Tonebone Classic Distortion

Buy the Tonebone Classic Distortion at Zzounds

Radial’s Tonebone range are all over the press at the moment with some pretty big user names (Vivian Campbell, Neal Schon, Steve Lukather, Kirk Hammett, the beardie guy who plays with Genesis etc etc).

I recently spent an evening with the award winning Tonebone Classic pedal, many cans of lager and 2 fellow guitarists (my brother Dom & our friend Nigel). We plugged a MIJ 62′ Strat reissue into the bone and then nto the clean channel of a Marshall JCM2000 head & 4 X 12. Heres whats happened.

The Classic is well made and has a basic level, Gain, treble, bass and a contour control, plus 3 mini switches controlling the EQ frequency curve and the level of gain. Its generally designed to give you that nice sweet Classic Rock Overdrive distortion. Y’know a JTM45/Hi-Watt kinda crunch

Passing the guitar around we got some quite nice sounds….I’ll repeat that again…..some quite nice sounds….. As this is the Classic pedal Nigel went off on a Diamond Head rifforama that made us all chuckle, I played the outro to ‘Who’s Crying Now’ by Journey. Meanwhile Dom gave it some Knopfleresque lead lines and……… it sounded ok nothing was earth shattering or award winning though. When playing staccato lines you could hear the preamp tube sag a little. It sounded organic yes and it was reasonably low noised given that we were playing a strat with stock pickups.

The problem here was that we were playing at sensible volume levels, so nothing the Tonebone did really cut the mustard. We got a nice creamy classic rock overdrive, but nothing better than a pro co RAT pedal, we got a nice lift to an already distorted amp, but nothing you couldnt get out of a Ibanez Tubescreamer or a Boss Super Overdrive.

Nigel was cynical of the 15Volt adaptor giving ther circuit enough juice in the first place. But it sounded okay…..not amazing…..or award winning…..but okay.

The problem is that this pedal costs £170 and I’ve just been comparing it to overdrive distortion pedals costing half as much.

I see what there trying to do, but if your spending this sort of money on organic valve tones with a traditional bite I’d personally go for the Coopersonic Twin overdrive this has had some good reviews and my experience of this was in the studio when I recorded some parts of the HoS album back in 2006, its far more convincing, sounds better, is better made and while lacking fancy endorsees. I think you’ll find it does what it says on the tin with far more aplomb.

The Classic’s manual was a triumph of marketing over common sense, it claimed that it was impossible to get a band sound out of it. Sorry Radial, Nigel found one very quickly and boy it sounded horrible as I played the intro to Journeys ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ if the knobs are turned the right way. Which begs the question, if you throw more money at Marketing and PR than on the actual design and technology, what gets you awards and endorsees????

I wouldn’t write Radial’s valve pedal concept off, the Plexitube and Hot British pedals look like they could be worthwhile. But I’m not sure who this pedal is aimed at. A studio would want something that sounds versatile & convincing at lower volume levels. A gigging guitarist may as well buy a cheaper overdrive unit. The price is Boutique, but I’m not convinced that the sounds are.

File under dissapointing


(my thanks to Nigel for the loan of the pedal)
Buy the Tonebone Classic Distortion at Zzounds

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