Here’s another “review”. Today I’ll write about the Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion. Again this is more about my personal experiences – why and how I use it – than a test with a lot of technically data and information.
Thru the years I’ve tried tons of overdrive pedals – some of them have done a good job – at least in combination with certain amps. But for me it’s essential that they work well with every amp. When I wrote about my move back in the days, from amp and pedalboard to a rack-setup I explained about the benefits I got from that. Thru the years I’ve dreamt about a setup that was easier to travel with than my rack, and at the same time a setup that is able to give me my overdriven tube sounds I can get from my rack setup.
How did I meet the Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion ?
By coincidence I heard two sound engineers praise Radial’s products on the same day. I had just made my new pedal-board and had actually bought an overdrive and a distortion-type pedal after seriously research, but I wasn’t 100% content about those, so when I later the same day read about the Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion, I decided to check it out.
I bought the only Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion I was able to find in Copenhagen, and brought it with me for the days gig. Within a few minuttes I could dial in a soft lightly overdriven sound for themes on the “rhythm channel” and a more high gain leadsound for soloing on the “lead-channel”. When I compared with the “old” pedals I brought for the gig, the “old” ones were fired and the Tonebone was in.
Later on when I played a little more with the Tonebone, I turned up for the intermediate drive gain on the rhythm channel. It made it possible to get a more full overdriven sound, but it was also possible to turn the drive on the front panel down and get a lead or rhythm sound that cranks up less – even with the Gainswitch for both solo channels on “hi-gain”. I will love if Radial on the next generation of the pedal comes with independent gain switches on the two channels!!
What about the other controls?
I hardly use them. The Low and High – well sometimes I add a little, but it isn’t much. The Filter … again I might add a little – maybe the sound cuts a little better thru with a little filter added, but again – it’s very subtle if I add some.
The Mid-boost switches? To be honest to you: I don’t like the frequencies they enhance – I’ve never been crazy about the Tube-screamer type of overdrive. The middle boost is a little to muddy or dark for my taste, but recently they helped me, when I had to play a gig on a very thin and bright sounding amp that was “in the house”.
The Top end switch? Well I like the idea – If I add “Bright” on my amp, it’s nice to be able to cut it off on the pedal. But I’m kind of on rehab for brightness, so I try to cut it down on my overall sound – therefore I’m not using this feature either.
And the effect loop?
Again a nice feature that gives some great opportunities. I can easily imagine the advantages of this function, but I’m not using it, since I don’t want my board to be “programmed” for anything.
The loop has actually caused me some problems. The first Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion I got, started shortly after I got it to act a little weird. Suddenly the level on the lead channel dropped. It would return to normal if I switched some times between the channels, but it was stressfull, so I got a new pedal. After some months I experienced a similar problem with this, and I contacted Radial directly.
A very competent guy at their service center explained that because the pedal was constructed as it is, the lead channel normalizes thru the insert jack. If this gets a little corrosion on it, it exhibit the symptoms I had. He advised me to take a 1/4″ guitar plug and insert it into the insert jack several times … and that fixed the problem! Nice to know If you buy a Trimode 🙂
Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion
Now I wrote Trimode – to me it isn’t a trimode pedal – it’s an overdrive pedal with two independent drive and level settings. The two channels sound a little different and the basic amount of gain is different on the two channels meaning you have two modes – two modes!
Of cause your guitar should sound “uncolored” thru an expensive pedal with true bypass, but to call this “a mode” is an exaggeration – I would have called it “off” or “bypass” 😉
Would I buy it again if I made a new board tomorrow?
Yes – maybe I have other solutions out there, but I don’t know of them. The tube provides the warm harmonics and the solid-state gain stages provide the saturation. It sounds great, with good dynamics and little noise. I have a Mesa Boogie W twin pedal that I love, but the Tonebone fits much better into my board, it’s easy to carry and has independent levels for the two modes. It’s possible to get a power supply for this that also deliver power to all my other pedals – I chose the Pussy power. So at the moment I would go for the Tonebone, if I shouldn’t bring my rack setup.
But talking about overdrives … I know there are so many options – please tell me, what do you use … and why??
All the very best
You can read about the specs and features at the official Radial site here.