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Friends Mourn "Genius" Guitar Amplifier Designer Howard Alexander Dumble

Dumble Overdrive Special amplifier
(Image credit: Future)

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Howard,” reads the dumbleamps Instagram account post. “His work brought joy and inspiration to countless musicians and engineers.”

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Few guitar amp builders achieved the status and reverence of Howard Alexander Dumble (preferably known by his middle name.) Much like a ‘Burst or a pre-war Martin their scarcity and price puts Dumble amps into another realm of guitar gear altogether. 

While a lucky minority of guitarists are fortunate enough to own one of his creations we have all heard the sound of these boutique marvels from the earliest big-name endorsements in the ‘70s to today's plethora of tone-savvy artists who extoll their rare virtues.

Dumble Overdrive Special amplifier

(Image credit: Future)

High-end instrument dealer and veteran of the Holy Grail guitar gear world Drew Berlin (opens in new tab) had this to say:

“Mr Dumble’s amplifiers have been heard for decades on radio airwaves and across stages the world over. He famously custom-built tools for musicians [including] Jackson Browne, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Don Felder, Lowell George of Little Feat, and Keith Urban.”

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Dumble was rarely in the press limelight, allowing his work to do all the talking instead. Thus, relatively few photographs and interviews exist. However, those who knew him personally had fond memories to share.

“Mr Dumble was an incredibly warm and charming person,” continues Berlin. “He felt he was able to create a ‘Vast tonal palette’ for the artists to sonically utilize. He was described as a physics genius who lived to combine that talent with an incredibly musical ear.”

A sentiment echoed by Joe Bonamassa in his recent Instagram post which labeled him “A genius and a one of a kind.”

Similarly, in his recent Instagram post Dumble devotee Kenny Wayne Shepherd called the elusive engineer a “bona fide genius” who inspired him both personally and as a guitar player.

“Most only knew the rumors about him,” says Shephard. “He had an especially kind heart and was a man of strong convictions and faith. He inspired me both as a person and a player and he elevated my music with the amps he created for me.

“I will forever cherish our friendship and never forget his example.”

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Those looking for more information with respect to Dumble amplifiers may like to read Jesse Schwarz's A Dumble Book (though copies do occasionally surface they appear to be as rare as the amps themselves!)

A Dumble Book by Jesse Schwarz

A Dumble Book by Jesse Schwarz (Image credit: Jesse Schwarz)

Read our archive interview with Howard Alexander Dumble here.

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab)Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.