Unless you have a ready spare £50,000 - £100,000 - few of us will ever own a genuine Alexander Dumble Overdrive Special amp - of which only around 300 were built. There are various sound-alike / clone amps to a degree - like the Fuchs Overdrive Supreme (c £2,000) or Two Rocks TS1 (c £4,400), yet we pedal aficionados prefer to reproduce such tone in more compact enclosures. To be wholly circumspect here, each of the amps mentioned have a variety of tones, and few pedals can recreate everything those amps offer, but there is a handful of contenders that even get close to that.
The aspect of the Dumble I really like is the really smooth moderate gain overdrive with just a hint of fuzz on the edges of the frequency profile - a really pleasant and liquid-like overdrive. The very best pedals can give you a pretty decent flavour of that, but some can do quite a bit more.
I would place the Custom Tones full Ethos Overdrive Preamp right at the top of the pile - it has by far and away the most tone-sculpting options, and closely matches the Dumble amp tone options with various dials and toggles and 3 footswitches - it comes in at a fairly hefty $635 fully stacked. Next we have the even larger Van Weelden Royal Overdrive which is not an exact clone really, but overlaps in many key areas tonally - this goes for around £649. Even more pricey but with fewer features is Shin’s Music Dumbloid Twin version - yours via import (Japan / Reverb.com) for around £750. If you really must have as much of the Dumble sound as you can in pedal-form, then I would personally go for the Ethos Overdrive - not that I would actually ever get it as it’s really way too big. Probably fine if you’re going to base your whole core sound around it, not so good if you want lots of different tones and textures like I do.
For me it’s all about the compact pedal enclosure, even though there is a pretty reasonable alternative in the mini OneControl Golden Acorn, and in fact the mini Mooer Rumble Drive is not bad either. Right now, my current ’Dumble’ pedal of choice is the Wampler Euphoria, with the Mad Professor Simble providing a superb back-up / swap-out for that too. In fact I get the best single Dumble tone out of the Simble, but prefer the Euphoria for its versatility. At the time I was very close to going with the J Rockett ’The Dude’ too, but decided on Simble at the last moment. The Zendrive and Tanabe Zenkudo / Dumkudo are pretty well-known alternatives, as is the MXR Shin-Juku Drive.
However, I have my mind set on a Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1 - which is funnily not based on a Dumble at all, but rather the celebrated cult Trainwreck Express Amp. Yet for me it gets me into fairly similar territory to where I want to be (liquid overdrive with hint of fuzz) - I also have my eye on a Mojo Hand FX Extra Special - and if I find a Golden Acorn ODS at a reasonable price I will probably add that one to the collection too.
In terms of my 2018 pedal goals - the Ethos TWE-1 is at the top of the list alongside the Foxpedal Kingdom Combo V2 and Wampler Tumnus Deluxe (Klons). For reasons I have already mentioned - i.e. Foxpedal folding and little stock remaining, I will probably snap up one of those remaining ones before I put in my order at Custom Tones.
Pedals are listed alphabetically.
This pedal is obviously a tweaker's delight and has a plethora of dials, toggles and switches for tone-sculpting possibilities - not just on the face of the pedal, but on 3 of the sides too! To my mind this is the ultimate Dumble in pedal format and if you are serious about those particular tones in a pedal format, then this is probably the one for you. For my needs it's just way too large. As I said in the intro - if you are going to build your sound around this then fine, but if you want more variety then it just takes up too much real-estate - really great engineering - made in the USA and with 100% analogue circuitry.
So - a disclaimer here - as this is not a Dumble clone at all, rather it is made after the famous Trainwreck Express Amp - so more medium gain and up really - but for what I'm after it has that lovely liquid overdrive sound with a hint of fuzz (which is what I love best about the Dumble) - and superb roll-off ability via the guitar volume knob so you can go from clean-to-scream with just half a turn. The controls are somewhat unusual - but via 3 dials and 4 toggle switches you get to change voicings and low, middle and high frequencies - it's just a touch quirky really, but boy does it sound amazing - as in Brett's demo above.
The first Dumble style pedal I acquired was the Mad Professor Simble, and in the end it was neck-and-neck between that and 'The Dude'. I decided in the end that I very slightly preferred the tone of the Simble - it was also very lightly cheaper and more readily available in the UK. I have often considered adding 'The Dude' to the collection too, but currently the Ethos TWE-1, Mojo Extra Special and OneControl Golden Acorn all come above it on the wishlist - still a really decent pedal in every aspect.
Many love this first of the Dumble clone pedals - including Phillip McKnight of 'Know Your Gear' fame - for whom it is his core sound as such. To my ears though it is a little thin sounding, and lacks full frequency definition, particularly in the lower register. It is a very neutral sounding pedal which many seem to like, although I like my Dumble with a touch more oomph - same as my Klon really. The Tanabe Zenkudo is similarly neutral bad adds a 3-way voicing switch.
To date this is the pedal which has best managed to capture my ideal Dumble-style overdrive tone. Yet I swapped it out for the Wampler Euphoria - which gets pretty close to ideal, but has a 3-way voicing switch for far more versatility in tone. The Simble is a little bit 'Goldilocks' with a great sweet spot - while the Euphoria offers up several workable tones.
I don't know how or why I've gotten drawn to this one but I like it! - it features the standard 4-dial arrangement of most of the Dumble-style pedals, but also benefits from the classic Jazz / Rock voicing toggle switch. I've kind of made my mind up to get one of these after I get the Ethos TWE-1, just don't know exactly when, some time in the next couple of years probably - unless something better comes along - which is often the case.
The Shin-Juku is often overlooked in the Dumble overviews, but it too produces a pretty sweet liquid overdrive. It's fairly far down in my own personal pecking order as such, but it's still a pretty decent Dumble sound-alike - at least for those key overdrive tones.
I went through a spate of acquiring Björn Juhl pedals - from both his Mad Professor and OneControl collections. The Golden Acorn has long been on my radar, but there are other pedal priorities way above that, and I don't so much use my mini pedals any more. In any case this is most likely the best of the mini Dumble-alikes, while the Mooer Rumble Drive is also pretty decent. If I see this at a really decent price I may acquire sooner, otherwise it's on the back-burner really.
The pedals from Japanese Dumble Amp engineer / specialist Shin Suzuki are much in demand - with similar notation to the original Amp, and for many guitarists the ultimate in Dumble sound-alikes - including such luminaries as Brad Paisley and Richie Sambora. This is a really pricey option, regardless of how good it sounds, and I believe the Ethos Overdrive Preamp and Van Weelden Royal Overdrive are quite a bit more versatile for slightly less money, but then the Dumbloids are significantly smaller - so you need to decide on what your priorities are here really.
The Toshihiko Tanabe Dumble-alike pedals come in a variety of flavours and colourways - Zenkudo for humbucker guitars, Dumkudo for single coils and in various single or dual versions - not unlike the Shin versions above, but in a still smaller form factor. These can be difficult to get hold of, and many feel they sound very close to Zendrives, which means they are somewhat lacking in low end for my tastes - but still very dynamic and great sounding. Note that each pedal has a 3-way voicing switch on the side which lights up a different colour LED - so this is a step above in versatility to the Zendrive - although this pedal too is very neutral sounding at its core relatively pricey though.
The largest pedal on this listing, about as wide as the Ethos Preamp, but significantly taller too. I think this is another pedal that is your main drive unit and you build your pedalboard / chain around it. I like lots of different textures and flavours which means that this option kind of disqualifies itself. Mick Taylor of That Pedal Show has one of these and loves it, so we know it's really great sounding - hand-made in the Netherlands - but boy is it large!
My current 'Dumble' of choice - offers up heaps of variety via its 3-position voicing switch, and be careful with the 'Bass' dial which really needs to remain on a low setting or you get odd rumble and fluttery bass feedback - i.e. significant flubbiness. It's basically a combination of bass and body - and I was dialling it in quite wrong to start with and getting horrible tones - I suggest somewhere between 7 and 8 o'clock is optimal - at least for humbuckers. So many people were getting that wrong that Brian Wampler made a video about it - which I include above! In any case this a really great and versatile pedal, even though my Simble gives me a better tone.
Of all the different pedal types - the Dumble is probably the one most open to debate, as the classic amp is so special and has so many nuanced aspects to it, that it's nigh on impossible to recreate it in wholly transistor format like we have here. You can certainly really strongly catch key aspects of the amp, but only a few slices of the pie at best really.
For my own preferences I mainly like a single aspect of the Dumble tone - that super smooth and liquid overdrive with very subtle fuzzy edges - all my preferred pedals are able to capture that aspect, and the larger pedals here are able to replicate a touch more - including some of the beautifully chimey clean tones.
I don't believe there is a perfect Dumble pedal out there yet - each has its strengthens and weaknesses, followers and detractors. And even more bizarrely - the one I am selecting for my next mainstay Dumble-style pedal - has nothing to do with Dumble at all, but that is often the way. There are most likely plenty of pedals which have aspects of the Dumble but are modelled after something quite different - these are all just labels and pigeon-holes after all, and each offers a slightly different aspect of that supposed classic and core tone...