I love simple things, probably because I’m a simple man. I’ve always felt that less is more, especially when it comes to guitar gear. If there’s an amplifier with three knobs, I’m interested in it. Songs with three chords? Love ‘em. Pedals with one knob? Love those too. I didn’t think it could get any simpler than that, but one day, a pedal arrived for review. That pedal was the Simble Predrive by Mad Professor. I was a bit perplexed when I opened the box and saw it had no knobs. What could I possibly write about this thing? How am I going to squeeze a review out of it? After playing it, I actually had too much to say, and I had to cut the review down to size. Just because something is pure and simple in its nature doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful and complex. That is certainly true with some of the finest pedals out there, and I’d like to mention a few of them. If you are looking to simplify your rig, you’re going to love these.
EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle
Leave it to EQD to come up with a rad pedal with no knobs. The origins of the Tentacle go back to the Hoof Reaper. That pedal was a dual fuzz unit containing the Hoof and the Tone Reaper, as well as an octave up that could be added to the fuzz sounds or used on its own. The demand for the octave on its own was so great that EarthQuaker Devices relented and wrapped the Tentacle around octave-hungry guitarists everywhere. Keep in mind, this is no POG-style octave, and you won’t be simulating organ sounds with this one. The Tentacle is an analog octave-up, giving you spitty, old school tones, especially when combined with fuzz. It has a hint of ring mod flavor, and it’s a great choice if you’re trying to cop some Hendrix sounds. You could even put it in the effects loop of a delay or reverb pedal for some otherworldly ethereal madness. If you’ve been looking for a stripped down octave pedal, you’ll find nothing simpler—or cooler—than the Tentacle.
For some of you, just having one or two knobless pedals may not be enough. You’re more adventurous than that—you need a whole board without knobs. Knobs are just safety nets that constrain artists, man! Well, I’ve got some good news for you: Henretta Engineering has you covered. The company that gave us memorable stompboxes such as the Choad Blaster and the Heisenberg also has a complete line of tiny, knobless pedals. And by tiny, I mean about the size of a ring box. The small enclosures have just a bypass switch and an LED to ensure nothing gets in the way of you and your music. You may be asking yourself, what kind of effects could really work without knobs? Henretta has the answer, and it’s “all of them.” And by “all of them” I mean all the essentials, namely compressor, filter, fuzz, boost, dirty boost, tremolo, phaser, delay, reverb, and if the Tentacle is too big for your board, try the Purple Octopus analog octave up.
Henretta accomplishes this enormous feat by including internal trimpots in the pedals, allowing you to tailor each one to your liking, giving you the ultimate set and forget tool kit. There are a lot of great full featured multi-effects units out there, and the Henretta mini pedals are the perfect antithesis to those. Henretta can even create a custom unit with four of your favorite knobless effects in one enclosure, giving you the ultimate grab and go rig. Having a simplified setup could really open up your mind for new musical creations, and these little gems can help you get into that frame of mind.
Mad Professor Simble Predriver
Ah yes, the Simble Predriver. The first no-knob pedal I ever encountered, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. That is, until, I plugged in, and realized all of the sizzling glory it could add to any setup. While there is no knob present, there is a Cool/Hot switch. In the Cool position, the switch adds around six decibels of gain, and 10 in the Hot position. But the Simble does more than just boost your level—it adds beautiful harmonics and presence to your overall tone. Think of it as the glaze on a cinnamon roll. The cinnamon roll is already good, but when you drizzle the sauce over a hot roll, you reach the peak of succulent sweetness. If you already love your rig, and you add the Simble to it, you will be pleasantly surprised at the “next-level” results you get when you incorporate it into your setup. In my experience, the Simble is at its best when it is always on, and you can vary your tones using the Cool/Hot switch and your guitar’s volume control.
Third Man Bumble Buzz
You may be familiar with Third Man Records, the record label founded by Jack White. You may not be familiar with the Bumble Buzz, a meticulously handcrafted fuzz pedal that looks like a giant rectangular bumble bee that could double as a coaster at Buffalo Wild Wings. Built by Chris Young of Union Tube & Transistor, the Bumble Buzz turns your guitar into a flying, stinging insect with an attitude problem. The Bumble Buzz really rips, and it does so with minimal effort. If you’re looking for awesome fuzz without the learning curve that comes with pesky knobs, track one of these down and start throwing down some vicious tracks. If you want to add some extra sting to the mix, combine the Bumble Buzz and the Tentacle or Purple Octopus for the ultimate knobless octave fuzz tone. If you’re a Jack White or White Stripes fanatic and you don’t have this in your arsenal, be sure to add it, lest the legitimacy of your fanhood be questioned. If you’re a fuzzhead, get one so you can always have the most unique gem out of any collection.
The world can be a complicated place. Every day brings a new challenge, whether it be with our personal lives, careers, health, or the limited edition Taco Bell item that was just on the menu a week ago but is no longer available. We are constantly navigating peaks and valleys in life, and these derivations are determined by a wide range of variables in constant motion. So why not simplify things when you have the control to do so? I challenge you to incorporate at least one knobless pedal into your guitar rig. Let it inspire you. It’s not the number of knobs on the pedal, it’s the amount of fight in the dog . . . or something like that. You get what I’m saying. Forget about tweaking knobs, and focus on the thing you love doing most—making music and sharing it with others to make the world a better place.