Radial Tonebone Trimode

If you can count on one thing from the good folks at Radial, it’s that their stompboxes give you options and then some. The 12AX7-equipped Trimode ($350 retail/ $250 street) is no exception, as it offers two distortion channels and a bevy of EQ choices.

The two channels feature slightly different gain structures—channel 1 is lower gain and optimized for rhythm, and channel 2 is structured for lead. You can independently adjust each channel’s Level, Drive, and Mid Boost setting (Flat, +7dB, and +12dB), while global functions include a 3-position Top End switch (+6dB at 10kHz, Flat, -6dB at 1.8kHz) and a 3-position Drive Gain switch (Low, Medium, High). There’s also a microscopic Interstage Tweaker Control screw tucked away on the side of the pedal that adjusts the amount of distortion available on Channel 1 only. One more thing: Using a TRS cable, you can put another pedal in a loop on Channel 2—such as a delay, which will automatically be activated for solos.

Not surprisingly, it took me a while to get the Trimode dialed in (more like tri-my-patience), but after sussing this Canadian creation, I was blown away by how clearly focused, musical, crisp, and quiet the high gain tones were—think of Billy Gibbon’s perfectly manicured raunch on ZZ Top’s post-Eliminator records. The Trimode is a boon for shredders as well, as the note attack is never blurred or crashy, no matter how hard you play or how much gain you’re running. Channel 1’s less intense tones make for a nice yin/yang, however, if the Drive Gain switch is set to High, you can’t dial in a subtle breakup from Channel 1 (remember, this function affects both channels and you may want it on the High setting for solos). Instead, you get what amounts to another lead channel. The workaround is to draw back on your guitar’s volume, as even turning down the ITC screw didn’t reduce Channel 1’s gain enough for cleaner tones. The Trimode is definitely not a plug-in-and-go box, but if you need stylized modern distortion tones, it definitely has something for you.