I used to have my ’12 Degrees of Saturation’ formation faithfully laid-out within my pedal-chain - with all the key drive types arranged in order, but recent experimentation has seen me go beyond those rather rigid lines a touch which means the Tube Screamer and Dumble type pedals are currently on the shelf! Despite that, the slightly fuzz-edged Dumble Overdrive Special sound is still one of my favourite Drive tones and will no doubt return to the chain before too long.
My first forays into that sound were the Mad Professor Simble - with which I still believe I achieved my very best Dumble style tone, but I switched up to the more versatile Wampler Euphoria which overall gives me more - and where you definitely don’t want to start the ’Bass’ dial in the 12 o’clock position - that caused me some significant issues at the start. I have added other Dumble flavours like the Bearfoot FX Hs to the collection, as well as used the Empress Multidrive to combine Fuzz and Overdrive tones for a very satisfying Dumble facsimile. And there have always been a few more Dumble style pedals I wanted to get my hands on - including the J Rockett The Dude, and the Mojo Hand FX Extra Special Overdrive - there’s really plenty of really decent alternatives out there.
I had to pick the 4 best according to my tastes though, and these were the ones I felt were most suitable. I’ve had the OneControl Golden Acorn Overdrive Special on my wishlist for a good couple of years now - its priority keeps getting bumped by something I need or want more. At the compact format size I still believe the Wampler Euphoria is the most versatile and formidable - giving you 3 different Dumble-style voicings to play with, and in fact sufficient tonal range via just those 2 tone dials - albeit you should start with the Bass on 0 / full counter-clockwise and add to taste.
In the medium category - vertical particular, there is not that much competition really - a few boutique makers still like those enclosures. The fairly recent Ultraphonix from Vertex has been getting a lot of love of late so I felt that was the best representative here. As I found out with the Decibelics Golden Horse - sometimes simpler can be better!
Finally we have the more modestly sized Custom Tones Ethos PreAmp type - notably the Clean-Fusion II PreAmp which is now listed on the Custom Tones site as ’Sold Out’ - meaning more Reverb.com stalking is required. I guess they decided to limit the quantity on this one. For me the full-size Ethos Overdrive is a touch large, as is the Van Weelden Royal Overdrive which does similar things. The Clean-Fusion is the best balance of size, function and versatility for me - there are also those cool Shin’s Music Twin Dumbloids which are really cool - and Weehbo’s Dumbledore. I still feel that the middle Ethos is the most useful version for me.
Of these 4 I therefore have only one currently and there are a number of other Dumble-types on my wishlist too - of course including the mini Golden Acorn - and the rather larger Ethos Clean-Fusion II PreAmp - which I need to exercise some due patience for. All these are decent pedals of this type and my favourites at their respective enclosure size - there are of course myriad alternatives for each that you might personally prefer. Which is why I always say ’Best of’ rather than ’The Best’!
Pedals are listed per enclosure size - small to large.
A simple 3-pot mini pedal with a great sound and top-notch build-quality that belies its diminutive dimensions. This is another Björn Juhl collaboration - the pedal-maestro Swede of BJFE, Barefoot FX and Mad Professor fame. I have a lot of love for Björn Juhl pedals and almost without exception the OneControl ones are stellar performers too and have significant amounts of that BJFE sparkle. Over the range of Bearfoot FX, Mad Professor and OneControl I have a dozen or more great examples - and there are a few more of each I would like to add - including this one.
As stated in the intro, my most likely 'Dumble' of choice which has latterly seen some significant rotation with the Mad Professor Simble and Bearfoot FX Hs. Overall I sill probably prefer the Euphoria (formerly 'Ecstasy') for its greater versatility. The Tone dial is super versatile, while the Bass control needs to be applied diligently and sparingly. I have several other compact 'Dumbles' in my sights, but will make do with these for the next few months. However good the Euphoria is - I still think there's a really great compact Dumble pedal on the cusp of being made. Regardless of that you are really not short on options at this level.
A really great sounding simple Dumble-style pedal with exceptional edge of breakup sizzle. I'm not usually a fan of mid-size enclosure pedals with so few dials and switches / footswitches, but would make an exception for this one - it sounds great - and that Filter dial does just what it needs to. You get lovely dynamic pick attack here - there's no wonder it's been cropping up on so many pro pedalboards recently!
There are 4 products within the Custom Tones Ethos PreAmps range - the super large 3-footswitch Ethos Overdrive, the more compact / simpler single footswitch Ethos Clean II PreAmp, the in-between dual-footswitch Ethos Clean-Fusion II PreAmp selected here, and the compact Ethos TWE-1 pedal. I've picked the Clean-Fusion because it's the best combination of features and footprint as far as I'm concerned. It gets you most of the bigger pedal stuff in a much more compact enclosure - which still though does have some dials along the periphery. These pedals were very specifically engineered to replicate the Dumble ODS amps, and each pedal gives you a degree of that. There will still be rather too many switches and dials here for some players - which must be kept away therefore from this one's bigger brother. Your antidote here is obviously the much much simpler Vertex Ultraphonix.
This selection came together super easily - I already pretty much knew the likely candidates, and I know I made the right choices when all of these are either in the collection or high on the wishlist. As before - it obviously matters how much you want to spend, and how much extended control or 'Tweakage' you want access to as well as of course the footprint of said pedal.
I am actually really pleasantly surprised by the Ultraphonix which I would have normally rather ignored had I not come across so many great demos of it. I also still want the mini Golden Acorn, and would quite like a Clean-Fusion Ethos, obviously likely second-hand unless something changes drastically.
Dumble pedals are quite distinct in trying to capture the various different tones of a really quite complex and unusual amp. Most pedals achieve only distinct / distinctive parts of the amp, rather than the full-range, while the larger aircraft-carrier-style pedals try and give you the complete experience with about as many dials and switches as in a cockpit. As an avowed 'Tweaker' often the more switches the merrier, although you do sit up an take notice too when something like the Ultraphonix can achieve so much with really rather quite little.
I actually forgot to mention the Origin Effects RevivalDrive here - which I see more as a FenderPlexiVox really, but it does a really neat approximation of key Dumble tones too. So even though I don't have a dedicated Dumble pedal in my chain currently, I still have one of the RevivalDrive's channel's occasionally set to replicate those tones!