Price paid: $ 199
Purchased from: MusiciansFriend.com
Sound — 9
The Vox Tonelab ST has a very warm organic sound thanks to the tube power amp running a single 12AX7 vacuum tube. I played with this Vox Tonelab ST with the following setups: ran directly to my computer using a G&L Tribute S-500 (basically a strat with extras), an Ibanez Artcore AXD83P, an Ibanez RG350EX, a Behringer MetAlien. I ran this from the G&L Tribute S-500 to a Blackheart Little Giant 1x12 half stack, and then the same setup but with the Ibanez Artcore AXD83P. I am probably most familiar with the Ibanez Artcore AXD83P so I did a lot of experimenting there, and I was really surprised at what I got out of this pedal. Just to be upfront, this will not replace analog pedals in tone the two effects that were really impressive were the Vox Wah and the digital delay. I think they sound as good as any analog pedal I've used, but when you get into the other effects they probably rival some lower end to mid level analog pedals, but just barely. You can't expect to spend 200 dollars and seriously have several thousand dollars worth of effects at the same quality, but it really is close when you take into account that this is a multi-effects pedal. I haven't heard a multi-effects pedal that does a better job than the Vox. Some of the high gain amp models and presets are loud. I was able to work on the noise gate and greatly reduce this on the few I messed with. I play a lot of different types of music. I play anything from outlaw country (i.e. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings) to thrash metal (i.e. Megadeth) and I was able to get some good tones for just about everything. I probably play more in the way of overdriven blues than anything, and the blues tones available are endless. Also, there is not really any of the LAG you experience with some other multi-effects pedals when changing presets. Of the 50 factory presets, 20 of these are actual song presets and they sound good. I was surprised because I expected them to really stink, but I was pleasantly surprised after actually listening to them to discover they accurately caught a close approximation of the tone of the songs. Also, there is an Acoustic effect that was really mind blowing to me it really stood out on the S-500 on the neck pickup. Of course, no effect is really going to make an electric sound like an acoustic, but I really like where this effect got me in their effort. A really nice balanced clean tone that sounded nice with subtle overdrive. I was really happy overall with the Vox Tonelab ST. I bought this pedal for just a few of the effects it has, and wanted to have the option to play around with effects I wouldn't necessarily use every day. I have a budget, so it was this pedal instead of a dozen analog pedals. Comparing this to other multi-effects pedals in its price range this really shines in regards to the tone it can produce, and I will give this a rating of a 9 as I was truly impressed with the tone vs. price.
Overall Impression — 8
The Vox Tonelab ST really suits the music I play. The great thing is, it is so versatile it can handle virtually any musical genre. I play mostly overdriven blues (think Robin Trower) and this thing really stomps as far as good blues tones go. I did get several good thrash metal tones, and this pedal is able to kick out a lot of distortion without getting muddy, and I was very impressed with that. Again, I would have liked to see a gain knob that was functional separately from the amp and cab models, but this is a really small gripe in the bigger picture of the great unexpected warm tone this unit gives at such a great price. If this were lost, then I would absolutely buy it again and that is why I give it a rating of 8 for my Overall Impression.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The Vox Tonelab ST is heavy and feels sturdy. The knobs are responsive and the casing is tough. On the other hand, this has a tube power amp, and there is always the possibility of a tube going bad. I don't gig I jam with friends or with myself but I think you can depend on this pedal for gigging. I would want to probably spend more time with it and know exactly where my presets are, and be comfortable reprogramming a preset from the unit itself before I gigged with it, but I would feel that way about any multi-effects pedal. The key to gigging with the Vox Tonelab ST is knowing what tones you are going to need ahead of time and knowing how to get to them as quickly as possible. A bonus is, in theory you could hook this up straight to a PA system and not need an amplifier. I would give this a rating of 8 for Reliability & Durability because it seems awesomely sturdy.
Ease of Use — 7
Please visit www.voxamps.com for a list of features and specs. The Vox Tonelab ST immediately puts good base tones in your hands. While the 50 factory presets aren't all things that I will use every day, it isn't a matter of the quality of the preset, it is a matter of taste and the music that I play. I ran through the presets and jotted down the numbers of the ones that would be the most useful to me. It is easy to dial in the amp model and effects that you want to use when making your own patches, but I believe it would be easier when setting all of the parameters to use the Valvetronix librarian software. The instruction manual is very clear and easy to understand, and covers everything you need to know to get started. Features I like: You can assign almost any effect parameter to the expression pedal. You can produce some really interesting sounds with this. You can turn off the amp and cab modeling and strictly use the Vox Tonelab ST for the effects. The Vox Wah sounds really great. The reverb is a separate effect. You don't have to use an amplifier at all with this pedal. You can hook this directly to a cab or to your PC. The built in tuner is great, and gives you two options one to tune without muting and a second option to mute all sound while tuning. This pedal is running through a tube power amp that really seems to warm up the tone and doesn't sound digital like most multi-effects pedals. I don't understand how it works, but my ears say that it does indeed work. Features I don't like: The expression pedal is a little undersized, and I would prefer it to be scaled to match stand alone Wah pedals. The noise gate doesn't work as well as I would like on some of the patches, but this can be edited via the librarian software. The volume on the factory presets is not consistent, and this is a problem with multi-effects pedals in general, but it really gets on my nerves. The gain knob can't be used if you are not using the amp or cab models. I would like for the gain to be functional whether I am using the amp/cab models or not. I've had experience with the Behringer V-Amp 2, and I can say that the Vox Tonelab ST sounds much better to me and is much easier to use. I was able to get good tones out of this pedal immediately and was able to tweak knobs to get specific sounds I was looking for, but I was disappointed about the gain knob only being active with the amp/cab models.