Does the mythic quest for Dumble-style tones culminate in this boutique box?

The mythology that surrounds Alexander Dumble’s creations has led to an entire cottage industry of builders trying to replicate that sound, but without the five-figure price tag. Vertex Effects’ take on a Dumble Steel String Singer is billed as a “clean drive,” but I found the latter descriptor to be more apt. In addition to the volume and gain controls, there’s a filter knob that helps to focus the midrange.

I was quite surprised with how much gain the SS could churn out. In front of a clean amp, the pedal got very growly and, at times, heavy on the low end. Even with rather bright T-style pickups, I found myself fiddling with the filter control to help clear up some muddiness. The volume knob tended to really bring the best out when pushed past noon. The thick D-style feel and warm, smooth compression was there, but I think it really shined in rougher, grittier tones—with the gain knob at least at 2 o'clock. If your tastes are more Texas Flood than In Step, then the SS might be the best way to save $90,000 on your rig for the next blues jam.

Test gear: Schroeder Chopper TL, Gibson Les Paul, Fender ML212, Supro Statesman


Clips recorded with a Schroeder Chopper TL and Wooly Coats Spanky MkII.
Clip 1: All controls at noon.
Clip 2: Volume at 1 o'clock, filter at 3 o'clock, gain at 3 o'clock.


Ratings

Pros:
More versatile than I expected. Nice amount of gain.

Cons:
Somewhat unbalanced on the low end. Filter control is surprisingly subtle.

Street:
$199

Vertex Effects Steel String
vertexeffects.com

 

Tones:

Ease of Use:

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On Black Midi's Cavalcade, Geordie Greep’s fretwork is an example of the 6-string as a capable component as much as a solo instrument, never completely stealing the show.

Popular music and mainstream tastes may be more fractured than ever, but the guitar continues to thrive.

As we soft launch into the new year, I’m not waiting for the requisite guitar obituary in the news. It’s not going to happen again anytime soon. Why? Because as far as the mainstream media is concerned, our beloved instrument is not only dead, it's irrelevant to the point of not even being an afterthought. When the New York Times published their most recent albums of the year list, there was barely a guitar-based recording to be found. Still, there is not only hope, but also cause for jubilation.

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Diatonic sequences are powerful tools. Here’s how to use them wisely.

Advanced

Beginner

• Understand how to map out the neck in seven positions.
• Learn to combine legato and picking to create long phrases.
• Develop a smooth attack—even at high speeds.

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Knowing how to function in different keys is crucial to improvising in any context. One path to fretboard mastery is learning how to move through positions across the neck. Even something as simple as a three-note-per-string major scale can offer loads of options when it’s time to step up and rip. I’m going to outline seven technical sequences, each one focusing on a position of a diatonic major scale. This should provide a fun workout for the fingers and hopefully inspire a few licks of your own.
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