One of my personal litmus tests of any compressor is the McGuinn drill—seeing to what extent I can achieve the even sustain and snap that the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn got out of his Rickenbacker 360-12 running straight into a board and studio compressor. It’s never a fair challenge for any pedal, but the Tumbleweed impressed me with how well it could approximate the tight, but sustained and still-ringing, qualities of the 12-string on those old Byrds sides. And my own Danelectro Hodad sounded lively and focused enough for lead work—a subtle, but very effective shift in dynamics you can get by really squeezing the level and sensitivity on the Tumbleweed and backing off the guitar volume a touch. In this setting, too, the Tumbleweed did a beautiful job of increasing touch sensitivity.

Though the compressor on the Tumbleweed is first-class, it’s the boost function—and the ability to use them together—that really sets the pedal apart. Using the same settings and setups I used for the Telecaster and McGuinn tests, I used the boost and attentive use of the guitars’ volume controls to lend more girth, attack, and—with the guitar volume maxed—a range of higher-gain tones that resulted in a controlled harmonic bloom or a very musical and manageable feedback.

The Brit and Cali switches colored the sound even further. The Brit in particular really extended the range of the pedal, giving me the bandwidth to kick the Telecaster into a very cool sound reminiscent of Yardbirds-era Jeff Beck riding the volume knob while leaning into an AC30: I got a combination of biting, snappy lead notes and bends teetering on the edge of feedback. Plugged into a larger Fender Bassman 4x10 reissue, the effect was much bigger, though it remained very controllable. And when I did crank up the gain, the bigger amp working with the Tumbleweed brought out a rainbow of harmonic overdrive and controlled feedback that made slow, stabbing leads a blast.

The Verdict

You have to love any pedal that gives you this much dynamic range in a single box. With both low- and higher-wattage amps, the compressor can help you get traction and bite for a lead or rhythmic hook when the band isn’t going full throttle. And when the band kicks into overdrive, the Tumbleweed’s Boost and switchable voice functions give you the potential to get singing, hot, or squirrelly, depending how you use your guitar’s controls. Used individually and then together over the course of a song, the Tumbleweed gave me incredible range to lay back and create a detailed and present arpeggiated bed that didn’t dominate a mix. It also gave me the ability to cut into leads in the truest sense. Any single pedal that gives you that much room to roam is certainly worth a look.

Buy if...
you need a pedal to corral an overly rich rhythm sound and to create controlled-feedback mayhem.
Skip if...
the silence between Ramones jams is as dynamic as your playing gets.

Street $269 - Company Name -