This week I am writing a review on one of my favorite Overdrive pedals: the Ethos Overdrive Pedal. In a previous post, I mentioned combating the dynamic tone effect using a few devices, including this one. The Ethos Overdrive is designed and manufactured in New England by Robbie Hall.

Inspired by the legendary Dumble Overdrive Special amplifier, the retail price is a much lower $395 for the Ethos Classic and at an extra $35 for the TLE mod. The TLE mod tightens up the low end. For the frugal pedal purchaser, the price might initially seem steep but in all honesty when considering the features you get in this single unit, packaged in a compact sized, die cast aluminum case, it screams value! The pedal comes with an ac adaptor but will run with a single 9v battery!

The Ethos is much, much more than just overdrive and it does all of the following things very very well:

1) The Ethos adds 2 highly-tweakable independent channels to your existing amplifier with an integrated boost switch (tone stack bypass), essentially adding 3 different foot-switchable sounds to your amplifier (total 4!) Both channels offer really good tone, whether clean or overdriven. Transitioning from various degrees of overdrive is dynamically dependent on the articulation of your guitar pick in conjunction with guitar volume control. Three bands of EQ and a presence control on each channel add to the variability of tone, along with the traditional Brite/Normal, Modern/Classic, Rock/Jazz that you find on the Dumble amplifiers. The various combinations of switches and EQ’s offer a seemingly unlimited number of choices at your fingertips.

2) The Ethos is a direct interface for a recording console, PA, computer etc. So, for those who are looking for something other than the popular line 6 pod for direct recording, the Ethos is the more organic sounding alternative. One of the two outputs on the unit is a speaker simulator output designed expressly for this purpose. Direct Dumble tones for your Imac or studio session!

3) The Ethos can be used as a preamp for any power-amp, speaker combination. In addition to the choice of output in this application (Speaker Simulator vs. Normal Out), there is also a Guitar Amp Compensation switch along with an overall high-cut control. These give you the ability to add more warmth to your signal to further tailor your sound to match the system through which you are playing, whether tube or solid state.

For those who are seduced by the probable illusion of “true bypass” pedals, the Ethos, unfortunately is not, but it would be a challenge for you to notice any difference in signal when the Ethos is taken out of your chain. When the Ethos is off, the signal runs through a unity gain buffer. The buffer is flat band in response.

In conclusion, I have used the Ethos through a number of diverse playing combinations and it is amazing…a highly recommended pedal for all round tone-tweaking purposes along with great singing overdrive that does not sound narly. This pedal is a must for folks who record, tour and play different rooms with different back-line amplification provided. It allows you to keep a consistent tone through many different shapes/makes of amplifiers and provides a familiar tone-tweaking platform for very little floor space. It allows you to bring your recognizable signature sound, from your home studio to the pro-recording session and then on the road for your world tour. You will still sound like yourself.

For those of who you might be looking for a pedal that will make your Fender Twin Reverb sound exactly like Robben through an Alexander Dumble Overdrive Special….well…aren’t you really are asking for a lot? but…the Ethos is as good and as close as it gets an A+++++

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    I tried to find one a while back… None in Africa, I was lucky to hear one in a studio I visited once… I never heard a Dumble amp in real life unfortunately, I get funny looks when I ask people about them, but this pedal (pre-amp?)sounds soooooo fine I’m scared to hear a Dumble.
    My solution was to get a 20w Laney Lionheart and doing some good ol’ tube-rolling and re-biasing, at 20watts I can get a nice output tube distortion without my ears bleeding, still need to build an output attenuator, though, then it’ll be the best I can imagine without breaking the bank with specialist imports!
    BUT I will sell teeth to get my hands on an Ethos, if it was $600 it’s a LOT of tone for your money…

    Sounds beautiful! I might have to look for one of these, now that I’ve sold my trustworthy Hughes and Ketner Tube Factor pedal.

    Anybody know what pickups are in the strat used in the demo? They sound great too, as does the playing!

    First off, I really like your site. Great information and presentation!

    Now, for this particular post…. I was seconds from pulling the trigger on the Zendrive last weekend when, after some web-surfing for more info and soundclips of it, I stumbled on your site. Well, that plan was out the window and I now have an Ethos. Only had about 30 minutes with it yet, but wanted to thank you for your detailed information and presentation. Oh, I just had your funk book/cd delivered from Amazon yesterday :)



    Hi there,
    I just came across your site! I really enjoy it, great info and I really dig your playing! Just thought I’d pass along this link from the Pete Cornish site about “True Bypass”. Of course it is true that a lot of cheap pedals zap your tone, but when done well….Pete makes a good argument here:
    As far as the Ethos…I think I have to try one!
    Thanks for all your great work on this sute, I will pass this along to all my “Tone Freak” friends!

    Seems like a souped up version of my old TC Electronic Booster Line Driver. I’d love to get one of those, it’s certainly expensive but it also seems built to last too. As I get older what I’m starting to appreciate now is small, light to carry pieces of gear that get “the sound” if you know what I mean. Good job on the video!

    I’ve recently heard that one of the “usual suspects” is going to offer a full ODS style tube preamp/front end in a “Ethos” style platform.

    I kinda like the idea, I just wonder what features it will have.

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