Can a $249 preamp/drive pedal and a few commonly found stompboxes nail the Dumble amp tones of classic SRV, Eric Johnson and John Mayer tracks?

Vertex Steel String Supreme
(Image credit: Vertex Effects / YouTube)

Mason Marangella, owner and CEO of Vertex Effects, has made no secret of his Dumble guitar amplifier worship, pulling strings, calling in favours to find some of the most legendary amps Howard Alexander Dumble ever designed to demo on his YouTube channel – and of course designing his own Dumble-inspired Steel String preamp and overdrive pedal series. 

But Marangella has taken this further. He might even be getting carried away with things. After all, we know a little love can be a dangerous thing. Marangella has put this Dumble obsession to the test, on camera, in a borderline scientific experiment to see how close you can get to three classic electric guitar tones featuring a Dumble but with only using one of his Steel String units and adding a few commonly found stompboxes to taste.

Marangella recruited Bay Area guitarist Tim Marco to wrangle a Fender Stratocaster for the segment, running his everyday rigs through a clean Fender Bandmaster. And having secured access to multitracks of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Testify, Eric Johnson’s S.R.V., and John Mayer’s guitar shop standard Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, he set up to see how close they could get to three tracks that were all said to have used a Dumble Steel String Singer.

They would take one pass with the Bandmaster, running a few pedals in front, with a Steel String Slight Return MKII mini, and then they’d try an amp-free rig, using the Steel String Slight Return Double Preamp, some pedals, and a Two Notes Torpedo Cab M, which was purpose-built for such occasions.

“I thought it would be a really cool opportunity to take some of our Dumble Steel String Singer emulating pedals and compare them to these three different multitracks,” says Marangella. “And what I want to attempt is pull the guitar out of those multitracks and see if we can transplant some of our guitar parts using our pedals in order to recreate that Dumble Steel String Singer sound.”

If you have a tube amp and you want to get closer to that quintessential Dumble sound, I think we have proved that we can get pretty damn close

Mason Marangella

Marangella’s pinch hitters would include the likes of an MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe delay pedal and a DigiTech Polara stereo reverb pedal (the Bandmaster has no reverb), and one of his own Vertex Boost MKII units. A Boss DM-2 Analog Delay, an EHX Memory Man and a Boss Dimension C chorus pedal also came in handy. 

Point being: these pedals, and variants thereof, are all easily available, and at $199 for the String Slight Return MKII mini, $249 for the Steel String Supreme Double Preamp, we’re not breaking the bank, not as we would if we were to find a genuine Steel String Singer. 

Now, for an idea how that would sound on its own, check out the video below from December, in which Marangella found the first ever Steel String Singer, serial number: 001, and put it through its paces.

As for this experiment, the results are impressive. There’s no question they get close. And there are limitations that they take into account, such as mics, mic position, and studio outboard gear that was used to track the original reference parts.

“What we were able to do was take the Steel String Supreme, Slight Return or the Steel String Slight Return Mini MKII, and get really close to three very iconic sounds that used this particular type of Dumble amplifier,” says Marangella. “I think this gives you a lot of options as a player, because if you have a tube amp and you want to get it a bit closer to that quintessential Dumble sound, I think we have proved that we can get pretty damn close to that using the Steel String MKII Slight Return edition.”

Is he right? Grab your best headphones, plug ‘em in and check out the video above. Find out more about the Steel String range at Vertex Effects.

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.