Vox ToneLab ST

January 1, 2010

WHEN THE TONE FREAKS AT VOX JUMPED INTO the modeling game many years ago, they set out to address what they felt was one of the shortcomings in existing products: the lack of a tube-like feel to the amp models. They remedied this by using a real 12AX7 tube as a power tube, adding sonic and tactile tube-ness to the mix. That design has trickled down to a price point that would have been impossible back in the day in the form of the ToneLab ST you see here. This little powerhouse is lightweight and portable, but still somehow packs a ton of features.

You get a lot of the usual suspects in the ST in terms of amp models: Fender-y, Marshall-y, Vox-y, and Boogie-y tones are all in there. Ditto with effects and stompboxes. As I went through some presets and tweaked some parameters, I was struck by how good some of the reverbs were, particularly the Hall setting, which was rich and dimensional, with none of the creepy, crashy artifacts that can accompany inexpensive digital ’verbs

Those who are familiar with floor multieffectors know that, generally speaking, the presets are somewhat overblown, with too much of pretty much everything—gain, delay, reverb, etc. The nicest surprise with the ToneLab ST came in the form of their “20 famous song presets.” These patches, based on guitar tones from “Back in Black,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Message in a Bottle,” and others not only sound great and are very respectful of the original tones, but they were also my favorite starting points for crafting my own patches. Need a compressed clean tone? Modify the “Message” preset. Looking for a sustainy lead sound with a great reverb? The tone that models Steve Vai’s “For the Love of God” might be all you need. I really think these sounds are the best introduction to what the ST is capable of. Nice job, Vox!

Other handy doo-dads that come stock on this box are an expression pedal that can control volume, wah, or several other parameters of your choosing. The output doubles as a headphone jack and they throw in an Aux In jack, so you can patch in your iPod and woodshed tunes, or record some backing tracks and rock the coffeehouse. The ST has a USB port on it and this allows you to expand your library of sounds as well as to use your ToneLab as a recording interface. It’s a pretty mind-boggling collection of stuff for not a lot of dough.

SPECS
Vox (631)390-6500; voxamps.com
MODEL ToneLab ST PRICE $275 retail/ $199 street
PRESETS 50 factory/ 50 user
AMP MODELS 33
CABS 11
EFFECTS 25
EXPRESSION PEDAL Yes
TAP TEMPO Yes
EFFECTS LOOP No LOOPING FUNCTION No
STEREO OPERATION Yes
BUILT-IN TUNER Yes
USB Yes
MIDI No
KUDOS Portable. Packed with features. Great sounding presets.
CONCERNS None.

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