ToneLab EX review by Vox

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Ease of Use: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.6 (23 votes)
Vox: ToneLab EX
5

Sound — 8
Without even creating our own sounds, just listening to the preset tones impressed us immediately. Someone who needs time to learn how to structure their own tone and gear, or for someone who just wants to be lazy and plug-n-play, there are lots of options both for home and live use here. Very convincing British tones, both clean and distortion, are what this amp specializes in. We listened through headphones and through a P.A. System, and the rock tones sounded like we had a room full of our favorite half-stacks, while the clean tones reminded us of our favorite Vintage combos. Some of the higher-gain amps and distortion pedal models have a fizzy quality to them, which couldn't be dialed out, but these weren't very noticeable until compared next to actual tube amps. On its own, the Tonelab EX sounded fantastic as an amp modeler. Further, we tried using the Tonelab EX for effects in the FX loop of a Marshall JVM410C amp, and it provided impressive delays, reverb and modulation sounds.

Overall Impression — 9
The Vox Tonelab EX is a great all-in-one package, at a very reasonable price for this much tone and functionality in such a small package. Many modelers require navigating through confusing menus of options to customize and tailor tones to a specific type of music and venue, but Vox has kept everything tweakable with individual dials and buttons, so everything is laid out in an easy-to-use fashion. Someone already used to a traditional pedalboard would feel at home here, as they could easily alter an effect on the fly without needing the user manual. The Tonelab EX is well-built for the road, as intended, and more importantly, has tons of convincing tube-like sounds for the amateur or pro guitar player.

Reliability & Durability — 10
Vox seems to be taking seriously their desire to make this the Tonelab for the stage and for the road. Even though its a compact pedal, that is lightweight and easy to setup, it is a sturdy unit, with padded control surfaces and dials, meant to take the abuse of being stomped on night after night. The input and output connections and dials on the back of the unit also felt heavy-duty and reliable, and the pedal feel, both construction and motion, are probably the best we've experienced on a modeler such as this.

Ease of Use — 9
The Vox Tonelab line of amp and FX modelers has been popular for years, with many lauding the unique tube-like tone that they provide through the use of an actual 12AX7 preamp tube in the circuit, which they say "warms up" the guitar tone before going through the digital processing. The Tonelab EX is their latest entry, with specific enhancements tailored towards live performance. Similar to other modelers, you can select an amp type, and then dial in individual types of effects such as delays, reverb, chorus, and various other modulation effects. In addition, a noise reduction pedal is built right in for high-gain players, and the amp selection covers all of the popular bases, from the classic Vox tones of yesterday and today, to metal Mesa-style tones and Marshall-style rock tones, and plenty of stuff in between, with 33 different amps and 11 different cabinets to select from. In addition, these can be stored across 50 banks of 4 channels, allowing you to store and retrieve up to 200 different tones at the press of a footswitch. Sure, all of this sounds very familiar to those with modeling experience, so what's new that tailors this for live use? Well, high on that list is the inclusion of actual stereo speakers built right into the unit! These are low-power, and not meant for long-term rehearsal, but they're perfect for backstage warmups and final tone tweaking. Second, the built-in tuner is a wide, strobe-style instead of a small digital readout, making it easy to tune up between songs under dim lighting. Third, the onboard pedal is a very sturdy pedal evocative of Vintage Vox Wah pedals, that can also be used for volume control. Finally, the Tonelab EX has plenty of inputs and outputs, including a USB connection for direct recording to your favorite DAW recording package on your computer.

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

    sewoo55
    with many lauding the unique tube-like tone that they provide through the use of an actual 12AX7 preamp tube in the circuit, which they say "warms up" the guitar tone before going through the digital processing.
    that is nothing more than a marketing scheme to appeal to unsuspecting customers..... a single preamp tube is not enough to cause any noticable benefits to the tone
    edgarm16
    I've owned the following processors: Line 6 Pod XT / XT live, Digitech RP500, Boss GT-10, Korg AX1500, Tonelab LE. Out of these, I found the GT-10 to be the most versatile and the Tonelab LE easier to use with the most authentic sound. I don't know why I sold my LE but I just put the Boss GT-10 on Craigslist and ordered the this Tonelab EX. I play mainstream rock, pop, contemporary worship and I play a Les Paul Standard (Faded series) or a Godin Velocity through a Roland JC-120 or straight through a PA. They're all great in their own way, but this is my opinion. Hope this helps some of you trying to decide on a multi fx unit.
    danlee0
    I had the HD300 of line 6. The operate this machine is a total crap!!! If you play for public in a dark place and you have to look DOWN in order to see iweather your foot is put righ on TWO bottons in the same tame... maybe this machine is devoloped by a ICT specialist who never touched a guitar.
    t0lkien
    Re. the tube comments, if people did some research instead of just parroting what somebody else has said, they would discover that the tube is indeed in the circuit for all amp models, but not for the clean effects. It's running at very low power - not enough to make the filament glow (hence the "orange light" LED they have put in to simulate tube glow - if this wasn't there more people would no doubt use the lack of glow as "evidence" that the tube was just a dummy etc.) However, it still affects the sound. Running a tube at low power creates more distortion, not less. As has been stated many times, the tube is in the power circuit, not the pre-amp circuit. You can prove this for yourself by pulling it out, as someone on YouTube did. The clean sounds will still work, the cabinet models will not. There are lots of us who can hear tube sound clearly. You can't fake the harmonic overtones a real tube adds to a tone. The Vox Tonelab has it. Other digital processors don't. Of course it's not the same as a pure tube amp, nothing is. But it's much better to my ear than solid state faking, which is harsh and soulless in my opinion. But it depends what you like - it's personal, right? I just wish people would stop repeating nonsense they haven't checked for themselves is all.
    edgarm16
    Update to my earlier review. After a couple of days with it, I decided to go back to the Tonelab LE. It's small, so not a lot of options are available up front. For example, I couldn't turn on the Wah by simply pressing down on the volume pedal, I had to press switches simultaneously in order to go into stomp mode, and the tuner although nice and bright, was difficult reading at first.
    arriaza196 wrote: Is this better than the Digitech RP500? Why/Why not? Please help me decide
    Again, I believe that VOX has better sounds than that particular Digitech model. I do however recommend the LE more than the EX.
    kaweichan
    Does this particular Tonelab EX have a whammy which extends to 2 octaves?
    arriaza196
    aerotokritou wrote: can anyone make a comparison with digitech rp 500? i can dcide between these two pedals and i need some help
    ME TOO!!! can't decide yet...
    aerotokritou
    can anyone make a comparison with digitech rp 500? i can dcide between these two pedals and i need some help
    Epirechaun694
    I have heard awesome things about this processor, and I'm usually skeptical about processors...I used to have a DigiTech RP90 and it was a terrible waste of my money...but I might actually look into this.
    Sechter
    hitman_47 wrote: How would this compare to the POD HD500 or the GT 10?
    The output options are considerably less than those 2 in the EX and also the no. of effects and the quality of the effects are very different from the PODHD and the GT-10. The effect and amp modeling parameters are exponentially more in the PODHD and GT-10, since the tonelab is much easier to create patches the tonelab can be considered a very very decent entry level mfx unit. The GT-10 is a huge pain to use unless you know what you're doing(it pays off BIG TIME if you do) but the PODHD has better amp modeling(in my opinion) and way simpler to use =)
    TuningGamer
    hitman_47 wrote: How would this compare to the POD HD500 or the GT 10?
    Well obviously there is a price difference, but if you want to keep some cash: the Tonelab EX is pretty neat, so check it out if you can!
    dirtfoot
    Vypor wrote: sewoo55 wrote: with many lauding the unique tube-like tone that they provide through the use of an actual 12AX7 preamp tube in the circuit, which they say "warms up" the guitar tone before going through the digital processing. that is nothing more than a marketing scheme to appeal to unsuspecting customers..... a single preamp tube is not enough to cause any noticable benefits to the tone If I were you, I'd try some Vox products before bashing them. I own a Vox Valvetronix VT30, its a solid state amp with a 12AX7 preamp . . .
    The 12AX7 is in the power section not in the SS preamp.
    sewoo55
    Vypor wrote: sewoo55 wrote: with many lauding the unique tube-like tone that they provide through the use of an actual 12AX7 preamp tube in the circuit, which they say "warms up" the guitar tone before going through the digital processing. that is nothing more than a marketing scheme to appeal to unsuspecting customers..... a single preamp tube is not enough to cause any noticable benefits to the tone If I were you, I'd try some Vox products before bashing them. I own a Vox Valvetronix VT30, its a solid state amp with a 12AX7 preamp and it really does warm the sound up considerably. Its not a full tube tone, but it is indeed pretty close and sounds good at high volumes. Not just a marketing scheme, when it comes down to it that is what separates these Vox modelers from the other modelers like Spiders and Vypers. . .
    I didn't bash the product. I didn't say anything negative about it's sound. i was just saying that a single preamp tube won't affect the tone much. It is the solid state circuitry that has become so advanced nowadays that it can replicate the tonal qualities of a tube amp very well. nothing more nothing less. I've tried a vox night train at namm and was pretty impressed with it. and by the way, peavey vypyrs are pretty authentic sounding modellers too
    Vypor
    sewoo55 wrote: with many lauding the unique tube-like tone that they provide through the use of an actual 12AX7 preamp tube in the circuit, which they say "warms up" the guitar tone before going through the digital processing. that is nothing more than a marketing scheme to appeal to unsuspecting customers..... a single preamp tube is not enough to cause any noticable benefits to the tone
    If I were you, I'd try some Vox products before bashing them. I own a Vox Valvetronix VT30, its a solid state amp with a 12AX7 preamp and it really does warm the sound up considerably. Its not a full tube tone, but it is indeed pretty close and sounds good at high volumes. Not just a marketing scheme, when it comes down to it that is what separates these Vox modelers from the other modelers like Spiders and Vypers. . .
    DrewMeyer
    danlee0 wrote: I had the HD300 of line 6. The operate this machine is a total crap!!! If you play for public in a dark place and you have to look DOWN in order to see iweather your foot is put righ on TWO bottons in the same tame... maybe this machine is devoloped by a ICT specialist who never touched a guitar.
    That didn't even make sense. When do you not have to look down to make sure you are turning on the right effect (unless you just press a button and hope it's the right effect). Learn to spell and come back later to try and come at me.