Check out also our Guide to Overdrives by Type.
Most of us will never get to play through an original Dumble amp, and in all likelihood, nobody reading this article will ever own one. Dumble tone has become legendary, and the fact that these amps sell for the price of a new sports car certainly doesn’t hurt their mythical status.
Urban legends aside, there’s a reason why Dumble amps are a tone chaser’s Holy Grail – they sound phenomenal. They are extremely “toneful,” masterfully built, and extremely difficult to find, even if you can front the giant pile of cash it takes to get one.
A Guide to the Best Dumble Pedals, aka D-Style Overdrives
The Dumble amps’ reputation is stellar, and demand is high, but supply is very scarce due to the fact that the company is, and always has been, a one-man operation. Owner Alexander “Howard” Dumble is not interested in mass production — quite the opposite: He fine-tunes each amp specifically to the buyer’s preferences and currently builds only two or three units per year.
Alexander started modding tube amps in the late ’70s and within a decade built a reputation as the “reclusive amp tech to the stars,” according to The Tube Amp Book.
THE ORIGINAL DUMBLE AMPS
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BEST D-STYLE PEDALS (Voiced after the Dumble Overdrive)
There is a great variety of pedals that can get you close to that sacred Dumble tone at a much more affordable price – and some cheaper options that do a decent job as well. What’s more, some of these effects take the sound and features a step further and in interesting directions. Some are simple stompboxes that excel at one particular thing, while others are fully featured preamps with almost infinite tonal options. We’ve divided the offerings by price range into categories for Super High End, High End, Middle and Low End.
Considering the variety of options, to facilitate navigation we decided to organize the D-Style pedals in these categories:
PLEASE NOTE: The pedals in these categories are organized by perceived popularity, based on internet reviews and sales data, so this is, by all means, a “Best of” list.
SUPER HIGH-END DUMBLE PEDALS
The sound and design of Dumble amps has inspired a huge range of in-depth pedals. The selections in this category feature recreation of the Overdrive channel, and some also of the Clean one. Some of them feature two D-Style channels (at a cost!) while all offer top-notch tone, features and build quality, and a price tag as thick as the overdrive that made Dumble amps famous.
Ethos Overdrive (Dual)
Ethos makes highly versatile preamps that are insanely pedalboard-friendly, and the Ethos Overdrive Amp is by far the most versatile option on this entire list. It features two separate channels of D-Style goodness with their own EQ section – both can be set as Clean or Overdrive through a toggle switch. It also has a Boost controlled by a separate footswitch, and a cab sim out. The control scheme may be daunting, but you can get any sound you want with enough tweaking. That said, If you’re looking for something simple, there are better options on this list.
Shin’s Music Dumbloid Overdrive Special
Even at an insane price tag, the Dumbloid is a total bargain compared to what it would cost to nab an actual Dumble. Drive and Volume control set your level, Accent acts as a presence/high-end EQ, and Tone handles the midrange. A switch toggles between modes for Jazz and Rock. Jazz is cleaner and more subtle, while Rock features more midrange and increased gain.
A unique “double” preamp pedal delivering two differently voiced D-style channels that can be played alternatively or stacked on top of each other through the S/D toggle switch. Channel 1 is transparent, smooth and creamy (think Robben Ford) while Channel 2 has a harder clipping sound pretty by Sonny Landreth.
Ethos Clean Fusion II Amp
A more streamlined but still ultra-flexible version of the Ethos Overdrive built on the Ethos Clean design (see “Clean Channel only” section below), the Clean Fusion II include Clean and Overdrive channels with dedicated Gain and Volume knobs, but shared EQ section. It also includes a 30 Watt power amp and cab emulation output. The left footswitch lets you select the channel.
Van Weelden Royal Overdrive
Wired more like an amplifier’s preamp section than a pedal, the Royal Overdrive might be the most fully realized Dumble-in-a-box available. The pedal is completely solid-state, but it responds and sounds as if it’s driven by tubes. There’s a four-band EQ of Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence with a three-way Bright switch to set your color. The Gain knob has a boost switch, and there’s also a switchable Mid Boost.
The Royal Overdrive is expensive, but its tonal fidelity proves that you get what you pay for.
Hermida Audio Zendrive 2
Hermida Audio’s second variation of the Zendrive features the same design as the first but adds a 12AX7M preamp tube into the circuit. This rounds the sound out a little, making it a less crunchy, but all the sustain and tone of the original pedal are present. You can also swap out the tube for any 9-pin preamp tube to choose the sound that’s right for you.
There are many different versions of the Howie, all of which have slightly different features. V1 features a three-band EQ and Gain and Volume knobs, while later versions offer additional tone-shaping options and a boost channel. There is a special edition from Vintage King that features an additional Drive channel with Ratio (gain) and Level knobs, as well as a Presence control. The Ratio knob almost gets fuzzy in the higher end of its range.
Like all Menatone products, it sounds great, but lack of availability and high used prices hurt its appeal. Although its tone is good with all types of pickups, pairing it with single-coils delivers a sound that is truly special.
Shin’s Music Dumbloid Boost and Twin
The Shin’s Music Dumbloid also features a version with an added boost and one with two channels.
HIGH-END DUMBLE PEDALS BETWEEN $229 and $310
These options offer some amazing tones and value as well as a great combination of features, components and design. Some can nail the classic Dumble sound, while many take it in their own direction. They are all hand-built, some have valves in them, but overall tend to have fewer controls than the ones in the previous category.
Hermida Audio Zendrive
The Zendrive was one of the first Dumble-style pedals and still leads the pack in terms of authentic replication. The compressed-but-not-too-compressed tone of a real Dumble is there, as well as the thick overdrive sounds. Classic rock tones are readily available, lending the drive and girth needed but never getting smeary or unpleasant. The Zendrive works with both humbuckers and single-coils and can really make a Strat sing. The II version is smoother and a bit less gritty.
From overdrive masters Tanabe pedals comes the Dumkudo, a versatile overdrive voiced to work best with single-coil pickups. The controls include Gain, Volume, Tone and Jali (high EQ). A switch on the side selects between three modes. Red (Marshall mode) is of course the hottest output and highest gain; Blue is more of a round, original Dumkudo sound, and Green is the Dumble-style voicing. While this pedal’s claim to fame is believable Dumble tones, Fender, Marshall and Vox sounds are not out of the question. It does the sexy low-gain thing and shreddy blues and classic rock sounds equally well. The Dumkudo is one of the more expensive options here, but that shows in the quality.
Cornerstone Gladio SC
A single channel D-Style pedal hosted in a compact case and based on the original Gladio‘s 1st channel, with the exact same sound and controls, except an added clean knob, which blends the clean signal back in with the overdriven signal, for the joy of those guitarists who are fond of that good ole’ texas-blues tone. This allows to give the resulting tone more dynamics, warmth and saturation on the heavy touches.
Amplified Nation Big Bloom
The Big Bloom is aptly named, as the overdrive is rich without being overpowering. Another hand-crafted four-knob take on the Dumble, it features a Rock/Jazz voicing switch. Gain and Volume are standard, as are the Accent control for high end and Tone to handle the mids. The Jazz voicing scoops out the mids a bit, smoothing out the sound, and the Rock setting is more aggressive with increased gain.
While it works with all kinds of pickups, the Big Bloom excels with a Les Paul–style guitar. The humbuckers tame some of the bite of the pedal. It eats up some precious pedalboard real estate though, so plan accordingly. Being able to run off of battery or AC power is another plus. A lot of love goes into what these pedal look like, and you can choose between a Tolex, painted or suede enclosure.
Tubesteader Beekeeper Overdrive
A well-received dual-channel overdrive with two 12AX7 tubes running at 12VDC. It features two cascading channels stacked on top of each other. Therefore when you stomp on the Channel footswitch you are actually alternating between the Clean channel on one side and the Clean + Overdrive channels on the other. The EQ and the toggle switches are located right after the first gain stage, so they are affecting both Clean and OD channels at the same time.
Kingsley Page DS
The Page DS is inspired by the preamp section of a Dumble Overdrive Special and is meant to be run after a clean preamp via an amp’s effect loop. Three knobs set your tone, and there are toggle switches for the bass EQ curve and a high-end boost. The Lows switch gives you access to three different EQ curves: less bass, the same curve as V1 and more bass. Smooth mode makes the pedal play nicer with the front end of an amplifier. Although the pedal can be run into an amp’s front end, it won’t respond as well. More gain is available when it’s pushed by a clean preamp. It doesn’t offer much in the way of high gain, but it can definitely pull of some fiery blues and classic rock tones. Pair it with a really loud amp and the sky is the limit.
Based on the Dumble Overdrive Special, the Dumbledore sports two channels of solid tone. The channels share an active three-band EQ, and while there’s a gain control for each, they share a common output volume, so you can’t really have any volume difference between the channels. There are also internal controls for Tone and Presence. The toggle switch lets you select between different midrange frequencies for the Middle control. Options include 500Hz, 1kHz and 2kHz. A top-mounted Dynamic switch increases the pedal’s headroom, driving it at 18 volts.
The Zenkudo is generally the same design as the Dumkudo but is voiced to work best with humbuckers. The three-way voicing switch features the same diverse tones, and there’s a lot of range in the Gain knob, taking you from low-key blues tones to singing, sustained higher-gain sounds. As mentioned, the circuit is voiced to work best with humbuckers, but it’s such a great pedal it will work with any guitar. It sounds especially nice with a Telecaster, as the Zenkudo complements the bite and attack of that style of axe.
Fuchs Plush Valve Job Tube Overdrive
The Plush Valve Job features a real tube, which adds articulation and a more amp-like response, but it requires that the unit run on AC power. The pedal features a hardwire bypass, which means the input is directly connected to the output in bypass, circumventing the circuit. There’s an output buffer for driving long cable runs.
There is definitely a low-gain vibe here. The tone produced by this pedal is warm, soulful and subdued and sounds beautiful with single-coil pickups.
Kondo Shifuku D-Style
A flexible, high-end D-Style pedal that delivers a wide range of quality tones from clean preamp, to boost, low gain/medium gain overdrive sounds to singing lead sounds. Four knobs and three toggle switches allow for a wide palette of options
Cause & Effect FET Dream
As the name implies, the FET Dream uses a FET design to get a more amp-like feel. It’s a pretty low-gain pedal, with the Girth control adjusting the lows/mids pre-distortion, and the Lean knob adjusting your tone after the distortion. It also has a variable Q for even more detail.
There are a lot of 2nd-order harmonics that come in when you drive the pedal. The EQ is set up in a unique way that really adds to the openness of this kind of design.
COMPACT BOUTIQUE DUMBLE PEDALS AROUND $180-$200
The most successful boutique pedal companies tinkering with circuit emulation seem to have found that the right price point for streamlined D-Style circuits hosted in a compact case is around $200 – or, to be precise, $199.99! These are super solid Dumble-inspired pedals that offer an attractive combination of tone, build quality and affordability. There is a great range of options too, as some can get heavier overdrive sounds, some work better as a clean boost and some can do both.
J Rockett The Dude
The Dude is another well-made, four-knob Dumble emulator. Set your signal strength with the Ratio (gain) and Level controls, and adjust your EQ with Treble and Deep, whose unique sweep adds plenty of versatility. The left side of the dial scoops the midrange and emphasizes treble and bass frequencies, while the right side boosts the midrange and attenuates the highs and lows.
Vertex Ultraphonix Mk II
Designed using four Dumble Overdrive Specials from different years for voicing and calibration, the Vertex Ultraphonix keeps things straightforward with just three knobs (Volume, Filter and Gain). However, you can get a noteworthy variety of tones beyond the D-Style niche through their interaction, from subtle to borderline Plexi and even RAT-like. Thicker sounding than other pedals in this list, it also provides great sustain. MkII adds a Level Out knob adding up to 8dbs of volume.
Wampler Euphoria V2
Wampler seemingly nails the amp-in-a-box thing time and time again. The company’s take on a Dumble comes in the Euphoria, an easy-to-use pedal that sounds fantastic. It has controls for Gain, Volume, Bass and Tone controls, with the Bass functioning pre-gain, allowing you to dial in low end that sounds thick, without muddying up your tone.
A toggle switch lets you choose between three different styles of clipping – Smooth, Open and Crunch. Smooth is the lowest-gain setting, with just enough sustain to make notes sing. Open is a little more of a crunch sound, with the perfect amount of chime. Crunch (ironically) is a little more of a square wave, adding just enough grit to make solos pop. This is a really solid pedal and definitely one of the best Dumble Pedals around, thanks not only to its sound and features but also its lower price point and availability.
JHS Moonshine Overdrive V2
The Moonshine V1 is a three-knob (Gain, Tone and Volume), while V2 adds a Clean blend knob for true parallel distortion and shrinks the footprint. It’s a Dumble-inspired overdrive based on a Tubescreamer topology, offering more dirt and flexibility in tone. Placing the Proof toggle switch in the up position allows for increased headroom, while the down position enables more maximum gain.
The pedal also runs on 18 volts via an internal charge pump, giving it more headroom and preserved low end. The Moonshine Overdrive V2 can sound like a parallel overdrive, keeping the articulation of your clean tone and blending it with the dirty stuff.
Mojo Hand FX DMBL
Touch sensitivity is a hallmark of a Dumble, and this pedal seems to be a little better than others at pulling that off. While most people would use this for high gain stuff, dimming it can really open up some great classic rock tones. A lot of Dumble-inspired pedals go for a higher-gain sound, but this is more subtle than that, even though it has a good amount of gain on tap.
The EQ section is really responsive, and all the controls — Gain, Volume, Treble and Bass — have good range. A toggle switch selects between Jazz and Rock settings. The former offers the articulate, clear tone for which Dumbles are famous, the latter offering increased gain and sustain.
Jetter GS 124
The GS 124 is one of the simpler pedals here. This is not just an overdrive designed to sound like a Dumble—it is meticulously modeled after an Overdrive Special #124 Clone. Just like every other three-knob overdrive, it has Drive, Contour (EQ) and Level controls. It can get sticky without sounding dissonant on open chords and when playing with odd intervals, making it great for country, blues and jazz. There’s not an incredible amount of gain on tap, but enough for a heavy blues tone.
Mad Professor Simble
A real Dumble may be out of reach, but the Simble can get damn close. It’s versatile, too. A unique control setup lets you EQ the signal before and after the overdrive (just like a real Dumble). The Accent control adjusts the brightness before the drive, and Contour sets the brightness after the drive stage. It can really sing with humbuckers and almost sounds better with them over single-coils.
This is definitely one of the most convincing selections on this list. It’s kind of crazy how Mad Professor managed to fit the “transparent distortion” sound Dumbles are famous for into a standard pedal. The woodgrain finish doesn’t hurt its appeal either.
Mojo Hand Extra Special DMBL+
The Extra Special is Mojo Hand’s beloved DMBL on steroids. It features the same control set and delivers the clarity and swampy overdrive of that pedal, but offers a lot more gain. The increased gain makes the Extra Special more useful than the DMBL, and considering they cost the same, it’s a no-brainer which to choose.
Providence Stampede Overdrive SOV-2
The Stampede is a smooth, warm, low-to-medium gain overdrive with controls for Gain, Tone and Volume. It’s powered by 9 volts but is internally increased to 18 volts, as is common with pedals based on the Dumble design. The tone thins out a bit when used on single notes, but it sounds right at home with chords and double-stops. The pedal sounds best with a loud, clean amp. It also offers a single-contact bypass for better fidelity when not in use. Considering its simplicity and higher price point, there are better options on this list.
J Rockett Hot Rubber Monkey HRM
A D-Style variation inspired by a mod found on some Dumble Overdrive Special amps including an extra EQ circuit, impersonated here by the “Fat” knob – the other three knobs are your regular Level, Gain and Treble. That variation was dubbed “Hot Rubber Monkey” – hence the pedal’s name.
Wilson Effects The Lotus
The Lotus offers thick, spanky Dumble-style overdrive. Gain and Volume set the level of each channel, and a 3-band EQ of Tone, Presence, and Low Pass dial in your sound. Each channel also offers a Clipping switch with three extra Dumble flavors. There’s also a Dual Lotus version where each channel has its own input and output, opening up a world of routing options.
Gtown Amps 335 and HolyGrail Overdrive
Built “along the lines” of the classic Dumble amps, these hand-built yet quite affordable D-Style drives offer from clean boost to mid-gain overdrive tones with a transparent, natural and woody sound. Three clipping modes allow to tailor them to varying styles and amp/guitar combinations. While the HolyGrail more closely reflects the tone of an Overdrive Special, the 335 recreates the specific nuance of Larry Carlton D-Style sound.
BEST DUMBLE PEDALS YOU CAN BUILD YOURSELF
These pedals are viable options for those who like the challenge to build things themselves.
One of the most beloved DIY effects of all time, the Dumbbell is difficult to find on the used market. Should you succeed in locating one, be prepared to shell out for it. There are a lot of different versions out there, but if you’re handy with a soldering iron, you could consider rolling your own.
One Off Groove Umble
This DIY pedal is based on the Dumble preamp and sounds really solid. It’s not that complicated to build but does require a certain level of skill to assemble.
BEST AFFORDABLE DUMBLE-INSPIRED OVERDRIVES
Dumble is a name that only “tone connoisseurs” are familiar with, and maybe that’s why there’s a shortage of mid-priced models dedicated to recreating the Dumble sound: we only found three such pedals in the $100-150 range, and the more expensive one is actually a high quality mini-pedal.
Warm Audio Warmdrive
An affordable replica of the now discontinued and highly sought-after Hermida Zendrive, which tops the previous list in this article although discontinued. Just like the original, the Warmdrive adds an extra perk with the Voice control, which, in combination with the Tone one, allows for extended sculpting, letting the player modify the frequency both before (voice control) and after (tone control) the clipping stages.
Caline Mellow Drive
Hailing from China, this is a super affordable but rather generic take on the “D-Style clone,” with Volume and Gain knobs to set saturation and output volume, a Tone control that adds high mids, and a Voice knob for extra presence. Check out also the Caline Enchanted Overdrive, very similar but with only three knobs.
Joyo Tai Chi Overdrive V2
A low gain D-style overdrive with 4 simple controls. Volume, Gain, and Tone are simple enough, but the Voice knob is where the design really gets interesting. It works in conjunction with the Gain and Tone knobs to set the total amount of gain and bass frequency response of the circuit. The pedal is housed in a solid metal enclosure with the durability of being able to handle even the toughest touring schedule.
Sonic Fusion Overdrive
Here’s another Dumble-style offering from Sonic Fusion that has the four familiar controls and a toggle switch that selects between Normal and Fat settings. This enables the pedal to be used as a fat boost, clean boost, super thick drive… whatever you need. The Fat setting has a little more output, a little less gain and a rounder sound. The Normal setting has more harmonics and saturation.
It sounds especially good with the clarity and top-end of single-coils. With the Volume and Drive controls dimmed, it gets really fat, compressed and fuzzed-out.
MINI DUMBLE OVERDRIVE PEDALS
Of course, the “mini-pedal mania” hasn’t left D-Style circuits untouched. The advantage of mini pedals resides not only in their small footprint, but also in their incredible affordability, although a lack of depth comes with the format. Here are the options available.
One Control Golden Acorn
The Golden Acorn has one of the smallest footprints of any pedal here, and sports just three knobs. Ratio sets the amount of compression/overdrive and essentially acts as a gain control. Bright adjusts the frequency content, and Volume sets your output level. The drive produced by the pedal is smooth and articulate and serves as a convincing Dumble sound. There’s a lot of mojo in the Ratio knob, as it sits somewhere between a control for the amount of gain and a dirty compressor.
Mooer Rumble Drive
There’s a healthy amount of saturation on hand, setting this pedal apart from many of the others on this list. It almost has more of the chime of a British amplifier than the thick overdrive that made Dumbles famous.
Four controls — Gain, Volume, Tone and Voice — are offered to dial in your sound, and the pedal boasts solid construction, considering the price point. And while it might sound a little more smeary than higher-priced options, the extra gain and low cost make up for it.
Don’t let the small size or price tag fool you – the Grass is a damn fine pedal that can get you within singing distance of the greatest Dumble tones, at a fraction of the price. Despite its size, there are four controls: Voice and Bright handle the EQ, Volume controls the output level, and a top-mounted knob controls the amount of gain. A small metal bar separates the footswitch from the controls to prevent your foot from accidentally hitting the knobs.
Outlaw Effects Dumbleweed
A solid D-style mini overdrive with 4 simple controls to dial it in with Gain, Tone, Volume, and a Voice switch that allows a variation on the EQ response.
Tomsline ADR-3 Dumbler
In all likelihood the same circuit of the Mooer Rumble.
In all likelihood the same circuit of the Mooer Rumble.
Maybe not the best Dumble emulation, this pedal features Volume, Tone and Gain controls as well as a switch for Normal or Bright modes. The overdrive can get fairly heavy, but the girth that is characteristic to Dumble amps is missing. It’s fairly articulate for a cheap pedal but is a little smeary in the mids and fatiguing in the highs, even with the Bright setting switched off.
CLEAN CHANNEL ONLY
Ethos Clean II
Designed to be the clean channel of a Dumble in a box, this pedal offers the usual Ethos tonal “tweakability” through a variety of toggle switches, including the Modern/Classic options of the original Dumble amp. The EQ section is particularly deep with five knobs including Hi Cut and Presence. Selectable Soft/Hard Drive limiting, speaker simulation output and an integrated 30 Watt amp nicely round out the (many) features.
Kingsley Maiden D
The Maiden D is a fully functional preamp based on the clean channel of a Dumble Overdrive Special. The pedal runs on a single tube. Controls include three-band EQ, Volume (gain), Master and a Bright switch. The Mid pot can also be pulled to activate a mid boost. Throw this pedal into your existing signal chain, or run it into a preamp or into your effects return.
$269 | A D-style boost/overdrive with a 12AX7 tube in it. Higher gain gradually adds harmonic complexity and saturation to the signal, without altering the dynamics, and overdriving when all the way up. A 3 way EQ section helps with tone sculpting. There are also both a mid boost and a clean boost, which can be assigned to the left footswitch for dynamic shifts.
DUMBLE STEEL STRING SINGER EMULATIONS
Vertex Steel String Supreme SRV Mini
While the Supreme version of the Vertex SRV closely recreates the controls of the original amp with an added EQ footswitch, this “mini” version (which is not really enclosed in a mini case but a compact one), sacrifices the EQ section and two out of three switches, delivering a more essential, no-frills Steel String-inspired overdrive – at a more affordable price.
NUX Steel Singer Drive
The most affordable Dumble-style pedal out there, the NUX Steel Singer is an analog overdrive that recreates the tone of Dumble Steel String Singer amps from the ’70s at a tiny fraction of the cost.
Vertex Steel String Clean Drive MkII
It faithfully recreates the sound of the “other” Dumble amp (the Steel String Singer) and it was voiced after the #001 serial number of that amp. It features just three controls – Gain, Filter (tone) and Volume. It sounds killer with lap-steel guitar. The 2020 MKII version adds two voicings (Jazz and Rock) just like the original Dumble amps, selectable through a toggle switch.
Vertex Effects Steel String Supreme SRV
A version of the company’s D-Style flagship pedal inspired by a variation of the Dumble Steel String amp, which sports a tweaked circuit featuring modified Bright/Deep and Jazz/Rock switches. It delivers an even glassier and warmer tone than the regular version, with which shares the rest of the circuit (dual-channel, EQ footswitch, 6 knobs + 2 toggle switches controls).
Vertex Steel String Supreme
It cleverly integrates the company’s Steel String MkII with several new features, found on the top section of the pedal and engaged by the Supreme footswitch. The Output knob opens up a more flexible gain structure, making it capable to go from clean boost to full-on overdrive.
The Fat knob and Bright/Deep and ROck/Jazz switches supply extra tone-shaping potential. The Clean knob lets you decide how much of the “Supreme” to blend with the one produced by the three bottom knobs.
J. Rockett Lenny
This offering from J. Rockett is named after Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” Stratocaster, which he often used in combination with his Dumble Steel String Singer. The pedal has just two controls – Boost and Tone — putting it somewhere between a clean boost with a tone knob and a low-gain overdrive. It also excels at pushing a clean amp into breakup without much (if any) coloration.
The Lenny boosts the midrange in a pleasant way that works with a variety of gear. There isn’t much gain on tap, but that’s not the point. This pedal keeps your main guitar/amp sound intact, so if you’re looking for a pedal that will totally change your tone, there are better options.
VARIATIONS ON THE D-STYLE FORMAT
J Rockett Rockett Hot Rubber Monkey HRM
A D-Style variation inspired by a mod found on some Dumble Overdrive Special amps including an extra EQ circuit, impersonated here by the “Fat” knob – the other three knobs are your regular Level, Gain and Treble. That variation was dubbed “Hot Rubber Monkey” – hence the pedal’s name.
Way Huge Overrated Special
The Overrated Special is a limited-edition signature pedal. It came to life from the longtime partnership between blues guitar god (and Dumble fan) Joe Bonamassa and Way Huge Effects. While it doesn’t claim to be a Dumble in a box, it nails the sound.
The Overrated Special has controls for Drive, Tone and Volume as well as a 500 Hz knob. Tone handles the high end, while the 500 Hz knob can warm it up. One knock against the pedal is that the 500 Hz control might not play nice with every guitar/amp setup and could actually make your sound muddy.
Joe knows tone, and the Overrated Special pretty much sounds like a hybrid of a Dumble sound a Klon Centaur sound. The Drive is bold and punchy and the controls have a good, usable range. It’s a fairly medium-gain pedal that is more about clarity than power. As it’s a limited edition, tracking one down might prove difficult.
Sonic Fusion Crystal Lattice
The Crystal Lattice is a marriage between Sonic Fusion Pedals and Runoffgroove, the DIY pedalbuilder’s nirvana. Sonic Fusion studied a number of different models and studio recordings of Dumble amps, and the Crystal Lattice is based on the preamp section of their discoveries.
To lend it an even more amp-like feel, it’s based around a FET design. While obvious changes to the circuit had to be made to accommodate a smaller pedal enclosure, it gives a pleasant tone for not a whole lot of money.
Controls are standard three-band EQ, Gain and Volume. This pedal isn’t the most convincing interpretation on this list, as it’s almost more of a fuzz than overdrive at higher settings. It still has that thick, swampy vibe Dumbles are known for, and the price is just about right for anyone.
DISCONTINUED/OBSCURE DUMBLE-STYLE PEDALS
MXR Shin-Juku Drive
The Shin-Juku was designed by Japanese amp expert Shin Suzuki as an affordable, accessible overdrive capable of the tone and response of a Dumble style amp. There are a ton of harmonics at higher gain settings. It never gets super dirty, but it definitely sounds like a Dumble. Notes really sing, and there’s just the right amount of grit to the sound. Get a mellower sound with the Dark switch, which rolls off some of the high frequencies. With the switch engaged, the pedal almost turns into a fuzz. This is a solid choice. It’s sturdy, affordable and sounds great.
Barber Small Fry
Another pedal that doesn’t really claim Dumble inspiration but nails the sound anyway is the beloved Small Fry from Barber Electronics.
It has four top-mounted control knobs (Burn, Dynamics, Tone and Volume) and a three-way clipping toggle switch. For deep tone shaping, there are four internal trimpots to control Note Shape, Bass, Midrange and Presence. Perhaps the coolest feature is the Note Shape control, which adjusts your sound from tight to loose – kind of like a resonance switch on an amp. There is also a recovery EQ stage after the gain section of the circuit to add clarity back into the signal.
Barber is well known on the boutique pedal scene, and for good reason. The company’s designs are great, and it makes its pedals carefully by hand. While these units are pretty rare, it’s not too difficult to nab one on the used market. If you’re looking for an option with a good gain range and a crazy amount of control over your signal, the Small Fry is more like a giant.
HAO Rumble Mod RM-1
The Rumble features matched input/output buffers that don’t cause the circuit to work overtime, a common issue with many overdrives. It’s a simple three-knob, one-toggle design capable of a wide variety of sounds.
The switch selects between Boost and Overdrive. The Boost is a clean boost with just a tiny bit of grit to make notes sustain, while the Drive setting smooths out the sound and adds compression and sustain with the increased gain.
Great for lighter stuff like blues and country, this is one of the lowest-gain offerings in the Dumble-in-a-box world. The pedal has also been discontinued, and fetching one on the used market can be as dodgy as it is pricey.
There might be more discontinued, hard-to-find and boutique Dumble pedals than any other type. While a lot of these aren’t that expensive considering their rarity, they’re worth mentioning. They might be near impossible to find on the used market, but that only adds to their mystique.
The Velvet Katana touts itself as a clone of the Zendrive, seemingly without shame. It has a familiar four-knob control scheme consisting of Gain, Level, Voice and Tone. It’s good for adding some balls to your signal, but there isn’t a lot of gain. It can add some weight to your pickups, but it can also get a little muddy in the mix, although the two EQ controls help make up for this. And while the pedal serves as a great clean/dirty boost, it falls a bit short as a full on-overdrive.
For that matter, you may find it difficult to locate a Velvet Katana. The company is based in Greece, and tracking down a unit on the used market is a total gamble.
Quinnamp Hot Buttered Scotch
Gain, Volume and Hi Cut control your sound. Where most three-knob overdrives have a tone control setting the midrange, the Hit Cut attenuates treble as you turn it clockwise. The Gain knob has good range and is usable through its entire extent. When it’s dimmed, it doesn’t get fizzy or noisy, going to the higher side of a medium drive. Blasted through a loud amp, it sounds heavenly.
This thing is hard to find even for a boutique pedal. The company has had some ups and downs, and all the tone in the world can’t make up for a total lack of availability. Ironically, it doesn’t seem to sell for insane prices considering its rarity, going for around $125.
Ocean EFX Pearl Drive
Featuring a setup similar to the Tomsline (see below), the Pearl Drive adds a toggle switch that allows you to keep your bottom end intact. There is plenty of gain to be had in this option as well, and it can get great blues and classic rock tones.
There are EQ knobs to control your Treble and Mids, while Gain and Volume set your level. It’s not the most convincing Dumble sound on this list, but it gets you in the ballpark. There are some great ’60s Fender sounds available here as well.
This Dumbox is more than a pedal with a Dumble sound. It can also serve as a standalone preamp, feed a power amp and power an external cab. A Voice switch chooses Brit or Cali settings, and there’s a Boost channel as well. For that matter, it features a cab-simulation circuit, so you can show up to a gig with just the Dumbox and be good to go.
Amplified Nation Double Bloom
The big brother to the Big Bloom, the Double Bloom is two Big Blooms combined, allowing you to dial in two very different sounds. Amplified Nation also offers a mod for the Double Bloom that allows you to select the channels independently or toggle them. The pedal is also offered in Tolex, painted or suede enclosures. Very cool.
Here’s a selection of videos from pedal shootouts to Dumble-related content.