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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 20, 2003

Vox Tonelab

I've borrowed a Tonelab for testing, and I suspect I'll be keeping it. I'm not sure how much of a difference the valve makes to the sounds you get, but the main thing is that it sounds superb. There are three main reasons to prefer the Tonelab to the Line6 Pod XT or the Digitech Genesis series.

It's a British company, and the amp tones are more slanted towards British makes and sounds. This means there are fewer of the hideous modern US ultra-distorted rock-ist models. Vox amps are well represented, but there are a couple of Tweeds, a Blackface, and then a British Blues sound, and a model based on Marshall. After that there are a few of the "boutique" sounds, but they're not in the majority.

It's also built well. It's bigger, heavier, and has a metal case, whereas other desktop modellers tend to be lightweight and plastic.

The final thing is, the manual is good. The nice thing about it, there are some proper explanations of the models and how best to use them. You don't get this with the others; there's always an assumption that every guitarist will know the ins and outs of every amp in the history of the world, in a kind of trainspotterly way. Well, I can't see how this could be. Before the Pod, a lot of guitarists only ever played with one or two amps, and having so many models at your disposal can be confusing.

For example, never have I read before an explanation of how to get the best out of a Tweed model. I've laboured under the misapprehension that the volume control on my Telecaster was best played flat out. But now I learn that if you turn it down, you can adjust the way you hit the strings and get different sounds out of the amp, which itself is played flat out.

The Tonelab manual is full of nice little explanations like that, and it was a pleasure to play and record with.


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