We’re awash in amps and preamps small enough to squeeze onto a pedalboard. But preamps from Ethos are truly stompbox-sized. They’re built into standard BB enclosures. We checked out the Clean-Fusion Preamp, which offers fine faux-tube tones and vast sonic flexibility.
The preamp has a gain control plus wide-ranging 3-band Pre-EQ. Three additional toggles offer a choice of six dramatically varied tone stack voicings. A soft drive switch provides natural tube-like compression and four additional tone-shaping controls. You can connect to a guitar amp or use a second 1/4" output to play through a PA or record direct. The speaker emulation is excellent.
There’s an extra overdrive channel for Dumble-like tones with molasses-thick saturation. Plus, you can shape tones post-distortion via another 3-band tone control and additional gain and level controls. With all those tone-shaping stages, it can take a while to dial in optimal settings for your gear and style. But after some acclimation, chances are you can concoct quality tones for any guitar.
Test gear: Parts guitar with P-90s, Universal Audio Apollo audio interface.