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Boost and Overdrive

A Rare Dumble-style Fully-Loaded Custom Tones Ethos Clean-Fusion II 2-Channel Preamp is now part of the Reference Collection

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Readers will know that I’ve been trying to chase down this pedal for around 2-3 years - in my opinion the best / most practical and most adjustable 2-Channel Dumble-Style Preamp made to date. There are actually 3 different models of this Ethos Preamp that Custom Tones makes - the original large-scale full-format Ethos 2-Channel Overdrive + Boost, the BB-sized Ethos Clean II Single Channel Preamp, and the BB-sized Ethos Clean-Fusion II 2-Channel Preamp. All are made to order by Mr Custom Tones himself - one Rob Hall who assembles each and everyone to order.


I actually ordered Rob’s other product line - the Ethos TWE-1 Train Wreck Express Compact Preamp from him at the beginning of 2018. But but by that time the Clean-Fusion II model had already been discontinued for a while. Yet the other two Ethos Preamp models are still available for order. I believe this particular model is just too fiddly to assemble and Rob drew a line under it once he had reached a particular milestone - which I believe happened some time in 2017.


You can see that it’s about as feature-packed as a preamp can get, and for its relatively compact format - 21 controls plus an FX Loop is about as much as you can practically cram in.


I had hoped to eventually land as fully-featured a version as I could - but I was never really expecting to get one with every single mod and extra added - like in fact I did. This really is all the different Dumble Amp options in a single box. For sure it’s too many options for a lot of players, and there is some significant patience required just to trawl though all the settings and options in discovery of your favourite sweet-spots. But if you like the Dumble format / genre then this is an amazing box which will get you to your exact preferred Dumble tone - with some degrees of patience and due-diligence required on your part.


The nature of its overall complexity means that it doesn’t really threaten my other favourite Dumble pedal - the Demon Pedals Kondo Shifuku Overdrive - which has just 7 controls compared to the Clean-Fusion’s 21. In fact so far I’m finding that I have a preferred Low Gain / Clean Channel setting on the Clean-Fusion, the Kondo takes care of the preferred mid-gain tones, and then back to the Clean-Fusion for the higher-gain voicing. So in that regard thus far the Clean Fusion is sort of acting as an extension to my Kondo-Shifuku, meaning I will bring it into play when I want to go full-range on Dumble style tones. Of course that means switching out the most versatile Automatone Preamp II on the #14 slot - so it will likely happen more incidentally.


You certainly have to have your wits about you as you explore the Clean-Fusion - and there is a fascinating interplay between the 3-band Pre-Gain EQ, and 3-band Post-Gain HRM EQ. There’s also no less than 8 voicing switches - which give you multiple possibilities and combinations in that area. I usually go through a process of adding and subtracting the various voicing options - which usually, but not always, means you also need to tweak the EQ settings in tandem.


I had certain ideas about this pedal before I acquired it - and my intuition was mostly correct on that score. This is just a phenomenal Dumble cornucopia in the most relatively practical of formats. I will concede this is not for all, and of course there is a degree of fiddliness to it - with is really all par for the course for me.


Those that love this kind of thing will really love my particular fully-loaded edition. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen in the wild with absolutely all the extras and mods onboard, and I consider myself very lucky to have come across it and been able to snap it up before anyone else did. I acquired it from a seller in New York - via


Here then is an overview of the 21 Controls! :

  • HRM ’Hot Rubber Monkey’ Post-Gain 3-Band Passive EQ
    • Mid : Post-Gain Passive Mid Frequency Control
    • Lo : Post-Gain Passive Low Frequency Control
    • Hi : Post-Gain Passive High Frequency Control
    • HRM EQ Bypass : On/Off (Up is On)
  • Fusion Gain : Fusion OD Gain
  • Fusion Volume : Fusion OD Volume
  • Gain : Gain Level of Preamp
  • Brite : High Frequency Boost
  • Sky / SSS : Overdrive Voicing Switch I : Sky-Liner / Steel String Singer
    • Sky-Liner (Modern) : Slight more mids-accentuated profile - called ’Skyliner’ because of the jagged sky-scraper shape of output frequency profile
    • Steel String Singer (Classic) : based on single channel sparkling clean amplifier of same name
  • Rock / Jazz : Overdrive Voicing Switch II : Rock / Jazz
    • Rock : Aggressive Mid Range Voice
    • Jazz : Hi-Fi High Headroom Voice
  • Mid : Mid Boost : Shifts Tone Stack to add THICK and RICH Mids
  • DP : Deep Boost : Deep Full Bodied Voice
  • Treble : Pre-Gain Passive High Frequency Control
  • Middle : Pre-Gain Passive Mid Frequency Control
  • Bass : Pre-Gain Passive Low Frequency Control
  • GAC : Guitar Amp Compensation : switch on when going to Amp
  • TLE : Tighter Low End : for tighter response
  • Hi Cut : Variable post-drive High Frequency Shelving
  • Presence : Variable post-drive
  • Volume : Output Level
  • Drive : Soft / Off / Hard
    • Soft Drive : When Active Provides a Natural Soft On the Verge Limiting Effect
    • Off : No Limiting for Maximum Head Room
    • Hard Drive : When Active Provides High Gain, Dynamic Overdrive

As I mentioned in the intro - you need to approach these controls somewhat systematically and typically with notebook in hand to make a record of your various findings and preferred settings. Some will find this all just way too much and too fiddly - but for tone-chasers like me - I love the ability to be able to fine-tune exactly my individual preferred voicings, as well as take the pedal way off the rails with some more unusual and unorthodox settings. I said very much the same of the Origin Effects RevivalDrive - with its 28 controls - in that I could also use those to experiment with and dial in some rather unusual and unorthodox tones, just as much as tweaking and fine-tuning towards a particular guitar / pickups and amp.


You will note from my previous group visual (below) that my then mock-up wasn’t totally accurate in terms of the placement and configuration of the extras - it’s just as well really that I have an actually fully-loaded one for proper referencing. You will note from the visual also that on most Clean-Fusion Preamps there were just 3 voicing switches on the top deck as such - Brite, Modern/Classic, and Rock/Jazz - Modern/Classic is exactly the same as Sky/SSS - just in a more generic vernacular form!


The pedal only just arrived this week, so I haven’t had too much play-time on it yet - but I have already found the outer-reaches of its vast range - and there is so much on-tap on every dial here - with plenty in reserve.


For all us full-on tone-chasers, these kinds of pedals are an overall delight - despite the vast array of options and inherent complexities. Lots of players don’t like and don’t handle well this degree of complexity - but the benefit here is in the infinite permutations and just how well you can refine your preferred tones. If this is all too much for you then by all means check out my other favourite Dumble - the Demon Pedals Kondo-Shifuku Overdrive.


What say all of you?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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