Are you looking for the best Dumble style overdrive pedal? I’ve got you covered.
If I had $100-200K lying around, I definitely wouldn’t be spending it on a Dumble ODS.
No matter how much hype. No matter the tone of the amp.
So, for us mere mortals, what is the alternative?
In this post, I’m reviewing the best Dumble style pedals that I’ve tried and tested.
There are a lot more on the market but I’m focusing on the Dumble style pedals that are most readily available.
The best Dumble style pedals
My top pick
Warm Audio Warmdrive
A faithful recreation of the extremely popular Zendrive pedal. Similarly beautiful Dumble-esque tones but far more affordable.
The pedal is well-built and includes flexible controls. It remains my favorite of all the pedals on this list.
1. Warm Audio Warmdrive
The Warmdrive by Warm Audio is a new addition to this list. It was love at first swchang and despite the honeymoon period being well and truly over, it remains my favorite “Dumble in a box” pedal.
The pedal is based on the highly regarded but long discontinued “Zen-Drive” – which is notoriously difficult to get hold of these days. With some versions fetching nonsensical prices.
The Warmdrive, however, is much more sensibly priced and sounds fantastic.
The four knobs make dialling in usable overdrive tones nice and easy. You’ve got the typical volume, gain, and tone controls with the addition of a voice control. This adds some extra versatility to the EQ section.
Build quality is on point, as is the tone. Which is why this pedal is a regular feature on my main pedalboard. It sounds great with single coils, humbuckers, or P90’s.
2. J.Rockett The Dude
J.Rockett’s The Dude is designed to capture the tone of the Dumble Overdrive Special amplifier.
I’m not sure which Dumble Overdrive Special this pedal is based on. Their writeup mentions both Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. But their ODS amps were both individually voiced.
Regardless – this is my personal favorite Dumble style pedal that I have ever played from a pure ‘tonal perspective’.
The controls are simple. We’ve got level, treble, and bass. What I particularly like here is the ratio control. This is essentially a blend control that allows you to blend the overdriven signal back in with the clean signal – this opens up a lot of tonal options.
The sustain this pedal offers is great. I love the way it breaks up and retains note definition while introducing more and more gain into the circuit.
There have been a few versions of The Dude. The V2 model introduced a noiseless on/off switch.
And as is always the case with J.Rockett pedals – it’s built like a tank. It’s designed to be gigged.
3. Wampler Euphoria
The Wampler Euphoria started out under a different name – Ecstasy.
I’m not sure whether it was just a name change or there were any changes to the circuit but regardless – I’m a huge fan of the Euphoria.
If you’re after a Dumble style pedal that offers a lot of flexibility, this is a great choice.
The Euphoria offers a lot of tonal flexibility thanks to a 3-position toggle switch that allows you to select one of three different gain stages. Allowing you to go from the typical smooth ‘D-style’ overdrive with huge amounts of sustain all the way to the higher-gain crunch mode.
Brian Wampler has done a fantastic job developing this circuit. It’s got that Dumble vibe but it’s also got its own thing going on. It sounds particularly good with a strat.
4. J.Rockett Melody
The J.Rockett Melody is a Dumble style pedal that was designed in partnership between Mark Lettieri of Snarky Puppy, and J.Rockett Audio Designs.
Based on the interviews I’ve watched, it appears that this pedal is based on The Dude, that we talked about earlier. With the rather obvious addition of a 6-band graphic EQ.
It’s a great concept for a pedal. It’s rare to see any drive pedal with an EQ this flexible.
The 6-band EQ means you have 18dB to play with. You can cut or boost to shape the tone that you want. This makes it especially good for crafting lead tones and boosts for solos.
Like The Dude, this pedal is dynamic, clear, and offers enough headroom for the job. It’s got that silky smooth lead tone that I typically associate with the Dumble sound and plenty of sustain.
5. NUX Steel Singer Drive
From the name, I’d guess that the NUX Steel Singer Drive is modelled after a Dumble Steel String Singer amplifier.
For a long time, this pedal was discontinued which is surprising because it offered exceptional tones for the money.
Fortunately, the pedal is available once more as part of their reissue series.
At its core, it’s a simple pedal. Volume, gain, and filter. Filter being a treble control. It’s great for those smooth lead tones with lots of sustain.
Overall, it’s not the most flexible and it’s clearly made on a budget. But for the price – this is a brilliant sounding pedal.
6. Rowin Dumbler
The Rowin Dumbler is ideal for those who prefer mini pedals or just want to save pedalboard space.
I’ve had a few different Rowin pedals in the past. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with each one of them.
It also happens to be the most affordable dumble pedal on this list. For the money, it’s difficult to beat.
For such a small pedal, the Dumbler is surprisingly versatile. In addition to the typical volume, tone, and gain controls – we have a voice control.
My version has a regular rotary knob for the voice control but I’ve seen other versions with toggle switches instead.
The pedal is fairly open sounding and provides smooth overdriven tones with singing sustain.
What is a Dumble? And why are they so expensive?
There’s a lot of misconceptions here so I’ll do my best to summarise this in a nutshell.
Here’s what you need to know:
In the late 1960s, Alexander “Howard” Dumble began building custom tube amps. He unfortunately died in January 2022 but he left quite a legacy – the most mythical guitar amp of our time.
Since it was a one-person operation, amps were built in extremely limited quantities.
There were a range of different Dumble amplifiers built over the years. Most notably the Overdrive Special, Overdrive Reverb, and Steel String Singer.
Due to the fame of players that purchased them, and extremely limited availability, Dumble amps have reached mythical status. As such, they can command mind-boggling prices that put the amp out of the reach of mere mortals like us. We’re talking of prices well in excess of $100,000. I’ve seen Steel String Singers advertised for over $200,000.
So, they’re rare. VERY rare. And they’ve been played by some seriously big names in the guitar world.
We’re talking about Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robben Ford, Joe Bonamassa, Larry Carlton, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Sonny Landreth, Eric Johnson, Kirk Hammett, and many more.
There’s a very limited number of these amps in circulation but it’s unclear as to how many there are since they weren’t sold through retail outlets. Alexander Dumble sold them directly to artists. And the majority have been bought up by collectors. For example, Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer both own a bunch of Dumble amps.
What is the Dumble sound?
Most people, when they discuss Dumble sounds, they’re typically referring to the overdrive channel, rather than the clean channel of the amps. The Dumble overdrive channel is where the ‘magic’ happens, so to speak.
So, what was the Dumble sound exactly? Well, that’s difficult to pin down.
There were a number of different Dumble amps in the lineup. And to complicate matters further, each amp was tweaked slightly to the exact specifications of the guitarist purchasing it.
This means that if you had two Overdrive Specials, they likely wouldn’t sound the same as each other.
This is one of the things that made these amps so special – they were voiced specifically for the player.
Generally speaking, though, the Dumble sound seems to be a combination of: clarity, note definition, plenty of headroom, decent amount of gain, and buckets of sustain.
Not to forget – plenty of dynamics.
Some have described them as having somewhat of a ‘creamy’ and ‘smooth’ texture, and I’d agree. At least based on the Dumble style pedals I’ve played.
If you’d like to learn more, check out this early episode of That Pedal Show:
Choosing the best Dumble pedal for you
Since the Dumble tone is based on an amplifier, there are no Dumble clones.
Each Dumble style pedal is a pedal builder’s attempt to replicate the Dumble amp tone into a little stompbox.
How close these pedals are to the Dumble sound, I can’t say. And even those who have played a real Dumble amp couldn’t accurately tell you either – all of the amps sound so different.
But if we go by the general description of the Dumble tone that I mentioned earlier, these Dumble style pedals tick all of the boxes.
They’re generally closer in tone to the Tube Screamer. But they’re still noticeably different.
So, what is the best Dumble style pedal for you? That’s going to depend on your needs. You can’t go wrong with any of the pedals on this list.
Tonally, The Dude by J.Rockett is my favorite. But the J.Rockett Melody and Wampler Euphoria both offer great tones and a lot of tonal flexibility.
For those on a budget, I’d recommend the NUX Steel Singer Drive or the Rowin Dumbler. I prefer the former, but the latter is more affordable and takes up less pedalboard space.
Featured image credit: Adam Connell // Tone Island.