The plugin features two very high quality preamp pedals; the Vintage Ultra and the B7K Ultra as well as a very nice impulse section.
I have never tried these pedals in real life but based on the testimonials of many that have tried both, the preamps have been modeled faithfully. The real life versions of these preamps can provide some exceedingly good bass tones so when you factor in NeuralDSP’s reputation for high quality, the math is easy.
I’d seen a lot of video demos of this plugin but many of them seemed to feature the plugin in djent or modern metal mode. I play a lot of metal but I also like other styles so I wanted to explore the plugin’s other capabilities. I am using an Ibanez SR650 with Nordstrand pickups and a Fender Jazz 5 string.
The work put into the GUI is noticeable. I don’t always care about the graphics as long as the sound quality is there but when something looks and sounds great, it just makes for a great first impression. It also makes the usage continuously enjoyable in the future.
If you want the presets, you need to download them from the product page. I usually like to have presets when trying to familiarize myself with a new plugin. The Darkglass Ultra is an extensively versatile plugin so with all the versatility, take the time to grab the presets.
The quality is there right away. The first note I hit sounded massive with nothing but my bass and the plugin. The Darkglass Ultra really doesn’t require a lot of processing. I compressed out front of the plugin which is a need for me but by all means, the plugin doesn’t require it. All I really ended up using was some compression and a little EQ when it came to processing.
The two preamps are similar in sharing some of the key sounds in the tones but they are quite different in a lot of ways. When I started wheeling through both pedals, a feature I found handy was the EQ Link switch. I suggest turning this one on while you are getting familiar with the plugin because it enables you to have the same settings between the two preamps. So as you tweak one, the other with change with it.
The tone shaping options are almost endless with the Darkglass Ultra. Two main features in that department would be the grunt and attack switches. The simple way to explain it is the grunt switch saturates the bottom end and the attack switch saturates the top end. Play around with these switches but if you do have pre or post EQ going on, you will want to watch how the switches impact your EQ and vise-versa. I loved the variety of ways both switches shaped the Darkglass Ultra’s tones. After that you have very useful switches to alter the high and low mids.
Without the drive, you can get just about any clean bass tone you can imagine and then some. Prog, fusion, jazz, blues, pop and really any clean or smooth use you can think of is attainable with the Darkglass Ultra. Whether it was a vintage tone or modern tone, I didn’t have a hard time finding any tone I was looking for. I started light with some blues, rock and jazz tones then I switched basses and messed around with the drives on both pedals. There wasn’t a bad tone to be found across the entire plugin.
Both preamps have a drive channel and both drive channels are really just so far above anything I have heard up to this point for bass overdrive in a plugin. Usually, when I want a really driven bass tone, I will use a guitar amp sim with bass impulses and a thick saturation added near the end of the chain but the Darkglass Ultra has changed the game for driven bass tones. Thrash, rock, djent, punk, industrial, nu-metal and beyond is what the drive channel delivers. You can make the Darkglass Ultra plenty angry.
Toss on your own compression, modulation or dynamic effect plugins and you really don’t have many limits. A bonus to the versatility is the quality so everything the plugin does, it does with a high level of detail. There’s just never a time that I cringe at a tone with this plugin.
The cab section / impulse loader is very well put together. The internal mic options are great plus the plugin allows you to adjust the mic(s) as you see fit. Those features alone create a lot of additional versatility for Darkglass Ultra users. In addition to the mics, NeuralDSP has added a Yamaha Subkick option. I will let you research the benefits to using a Subkick on a bass cabinet but basically with regard to this plugin; one mic is on a speaker for the highs and the subkick is on another speaker to provide more “sub bass” frequencies. I love this technique and high five to NeuralDSP for including it as an option.
Staying with the cabinet section, you can also use it to load your own impulses. So you can load two of your own impulses ex: a 410 and a 115 or you can blend one of your impulses with one of the internal mic options / the subkick. Think for a second just how many potential options that creates for bass tones. I was going back and forth between the preamp and cabinet sections for hours. I used about 50 impulses with the internal loader both on their own and blended with the internal cabinet. Every cab matched up well with the darkglass ultra.
UPS / DOWNS:
I challenge any bass player on earth to try this plugin and not have a great time with it. I really can’t find even one bad thing about the Darkglass Ultra. It’s the best bass amp sim that I have ever tried. The only thing I can see making this plugin even better would be a pedal section with a Fortin designed compressor. I know a lot of bass players that would probably look at that as a selling feature.
For bass players out there that are on the fence with amp sims and plugins, if you were waiting for that one plugin to change your mind, this is it. I have a very hard time believing that there are many out there that could tell this tone is software based on a listening test. The authenticity, realism, picking response and really everything about this plugin made it a pleasure to review.
NeuralDSP’s plugins can be a bit heavy on CPU but the difference in CPU between the normal and high quality oversampling in the Darkglass Ultra isn’t much so you might as well run it on high quality.
As I mentioned, a pre-FX section with a compressor pedal would be a nice addition but I also wonder if maybe a power amp section could be an option as an update or even as a purchasable add-on/expansion.
See more – Darkglass 2.0 launch video