J Rockett HRM V2 review: updated for even more authentic D-style overdrive
JRAD’s designers spent two years listening to a real Dumble amp with the Hot Rubber Monkey EQ mod in order to refine the sound of this pedal. Seems a bit excessive, but the truth is in the tones…
J Rockett HRM V2. Image: J Rockett Audio Designs
You don’t have to be a sneering cynic to find the premise of the J Rockett HRM V2 a little bit daft. This is a modified take on a modified amp that most of us will never get to hear in real life anyway – so why bother?
Well, you know how nerdy some tonehounds can get in the search for medium-gain nirvana. This, then, is the 2023 version of the HRM – an overdrive based on the sound of a Dumble amp with the so-called Hot Rubber Monkey mod. So have an extra two years of refinements led to the absolutely positively definitively ultimate D-style drive pedal?
Quite possibly… but first, a word on the amps it’s setting out to emulate. Grails don’t come much holier than the creations of the late Alexander ‘Howard’ Dumble, which are famed for their forthright yet buttery-smooth midrange response. By adding a second tonestack post-gain, the HRM mod enabled users to tweak the overdriven EQ without affecting their clean tone – and that enhanced version of the formula is where this dinky wee stomper comes in.
For V2, the enclosure has changed from silver to all black with milled metal knobs, creating a low-key look that’s way more classy than before. Controls-wise, ‘treble’ and ‘fat’ have become ‘top end’ and ‘midrange’, but it’s the upgraded parts on the inside that promise improved authenticity.
Of course, it may well be that you don’t give a turkey’s anus about authenticity – after all, quite aside from the fact that you almost certainly don’t have a real Dumble to compare it with, you’ll be running it into an amp with its own tonal qualities anyway. So how about we just focus on how good it sounds?
The last J Rockett pedal reviewed on this site was the Archer Select, a multi-mode overdrive that felt just a teeny bit barrel-scrapey in terms of the company’s former association with Klon. But there’s not an ounce of gimmicky flab on the HRM V2 – it’s just a really fantastic dirt-bringer.
You won’t get totally transparent drive out of this thing – the gently boosted mids are a fundamental part of the deal – but there is a lot of tone-shaping power in those two EQ knobs, which have clearly been calibrated with meticulous care. ‘Top end’ gets lovely and zingy when pushed but doesn’t stifle anything crucial when dialled back; and ‘midrange’ runs the gamut from slim to beefy, with different hues of prettiness to be found at all points along the way.
But of course it’s the overdrive itself that really needs to be on point – and it is. Like a mids-emphasised version of the EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker – probably my favourite effects pedal of 2022 – the HRM V2 simply doesn’t sound like a stompbox, infusing its warm crunch into your signal in a way that’s 100% natural… a lot like Klon, in fact. And just as importantly, it doesn’t feel like a stompbox either: there’s no obvious difference in dynamic response with it on or off.
As to whether or not this really is ‘the Dumble sound’ in a box, that will largely depend – as mentioned earlier – on what you plug it into. But if your clean tone is good, and isn’t already too assertive in the middle frequencies, you’re in (monkey) business.