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Radial Tonebone London

Distortion Pedal By James Dunkley
Published May 2011

The first thing you notice about the Tonebone 'Bones' London distortion pedal is the high level of build quality, typical of what we have come to expect from Radial. From its reassuringly chunky two‑piece solid‑metal casing to the equally solid pair of toe switches, this is clearly the sort of pedal that will withstand the harshest of the on‑stage kickings — which is good, since it is clearly aimed at the more 'rock & roll' end of the market.

Although it only has two switches, the London is a three‑channel pedal, similar in nature to a three‑channel amp head. The switch on the right disables the pedal, and although it's not a true bypass, it is a silent‑switching button with quality buffers, which enables longer cable runs. The idea is that you use bypass to get a clean tone from your amplifier, and employ the London's two distortion channels to create a rhythm and a lead sound. The toggle switch on the left switches between them, with bright LED indicators letting you know what's selected on the darkest of stages.

Radial have opted for common controls between the two distortion channels, although both are voiced slightly differently. They share a drive control plus low and high tone controls, along with a pair of three‑way selector switches, which are helpfully kept out of the way of even the clumsiest feet. The bite control tailors the high-frequency response, letting you choose between flat, hyped or cut top end. Although the amount of boost and attenuation isn't stated, both sound clear and musical. The second switch is labelled 'Kick', and applies a mid-range boost of 7 or 12dB. There is also a separate level control for each channel, allowing you to balance the levels of your rhythm and solo sounds to ensure that the latter stand out sufficiently.

The London is a very usable pedal, and from a subtle bit of blues drive to a full‑on rock & roll distortion, it delivers the goods. Words like 'Plexi', 'vintage' and 'Marshall' all come to mind, which is no surprise considering the 'London' moniker. Saying that, it's a solid‑state pedal, so it's no surprise that it lacks some of the warmth you'd get from an EL34 amp head, but this can be easily forgiven, and of course overcome to a point if you're using it with a valve head. The hyped mid-range of the lead channel is musical, and note articulation is maintained at all times, even on higher gain settings. The bite setting is also useful, allowing you either to smooth off a lead tone or add some extra presence to a rhythm sound. It won't give you Metallica, but if that's what you want, you're looking in the wrong place! The London starts at clean, stops just after Guns 'n Roses, and can be tailored to cover most of the bases in between.

On the whole, then, more an overdrive than a distortion, the London is reminiscent of a vintage high‑gain amplifier, and would complement an EL34‑equipped valve head nicely, giving you some extra scope to achieve a Marshall Plexi-type sound. It's a reasonably priced and versatile addition to any pedalboard. James Dunkley

£180 including VAT$159.99.