Sonic Edge Tumbleweed Pedal Review
November 16, 2010
The Tumbleweed compressor expands the dynamic range of low and high watt amps
|Download Example 1|
|Download Example 2|
|Clips recorded with a Custom First Act Delgada with mini-humbuckers into a 1968 Fender Vibro Champ.|
As the name suggests, the Tumbleweed was configured, at least in part, with country pickers in mind—it’s even advertised as “an innovative country pedal” on the company’s website. But to call the Tumbleweed a strictly Nashville-oriented box is to sell this pedal very short. And we found its combination boost and compressor configuration, as well as its switchable voicing capabilities, to be exceptionally versatile for shaping aggressive rock tones, increasing sustain and presence, and fattening up clean tones in crowded band mixes.
Though we’ve enjoyed the whimsical-to-wild graphics that boutique builders have unleashed over the last decade, there’s something refreshing about the Tumbleweed’s minimalist look. However, it’s a bit too stark—the three knobs across the top for boost level on the boost channel and level and sensitivity on the compressor channel are cryptically labeled “B,” “G,” and “S,” respectively, while the 3-way switch that moves between “Brit,” “Cali,” and “Jazz” voicings isn’t labeled at all.
Otherwise, the Tumbleweed is built burly, tough, and ready for the rigors of stage use. The pots have a flawless, smooth action that prevents incidental changes to the control settings in the event you give the pedal a little knock. And, in general, everything on the Tumbleweed feels screwed down tight and ready for the long haul.
Function Over Form
If the message of the Tumbleweed is “Listen to what I say, not how I look,” even a quick turn with the pedal illustrates the worth of that design and engineering strategy. It’s intuitive and reactive, and even though compression can be a subtle effect at low volume, you really can dial this thing in with your eyes closed.
My first evaluation came in a low-wattage, low-gain environment—a Fender Telecaster and Danelectro Hodad 12-string through a Fender Blues Jr. I’ve always loved the effect a compressor can have in lower-volume environments with single-coils. I’ve typically used an MXR Dyna Comp to get a little more sustain and bite without cranking the amp, and when I get things set up right I get just about one of my favorite snappy and singing tones. Using the Tumbleweed, I was able to achieve numerous and many-flavored versions of this affect. The pedal has a lot of range within the realm of perceptibly compressed tones. Even with the level and sensitivity close to or right at wide-open settings, the Tumbleweed neither squealed nor sucked tone.
With the tone and volume controls rolled off a hair on the Telecaster, I got some beautiful and round—but succinct and singing—lead tones. There was a little less immediate pick attack and bite, of course, but the guitar was beautifully responsive to string vibrato and bends, and it sustained a lot more readily when I held a full-step bend. The Telecaster and Blues Jr. also demonstrated the just-as-advertised Nashville-session worthiness of the Tumbleweed. And when I kicked up the treble on the amp, opened up the tone and volume on the Tele, and backed down on the level and sensitivity, I couldn’t help chicken-pickin’ like a low-rent Don Rich. Both the reactivity to picking dynamics and the manner in which each note remained fat, defined, and singing—even when palm-muted—illustrated how much more touch-sensitive this pedal can make a low-power amp at less-than-raging levels.
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.
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.
you need a pedal to corral an overly rich rhythm sound and to create controlled-feedback mayhem.
the silence between Ramones jams is as dynamic as your playing gets.
Street $269 - Company Name - sonicedgeinc.com