Unless you’ve got a ready spare #50,000 – #100,000 – few of us will ever have a genuine Alexander Dumble Overdrive Special amp – of which only around 300 were built. There are sound-alike / clone coils 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, every one of the amps mentioned have a variety of tones, and few pedals can recreate everything those amps offer, but there’s a couple of contenders that even get close to that.
The element of the Dumble I really like is the really smooth moderate gain overdrive with just a hint of fuzz on the borders of the frequency profile – a very pleasant and liquid-like overdrive. The very best pedals can give you a fairly decent flavour of that, but a few can do quite a bit more.
I would place the Custom Tones complete Ethos Overdrive Preamp directly on peak of the pile – it’s by far and away the most tone-sculpting options and carefully matches the Dumble amp tone options with various dials and toggles and 3 footswitches – it comes in at a rather hefty $635 fully stacked. We have the even bigger Van Weelden Royal Overdrive that is not an exact clone really but overlaps in many important areas tonally – that goes for around #649. Even more expensive but with fewer features is Shin’s Music Dumbloid Twin variant – yours through import (Japan / Reverb.com) for around #750. If you really have to have as much of the Dumble sound as possible in pedal-form, then I’d personally go for the Ethos Overdrive – not that I would ever get it since it’s really way too big. Probably fine if you are going to base your whole core sound around it, not so great if you want lots of different tones and textures like I do.
For me it is all about the compact pedal enclosure, though there’s a fairly reasonable alternative in the miniature OneControl Golden Acorn, and in reality the miniature Moore Rumble Drive isn’t bad either. At the moment, my current’Dumble’ pedal of choice is the Wampler Euphoria, with the Mad Professor Simble providing a superb back-up / swap-out for this also. In reality I get the greatest single Dumble tone out of the Simble, but prefer the Euphoria for its versatility. At the time I was close to going with the J Rockett’The Dude’ also, but decided on Bible in the last moment. The Zendrive and Tanabe Zenkudo / Dumkudo are pretty well-known alternatives, as is the MXR Shin-Juku Drive.
But I have my mind set on a Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1 – which is funnily not predicated on a Dumble at all, but rather the celebrated cult Trainwreck Express Amp. However for me it gets me into fairly similar territory to where I want to be (liquid overdrive using 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.
Regarding 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.
Custom Tones Ethos Overdrive – c$635 (fully loaded)
This pedal is obviously a tweaker’s delight and has a plethora of dials, toggles and switches for tone-sculpting possibilities – not only 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’re serious about those particular tones in a pedal format, then this is most likely the one for you. For my needs it is just way too big. 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 a lot of real-estate – really great technology – made in the USA and with 100% analogue circuitry.
Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1 – $225
So – a disclaimer here – because this is not a Dumble clone whatsoever, rather it’s made after the renowned Trainwreck Express Amp – so more moderate gain and upward really – but for what I’m after it’s that beautiful 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 that you can go from clean-to-scream with only half a turn. The controls are somewhat unusual – but via 3 dials and 4 toggle switches you get to change voicings and low, mid and high frequencies – it is only a touch quirky really, but boy does it sound amazing – as in Brett’s demonstration above.
J Rockett The Dude – #199
The first Dumble style pedal I obtained was the Mad Professor Simble, and in the long run it was neck-and-neck between that and’The Dude’. I decided at the end that I very slightly preferred the design of the Bible – it was also quite lightly cheaper and more readily available in britain. 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 very good pedal in every aspect.
Lovepedal Hermida Zendrive 2 – #195
Many love this first of the Dumble clone pedals – like Phillip McKnight of’Know Your Gear’ fame – for whom it is his heart sound as such. To my ears though it’s somewhat thin sounding, and lacks complete frequency definition, especially in the lower register. It’s a very neutral sounding pedal that many appear to enjoy, although I like my Gamble with a touch more oomph – like my Klon really. The Tanabe Zenkudo is similarly neutral bad adds a 3-way expressing switch.
Mad Professor Simble – #149
So far this is the pedal that has best managed to catch my perfect Dumble-style overdrive tone. Nevertheless I swapped it out to the Wampler Euphoria – which gets pretty close to ideal, but has a 3-way voicing switch for much more flexibility in tone. The Simble is a little bit’Goldilocks’ with a terrific sweet spot – although the Euphoria offers up several workable tones.
Mojo Hand FX Extra Special – #179
I don’t know how or why I’ve gotten attracted to this one but I enjoy it! – It features the normal 4-dial arrangement of the majority of the Dumble-style pedals, but also benefits from the timeless Jazz / Rock expressing toggle switch. I’ve kind of made my mind up for one of these once I get the Ethos TWE-1, simply don’t know exactly when, sometime in the next few years likely – unless something better comes along – which is frequently true.
MXR Shin-Juku Drive – #99
The Shin-Juku is often overlooked in the Dumble overviews, but it too produces a pretty sweet liquid overdrive. It’s pretty far down in my own personal pecking order as such, but it’s still a fairly decent Dumble sound-alike – at least for those key overdrive tones.
OneControl Golden Acorn Overdrive Particular c#105 (Thomann)
I went through a spate of acquiring Björn Juhl pedals – from his Mad Professor and OneControl collections. The Golden Acorn has been on my radar, but there are additional pedal priorities way above that, and I don’t so much use my mini pedals any more. In any case this is probably 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 about the back-burner really.
Shin’s Music Dumbloid Twin OD – C#750 (Reverb.com)
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 little more versatile for less money, but then the Dumbloids are significantly smaller – so you need to decide on what your priorities are here really.
Tanabe Zenkudo – c$310 (Tanabe.tv)
The Toshihiko Tanabe Dumble-like pedals come in a number of flavours and colorways – 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 tricky to get hold of, and many feel that they seem very close to Zendrives, which means they are somewhat lacking in low end for my tastes – but still quite lively and great sounding. Note that every pedal has a 3-way voicing switch on the side that lights up another color LED – this is a step above in flexibility to the Zendrive – although this pedal also is very neutral sounding at its core comparatively pricey though.
Van Weelden Royal Overdrive – #649
The largest pedal on this list, about as broad as the Ethos Preamp, but considerably taller also. I believe this is another pedal which is your primary drive unit and you build your pedalboard / chain around it. I like plenty of different textures and flavours, which means that this alternative kind of disqualifies itself. Mick Taylor of That Pedal Show has one of them and loves it, so we know it’s really great sounding – hand-made from the Netherlands – but boy is it large!
Wampler Euphoria – #189
My current’Dumble’ of choice – offers loads of variety via its 3-position voicing switch, and be careful with the’Bass’ dial that really needs to stay on a low setting or you get strange rumble and fluttery bass opinions – i.e. significant flubbiness. It’s basically a mix of body and bass – and that I was dialling it in very wrong to start with and getting dreadful tones – I suggest somewhere between 7 and 8 o’clock is optimal – for humbuckers. So many people were getting that wrong that Brian Wampler made a movie about it – that I include above! In any case this a really great and versatile pedal, even though my Simble gives me a much better tone.
Of all the different pedal kinds – the Dumble is most likely the one most open to debate, as the traditional amp is so unique and contains so many nuanced aspects to it, that it is nigh on impossible to recreate it in wholly transistor format such as we have here. You can certainly really strongly capture key areas of the amp, but just a few slices of the pie at best really.
For my own preferences I mainly like a single facet of the Dumble tone – which super liquid and smooth overdrive with very subtle fuzzy edges – all my preferred pedals are able to capture that aspect, along with the bigger pedals here can replicate a touch more – including some of the beautifully chimey clean tones.
I don’t believe there’s a excellent Dumble pedal out there yet – each has its strengthens and weaknesses, followers and detractors. And even more bizarrely – the one I’m choosing for my second mainstay Dumble-style pedal – has nothing to do with Dumble whatsoever, but that is often the way. There are probably plenty of pedals that have aspects of this Dumble but are modelled after something quite different – these are all just labels and pigeon-holes after all, and each offers a slightly different facet of that supposed classic and core tone.