Price paid: $ 600
Purchased from: North Coast Music
Sound — 10
The Tonelab SE's sound is pure, true tube power amp tone. The technology is unbelievable. I play the Tonelabe straight thru the sound board, and at any volume you have awesome real tube tone. The days of lugging a 4x12 cabinet to gigs and cranking a 100 watt head to get the tubes to glow and and then using a Power Brake to get the volume down to an acceptable level are long gone.
Overall Impression — 10
I've had my Tonelab SE for 15 months now and I'm still in love with it. It's the best guitar product I've ever used, and the setup at gigs is now under two minutes. I will never use an amp head and cabinet again. That's ancient technology. I play everything from Van Halen to classical and the Tonelab can nail every sound. Plus, you can match amp heads and cabinets that in real life would be next to impossible because of impedance and power issues. With the Tonelab SE you can have any tone you want. I plan on getting a second Tonelab SE and MIDI-ing the two together to change presets in unison and running them both into the soundboard to get the Keith Richards "two different amps with different settings at once" stereo sound.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The Tonelab SE is rock solid all steel construction and quite heavy. It is also painted in a the beautiful Vox blue. The two Vox expression pedals are rock solid too. The Tonelab uses a real 12AX7 vacuum tube, so you will have to replace that every once in awhile, but a 12AX7 only costs about $15 so that's no big deal. I've been using a Ruby tube for over six months now and it still sounds fine.
Ease of Use — 10
The Tonelab SE is extremely easy to use: you just rotate the dials to choose an amp, cabinet, modulation, delay, and reverb type. Nothing could be simpler. The best part is when you hook your Tonelab up to your PC with MIDI cables and the free Vox software. You can then control all knobs on the Tonelab thru your PC and see the exact knob positions on your monitor. I've had a Boss GT3 and GT6 and DigiTech products and the problem with those is the knobs on the pedalboard don't match what you are hearing once you change presets. It would be too expensive to put little motors on each knob on the pedalboard to make them rotate to the correct position when you change presets. So the Vox solution of MIDI-ing up the Tonelab SE to your computer so you can see a virtual pedalboard on your monitor with the correct knob positions as you switch presets is a tremendous feature. Plus, you can save an infinite number of your new tone creations on your PC and then download up to 96 of them at a time to the Tonelab SE to use at gigs. With my Boss GT6, once the memory was full, that was it. You had to erase something to create a new tone. With my Tonelab SE I've already created thousands of tones whose settings are stored on my PC. And it's important to realize these computer files are not "modeling" files; all they are is a record of the position of the knobs on the Tonelab SE when you saved the file.