Everyone knows that guy on any given guitar forum. The one who will always invoke that specific “holy grail” amp when talking about tone. Everyone will collectively roll their eyes, sigh, and say to themselves “Not this guy again.” On the guitar forum I frequent, there happens to be one of these “Dumblebores” (a term coined by a friend of mine for this specific guy), who swears by any rare concoction that made its way out of Mr. Dumble’s door. To be honest, I am quite intrigued by the rabid fandom and almost mythic reverence these amps carry, so I was excited to take J. Rockett’s latest pedal for a spin, to see what the hype was about, and to see if Dumblebore’s spell could captivate me into finally understanding the myth that is the Overdrive Special.
First things first, let’s start with the front. The Dude has a wonderful heft to it for such a small pedal, and I feel that it needs to be mentioned that this thing is one of the heaviest small-format pedals I have ever felt; the metal casing feels like it’s made out of a repurposed airplane fuselage. The switch and knobs are just as hefty, and feel almost overbuilt. It’s got four mini chickenhead knobs controlling Level, Treble, Ratio (Gain), and Deep (Bass). Seeing these chickenhead knobs so close together worried me a bit, as I thought they might catch on each other when turning them, but that is not the case here, as they are aligned almost perfectly so that they just barely miss each other (nice catch J. Rockett). The footswitch is just as hefty as the enclosure itself, and takes a bit (but not too much) oomph to click it. The jacks are top-mounted, and it takes standard nine-volt DC. The font is clearly inspired by the ‘80s incarnations of Dumble’s Overdrive Special, which is a nice touch for those seeking authenticity.
Most, if not all of Dumble’s circuitry is based on the Fender Blackface circuit, which is understandable. The Dude really sounds like a hot-rodded Blackface, and unfortunately carries over some of the undesirable (to me at least) parts of that circuit that Dumble seemed to do away with mostly in his amps. The Dude can be incredibly trebly, to the point of icepick, past 12 o’clock. The treble part of The Dude’s circuit doesn’t have an incredibly wide sweet spot, and really needs to be fine-tuned. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does require some time to understand how it all fits together. The treble circuit is connected to the gain, and boosting the treble also adds gain and volume. But at higher volumes, and even with darker amps, anything past 12 o’clock is almost unbearably trebly. That being said, the rest of the circuit sounds great once the treble control has been tuned properly. The Ratio control is Dumble-speak for gain, and the Deep control is based off of the Deep switch on a Dumble amp, which is essentially a bass boost. The Deep control really sounds wonderful, and paired with a well-tuned treble it adds a nice, clean, evenly layered crunch. These are the sounds you hear on Robben Ford and late Santana records: articulate distortion with just the right amount of finesse. It made me feel like I was playing through glass, as I really heard what the pedal was doing to my signal. The Dude is right at home with rock, blues, fusion, and anything in between, with a lovely hollow overdrive tone. I tried adding delay, reverb, and modulation, but really, this thing is meant to be played with minimal effects. You can really hear each note ring out with a reckless abandon that’s held tightly by the player’s dynamics. However, with a pedal this clear, I felt like I really wanted more. There was a tiny artificial sheen to the high-end of this pedal, perhaps due to the fact I had to cut out a lot of high-end for the sake of the continued use of my hearing. A lot of the time it feels like there is a light layer of cling wrap over the tone; transparent from a distance, yet annoying enough to notice if you’re really looking. If those issues are addressed, I would hasten to recommend this to the Dumblebore in your life.
What We Like: Great Dumble-like tones, very clear overdrive sounds with a nice hollow crunch. Overbuilt and hefty enough to chuck at a wall without fear of damage (other than your wall).
Concerns: Almost unusable past 12 o’clock on the treble control. Missing just an extra bit of that hi-fi sheen.