Despite its compact size, this dual-footswitch box offers superb flexibility and surprisingly tube-like tones.

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.


Super-compact. Good sounds. Sonically flexible. Well made.

With so many tone-shaping stages, getting the perfect tone can take time.


Ethos Clean-Fusion Preamp


Ease of Use:



An overachieving overdrive that gets way bigger than its name suggests.

Sweet balanced crunch tones. Dynamic. Sparkling, full, and clean at attenuated guitar volume. High-quality build.

Pretty expensive.


Great Eastern FX Small Speaker Overdrive


Overdrive pedals don’t often set my world alight—even great ones. But I’ve spent a month with the England-built Great Eastern FX Small Speaker Overdrive, and it remains attached to the other end of my coil-y cable. Ostensibly, the Small Speaker is meant to be a variation on the tweed-Fender-Champ-in-a-box theme. However, both the pedal’s name and the Champ associations fail to do justice to how large and alive it sounds and feels tethered to a bigger amp.

Read More Show less

Megadeth founder teams up with Gibson for his first acoustic guitar in the Dave Mustaine Collection.

Read More Show less

The bass wiz and author shares deep wisdom about bass, music, and more.

Read More Show less