DSM Humboldt Black Clouds

The DSM Humboldt Black Clouds is a new pedal by the collaborative Chilean company that rose to prominence through the Simplifier, an analog amp/cab simulator. It’s their own take on the flexible high-gain distortion pedal (read: this is not a clone of an existing circuit).

The flexibility here is delivered not only through several gain stages (we count four volume-related knobs, one controlling the amount of Boost triggered by a separate footswitch) and tone-sculpting controls (also four with a three-band EQ plus a “Pre-Tone” knob), but also through 3 operation modes: Normal, Preamp and Mid Boost.

There’s also an automatic noise gate (called X-Gate) that can be applied to both gain stages, just the boost, or turned off entirely through a toggle switch, which also adds crossover distortion for an extra layer of texture.

What stands out in this pedal, though, are the two “pre” knobs, which affect your signal before the first gain stage:

  • Pre Boost: Controls the amount of input boost from 0 to 30dB with a slight mid boost for definition.
  • Pre Tone: Allows tweaking the tone of the signal entering the drive circuit to compensate for different pickups.

Needless to say, with this kind of pedals, the goodness is in the tone, and you can hear several examples of that in the video below.

DSM Humboldt Black Clouds, Builder’s Notes

BLACK CLOUDS: The Ultimate Distortion
Our new Black Clouds translates a clear vision of what a Lead Tone Machine should be into stark reality.

Black Clouds is aggressive and articulated, yet it is quiet, due in large part to its X-Gate feature. With a unique amp feel, it can produce some amazing chugs. The noise gate works well for chopping breakdowns.

Designed from scratch, the Black Clouds features a powerful 3-band EQ, tons of gain on tap, plus a dual boost function for even more gain and volume. Three modes of operation can adapt to virtually any setup.


Black Clouds features an extensive and thoughtful control set

Pre Boost: Controls the amount of input boost from 0 to 30dB with a slight mid boost to add definition. Use it if you want to raise the gain and compression when using the boost function. This control is not functional if the pedal is bypassed.

Gain: Controls the gain, ranging from crunch to high gain mayhem.

Level: Controls the output volume.

Master Boost: Sets the amount of output clean boost, from 0 to 20dB. Use it to raise the volume when using the boost function. This control is still functional if the pedal is bypassed and can be used as an independent clean booster.

Pre Tone: Use it to balance the amount of high or bottom end entering the drive circuit and compensate for different pickup characteristics for a consistent tone. Clockwise, the low end is reduced, and the top end is enhanced (for tighter, more aggressive chugs). Counterclockwise, the bottom end is enhanced, and the top end reduced (for fatter, fuller single lines). It’s great for finding the right balance of tightness without losing too much body for your pickups.

Bass: Controls the low frequencies below 300hz, +- 10dB

Mids: Controls the midrange response, between 300 and 2khz, +-12dB

Treble: Controls the high frequencies above 2khz, +-15dB

X-Gate Switch: X-gate is a passive noise gate that chops the silent passages instantly. It’s great for Djenty percussive breakdowns. It also adds crossover distortion which adds another layer of texture to the tone.