Tonebone: Bones Pedals - GuitarPlayer.com

Tonebone: Bones Pedals

CANADA’S RADIAL ENGINEERING MAKES A SLEW OF TOOLS FOR pro and home studios, and the company’s powerful Tonebone stompboxes are embraced by players such as Kirk Hammett, Steve Lukather, and Eric Johnson. The new Bones (all priced at $200 retail/$159 street) are compact versions of the “big boys,” and they are Special Forces tough with 14-gauge steel casings, hefty switches, and knobs that would feel just fine on a studio console. The Bones AB/Y is a buffered amp switcher, and the line’s three overdrive/distortion pedals are dual-mode devices that let you set up rhythm/lead sounds (note that Level 2 adds a subtle midrange boost). You also get excellent tube-amp-like dynamic response by changing up your pick attack and guitar volume. The Bones are not true bypass, but Radial employs Electronic Impulse Switching (to eliminate pops) and Drag Control (which simulates the load of a guitar plugged directly into an amp) to punch-up sonic performance. Each pedal requires an opti
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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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