ToneLab EX Review

manufacturer: Vox date: 02/18/2014 category: Guitar Effects
Vox: ToneLab EX
This pedal is good for every type of music. I recommend this to anybody who can't afford or isn't bothered to carry around millions of single effect pedals.
 Sound: 8.4
 Overall Impression: 8.8
 Reliability & Durability: 9.4
 Ease of Use: 6.8
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reviews (5) pictures (3) 23 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 9
ToneLab EX Reviewed by: unregistered, on may 18, 2011
6 of 7 people found this review helpful

Ease of Use: 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. // 9

Sound: 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. // 8

Reliability & Durability: 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. // 10

Overall Impression: 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. // 9

- Shekhar Dhupelia (c) 2011

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overall: 9
ToneLab EX Reviewed by: unregistered, on may 13, 2011
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 398

Purchased from:

Ease of Use: The Vox Tonelab EX is not very easy to use at first and to be able to use it properly you HAVE to read the manual first. When I received my Tonelab EX it came with a german manual, which is ok for me because I understand german but if you don't then it is quite a problem... I think it is possible to get an english manual somewhere on the internet. The Tonelab would be much easier to use if it had a few switches, but unfortunately it dosen't. // 7

Sound: I use my Tonelab with a Gibson Les Paul Studio and a Fender Frontman 212R. The tonelab generally has a great sound, but you need to be able to create them. I didn't personally like the factory settings sounds so I made my own. I tried out the tonelab on my 25 watt Marshall before trying it on my 100 watt Fender because the factory sounds tend to make a lot of noise which made that squeaky feedback sound which is horrible. Editing the noise reduction is really simple though... I personally think that all the effects on the Tonelab are amazing! No effect is really crap. Also the tonelab has some stored effects in it for some famous songs such as, "Voodoo Child", "Always On The Run", "Enter Sandman"... The Vox Tonelab EX uses the new ValveTronix technology by Vox. // 9

Reliability & Durability: This is a very reliable multi-effects pedal, but I recommend using it only on amps you have tried using it with already. I have used this at 6 gigs already and it was great every time! // 10

Overall Impression: This pedal is good for every type of music. I've been playing for 3 years now and this is by far the best pedal I have ever owned. I know lots of people think that multi effects pedals often have really cheesy distortion sounds but this really does sound as if your amp was actually a tube amp. Before this I owned a DigiTech RP-150 which was the biggest waste of money ever. I recommend this to anybody who can't afford or isn't bothered to carry around millions of single effect pedals. // 10

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overall: 7.3
ToneLab EX Reviewed by: iwantanewguitar, on february 18, 2014
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 320

Purchased from: Divine Music India

Ease of Use: I bought this unit around two years ago and initially I was fairly disappointed. The factory presets were really bad, not balanced and needed a lot of changes. I was about to replace it but it couldn't be possible. Plus at that time I couldn't afford a new unit either. But this situation was a blessing in disguise for me. I discovered that this unit works really well tube amps. I tried it with some solid state stack amps (Marshall HcFX). Whatever patches I made were sounding substantially different on different amps, which is tolerable as there was not a huge amount of tweaking I had to do with it. The amp models are great only if you know what you want. They need a lot of tweaking and a little bit of work, but its totally worth it. 

The overdrives and distortions are superb, its probably the 12AX7 tube that does the work, I'm not sure. The tubescreamer in this is amazing, really compliments the amp models, very warm and realistic. A major problem in this unit is that some effects are clubbed into one single knob which can be assigned to only one effect at a time, no simultaneous use. For example, you cant use the compressor and one of the wah at the same time coz both of them are on the same knob. (there is another wah is there on the other knob but it adds a little crunch to the sound which you may not want).

An other problem is that there is no volume adjustment for the overdrive sound in the stompbox mode. When you engage the drive, there is a substantial amount of increase in the overall volume. This makes the stompbox mode pretty impractical to use live. Manual is very helpful though, stuff is given in detail and no ambiguity in there. The software which is a free download from the Vox amps site is also pretty handy when it comes to saving patches. // 3

Sound: I play jazz fusion and a little amount of metal and this unit works really well (after huge amount of tweaking of course). The best part about this unit is that more emphasis is given to the crunch tones rather than all those typical high gain digital crap tones. There are variety of amps models and cabinet simulators to choose from. The distortions, overdrives are fantastic, that's probably the best thing about this unit. 
This unit is also great for high gain sounds. Does fairly decent when it comes to Mesa-ish high gain patches.

This unit works really nice when you use the lineout option. Usually when I use it, I connect it directly to the mixer and the P.A system via a D.I box. Otherwise I use it with a Marshall combo amp. The amp models are good, effects are warm. Don't judge this unit by the stock presets, make your own. You may take a while but you shall get what you are looking for. // 8

Reliability & Durability: The hardware and buttons were really rugged and very hard to damage. All metal casing ensures durability. Ironically, the power supply adapter is really weak. It looks like a cellphone charger and is very fragile plus the cable is pretty short. That can be an issue sometimes. I might get a better power supply soon if I come across a better option. This thing has a lot of lights on it and they are bright enough for you to see in sunlight as well. I can very well depend on it, it is a crucial part of my gear and never screws up. I have used it on various gigs without backup and it has never disappointed. // 10

Overall Impression: I play a lot of jazz fusion and a little bit of heavy progressive rock/metal and have been playing for around 8-9 years. This works really great when it comes to the crunchy blues sounds. I love the overdrives. I have played a Squier Classic Vibe '60s Strat and a Jackson JS32 7Q through this unit and they both sound great. 

I wish it had a volume control knob for the overdrive section like the usual analog pedals have, that would have made sense into the stompbox mode of it. It's a very good sounding option for those who don't want or cant afford a fully analog rig, it comes very close to the real thing. If it was stolen, I would probably buy a smaller version of it, the Tonelab ST, coz I would like to use only the overdrives of it. Other effects, Il add up better options in the signal chain. Again, I wish it had a volume control knob for the overdrive. // 8

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overall: 7.8
ToneLab EX Reviewed by: Leon987, on april 10, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: € 200

Purchased from: Secondhand but new

Ease of Use: So I bought this unit as I was looking for something versatile, yet good sounding. I bought this from a guy who won it in some competition but had no use for it so it was still new. So lets start of, this thing is not easy to use, all knobs can be used for many things and it really takes some time to understand when you are in what setting and what each knob is for. I have now owned it almost a year and I still discover new things. The manual is quite elaborate but then, it should be with such complicate device. A real nice thing is the tuner, its a very big display. // 6

Sound: I am using this unit mainly with a homebuild alder, EMG Stratocaster and on occasions with an Ibanez RG270. It actually sounds very very nice, it took a while to get 'my' tone but then it was worth it, it has some great overdrive/distortion models. There isn't much noise, only if you put it on the loudest distortion with the gain on 10, but there is a noise gate build in which functions well, so problem solved. The modulation effects are good, but not great, the pitch shifter for example sounds really digital and the fact that there is only one knob, you can't tweak enough. The delay/echo functions very well, I love it. The reverb is good, but I don't use it a lot. The Wah models sound awesome, only with the distortion models, they don't sound great, but its good for funk-like playing. So all in all, great versatile unit with some awesome sounds for the money. // 8

Reliability & Durability: This thing is build out of diecast aluminium I guess, very strong, very durable so yes you can depend on it. And I would and have already used in on a gig. The only problem here is: if there is e.g. No sound, you have to search through all the knobs to get what's causing this. // 9

Overall Impression: I play kinda everything, but mostly funk-rock/instrumental (think Satch, Vai). Because I play so many different styles, it's good to have a unit like this with the versatility to get all kinds of different sounds. I have been playing for about 3, 5 years now (with 2 hours a day of practice). I also own the guitars I mentioned before (a alder body, maple neck EMG equipped homebuild strat and an Ibanez RG270) and a Jet city 20 watt combo. I think I would buy it again, I'm just so used to this unit that its become a real valuable part of my setup. I love the fact that you can get all kinds of sounds, just the versatility of this thing. I hate the fact that it hasn't got enough control over all the features and there is just too much features, not enough knobs. Favorite is the echo/distortion combo, you can really get a "For The Love Of God (Vai)" sound. I compared it to some different multi effects units and this one just stood out, as said before, so much versatility and great sounds for just 200 euros. Just great. If you are looking at buying this, first try it out, if you don't like spending quite some time tweaking and building sounds, you shouldn't buy this, it really takes time getting used to. // 8

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overall: 8.8
ToneLab EX Reviewed by: fdrstrat, on april 02, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: £ 240

Ease of Use: The Tonelab EX is about as simple as you could wish for. All the controls do exactly what they say. It's really hard to imagine a multi-fx getting much simpler than this, especially considering the amount of features the TLEX has. If anything, the design is a little too simple and I feel a few extra features have been sacrificed to ensure the simplicity. For example, as far as I'm aware, there is no way of editing the mix level of many of the modulation effects, such as the chorus. This doesn't bother me massively because I think the effects sound great anyway, but it would have been nice to have that option. As it is, the simplicity of the TLEX is such that I would confidently say an absolute beginner could get a really good sound very quickly indeed. // 9

Sound: The sound of the TLEX is, without any doubt, the single greatest reason I would recommend it to anyone. I bought mine primarily to simplify my effects rig. My intention was to use the TLEX solely for effects and leave my Vox VT100 to provide the preamp. When I first used it, I was so surprised by the sound of the amp models on the TLEX that I quickly realised I sounded better through that than I did through my VT100. I now run my TLEX through the effects return of my VT100, essentially using it as a preamp. Overall, the impression you get from the sound of the TLEX is that it is very natural and dynamic. In terms of specific amp models, the standout sounds come from the Vox and Fender models. Being primarily a blues-rock player, these sounds give me everything I need. When I need to dirty things up a bit, there are plenty of great sounding Marshall models waiting there along with the heavier Peavey and Mesa models. They really do sound good, but don't tend to fit in with my kind of music. What I like best about the sound of the TLEX is that Vox have clearly given just as much, if not more, attention to the clean and crunch sounds as they have to the dirty and distorted. I find most of the other major multi-fx producers tend to showcase the latter and forget the former to some degree. The effects are all very good, some excellent (such as the wah, distortion stomp-boxes, tremolo and chorus), but would have benefited from the inclusion of an effects level control. // 9

Reliability & Durability: The TLEX is a sturdy block of metal. Nothing wobbles, nothing feels cheap, everything is well made. I had no issues with my TLEX until very recently when the expression pedal stopped working. I had a quick look under the hood and there really wasn't any sign of damage. The rest of the unit worked perfectly, however, so it was not an issue which would have wrecked a gig. I have sent the unit back for a repair under warranty, anyway. Despite this issue, I have great confidence in the build quality and reliability of the TLEX. // 8

Overall Impression: For a blues-rock guitarist, this multi-fx is the best I have used and I really can't see myself getting anything else for some time. The combination of the TLEX and my VT100 is perfect, so long as it is ran through the effects return. Modelling amps such as the VT100 don't take too kindly to having modelling multi-fx ran in front of them. Pros? The simplicity and the sound, and these are big pros indeed. The price is a big plus too. 250GBP? That is serious value when you consider the DigiTech RP1000 goes for 370GBP and the Line 6 HD500 goes for 410GBP. I rate the TLEX as better than both of these units, if sound and simplicity is your only concern. If you are looking only for effects, the only other multi-fx I would consider is the Boss ME-70, for about the same price. If you are looking for amp modelling, the TLEX is the best choice, in my opinion. Cons? Lack of effects level control and the issue I had with the expression pedal. Overall, a great piece of kit which is versatile, has a great sound, is a cake-walk to operate and represents brilliant value. // 9

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