This week I am writing a review on one of my favorite Overdrive pedals: the Ethos Overdrive Pedal. In a previous post, I mentioned combating the dynamic tone effect using a few devices, including this one. The Ethos Overdrive is designed and manufactured in New England by Robbie Hall.

Inspired by the legendary Dumble Overdrive Special amplifier, the retail price is a much lower $395 for the Ethos Classic and at an extra $35 for the TLE mod. The TLE mod tightens up the low end. For the frugal pedal purchaser, the price might initially seem steep, but in all honesty, when considering the features you get in this single unit, packaged in a compact sized, die cast aluminum case, it screams value! The pedal comes with an AC adaptor but will run with a single 9-volt battery!


What the Ethos Overdrive Pedal Can Do

The Ethos is much, much more than just overdrive and it does all of the following things very, very well:

  1. The Ethos adds two highly-tweakable independent channels to your existing amplifier with an integrated boost switch (tone stack bypass), essentially adding three different foot-switchable sounds to your amplifier (total of four!) Both channels offer really good tone, whether clean or overdriven. Transitioning from various degrees of overdrive is dynamically dependent on the articulation of your guitar pick in conjunction with guitar volume control. Three bands of EQ and a presence control on each channel add to the variability of tone, along with the traditional Brite/Normal, Modern/Classic, Rock/Jazz that you find on the Dumble amplifiers. The various combinations of switches and EQs offer a seemingly unlimited number of choices at your fingertips.
  2. The Ethos is a direct interface for a recording console, PA, computer etc. So, for those who are looking for something other than the popular Line 6 pod for direct recording, the Ethos is the more organic-sounding alternative. One of the two outputs on the unit is a speaker simulator output designed expressly for this purpose. Direct Dumble tones for your home recording or studio session!
  3. The Ethos can be used as a preamp for any power-amp, speaker combination. In addition to the choice of output in this application (Speaker Simulator vs. Normal Out), there is also a Guitar Amp Compensation switch along with an overall high-cut control. These give you the ability to add more warmth to your signal to further tailor your sound to match the system through which you are playing, whether tube or solid state.

For those who are seduced by the probable illusion of “true bypass” pedals, the Ethos, unfortunately is not, but it would be a challenge for you to notice any difference in signal when the Ethos is taken out of your chain. When the Ethos is off, the signal runs through a unity gain buffer. The buffer is flat band in response.

The Verdict

In conclusion, I have used the Ethos through a number of diverse playing combinations and it is amazing; a highly recommended pedal for all around tone-tweaking purposes along with great singing overdrive that does not sound gnarly. This pedal is a must for folks who record, tour, and play different rooms with different back-line amplification provided. It allows you to keep a consistent tone through many different shapes/makes of amplifiers and provides a familiar tone-tweaking platform for very little floor space. It allows you to bring your recognizable signature sound, from your home studio to the pro-recording session and then on the road for your world tour. You will still sound like yourself.

For those of you who might be looking for a pedal that will make your Fender Twin Reverb sound exactly like Robben through an Alexander Dumble Overdrive Special, well, aren’t you really are asking for a lot? The Ethos is as good and as close as it gets! It is an A+++++.

Ethos Overdrive Pedal Demo


 Published September 14, 2009