Thereâ€™s a buzz on the net about this new Big Muff clone thatâ€™s been compared to a Cornish P2. A Cornish? Do they dare? The TopTone DG1 seems to have stirred up quite a controversy. I recently got my hands on one and with a sceptic grin I gave it a good shootout. Hereâ€™s my review.
Toptone is a fairly new Brazilian company that has set their mind on cracking the Big Muff code. Their little informative website claims that the DriveGate is the flagship pedal, hinting that they might have a range of clones but the DG1 is the only one they affordâ€¦ for now.
I got the chance to try the pedal on our last Floyd tribute show. In a dare move I replaced my faithful BYOC Large Beaver triangle clone and crossed my fingers that the DG1 was up for the task. Iâ€™m really not that interested in whether the DG1 is a P2 clone or not. The YouTube clip that seems to have started the debate suggests that itâ€™s indeed a clone while the Toptone site clearly expresses that itâ€™s not but rather a take on many models. However, the resemblance is quite noticeable and although itâ€™s been some years since I tried a P2 myself, I have no trouble appreciating their likeness.
The DG1 has an incredibly fat tone with lots of gain, just like the old Sovteks and the P2. The tone spectrum is perhaps a bit limited but so is my old green Sovtek. It works for stadium type solos and not much more than that but thatâ€™s the intention with these high gain models anyway. The tone is extremely pristine and even with the highest gain settings you can hear every string when you strum a chord, which is quite rare among Muffs. What surprised me about the DG1 was the rich dynamics in the tone. The mid range is well balanced making the pedal cut nicely through a mix or a band setting, something that can be a challenge with Muffs like the triangle. The top frequencies are smooth without any ear pinching overtones although not as warm as the triangle model and itâ€™s also slightly brighter than both the P2 and green Sovtek. The lower frequencies are tight punchy character but I still miss some of the growling thunder from the green Sovtek. Still, less bass makes it easier to blend with other pedals. Like the P2 you can easily use the DG1 alone without any booster but I prefer having the Colorsound behind it just to blend in a bit more character (perhaps itâ€™s just a habit).
The DG1 is housed in a rugged MXR-sized aluminium box with cool graphics. It runs on 9V and you can use your Boss adaptor. The adaptor plug on mine was a bit tricky and Iâ€™ve seen others complain about this too. The pedal is of course hand wired with high quality components (read more about the technical details on the TopTone site) and itâ€™s true bypass. The pedal is a bit noisy but nothing to loose your mind over. It’s easy to tweak and works nicely with most other pedals (like Boss BD-2, Colorsound Powerboost, Tube Driver, Electric Mistress etc).
The DG1 got me impressed and it produced some very fine tones on our Floyd tribute show. We did a lot of Wall tunes this time and I was mainly looking for a mix between Davidâ€™s hard edged Wall album tones mixed with all the wonderful liquidy rotary sounds from the 1980-81 tour. The Combination of the DG1 + Colorsound Powerboost + Electric Mistress was dead on. Personally Iâ€™d choose a triangle or ramâ€™s head for the Animals and Island tones while the DG1 is great for Wall, Delicate and PULSE. It sounds huge on stuff like Sorrow and On the Turning Away. I think the DG1 is a good start for Toptone and a welcomed addition to the ever-growing Muff family and Iâ€™m eager to see what they come up with next!