my Vintage at super low-gain for a bit of hair and the AO for all the real perceptible drive.

    Is your AOU one of the newest batch with the aux-in? I had the original AOU, but the newest one has some upgrades to lower the noise floor of the pre and the cab-sim section. I didn’t find the noise floor of the original terrible and used it a lot, but some people have different experiences with it. I sold it to try the X-Ultra and ultimately wish I’d kept the AOU (just more my flavor of choice, though currently have an AO which fits my needs fine). I may pick up another AOU at some point!

    Enjoy!
     
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  9. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    Yeah, this is one of the new ones withe aux-in. I almost completely wrote off the AOU reading all of those "hiss" threads but then saw Doug Castro comment on how the Ver. 2 fixed the issue.

    I'm currently running Tech 21's Steve Harris pedal as my main tone with the sansamp BDDI before it (most knobs either at 12noon or cut for a relatively "flat" signal) to add a little more meat to the tone....which makes sense since Harris plays through guitar gear. I'm pretty happy with the grit/tone I get overall, but the lower strings just start to lose definition and get lost in the mix (this is even when recording myself playing to a midi track) if I down tune a half step and especially in D standard.

    One of those "great in the headphones while playing along" type of situations. I figured Darkglass pedals would be better suited for non-standard tuning and keep a tighter low end compared to the SH1. I'm not sure if I'll get rid of it or not, though as it fits the "vintage pedal" role pretty well.
     
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  10. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    I actually have an SH-1 here too- I picked it up last year hoping it might get in the ballpark of my T21 Oxford but without the need of a blend pedal to keep the lows. It doesn't really do the bright/cutting/punchy Oxford drive thing because of that low-end compression you speak of (the Oxford gets around this by clearly hi-passing the signal into the drive, hence the need for added bass blend), but I like it alright and there are some cool fat vintage tones in there that no other pedal I have quite does (tones I'd usually rely on my amps for). I've found in a live band mix that the driven tones from the SH-1 into an amp tend to get lost pretty easily (whereas the DG AO pedals really roar and cut in a mix). I also find myself wanting a high-mid control to boost rather than having to rely on that Bite switch on the SH. Or really the tones I like on that pedal seem to require some extreme settings to find, and that kind of boosting can sound quite artificial. I do think it would be a cool pedal to bring to recording sessions where you need some naturally-compressed vintage tones but can't utilize an amp, and I do like its flavor more than the VT-Bass that many here seem to love. Still on the fence about selling it (I planned to flip it at the start of the year but never got around to it).

    Based on your descriptions I think you might get along well with the AOU- I used mine at the end of my chain in my heavier band (tuned to D standard) always on with low Gain and very little clean blended in, and rolled most of the way towards the Omega side (fuzzier and more mid-forward), with a light scoop dialed in on the EQ. Pushed by the rest of my pedalboard, even at low Gain there was a nice gritty light fuzz tone that stayed super punchy. I usually use both switches pushed in, you can get less gain with either of the switches out though. I don't use cabs with tweeters, but dial in a pretty bright tone on my amp and really love the snap that the Bite switch adds (it also sounds best through the cab sims with the Bite engaged to me unless you are looking for smooth tones). If for some reason you don't find yourself liking it, definitely make sure to test it in a band mix (live or recorded) as I find it really shines in a mix.
     
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  11. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    I'm glad my opinions on the SH1 aren't just in my head. Now that you mention it, I definitely agree on there being a big gap between 500 - 3k - I've found myself hoping that a high mid knob would show up between practice sessions. I wouldn't call my settings extreme but not 12noon either (highs and lows between 10-11 o'clock, mid2 at 2 o'clock and mid1 between 1-2 o'clock, gain at 4 o'clock). You can check the attached recording of my playing along to Black Sabbath's The Mob Rules for an example. Signal chain: my G&L SB-2 -> BDDI -> SH1 -> audio interface/computer.

    Who knows, I may keep it for more old school songs/ones that are just in E standard. The song is down half a step and I'm able to get some pretty good grind overall but you can hear the softer low notes (I'm playing finger-style but plucking with some force). That said, based on your feedback, the AOU is sounding more and more like a great fit. I appreciate your feedback!
     

    Attached Files:

  12. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    @sunbeast

    So my AOU came and this thing definitely has a learning curve. If playing with a pick it was very easy to get it to sound good/replicate what I heard in demos. Playing finger style (which is what I do primarily) is another story. I spent a few hours last night going through the cab sims and EQ settings. Clean it sounded great, but with the distortion if it wasn't the right pairing of cab sim and EQ/knobs it came out real farty on the low end.

    Also I was not prepared for the amount of low end baked into this pedal. I've had to cut the 80hz shelf to about -6db and 250 to about -3db so it didn't just constantly clip my audio interface. My EQ is attached (bite on, growl off). The setting seems a little extreme compared to others I've seen but EQ with your ears and all that.

    I did have some questions for you:
    1) The volume output into my audio interface seems like it's a lot less than the SH1. I say volume b/c the AOU can still clip it even if it doesn't sound that loud in my headphones.

    2) I can audibly hear in my headphones when I click the distortion and by pass buttons.

    3) The Blend knob says it keeps unity gain when dialing in more distortion. The volume definitely increases when I turn the blend knob up. Maybe I'm interpretation is wrong here.

    Did you experience all of this with your AOU as well?

    Thank you! IMG_20200814_131600~2.jpg
     
  13. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    I didn't have the V2 AOU, and I know part of the updates involved adding a higher-headroom chip into the cab-sim part. I believe these are all the same spec as the X-Ultra I just sold. I'll try to answer as best I can!

    Before anything else, ensure you are getting adequate clean power to the pedal (the digital section requires more mA than a standard drive pedal!).

    First off, this baked-in low-end bump you are mentioning definitely does not seem normal. Have you tried it through an amp? And through phones into your interface with cab-sim disengaged? Worth noting that the cab-sim is always engaged at the headphone output of the pedal (FYI!). Many of the included IRs are definitely a bit muddy and low-strong for my taste, especially if compared to the tighter bass response of the SH-1 "sim" circuit. If you want something closer to that sound, you can add an IR from outside- I bought the Mesa and SVT packs from Lancaster Audio and both have tighter lows than many of the stock IRs.

    Without either mini-switch engaged on the AOU, I find the drive tone to be predominately a mid hump and not particularly low-forward especially when rolled to the Omega side. With only the Bite engaged it should be quite clanky and tight IME. With both switches engaged (my preference), you add lows before the clipping circuit and it does get fatter- however with both switches engaged I never found the low content overbearing (I would usually cut a bit on the low-shelving EQ control, but not that much). I did favor the pedal at quite low-Gain settings though compared to your picture!

    1. What connection are you using into your interface? Are you only using with the cab-sim engaged? Are you using mic or line level input settings on your interface? In case it isn't clear, the Master Volume (the slider next to the EQ) affects the volume at the XLR out in both clean and dirty modes. On my original AOU with the lower-headroom chip, it was possible to distort the output of the pedal (digital clipping) and so there was a cab-sim gain control in the DG Suite. With the newer versions the headroom is much better and at least with my basses (all passive) into my XU I was never able to cause audible digital distortion in the pedal even with Master cranked all the way up (which was a healthy output signal!). If you are hearing bad clipping I think it is likely to be an interface gain issue.

    I haven't had issue getting adequate output from my XU or the v1 AOU into my interface, but given the digital cab-sim section I wouldn't expect the same output operation as the analog SH-1 (it is more comparable when bypassing the cab-sim, which then bypasses the digital circuit completely except at the headphone out). I never tried the SH-1 into my interface, so I'm afraid I can't compare experiences there!

    2. I don't recall being able to hear the bypass button noise through headphones on my AOU, but I expect if you are in fact overloading your interface (or any other part of the chain) it would exacerbate this kind of noise via compression. The XU definitely didn't have this problem for me.

    3. The Blend control works like any normal Blend. Going into the Blend, you have the Volume control that affects the output of the Gain/Distorted tone, but there is no way to boost the Clean output in this section. The Blend knob starts with Clean signal at (or slightly above) unity gain when rolled fully anti-clockwise, but the Distortion signal level is determined by the Volume control next to the Blend AND the Blend itself and can go far above unity. The Clean signal cannot be boosted on the dirt side (so to reiterate- the "Volume" control on the Distortion mode ONLY affects the volume of your dirty signal into the Blend control).

    A good way to volume test is to roll your Blend all the way to the right (no clean signal), then set your Gain, AO and switch settings to taste, then toggle the distortion switch on and off and adjust Volume to get the Distortion tone at or above unity. Then when this is satisfactory, roll in the cleans via the Blend control to taste. This ensures the two levels going into the Blend are in adequate balance. From your settings, it appears like your distorted tone would be much louder than the Clean tone in the Blend section. However if you want a large boost in output while retaining strong clean blend then settings like yours make sense, as the Volume control of the Distortion can make up for that extreme Blend setting. For my taste, I prefered my AOU (and current AO) with low Gain settings and much less clean blended in
     
  14. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    Also- check your settings options in the DG Suite, at the least there should be a headphone Gain control (at least there was in the X Ultra) but they could have added other controls as well at some point!
     
  15. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    First off, I really appreciate your detailed response.

    -Power: I'm just using the plug from the SH1 (9V rated at 250mA).

    -Distortion/Bypass button noise: Even through the headphones into the AOU, I can still hear the Distortion and Bypass buttons click when I use them. Its not loud but enough to notice. I haven't been able to try it through an amp yet, so I can only assume it would be audible through the speaker cab as well. Hopefully this weekend I can plug it in "for real".

    -Input to audio interface: I'm using the XLR out and tried utilizing the "line" button my the interface but it didn't really seem to do much.

    -Regarding the low end: that did seem to be from the cab sims. I've worked with cab sims before but I was surprised at how drastic it changed things for the AOU. I do have a small collection of cab sims and started going through them, but it's definitely tedious.

    Thank you for clarifying the Blend knob topic!

    -Low volume: in experimenting with some cab sims that are much less bass heavy, I was able to dial it up a bit louder. That said, I think it sounded the best when I maxed out the master and then just dropped down the level on the audio interface so it didn't clip. Between that and pick playing sounding a lot better than fingers, I'm wondering if I need to put a pedal before it to drive it a bit harder. The pickups in my bass are relatively hot, so I didn't think I'd have this issue.

    Hopefully, sooner than later I can find a tone that isn't either too dry/trebbly or too bassy and get to enjoying it. That said, there were a few times where I clicked the bypass switch and it reminded me how much I like bass's inherent tone. Maybe the Darkglass sound coloring just isn't for me. I'll continue to run it through my testing, but it might be returned in the next week or two. (note: it was an "open box" special from zzounds that came in excellent condition, so I think its working properly, but you never know.)
     
  16. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    I did find the AOU to be a bit more picky in regards to the cab sims than the X Ultra for what it’s worth- so much of the character of the AOU is in the mids and that is where the cab character also shows through so finding the right one can take some time. It’s best to think of cab-sims as “taking away” response- what you hear as bass-heavy is usually the response of speakers with little energy in the treble and high-midrange. Finding the cab with the right midrange response is key. I’m fortunate to have an actual cab that I consider my “holy grail“ (a Bergantino NV610 that has been the only constant in my rig for over a dozen years) and so I just compared until I found a sim that got me the closest to that (one of the Ampeg 810 models from Lancaster). My cab has a hefty midrange response and I know how to dial it in well (One day I’d love to actually create my own IRs of my cab). It is probably best to find a cab sim for you using your EQ’d clean tone as a reference then building a drive tone that complements that rather than trying to find a sim that makes a particular drive tone work.

    I spent considerable time dialing in my AOU through an amp and cab at rehearsals before ever recording with it (and still typically would record a miced amp signal to blend with it), so my experience getting to know it is quite different than yours. I find the tone of the AOU to really shine in a band mix, so playing it soloed may be pretty misleading.
    As far as “Darkglass tone”, having owned most of the DG pedals at this point I can say that they all tend to be quite voiced (non-transparent) but are all quite different from each-other. The AO circuit is the most unique and unlike the others in both drive characteristics and tone.
    The idea of exploring a drive pedal via headphones only is actually quite difficult for me to fathom, but I am admittedly behind the times! What are the headphones you are using? Given the way you mentioned dialing in your SH-1 to find tones you like vs my experience with that pedal, something tells me we are hearing two different references in our ears. My recording phones are Beyer DT770s, and I am aware of their inherent strengths and deficiencies for referencing (these phones are strong in bass, low-mid and treble response but can miss some high-mid detail).

    I would recommend experimenting with the distortion channel of the AOU with EQ flat and clean rolled completely out in the Blend. Try from here to dial in a tone you find pleasing and complementary to your clean tone before rolling the cleans back in. Playing through a tweeter-less cab, I am usually looking for attack enhancement so the Bite is vital for me. If the Bite is too much for you even through a choice cab sim, rolling the AO control towards the tighter/more-controlled Alpha side can clean it up some (you could think of the Bite/Growl controls on the AO as not terribly dissimilar in idea to the Bite and Cab-sim controls on the SH-1, except they are both far less broad/extreme than the SH-1 IMO!). Start with the Gain low, then engage the switches to see how they change the emphasis and drive characteristics. Then sweep the AO control to see how it shapes the tone and feel. My favorite tones are with both switches on (or sometimes just Bite), AO rolled somewhere between 1-3o’clock, and Gain somewhere between off and 11 o’clock depending on my bass and Blend settings. From here I can roll in some clean- in my heavier band I’d have the Blend around 2-3o’clock (very little clean), but this depends on the drive Volume as well.

    I try to lean on the graphic EQ as little as possible to build my ideal drive tone since it comes at the end of the circuit and affects the cleans too. All my basses are passive, and I generally find myself dialing in a bit of a high-mid hump and raising the low-mid slider a bit, creating an effective shallow scoop around 500hz. This worked well for both my clean and driven tones on the AOU.


    Good luck!!
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  17. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    I'm kinda in the same boat for cab sims. When I use sims in the REAPER DAW my go to is a Zilla 610 cab sim (I've never actually played through one but as a cab sim its tight and clear throughout). I'll have to try it again with the AOU but the sound seemed a bit too dry when I was messing around with it last night. I have IRs from Ampeg, Marshall, Orange, Peavey and well, Darkglass besides the Zilla so I have a decent collection to go through. In theory I should be able to find something that works, lol.

    Yeah, headphone play is my primary method right now as being plugged into my computer lets me record, use practice software/play along with songs super easy and do it at any hour. My headphones: OneOdio Pro-10 Studio & DJ, which weren't expensive but actually do a fantastic job of handling the low notes. I do have a regular head and cab, though so I should play through that just to see if its just not happy with headphones using the settings I want.

    I'll definitely try shaping just the distortion using the method you mentioned and see that that goes. It makes a lot of sense to approach it from that angle. Once again, thank you so much for your feedback/time spent replying to me - its given me hope for this pedal yet!
     
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  18. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    Well....I wish I plugged this pedal into my amp and cab right away...pretty sure the distortion pre-amp/channel is busted. No matter what the volume, it just makes my cab fart out or sound like a fuzz pedal instead of a distortion pedal. Its only a GK 1x15 but as you can see in the pictures and sound/video clip (I just placed my phone on top of my cab, and yes the volume was that low), the settings are very conservative and it does not sound good at all.

    The signal chain for the audio recording was my bass (G&L SB-2) -> AOU -> FX return on my amp to just use the power amp. The pickups in my bass are very hot for being passive, but when I turned the pickups down to experiment it just because all booming low end with still a little bit of the farting out. In contrast, I plugged in my SH1 and had no issues at all.

    It was an "open box" sale, but this is 3/3 for me and getting a deal on a "like new" pedal and having to send them back for one reason or another (all different online stores). I've learned my lesson to always buy new or buy from the TB classifieds. That said, I'll probably just go for a refund. The clean channel did work ok, so I was able to compare and confirmed that I prefer my bass's natural tone over the DG coloring.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  19. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    That’s a shame. As a fan of the G&L P pickup, I can attest that it is the hottest passive pickup I’ve ever used (moreso than the humbuckers in an L2000 even). My main basses now are Rickenbackers that all have relatively low output by comparison. With my Ricks and nothing else in the chain, even at minimum Gain there is still some drive happening in the AO circuit when blended full dirty. With no clean blended in, the decay of this drive can be a bit fuzzy at lower Gain settings. Again not always the prettiest tone soloed, but in a mix it works quite well. If neither of the switches are engaged, this recording could be “normal” but it’s really hard to say without being there. I’d recommend engaging the Bite switch when using with a solo 15” speaker, but that’s just my taste- the crispness adds a lot to the tone of this circuit in my opinion (I rarely use it without the Bite engaged). Also probably recommend a decent amount of clean blended in, and possible a little dip in the 500hz range and boost in the high or low mids just as a general addition to the AO (YMMV).

    The Clean circuit shouldn’t have any inherent flavor with the EQ set flat!
    I’d also probably lower the Volume in the Distortion circuit and/or Master Volume if you are getting clipping at that low of amp settings- it seems to me like the power amp is getting a hotter signal than intended.
     
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  20. HeavyFingers

    HeavyFingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2006
    Yeah, this was me trying to dial in the distortion circuit per your previous recommendation. In that case both switches were OFF. That said, I tried it all 3 ways:

    1) bass -> pedal -> normal 1/4 amp input (-10db pad ON) -> cab
    2) bass -> amp (-10db pad ON) -> FX send -> pedal -> FX return -> cab
    3) bass -> pedal -> FX return -> cab

    1) sounded the worst and the other two were within the ball park of each other. With 3) I even tried dropping the Master, bass shelf, and 250hz on the AOU all the way down 100% and it still gave me the farty unpleasant sound. I understand what you mean by "sounds better in the mix than at home solo" but what I was hearing at actual play volume (the recording was very very low volume), made me worry about the integrity of my speaker and made me want to put my bass down tone wise, lol.

    I tried cutting back on my pickups at that point and the farting went away slightly, but I was left with just a tremendous boomy sound. Since the G&L SB-2 only has volume - volume for control knobs, dropping the volume down changes my bass tone drastically as well (as you know).

    Oh well....it's busted or it's just not compatible with my bass. Either way, I've spent enough time twiddling knobs, lol. I was really hoping that this worked out for me since I thought all of the demo's I heard were great, but this has also made me realize that I'd like to keep my signal pretty natural/transparent as well (silver lining). I'll probably persue the DSM Noisemaker Sub Atomic and Omnicabsim Deluxe next on my journey.

    p.s. Re: the clean circuit - there was a slight tone difference between me having the pedal bypassed 100% and havingthe clean engaged with the EQ flat.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
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  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Apr 19, 2021

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