Review: TWA Dynamorph DM-02

Not every bass player is a sonic adventurer.
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Not every bass player is a sonic adventurer. There’s something about our instrument’s culture that traditionally eschews anything other than solid, full-bodied, and supportive tone, and sound-mangling effects can disrupt the fulfillment of our basic duties. Thankfully, there’s no rule that says we must be functionaries, dutifully working in the trenches while our bandmates fancifully flit above our unyielding foundation. We don’t have to be craftsmen—we can be artists, too. Many of the most interesting players on the contemporary scene, from Thundercat to Victor Wooten to Juan Alderete, embrace the bass’ exciting sonic breadth, and we all admire their approach as much as we adore the role-defining contributions of icons like James Jamerson, Duck Dunn, and Joe Osborn.

Beyond developing new techniques, the quickest route to a broader sonic palette is through effects. An intrepid bass player will likely first build up an arsenal of must-have stompboxes, like an octaver, a fuzz or distortion, a phaser or chorus, and a delay. Much can be accomplished with this fundamental array, especially when creatively used in combinations, but more ambitious effect-hounds inevitably seek ever-weirder sounds. The TWA DM-02 Dynamorph is an exemplary representative of these exotic breeds. There’s nothing that sounds quite like it, and that alone could be its biggest selling point.

The Dynamorph is hard to categorize. It’s a distortion pedal at its core, but its innovative circuit and dynamic sensitivity make it unlike any other distortion on the market. The circuit’s basic topology involves a pair of high-gain preamps driving a string of full-wave rectifier diodes. As the diodes are hit with increasing amounts of gain, they clip the audio signal in unpredictable ways. The result of all the clipping is a host of new waveforms that further interact in erratic, sonically insane ways. In short, the bass signal is put through a high-speed blender, resulting in a sound that can be synth-y and sputtering, massive and industrial, and everything in between.

The Dynamorph further ups the ante with the inclusion of its switchable MORPH function. With MORPH engaged, an envelope-detection circuit tracks input dynamics, tying them to the DRIVE amount. The result is that the insanity’s severity becomes linked to how hard one plays. The sensitivity of the MORPH control is adjustable via the INSTAR knob. This gets me to another point, although I’m not sure where I stand on the subject. The DM-02 offers a lot of parameter controls, including adjustable ratios of dry to wet signal, the envelope-detector speed, the gain amount driving the diodes, and a pair of preset EQ curves that tailor the output’s frequency response. This is all objectively cool to have on hand. My criticism-cum-plaudit is that each control is named with no regard whatsoever for what it does. For example, is just me or is it not obvious that the HOLOMETABOLY knob works in conjunction with the AMETABOLY knob to govern the wet/dry mix? The reason I don’t know where to stand on the crazy naming conventions is that the pedal itself is so wacky that the naming somehow suits its aesthetic. That said, the bizarre names significantly steepened my learning curve.

As a bass player who loves to mangle my sound in wild ways, I loved the DM-02 for its unique sonic signature. It surely won’t be for everyone, and it’s about as confusing a pedal to master as I’ve come across, but I think such confusion is itself exemplary of the kind of player it’s bound to please. Sometimes it’s better to just turn knobs and get weird.

SPECIFICATIONS

TWA

Dynamorph DM-02

Street $300
Pros One-of-a-kind sonic mangler capable of a ludicrously broad array of synth-y, fuzzy, and overall weird tones; dynamic-sensitivity option adds a exciting dimension of interactivity
Cons The most confusing parameter labels in the biz
Bottom Line Anyone who likes to dramatically alter their sound would find the Dynamorph an exciting playmate.

SPECS

Input ¼"
Outputs ¼"
Expression pedal ¼" for external control of drive amount
Power 9 volts via external jack
Made in U.S.A.
Contact godlyke.com

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