Toshihiko Tanabe, a retired advertising executive and guitar enthusiast in Kawasaki, Japan, manufactures boutique pedals as a hobby. The Zenkudo ($310 direct), which was the first pedal that Tanabe developed, reveals in its appearance and control labeling a close similarity to the Hermida Zendrive, developed by Alfonso Hermida to elicit the sound of Robben Ford’s Dumble amp tone. Tanabe’s Zenkudo and Dumkudo pedals are, in fact, substantial redesigns of the Zendrive pedal to the point where they have become different circuits. Tanabe tell us that he redesigned the circuit to get closer to his ideal of the Dumble sound, and that he also added a 3-position switch on the side of the housing that cycles through three modes: Zenkudo, Marshall, and Dumble. The LED indicator also changes from blue to red to green to indicate which mode that the pedal is in. As an owner and player of several Dumble amps since the late 70’s, I am always anxious to compare the recent and various “Dumblein- a-box” pedals that have been appearing in the boutique pedal market. Does Zenkudo sound like a Dumble amp? Yes, as with the Hermida Zendrive or entirely different circuit architecture of the Custom Tones Ethos pedal, it excels at achieving the famed Dumble overdrive tone. If you have the chops, you can certainly sound like most of the classic 90’s Dumble players, such as Robben Ford or Larry Carlton, with the Zenkudo. To my ears, the Zenkudo is actually a bit more hi-fi and detailed sounding than the Zendrive pedal or a Dumble amp. It also sounds less compressed and responds more dynamically to your playing. Experiencing the Zenkudo, the Zendrive, the Ethos, and a Dumble Overdrive Special could be compared to visiting three five-star restaurants; each is are uniformly excellent, though you might prefer one over another depending on the situation.
PROS Quiet. Terrific variety of tones. Responsive controls.
CONS Pricey. Low contrast between control labels and abalone background can make it difficult to read labels on dark stage.
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