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Vox ToneLab Review

The models are surprizingly realistic

The Vox ToneLab models many famous amp sounds reveared by guitarists ranging from vintage amps to boutique and modern amps. The ToneLab’s 12AX7/ECC83 Valve Reactor Technology power amp circuit reproduces the output stage characteristics of Class A and Class AB amps resulting in “tube sag” which for many guitarists provide the “feel” missing in many guitar modeling circuits.

Of course this also adds to the realism of the 16 modeled amps. If for instance you choose an AC30TB Vox amp (Class A power stage EL84 output tubes and no negative feedback; that’s what the VRT circuit reconfigures itself to be. Additioinally, the controls shift their function based on the configuration of the original amp (ie: AC30 did not have a presence control so on the ToneLab it acts as a “Top Cut”) The big and clear LED display not only lists the type of model and the preset name but also notes the number and type of output tube from the orginal amp! The VRT circuit is actually very effective with the speaker sim off (there’s a choice of 10), the sounds are usuable in a variety of situations and don’t have nearly the high-end fizz of competing products.

This desktop unit adds to the feature set of the popular Valvtronix combo amps with separate cabinet models, much more control over the onboard effects, SPDIF out and MIDI capability and Editor access (must be downloaded from the Vox site). The 96 presets have historically correct matches between amps and cabinets but the user has the ability to change anything they like, including turning them off. This is great because attempting some of the combinations in real life would result in blown speakers (ie 100watt Recto into a vintage 2×10). The unit is also heavy and sturdy enough that a full complement of cables won’t pull it off your worksurface.

The effects are controled by the same well labeled knobs, only the function changes. Drive and Tone on a fuzz becomes Sensitivity and Attack for an Auto Wah. There are pedal effects in line after the input and before the amp and time domain effects placed after the cabinet (just like a studio). One pedal, mod, delay and reverb are available per preset. A great added feature is a very accurate on-board tuner.

The models are surprizingly realistic and have a feel that none of the others on the market match. I tried my test unit through headphones, a mini mixer and a 3-way multi-media speaker system all with great results.

A telling sign for whether I like a piece of gear is how long I stay on a preset; if I scroll along it’s not so good, if I immediately start dialing in sounds it’s a keeper. There’s a great deal of variation available via the interaction of the guitarist, the guitar and the processor in the ToneLab. It’s without a doubt a keeper, I’ve only made it through half a dozen of the 48 presets in the days I’ve spent with it and couldn’t be more satisfied.

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