Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion

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.

Soren Reiff's Radial Tonebone Trimode
Soren Reiff’s Radial Tonebone Trimode

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!!

Soren Reiff's pedalboard with the Radial Tonebone Trimode
My pedalboard with the Radial Tonebone Trimode

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.

16 Replies to “Radial Tonebone Trimode tube distortion”

  1. I love the Tonebone Classic. I turn the drive knob around 12 o’clock and a slight boost with a TC BLD (the old one) or my trusty Keeley Time Machine booster. After the Tonebone I use a Boss GE-10 (Yep the old one that Van Halen used to push his Marshall Head) to raise the mids and lower the top. You get a fantastic Holdsworth lead. Remember to put a MXR noisegate between the booster and the Tonebone. Try it and you will know why.

    1. Sounds like you got a lot of boost going on 🙂 it’s interesting to read … and I understand why you need a noise gate. Concerning noise … that’s also one of the reasons I prefer my Tonebone to my old Mesa W twin … that’s noisy – it sounds great but man there’s some serious noise when you’re not playing.
      all the very best

  2. Hey Reiff

    Lyder som en alsidig og omfattende pedal. Det kunne være fedt at høre den 🙂 – sej anmeldelse ellers.
    Personligt bruger jeg analogman king of tone. Den gør bare jobbet super fedt for mig.
    Tak for E12 på DRH. Håber det går dig godt.


    1. Hi Malte.
      Thanks for writing … Everything is great … don’t know the “king of tone” you’re mentioning … I’ll see if I can check it out.
      All the very best

  3. Hey Søren

    Nice review i’ll surely check the tonebone if I start to search for a new drive.
    At the moment I use the EMMA reeeza II as my main drive both on the clean and the dirty channel of my amp, with a t-rex alberta as pre boost and a Carl Martin kick boost as post boost to raise the volume if need be. To me the Reeeza is so damn sweet 🙂 very amp like with great responsivness both to pickdynamics and guitar volume and goes very well with a tubescreamer like pedal in front of it. This combo of two pedals and two channel amp gives a lot of fleksibility 🙂

    I would love to hear you demo the tonebone 🙂

    1. Hi Klaus.
      Thanks for sharing … sounds like you got a lot possibilities with your setup and that’s always nice to have!!
      I have not planned to do a demo on the Tonebone … but come and hear me live next I’m in your area.
      All the very best

  4. Hi Soren,
    Looks Great!
    I really dig the way, you review the Tonebone. It´s sober and
    Rock on,
    Micheal Pagaard

    1. Thank you Michael.
      I’ll try to be as honest as possible … and the technical stuff you’ll find other places, so it’s more like my personal experiences and preferences with the gear.
      All the very best

  5. I still have my Radial ToneBone Classic that I use from time to time.

    I mostly play through a Dr Z Carmen Ghia 18w head, because of how big and warm it sounds. It does however need to be cranked in order to get the over drive out (it only has a volume and a tone control), so I have toyed around with various OD pedals. A few weeks ago I finally landed on the Fulltone OCD, which is so simple and oh so wonderful. Dial the gain down and you get that Steve Ray Vaughn thing, and turn it up to enter Gary Moore territory. If I could only play like them, I would do the pedal justice.

    Another really good (but big) one is the Blackstar HT Dual. 2 gains, 2 volumes… Tubes. Amazing.

    1. Thanks Kasper.
      I like the OCD too … but it might have difficulties with buffers … I’ve heard about people who had such troubles.
      I like the fact that the amp can be set up for real clean sound, and that the OD comes from a pedal, so I have the possibility to swap from ultra clean to different types of OD … what I love about my rack set-up, and try to simulate with my pedalboard.
      I don’t know the Blackstar HT … I’ll check it out when possible – I love to try new overdrives 🙂
      All the very best

  6. I really like the crunch I get from my Fender Blues Deville when I crank the volume past seven. However, it’s incredibly loud and seven and beyond is a total no go in the rehearsal studio – also I have yet to play a venue large enough to crank the volume up to the sweet spot. In other words: pedals to the rescue. I have tried a few over the years (most notably Boss OD2, Ibanez TS10 and Carl Martin Hot Drive’n Boost) but at the moment my absolute favorite is my Klon KTR. I bought it to check if there was any truth to all the hype, and I must say that I’m now a believer. It immediately won a place on my board and is almost always on (much to my bandmates dismay 🙂

    1. Sounds interesting Frank.
      I’m not that crazy about Boss pedal … I think they color the tone, even when bypass, if they are in the chain.
      To me the Tubescreamer works well with a Fender amp, since the TB has a lot of middle, and the Fender amps often don’t have much, so I think that’s a good combination.
      I haven’t heard or tried neither the Carl Martin Hot Drive’n Boost or the Klon KTR … would love to – I’ll look for them … it’s always good to have some pedals to check out 🙂
      All the very best

  7. Best overdrive I have ever used and I have tried everything. It captures what I do and all the nuances in my playing like a great amp cranked and it can bring this to any amp. I recently played a show through a friends Mesa setup with no prior experience with it.. No sweat. I know it’s going to give me the ability to be very flexible and secure with that. Having said that I have had some issues w channel 2 like mentioned but until recently I only used channel 1 and stacked on top of that for lead and modulation. I crank channel one pretty hard on med drive and recently have been using channel 2 with the drive low for a cleaner channel. I know backwards but it’s what my ears like more I tried it both ways. Anyway I need to buy 10 of these. By the way have anyone played the hot British and how do they compare? Peace and Destruction.

    1. Good to hear you like it and about your way of using it … it’s important to share knowledge.
      Just to be sure … you are aware of the extra “gain” control you have on the side, for the channel 1, right?!
      All the very best

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