Priced at a point where the serious amateur bassist, semi-pro and pro alike can all take advantage, this effects unit has a clearly-defined, if slightly niche, purpose, as well as expert-level usability, construction and design.
Remember, of course, our trademarked ‘rule of wine’, which we just made up. This principle clearly states that if you spend £5 and £50 on two bottles of claret, the more expensive one will not be 10 times better or more enjoyable than the cheapie. The same applies to effects pedals, so while this unit will cost you a serious amount of taxed income, you will almost certainly be able to achieve a large proportion of their function with a crappy £25 pedal from dirtcheapeffects.com or wherever. But only a proportion; as ever, quality is worth investing in.
Tech 21’s Dug Pinnick DP-3X unit is an adaptation of the King’s X frontman Dug Pinnick’s Ultra Bass 1000 head. Now, Dug is truly iconic around these parts, so any product which purports to supply his signature tone is bound to get our attention.
His tone, a combination of distorted top end and bass at the low end, used to be achieved in the 80s with a combination of guitar and bass amps plus various effects, a trick Dug presumably nabbed from his own hero Chris Squire. This all-analogue unit aims to get that tone to you with a single stomp; do let’s plug in. There are two modes, On and Mix, which translate to ‘Not Dug’ and ‘Dug’. The former mode gives you a fantastic tone right from the off, with a clean, professional and eminently usable sound that is right there even before you approach the control panel, lit up in green and red like it’s Christmas already.
The two red controls, Chunk and Drive, are at the heart of Pinnick’s tone, the former adding upper harmonics and the latter injecting some crunch. They can be adjusted in On mode, but are always on if you select the Mix option. There’s a Gain switch for extra beef, again always on in Dug’s signature mode. The active EQ is the unit’s core arsenal of weaponry, with what feels like an astounding amount of boost for each frequency.
There are two mid shift options at 325 Hz and 700 Hz, while the aforementioned Drive is a monster even without Gain engaged; we found that it needs a touch of low boost for maximum potency. Other goodies include a compressor, a super-useful tuner with nice big red letters for the stage-blind bassist, an XLR out and - unusually - a useful booklet which suggests settings options for the tones of various songs and bassists, plus templates for your own discoveries. Use this unit as a preamp via the effects return of your power amp, or as a stompbox, or plugged directly into a mixer or recorder, or simply as a way into Dug’s tone.
Sure, you could probably find your way there with the right strings, bass EQ and amp controls, but it’s nice to have Dug’s beefed-up twang right there, especially for King’s X fans. Excellent work all round.