This is a guest post by Mike Batke
Radial Engineering is known more in professional circles for the high quality DI boxes they make for sound reinforcement in both live and studio applications. A few people know that they also make other versatile products. Their Tonebone Plexitube Hot British Distortion is another one of those quality products.
The Plexitube replicates the distortion characteristics of the drive channel of a Marshall Plexi amplifier. However, I find the Plexitube is more like a FLEX-i-TONE.
Here’s why: Overall you have a few controls to control the amount of drive, and the umbrella EQ of the pedal: adding or flattening the mids, or making it brighter or darker overall AND to select two frequencies ‘High’ (at 4.3kHz) and ‘Low‘ (at 100Hz). This allows guitarists to sonically ‘cut through’ the rest of the band with great clarity.
Speaking of clarity, the Plexitube retains string definition and picking dynamics even at high distortion saturation levels due to the included, built-in 12AX7 tube.
Simply, the Plexitube gives guitarists two distinct distortions in one:
Channel 1 (C1) is considered the ‘Rhythm’ channel.
Channel 2 (C2) considered the ‘Lead’ channel. And they’re EQ’d in a way that somewhat supports those ‘labels.’
However, to label the channels that way limits what they’re capable of.
The ‘Drive‘ knob allows you to dial in the distortion level overall. Though, C2 comes with a fine tuning screw adjustment on the side of the pedal allowing further adjustements.
C2 ALSO comes with its own effects loop allowing for a loop of wah, delay, chorus, etc.
In each channel you get a variety of EQ settings that you can change and dial in using a ‘Contour’ control to adjust the ‘Q’-level or sweet spot of the EQ. This allows two completely different distortion voicings, or two that are quite similar with maybe more saturation in C2.
Another of the Plexitube’s cool features is the main on/off (bypass) switch and a switch to change from C1 to C2 and vice versa. You don’t need to have the unit ‘on’ to switch from C1 to C2. You can do that silently while you’re in ‘off (bypss)’ mode, to allow for verse/chorus changes, or changes between songs, etc.
There is a limitless supply of sound in this pedal. I’ve found that turning any of the knobs a quarter turn can drastically change the sound. I found it easier to think of the Plexitube as two separate distortion pedals, called C1 and C2.
So, how does it sound?
Fantastic. In the time I’ve owned this pedal, I’ve been able to dial in anything from a mild blues boost to drive my amplifier a bit harder, to the super-saturated (yet clear) super high-gain sound of death metal. Yes, the sound is clearly Marshall plexi. And to get that sound wasn’t difficult — even with my Vox AC302CX. I’ve also tried the pedal through a 4×12 and the sound is fuller and rounder (more spread in the highs and especially the lows).
I suggest starting the pedal as it comes stock with everything dialed in at 12 o’clock. Then plug in the pedal and start playing and adjusting. If you playing with a band, it’s easy to find your ‘space‘ in the mix and not feel you’re sacrificing your tone.
Personally, I’ve owned a lot of distortion pedals excellent ones and some duds. With the Plexitube, it’s possible to eliminate all of those if you don’t mind turning a few knobs during a performance. As I’ve said, this pedal really does define flex-i-tone.
My biggest beef (and it’s not really that big) about the Plexitube is that the power supply consists of a 15 volt adapter. There are no provisions for batteries, if you like to go that route. However, Radial Engineering DOES provide a range of optional power supplies so you can power the Plexitube anywhere on the planet.
At around $350.00 retail, the price may seem steep, but considering the quality of the distortion, switching, and that it has it’s own effects loop, and that you’re getting two great distortion capabilities, it’s well worth the money no matter what level of player you are or the genre of music you’re playing.
View the Tonebone Plexitube Tube Distortion on Amazon.