The Tonex Pedal makes IK’s powerful amp‑capture technology available in a standalone hardware unit.
When I reviewed the IK Multimedia Tonex software (SOS January 2023), I was impressed by its performance in the studio, but I also commented that a pedal version that allowed the amp models to be used live would be more than welcome. Well, it seems I wasn’t the only one to have that idea: IK Multimedia must have already been working on it, because in March they announced the Tonex Pedal!
The Tonex software, which is included in the price when you purchase the pedal, uses machine learning to capture the performance of a miked guitar amplifier, pedal or amplifier/pedal combination at specific drive and tone settings, in a similar way to other amp‑profiling devices. IK call the captured amp a Tone Model. The types of pedals that can be modelled include drives and EQs, though it’s worth noting that modulation and delay effects can’t be captured. The process of capturing an amplifier can take up to half an hour or so because there’s a lot of number‑crunching going on here, but to my ears, as long as you’re careful to set up your levels correctly, the results are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. The software helps to make this easy, by offering prompts, metering and instructions throughout the procedure.
For those unfamiliar with Tonex or, indeed, any other amp‑capture technology, what you capture is the amp’s sound at your current settings. It can’t capture the whole range of sounds of which the amp is capable, or at least not in a single Tone Model, but there is nonetheless some leeway to adjust the drive and EQ on the pedal or using the Tonex software. If you need both clean and driven sounds from the same amp though, for the best results you’d make a separate Tone Model capture for each.
The advantage of the new pedal is that your choice of Tone Models can be loaded into the device as presets, which are then ready to use on stage or in the studio, without having to hook your guitar up to a computer. The pedal hosts both amp and speaker cab Tone Models, and that means you can plug the pedal directly into a PA or full‑range amp. You can, of course, bypass the cab modelling if you prefer to plug it into your guitar amp — if your amp has an effects loop return, plugging the pedal into that rather than the regular guitar input will get you the most accurate sound, as the Tonex pedal can then be fed directly to the power amp and speaker, bypassing the preamp and tone stacks.
Up to 150 Tone Model presets, arranged as 50 banks of three presets, may be loaded into the pedal.
While the Tonex software gives you the opportunity to capture the character of real amps, whether your own or those you hire or borrow for the purpose, you don’t have to rely on self‑captured models — you also get access to a large library of already captured amp and pedal Tone Models that can be transferred to your pedal. Purchasers can choose from 1000 premium Tone Models via the Tonex software’s Library section, plus an unlimited number of User Tone Models on ToneNet. Up to 150 Tone Model presets, arranged as 50 banks of three presets, may be loaded into the pedal. As supplied, these are already populated with a variety of amplifier types, from super clean to extra driven, but any of these can be overwritten with an alternative preset. Tone Models may also be accessed from the free Tonex iOS app and the free version of Tonex.
IK’s Tonex Max and AmpliTube 5 software can be download once the pedal is registered, and in addition to using Tonex to load your pedal, you can use it either as a plug‑in compatible with all the common formats for Mac and Windows DAWs, or hosted within AmpliTube 5. Used within AmpliTube 5, Tonex significantly expands the range of amp types that are available to use in your signal chain.
Now, you might be thinking at this point that if you’ve already bought the Tonex software (or AmpliTube 5, come to that), paying the full price for the pedal plus software bundle seems a tad unfair. Well, fear not: registered owners of Tonex Max software can get $£100 off the Pedal via the IK Multimedia online store by using the auto‑coupon that appears when you go to checkout. Users of other IK products, such as AmpliTube, will have received IK JamPoints from their purchases, and these too may be used to get a discount off the full Tonex Pedal if bought through the IK website.
The Tonex pedal uses the same aluminium housing and control setup as the company’s X‑Series effects, with eight knobs and three footswitches plus a large display area showing preset name and bank number or parameter name and value. The A‑D/D‑A converters are 24‑bit/192kHz devices and allow the pedal to boast a huge 123dB dynamic range, and a frequency response of 5Hz to 24kHz. As with the existing X‑Series pedals, the Tonex pedal has a USB port that allows the pedal to be used as an audio interface (at a fixed sample rate of 44.1kHz), and which also allows it to communicate with a device running the Tonex software.
On the front panel are turn‑and‑push encoder controls to select the model, preset and parameter, with dual‑function knobs for gain/reverb, bass/compressor, mid/noise gate, treble/presence and volume/depth. The Preset encoder can be held down to save patches, while the Model one can be held down to access the setup menu, and is also used to change amp and cab selections. Holding down Parameter for a few seconds switches to an Alt mode, to access secondary functions for the rotary controls, whereas pressing it briefly accesses an advanced menu that allows you to adjust things such as the compressor and gate settings, the EQ frequencies, the reverb type and settings, and to toggle the EQ pre/post the amp model. You can also adjust the overall level of the amp model volume here. The three footswitches, which have all have status LEDs above them, can be used in pairs to change banks or individually to select a preset from the current bank. They can also be used to bypass the pedal.
The A‑D/D‑A converters are 24‑bit/192kHz devices and allow the pedal to boast a huge 123dB dynamic range...
On the rear of the pedal are quarter‑inch jack connections for a mono input, stereo outputs, headphones and an external controller. MIDI in and out are on conventional 5‑pin DIN sockets, and there’s also the aforementioned USB port. The power connector is the familiar barrel type and a suitable 9V, centre‑negative PSU is included.
In addition to Tonex amp capture, the pedal also supports IK’s VIR multi‑IR cabinets, and Tonex also has a custom IR Loader for adding user cabinet IRs. There’s also an onboard noise gate, EQ, a compressor and five stereo reverbs taken from the X‑Space pedal. There’s comprehensive MIDI control support for those who need it, and an expression pedal input that can be assigned to any parameter. With both MIDI in and out, integration with other pedals or a MIDI‑controlled pedalboard is possible.
Since the Tonex Max software can run both standalone or as a plug‑in within your DAW or AmpliTube 5, you get a lot to play with even before you plug in the pedal — indeed you can demo the software for free before buying the pedal if you wish. And as the Tonex Pedal doubles as an audio interface, you can get a signal into your DAW without having to go back into the analogue domain. A USB connection is needed to communicate with the Tonex software, and if a firmware update is needed (as it was in my case), the software detects this automatically and takes you through the update.
Tonex’s Librarian section encourages the browsing, loading and editing of Tone Models and presets, using an intuitive drag and drop interface to copy Tone Models from the library into any slot in your pedal, at which point you get asked if you want to overwrite the existing patch. The pedal syncs with the software when connected, and the Librarian shows your pedal presets at the top of the page and the available Tone Models at the bottom. Any user setting adjustments that you make in the Librarian can be loaded into your pedal, but often it’s just as easy to load an existing Tone Model, then use the controls on the pedal itself to fine‑tune the EQ, compression, reverb and so on before re‑saving it.
I compared presets hosted in the Tonex software with the same preset running in the pedal and couldn’t hear any difference. As the pre‑loaded presets are a very mixed bag covering many styles, some will appeal to you and others won’t. It makes sense, then, to organise all the presets you like at the start of the list, which you can do easily in the Librarian by dragging, at which point you are given the option to replace or swap with the existing patch.
What’s really great about Tonex is that it’s not just about the tone, but the playing feel of the amp is also captured, along with a real sense of the low‑end weight that in my experience is so often lacking in amp modellers. In fact, the only omission I can see — and that I pointed out in the original Tonex software review — is that there’s no way to add a tremolo to any of the amps. I’d have thought that should be possible without overtaxing the DSP.
In summary, then, the pedal is a very welcome addition to the Tonex family. It is easy to navigate, and it holds more presets than anyone could reasonably expect to use during a gig or studio session. The models sound great, and the playing feel is captured. And given that you also get the Tonex Max and AmpliTube 5 software included, the price is more than reasonable.
- Tone Models can be taken on the road with no computer!
- Intuitive controls.
- Holds 150 presets.
- Tone Models have a very authentic sound and playing feel.
- No amp tremolo.
IK’s Tonex software was already a powerful amp‑capture system, and now with this pedal, you can use it without a computer.