Friday, December 05, 2008

London Calling

The folks at Radial Engineering Ltd. in British Columbia have got a few things figured out. I've been using their products for years, both personally and professionally - and sometimes both!

Their D.I. boxes are legendary and legion. Their rackmount switching systems like the JD7 are on the gear list of most major guitar and bass players. Their stompbox series of ToneBone pedals are industry standards in quality of sound and quality of build. I've blogged about my love for the Hot British and Classic pedals before. And now, this:




Radial has just released a new line of pedals, based on the ToneBone concept, called Bones. Smaller, lighter, non-proprietary power supplies no tubes - lots of things different from their big brothers. What's not different is the sound...big, fat overdrive and distortion.

I have a London here at the house that I've been putting through it's paces all afternoon. I'm plugged into the new 3 Monkeys "Orangutan" model head, using my Deluxe Reverb with a Celestion Vintage 30 as a cab. The 'tang has it goin' on tone-wise, so the London needs to boost that sound, not obliterate it. It does so...and then some.

For starters, let's look at the jacks: The In and Out jacks are next to each other, at the far right of the back of the pedal, not on the sides. This helps keep it's footprint down on a crowded pedal board.

The 9-12 volt DC jack is the common "Boss" model, which means you can use any similar power supply, including One Spots, that have a minimum of 100mA. No battery power is available, due to the Class A circuitry - which is so power hungry that you'd spend more time swapping batts than playing if it did.

There are two footswitches, labeled Toggle and Bypass. As expected, Bypass turns the pedal on or off. The London is not "true bypass" keeping with Radial's philosophy that active buffers are good things in a pedal chain. It's quiet, switches silently and does not "suck tone".

The Toggle button switches between two settings, 1 or 2. Setting 2 is indicated by a red LED. Each setting has it's own Level control and they share a two-band EQ, Low and High and a Drive control that ranges from Bluesbreaker combo distortion to a raging Plexi.

The 2 setting has a slight (non-adjustable) mid boost to boost your solo with a bit of EQ hump as well as volume, using the Level knob. There are also two 3-position slider switches for tonal tweaking. The Bite switch offers flat, boost or cut of the high end. If your amp lacks or exudes Presence, tame or taunt it here. Kick is a stepped mid-range boost with 3-positions: 0 (flat), +7 or +12dB of juicy gain.The thinking is to offer you ersatz channel switching in a pedal. By setting your amp to it's optimum Clean sound, you can use the London to get a Crunch rhythm sound and a mid-boosted Lead channel.


Careful tweaking of the Bite and Kick controls with the Low and High can get you from Led Zeppelin II to Boston to Back In Black and beyond. Marshall and Vox characteristics are found within a couple of minutes twiddling the controls. This pedal can be transparent or highly colored thanks to it's wide range of available EQ, which is one of the things I really like about the Radial line.

I tested it with my Les Paul VOS, a 1985 Fender Japan Esquire with Fralin pickups, a new Epiphone Casino and a Mexican Fender Strat with the EMG Gilmour pickup configuration. With minor tweaks to account for the variance it guitars, the pedal worked with all of them, the Les Paul being especially nice... which is no surprise as an LP into a Marshall is the sound of my childhood (and arrestedly developed adulthood).

As the clever and informative manual reminds you, small movements and thinking interactively will reward you with great sounds for the time spent. It's not a set-it-and-forget-it pedal, it's much smarter than that.

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