Tonebone: Bones Pedals

May 1, 2009

The Bones were tested with a Gibson Les Paul and a P-90-equipped Les Paul Junior, a Fender Stratocaster, and a Danelectro Dead On ’67 Hornet. Amps included the Orange Tiny Terror, an Egnater Rebel-20, and a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto, and I also used the Bones Twin-City AB/Y amp switcher to compare and contrast the sounds of the Hollywood, London, and Texas pedals.

Contact Radial Engineering, (604) 942-1001; radialeng.com

HOLLYWOOD DISTORTION

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A solid-state version of the 12AX7-equipped Tonebone Classic, the Hollywood Distortion dishes out a mean metal sear with enough articulation to clearly voice every note in an arpeggio—even at super-saturated settings. It took me a second or two to grok that the Cut control doesn’t diminish (or “cut”) a preset midrange frequency, it boosts mids in order to “cut” through a mix. While the Hollywood can also deliver gronky garage-style tones, my fave setting was in the “hair metal” territory: Cut at 0dB, Gain at Medium, Low at 11 o’clock, High at 1 o’clock, and Drive at 2 o’clock.

HOLLYWOOD DISTORTION

PROS Quiet. Ferocious shred sounds. Powerful tone-crafting options.
CONS Optional 9-volt adapter can push package into $180 range.

LONDON

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Inspired by the Tonebone Hot British pedal, the London Distortion is designed to simulate a plexi Marshall. You can definitely dial in some fab AC/DC-esque flavors at lower Drive settings, and, true to classicrock form, diming the Drive control doesn’t summon over-saturated tones. Higher settings do exhibit a bit of high-end sizzle, but I didn’t get gain greedy, and found a wonderful Free/Paul Kossoff sound by setting Bite at Boost, Kick at 0dB, Low at 12 o’clock, High at 1 o’clock, and Drive at 9 o’clock.

LONDON

PROSQuiet. Beefy Brit roar. Powerful tonecrafting options.
CONSOptional 9-volt adapter can push package into $180 range. Kick switch seems to over-emphasize lowmids.

TEXAS

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With all controls set equally, the Texas Overdrive— which is designed to simulate a vintage Tube Screamer—is immediately louder and ballsier than the Hollywood or London. The pedal also offers Tone and Bite controls for “modernizing” old-school TS9 sounds, and it does a good job of balancing funky sting and creamy saturation. I got close to a SRV-with- Bowie Let’s Dance tone—a good funky grind that wasn’t over saturated, but still delivered fabulous sustain—by setting Bite to Medium, Tone to 1 o’clock, and Drive to 11 o’clock.

TEXAS

PROS Quiet. Good modern/vintage tones.
CONS Optional 9-volt adapter can push package into $180 range.

TWIN-CITY AB/Y

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The Twin-City is fundamentally a “lite” version of the Tonebone Switchbone, but it does its deceptively simple chore of switching between two amps—or running them simultaneously— marvelously well. I experienced no extraneous hiss or hum with the Twin-City playing traffic cop to the Rebel-20 and the Tiny Terror, and there was no discernible signal or tone loss when juggling between 10-foot and 25-foot cables. No complaints here—which is the key, because a noisy or tone-sucking AB/Y box is a recipe for frustration.

TWIN-CITY AB/Y

PROS Quiet. Polarity Switch ensures both amps work in phase (or you can choose out-ofphase operation if you prefer thin, lo-fi tones). Ground lift (Output B) to help diminish hum.
CONS Optional 9-volt adapter can push package into $180 range.

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