What is it?
There are few manufacturers who court the black t-shirt dollar like Darkglass Electronics. The Finnish company knows what's what when it comes to rock and metal bass tone, and the X Ultra, the latest in the Microtubes series, built in this tradition – taking the X7 and giving it more features.
Is the Microtubes X Ultra a distortion pedal, an EQ or a DI box? It's all three and then some. There's a headphones output for silent practice, a balanced XLR out with cab sim, and micro USB for hooking up to your computer and tweaking via the Darkglass Suite software.
The X Ultra packs so much into its enclosure but it shouldn't take up too much real estate on your pedalboard, nor too much time to get to grips with it.
The controls layout has four large controls for Low Comp, Low Level, High Level and High Drive, and two either side of a 4-band EQ, master volume and two shelving frequencies. The X Ultra processes your signal in two ways, compressing the low end so those bass frequencies stay tight and solid, then distorting the top end.
There are two footswitches allowing you to engage/bypass the EQ section and distortion. The EQ, shelvingand master volume sliders light up when they are in play – a neat little touch for a dark stage.
Performance and verdict
As you might expect, you can get some serious aggro on the low-end here. That, after all, is what Darkglass' CMOS gain circuit is designed for. Contemporary metal bass tones are bread and butter, but across the gain spectrum, from grit to something a little more filthy, the X Ultra is musical and inspiring.
The ability to isolate frequencies and compress or saturate them with gain is an incredibly powerful tool; the complete control over EQ comes in handy when taming the more excitable overtones sired by that precocious gain circuit.
That said, this unit was built for gain, for the embracing the feral promise of distorted bass, and there's something freeing in having so much on tap.
With the distortion bypassed, the EQ section remains a powerful ally at your back, but to get the best value from the X Ultra, you're going to want to use all of its features. How else might you use it? Well, it makes a great practice tool. There is a headphones output and an aux in for for playing along to external audio.
• Darkglass Vintage Ultra
If you are looking for gain but something more old-school, the Vintage Ultra is a good place to start.
The onboard cab sims are excellent for livening up your signal and adding some organic space when playing through headphones or using the DI out for recording, and you can download more via the accompanying software.
Sure, it's a considerable outlay, but the Microtubes X Ultra is a lot of pedal, with a lot of functionality, and if you are looking for a secret weapon in the pursuit of the dark arts of rock and metal, then you'd do well to find something better.
MusicRadar verdict: It is not cheap, but the Microtubes X Ultra is an exceptional unit that is packed with features and awesome, thunderous tones.
The Bass Channel
Bass The World
- Price: £395
- Made In: Finland
- Features: Low Comp, Low Level, High Level, High Drive, Low Pass (50Hz, 250Hz, 500 Hz), High Pass (100Hz, 500Hz, 1kHz), Master (+/-12dB), Low Shelf (+/-12dB @ 80Hz), 250Hz/500Hz/1.5kHz/3kHz (+/-12dB), High Shelf (+/-12dB @ 5kHz), Distortion selector stomp button, Bypass, stomp button, 1/4” jack Input socket, 1/4” jack Output socket, Balanced XLR DI, output, Ground Lift selector, Cab Sim, selector, 3.5mm Aux-In input, 3.5mm, Headphone output, Micro USB B socket
- Dimensions: 125mm x 96mm x 57mm / 4.9” x 3.8” x 2.2”
- Power: 9 volt DC power supply
- Weight: 430g / 15oz
- Contact: Darkglass Electronics