Vox Tonelab

November 2, 2007

Well, here’s another entry in my ever-hypocritical series of “my latest rig is the best!” posts. My last post about getting a great tone was totally true. That being said, it was a total pain to use. A pain to move, a pain to set up, it would start to sound not as good when the tubes were hot, there were a million little parts that could go wrong at any second. I also realized that the sound of those pedals going through just the ultimate chorus was almost as good. I also had about $1500 tied up into this rig.

For a while, I had been wondering, too — why can’t guitar rigs be like bass rigs? On bass, I have a pre-eq DI out for my amp (last 3-4 amps have been like this). This is an invaluable feature, because it means that I can send a signal to the PA, and control EQ and volume of my rig separately, without too much mess and without too many potential problems. Also, my current (and probably last) bass amp is a great Class D amp, which means that it sounds roughly the same at bedroom and stage volumes … and my cab is a clean full-range cab, capable of producing a lot more volume and bass than a guitar cab.

This led me to some questions:

1) Why can’t I have all the benefits of a bass rig in my guitar rig?

This question I tried to answer with the Hot Plate, and things like a Palmer DI box. Never quite got it to work right.

2) Why have so much money tied up in a rig that could be much cheaper?

If my $150 Ultimate Chorus can sound as good as the $400 head into the $400 cabinet through the $300 Hot Plate, something is wrong.

This led me to the current setup:

[Samson wireless unit] -> Vox Tonelab -> my bass amp (Epifani PS 600 into Dr. Bass Neo 2260)

How did I arrive here for guitar, you may well ask!

Well, it was like this.

I went up to Guitar Center to check out amps. I wanted to check out the Spider Valve and the Vetta. Turns out they had already sold the one Spider Valve they had received, so I played through the Vetta for a while, but couldn’t get a sound I liked. So, I took my guitar around and tried a bunch of amps all around the showroom. I tried a VHT, a Framus, a little Mesa Combo, that Tech 21 solid state thingamabob, the Fender Super-Sonic. I liked the Super-Sonic the best, but it wasn’t excessively great, and too much money for what you get. Then, on a whim, I said, oh I’ll try this little Vox Valvetronix thing next to it. Oh, modeling with a tube, eh? I had heard a little bit about this, but had written it off so far.

I couldn’t believe it. It was the best tone I had heard so far!

So, I got back to my house and started reading reviews. Good sound, but a lot of the amps had reliability issues. None of them seemed to be real loud, either. And then I thought, what about this excessively loud, truly full-range, compact and light bass amp that I have sitting here? 600 W class D (super clean even when very loud) into a cabinet that gets, I think, +/- 2db from 35hz on up? Why do I need to invest all this money into two separate rigs, when I could use the bass amp to amplify a preamp. Like the Vox Tonelab. Which I then purchased for $150.

It arrived yesterday. My initial impressions are positive. It has some weird quirks, and it’s going to take some time to get the presets set up how I want them, but it sure has a lot of usable sounds. And the distortions sound like actual amps, and sound good too. With Line 6 stuff, even though they had so many amp models and configurations, I really only had one distortion sound I liked, and it was still a little fake. So far, this little Vox preamp is set to become my new all-encompassing guitar sound go-to box.

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