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This article was originally published in issue #39
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The Radial Tonebone series of pedals has gained a great reputation among pedal addicts based on great tones and versatility. This Tonebone Trimode Distortion, as the name suggests, has three modes of operation. The first mode is the true bypass mode, which is the sound of your guitar straight into your amp without alteration. I can't help thinking that any true bypass pedal has this mode because basically it's another way of saying the pedal is 'off'. This true bypass mode has its own dedicated footswitch which engages the pedal giving you your other two tones which are switched between themselves via a toggle foot switch at the other end of the pedal. These are named Drive 1 and Drive 2 and could be thought of as the rhythm and lead channels and these are in fact voiced differently to suit these purposes. So the Trimode name comes from the fact that you can set up three sounds.
This pedal does sound and feel very good, helped largely by the fact that the front end of it is an actual 12ax7 valve which gives a very natural harmonically rich tone. If you are the sort of player that can deliver plenty of light and shade in your playing, then this Tonebone Trimode can certainly complement it! The 12ax7 goes through an overdrive circuit so we could consider this a hybrid pedal.
As you would expect, there are plenty of onboard features that can really refine your sound. At first the options are probably a little overwhelming for someone who just wants to plug in and play, but once you have your favourite sounds dialled in, you can just leave the settings and do just that. The options are all very usable and help to get the best from your guitar and amp. You would start by adjusting your high and low EQ with the pots along the top. There is also a filter pot which can tame very bright or brittle sounding guitars and amps. Think of it as a presence control on steroids. Then you can get into boosting your mids by 7db or 12db with the mid boost switch. This is a very welcome inclusion because this thickens out your tone in a good way. You also have a low medium and high switch for how much gain you want to play with and you get a bright, flat and dark switch which focuses on your high end.
It all sounds more complicated than it actually is, but it is in fact very intuitive to navigate and as stated earlier, you will soon land on your favourite tones and probably just leave it set there to suit your particular guitar and amp. Radial has got the balance just right by giving you options and versatility without making it over complicated.
I like to run amps on the edge so that I can use my guitar volume to adjust from clean to dirty, and then I would kick in some kind of boost or overdrive pedal such as the Trimode to get my 'over the top tones'. You could also run your amp dead clean and use the Trimode's three settings for your clean, crunch, lead tones. Both ways would work well and the pedal would easily cater for whichever way want to do it.
One last feature to talk about would be the fact that you can run an extra pedal in the onboard effects loop, which engages with your Drive 2 lead channel. So you could link up a delay or reverb pedal (or any sort of pedal), and this effect would be included when you kick in your Drive 2 tone. You do need a stereo insert cable to do this, which in case you don't know, looks like one jack split into two jacks. An insert cable is as easy to purchase as a regular jack to jack signal cable and is readily available.
This Radial Tonebone Trimode is a high quality product that delivers very grown up overdrive and distortion. There is a large range of tones within this one pedal and all of them are musical. It will go from subtle to extreme with everything in between. It's not cheap, but it is really good. It's like having a very capable pedal size tube amp at your feet. Also, Radial built its name making stage boxes and really tough, no-nonsense professional quality gear, so if you buy one of these you know you are getting a product that is going to stay the course, however hard you work it. It also comes with its own power supply and is backed by an impressive three year warranty.