If you ask any other musician what the distortion is all about, they will probably dive into technical specifications and explain the core of the effect. They will most likely add that it is either love or hate situation and that not everybody enjoys those growly sounds. But for me, distortion is a little bit more than mere audio effect. It is something that inspires and forces your inner creativity to flow outside of your body and transform itself into spectacular riffs. It has the power to captivate your whole existence and subjugate the crowds of avid listeners. Thus, when I am searching for the best distortion pedal, I want something that will make my heart beat faster every time I pick it up. This might not be the case for everybody, but the majority of you will still appreciate a nice sonic range and tonal diversity. If you are looking for such pedal, I have a great option for you – TC Electronic Dark Matter. This compact stompbox will change the way you perceive music and distortion in particular and take you to wonderful world of artistry. Stay with me and I will provide you with a guide into that universe!
If you think that what I described above is a mere exaggeration and a ramble of pedal enthusiast, you have to pay attention to what I am about to say. The features of TC Electronic Dark Matter will convince you in every word I articulated. This tiny pedal will fit on every pedalboard, no matter how crowded it is. And once it finds its space, it will make sure that you will never want to take it out of there. It is equipped with an all-analog circuitry that brings back the feel of good ol’ days. Though there is nothing wrong with digital components, that uniqueness of analog circuitry still remains the favorite thing for many. What is more, Dark Matter has die-cast metal chassis that makes it roadworthy and durable. The knobs and footswitch are of good quality as well – you will not find any cheap constituents in here. Apart from typical controls, this pedal has two different voicings that can take you from vintage sounds to modern grunge. This enhances the sonic versatility even further and provides you with unlimited possibilities. The fact that it is true bypass is simply a cherry on top, since this way the integrity of your tone will not be compromised when the unit is inactive. Luckily, Dark Matter can be powered with batteries (that can be exposed by opening a one-screw bottom lid) or AC adaptor. It is clear as a day that this pedal is anything but one trick pony and packs quite an impressive set of features.
Would we be able to enjoy the benefits of the above-mentioned features if we did not have complementary controls? I really doubt that. That is why TC Electronic designed the control section in the way that incorporated all the essentials needed to shape your tone perfectly. But it managed to keep it simple and rather self-explanatory. Regardless, let’s discuss the tweaking functions of each knob and figure out the true capabilities of Dark Matter.
The control section features Gain as its first encoder. This little fella modifies the amount of gain added to your sound. It emits tight distortion at lower settings, but opens up at higher settings to accommodate your leads. Next we have Level, which sets the volume of the output and keeps everything even. On the bottom row you will encounter two-band equalizer with Bass and Treble knobs. The former allows you to create either punchy or tight low-end by messing around with bass response, while the latter allows you to either cut through the mix or remain soft and subtle by altering the high-end spectrum. Between these controls you will see a two-way toggle. In the up position you are exposed to vintage sounds, while the lower position accentuates the bass even more and creates that modern touch. And of course, we have a footswitch (which looks quite fancy) that activates the effect or triggers true bypass.
When it comes to the sound of Dark Matter, things get really interesting. This tiny pedal has the feel of Marshall Plexi, which is quite surprising at this price point. Its sonic nature is quite distinctive due to several reasons. First and foremost, the gain control here resembles that of an overdrive pedals, since it alters both the intensity of the effect and its character. At mild settings, you can produce overdriven warm tones that are steeped with British sense. As you rotate the knob clockwise, you move on to blues crunch. But at the highest settings, Dark Matter gets quite dark and gives of metal distortion. Even though it is not heavy enough for modern metal on its own, if you pair it with overdriven amplifier or other pedals, you will be able to achieve that extreme thrash and dirt. Secondly, the voicings of pedal are not far cry from each other. They are more of an additional tool to further refine your tone and enhance its qualities. And finally, the level control allows you to overdrive your tubes and achieve that classic vintage effect. No matter what kind of amp you utilize and how you treat this pedal, it will still give you a wide variety of distortion to work with.
What else? I will just add that TC Electronic Dark Matter has everything in order to be considered as your prime choice when looking for the best distortion pedal. It is affordable, but the quality exceeds the price a great deal. The sonic range is fantastic and the flavors of distortion will satisfy all the rock, blues, and hard rock players. Metal enthusiasts might not be too fancy about this one unless they employ with something else. But with a slight experimentation, you are guaranteed to achieve saturated and textured sounds. Good luck!
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