DSM Humboldt unveils the Black Clouds Lead Tone Machine, the “ultimate distortion” for high-gain adventure, complete with an onboard noise gate

There are some players whose hunger for high-gain can never be sated. So many distortion pedals, fire-breathing guitar amps, and yet nothing seems to satisfy. But maybe DSM Humboldt, the clever brand behind the ingenuous Simplifier, has the answer in the form of their new preamp pedal, Black Clouds.

The Black Clouds Lead Tone Machine, to give it its official designation, is a fully featured pedalboard distortion solution that looks capable of turning any setup into a serious metal guitar rig. 

It promises high-gain and a low-noise floor thanks to its onboard X-Gate tech, and that passive gate just might well come in handy for those staccato chug rhythm figures the post-Meshuggah generation are so fond of. 

DSM Humboldt says the X-Gate can also add a “crossover distortion” which can be used to add texture to electric guitar tones.

DSM Humboldt Black Clouds

(Image credit: DSM Humboldt)

Like any preamp pedal worth its salt, there are abundant EQ options here, with a Bass dial controlling +/- 10dB of boost or cut to frequencies below 300Hz. The Mids dial controls frequencies between 300 and 2khz and gives you 12dB of boost or cut either way, while the Treble gives you 15dB to apply how you see fit to frequencies above 2khz.

Other features include a Pre Boost, which allows players to dial in up to 30dB of input boost – complete with a slight bump in the mids – for adding gain and compression, and Master Boost, which adjusts the output clean boost from zero to 20dB. Gain and Level knobs set the output gain and output volume respectively.

DSM Humboldt Black Clouds

(Image credit: DSM Humboldt)

Pre Tone lets players fine-tune the EQ of your instrument’s signal as it enters the drive stage, allowing you to season to taste, say, rolling off high-end on super-sharp single-coils, or adding a bit more treble sparkle to humbuckers.

There is a three-way mini-toggle to select between Normal, Preamp and Mid Boost modes, and a three-way mini-toggle for the X-Gate feature. 

The Black Clouds Lead Tone Machine is available now, priced £239. For more details, head on over to DSM Humboldt.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.