004 | Vertex Steel String Clean Drive: A Closer Look at this Dumble in a Box | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Welcome to another episode of the Sonic Renegades podcast, where we're on episode number four where we're exploring Renegade Pedals that have really changed the music landscape, and for today's discussion we're going to be taking a really close look at the Vertex Steel String pedal. This one is a super popular pedal amongst guitarists right now, and we're looking forward to unpacking this beauty with you for you guys today.

Scott Schwertly:
Hey everybody, Scott Schwertly here with Siren Pedals.

Austin Bryan:
Hey. Austin Bryan here with Siren Pedals, and we're on episode four.

Scott Schwertly:
Hard to believe. Crazy.

Austin Bryan:
Climbing, man. Episode four. Today is a really cool day because we're going to be talking about the Vertex Steel String Clean Drive pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Oh, I love this pedal.

Austin Bryan:
It is a very special effect. If you're looking for a Dumble style amplifier pedal in a box, this is it. I can't think of another option except the other Vertex options that are out there, but this is been based and designed alongside a real Dumble Steel String, and it's the Steel String Singer amplifier, actually serial number 1 so Vertex actually designed and based this off of a real amp, which is a really cool thing and for those that don't know about Dumble amplifiers, there's a lot of history on the Internet. I mean, you could spend weeks, probably months researching it, but essentially each of these original amps were hand-built by Alexander Dumble.

Austin Bryan:
They're some of the most expensive, if not the most expensive boutique amp on the market right now. Tons of artists have the original amps. They've been using them on records and using them live, and we'll get to some of the artists that have used the amp here soon but one thing you should really know is this pedal, the Steel String Clean Drive is based on that adjustable single channel clean amp that had reverb.

Austin Bryan:
The neat thing to know is that fewer than a 12 of those amps have been accounted for, so just to give you an idea being able to get that tone in a pedal is amazing. Because fewer than 12 of those Steel String Singer amps have been accounted for, but one thing you should know about it, it's an amp known for its clean feedback, its touch sensitivity and warmth. Previously and in episode two, when we talked about the Ego, I expressed, "Hey, there's a feel to this pedal." I would say for an amp in a box pedal, this really does capture the authentic feel and sound of what a lot of those examples on the Internet are, and really few have had a chance to actually hear a Dumble, even see one. It's literally a legendary, mythical ... It's hen's teeth finding one of those amplifiers.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, so let's talk about that a little bit because I know you mentioned expensive. Obviously they're hard to find. John Mayer actually uses one, and I think last time I checked, it was in the six digits. I don't know if it was like $180,000 or $200,000.

Austin Bryan:
I saw one for 220,000.

Scott Schwertly:
It's insane, and I think the average price for these, yeah, roughly are in that same ballpark, or wasn't there one on Reverb or something for like 90 grand or whatever.

Austin Bryan:
Oh yeah. 90,000. Yeah.

Scott Schwertly:
It's insane, so absolutely expensive. The good news is the Steel String actually runs for 199, so you can basically get this hundred thousand dollar amp essentially in a box, which makes this such a beautiful, wonderful pedal-

Austin Bryan:
Fantastic.

Scott Schwertly:
Pedal to have.

Austin Bryan:
Fantastic. You can get such a powerful amplifier, such a revered and respected amp in a box, which is great. So everybody has that option to at least get a taste of what so many players that have the real deal. From what I've researched as well Alexander Dumble still actually does build amps. Only like two to three per year on celebrity requests, so to be able to buy this pedal for around 199 is awesome to be able to get that sound.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, definitely. Obviously John Mayer is a huge Dumble user. Again, if you're wanting to capture that John Mayer sound, having this pedal within your arsenal is a good way to get closer to that goal or objective. Folks like Mark Tremonti use it. Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah, Robben Ford. He mentioned years ago in the '80s that he got his originals for like $1,200 back then, which was a lot in the '80s but he mentioned getting his originals, and Ben Harper, Eric Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, Jackson Browne, Kirk Hammett, Henry Kaiser who the Steel String Singer was actually the first model was made for him, and Bonnie Raitt. So a lot of players have used these, especially a lot of expressive musicians who are known for their riffs and who are known for their expressive tones have utilized the original amp, which is really cool.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. So again, if you want to get close to any one of those individuals as far as their tone, a good place to start obviously is to have this pedal on your board and see if you can dial it in. Now obviously with this pedal there's so much that we can rave about, but there's also just a few little quirks. Not many really for that matter, but one thing that's worth noting here is I know we were kind of chatting about this before starting this episode, but it is kind of a one-trick pony, right?

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. It does what it does very well. If you're trying to capture a different feel out of your amplifier or if you're trying to get your amp to sound maybe a little more touch sensitive and you want to get something closer to a more expensive amp, this is it. This is a great choice, especially if you play blues or a lot of rock and you want a more expressive tone. But sadly, I feel like from sitting down with this pedal personally, it really feels kind of one dimensional in that. Sitting down with it, it just seems like you're in that zone. You get that sound, but that's really about as far as you can go. The gain only goes so far. I mean, because the Steel String, it is a clean drive so it does have a little bit of that, you know, that it does do that breakup, but it seems to have a limit to how far it can go other than that.

Scott Schwertly:
So as you can tell, we really don't have that much to complain about this pedal. In fact, those complaints within themselves we understand are really, really minute in the broader scale of things, so let's focus on some of the positive things that we really love about this pedal. I know Austin, you mentioned earlier that obviously this is great for blues.

Austin Bryan:
Oh yeah.

Scott Schwertly:
It's also great for rock. There is a lot you can do with it to help it get out of that one dimensional sort of handicap.

Austin Bryan:
Oh yeah. It's kind of piggybacking off of what I was saying on the negative. Somebody else listening to this might take this pedal and pair it with something and really, really open it up in a way that you or I aren't thinking about. But one thing I can say, if you are a Strat player, this is like a secret tool. It is a perfect marriage with a Stratocaster, because it's clean and compressed and in that clean compression of the clean drive, it's got enough breakup to where if you're a Strat player you can get a lot of those sounds. So if you're into John Mayer or Stevie Ray Vaughan, some of the players. You mentioned Eric Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, Bonnie Raitt, Strat players. This really will give you that sweetness and those dynamics and that touch sensitivity, and really that warmth that a lot of folks are trying to achieve from an amp with that type of natural compression and feel, and I really think the Vertex did a great job in capturing at least to the smallest thing. They've really captured that feel of what an amplifier should feel like.

Scott Schwertly:
And where this pedal really shines just based on my experience with it is that, particularly when you pair it with just a clean amp, it really again just adds that extra bit of character, which I think is probably one of the most attractive things about the tones that this pedal can produce. It also pairs really nicely with delay and reverb, so maybe you're in a worship band and you've got all those reverbs and delays going on. It pairs nicely with that, but it also pairs nicely with distortion and some other things.

Austin Bryan:
If you need a good boost on top of your drive tone, I think this would really open up the sound of your guitar, especially through a different amp. If you're on a gain setting and you want to just push it a little further, set the filter control here, adjust your mids, and you really would have kind of like a secondary channel.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, so I mean, definitely lots to rave about and I know for me, I'm a big Strat player and this is just one of those pedals that kind of like my compressor is just always on. I just love the sound of it so much that every time I look down, that light's always on. I'm hardly ever turning it off.

Austin Bryan:
Well, they say the amp that this is based off of, it's known for the, it has a clean feedback, so as you were mentioning it being always on, you always got that possibility when you're playing clean to just get it to break up when you want it to, or get it to feedback if you need it to, while it's still retains those aspects of a clean tone and still getting the best out of maybe your single coil Strat pickups or whatever configuration you've got in that sense. So, fantastic.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. We'll stop chatting now and actually let you listen to this wonderful pedal. Austin, I guess you're going to bust out your PRS Silver Sky here.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. I'm going to play a PRS Silver Sky, and we're going to run that through the Steel String and then we're going to put it basically through the interface and you can hear it pretty much direct what it sounds like.

Scott Schwertly:
Nice. Can't wait. Alright, we're going to go ahead and demo this for you.

Austin Bryan:
There we go. That's the sound of the Steel String Clean Drive. For folks who are avid Strat players, who really can play a lot of those riffs and those licks, this is a pedal to put into your rig for sure. It's that sound. You just heard it for yourself, and the versatility of using that gain control. You get that sound pretty much in a box, and that's really where you're at. And if you like that sound, there you go.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean really, how can you not love that?

Austin Bryan:
It's killer.

Scott Schwertly:
Just, it sounds so good. So good. Love this pedal.

Austin Bryan:
Dumble tone in a box.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Awesome. Well, that pretty much covers what we wanted to discuss today about the Vertex Steel String Clean Drive. Again, definitely a pedal worth having on your board. It's a great tool to have in your arsenal. Join us next time. We're actually going to be talking about fuzz on our next one, so we're going to be unpacking the EarthQuaker Devices Erupter.

Austin Bryan:
Erupter.

Scott Schwertly:
Oh, this is a beautiful pedal. I know Austin it's probably one of your personal favorites.

Austin Bryan:
It's a fun one. It's a single knob fuzz. Can't go wrong.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Awesome. Well, we're looking forward to unpacking that one for you guys in our next episode. Until then, we will see you on the other side.

Austin Bryan:
See you later.

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