Jump to content
Happy Jack

Audio Sprockets ToneDexter pedal

Recommended Posts

https://audiosprockets.com/tonedexter/

I have three double basses, each very different from the others, each presenting very different challenges at live gigs - and yes, I gig all three.

#1 is my trusty old Andreas Zeller 3/4 bass with a piezo pickup in the bridge wings; #2 is a Kolstein Busetto bass with a mag pickup on the end of the fingerboard; #3 is an AliKat 3/4 aluminium bass with twin piezos - one for the string sound (in the wings) and one for the body (under the bridge).

 #3 is very showy and a real head-turner, but the native sound is best described as a cross between a double bass and a steel drum. It can be tamed by someone who is either very good at what they do or is very familiar with that bass, but I normally use it at the big festival-type gigs where who you get as sound engineer is just pot luck. At these gigs, people tend to listen with their eyes.

When I stumbled across the ToneDexter by Audio Sprockets, my interest was piqued by the idea of using it to persuade the pickup signal from my AliKat to emulate the acoustic sound of one of my other DBs. I soon realised that this was never going to work, but by that point I had become interested in using the ToneDexter 'properly' with the Zeller and the Kolstein, down-playing the sound of the pickups and trying to reproduce through both bass rig and PA the sound of the acoustic instrument as amplified by a really nice microphone.

So I ordered a ToneDexter from Gollihur and sat back to wait.

The packaging was simple but effective, and the pedal came with a multi-country adaptor plug, which was helpful. The manual and set-up process were so unnecessarily frustrating that I've given that issue a post all of its own a bit later.

All of which said, from a standing start and in the course of a few hours, we were still able to get very useable settings for both the Zeller (easy enough) and the Kolstein (rather more surprisingly), and of course the issues described above are the sort of things you only encounter when using a complex product for the first time.

And you can ignore any tosh online about the pedal only working with Piezo pickups.

Very few people want to wade through a mass of very similar recordings so, for each of the three basses, there's a post describing what I did and what I found, followed by another post (which you can skip over if you wish) containing the recordings.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Zeller / piezo

The natural acoustic sound of this bass is at recording #01 in the next post.

For our first pass we mic'd up the Zeller with a Samson C01 as being pretty much the vanilla flavour of condenser mics. The results were OK but nothing special, and what was most obvious was the loss of volume ... what we got out was noticeably quieter than what went in.

We were also concerned that the pedal was over-emphasising the higher frequencies, although we could easily solve that by rolling off the treble knob on the pedal to about 10 o'clock. Apart from that, by and large we were trying to keep most of the knobs in a central position.

[Incidentally, you can't compensate for things like this through rolling off the treble before setting up the recording. The tone controls only affect the output from the WaveMap (their jargon) - the initial creation of that WaveMap excludes the player from messing about with the input.]

So we tried again, this time using the rather nifty LA320 large-diaphragm condenser by Lauten Audio which is a significant step up from the (perfectly decent) Samson. The LA320 is very much a studio mic - you wouldn't want to take this on a gig - and this showed in the immediate improvement in the sound quality.

To hear the LA320 played through the PA, check recording #02.

Again the output through the pedal was much quieter, leading us to wonder if the frequency shaping done by the ToneDexter is always about subtracting things rather than boosting.

To hear this loss of volume, check recording #03a. For the remainder of this review, bear in mind that I was constantly adjusting volume levels between recordings to compensate for this. I won't mention it again.

But at this run the important thing was that the piezo pickup was sounding very substantially like the acoustic sound of the bass, i.e. the pedal was working. Note that this pedal costs (as of today) £419. That is one helluva lot of money for a pedal and it would be a massive disappointment if it did anything other than work!

Recording #03 is the Zeller being played through the ToneDexter but on Bypass, and recording #04 is - at last - the sound of the Zeller as modified by the ToneDexter. This is what I paid for.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kolstein / magnetic

The natural acoustic sound of this bass is at recording #05 in the next post. The bass has had some issues recently; it is louder acoustically than the small body size would have you expect, but there's something of a rattle there and we haven't managed to work out what it is yet!

Given our success with the LA320 it seemed sensible to simply repeat the process with the Kolstein and see whether anything would work at all (see grumbling about the Manual). Well it worked, yes, but in truth the sound wasn't that great, and I considered it no great improvement on the basic sound of the Schaller magnetic pickup, which drifts into Precision territory.

As it happens, I had the Ear Trumpet 'Nadine' (another large-diaphragm condenser) mounted on the Kolstein already so I thought we might as well give that a try. The result was little short of spectacular, with the ToneDexter using the mag pickup to successfully reproduce the acoustic sound picked up by Nadine, and at the first attempt.

To hear Nadine played through the PA, check recording #06.

Recording #07 is the Kolstein being played through the ToneDexter but on Bypass, and recording #08 is the sound of the Kolstein as modified by the ToneDexter.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

AliKat / piezo

So this is where I came in. My original interest was in using the ToneDexter to make the AliKat sound more like a wooden bass. Then I convinced myself that this wouldn't work. Then I heard what the ToneDexter could do when 'misused' by pairing with a mag pickup.

At this point I had four WaveMaps stored in the pedal, two each for the Zeller and the Kolstein. Well it would be rude not to try them.

The natural acoustic sound of this bass is at recording #09a in the next post, but the f-hole plugs (anti-feedback) reduce the volume so much that I also saved recording #09b with a 6dB increase to make comparison easier. Yes, I could have removed them, but do that often enough and they will break ... they're only foam rubber, after all.

Recording #10 is the AliKat being played through the ToneDexter but on Bypass, then we have:

·        recording #11a - the AliKat through the ToneDexter using the Zeller/LA320 map,

·        recording #11b - the AliKat through the ToneDexter using the Kolstein/LA320 map, and

·        recording #11c - the AliKat through the ToneDexter using the Kolstein/Nadine map.

Are any of those an improvement? Depends on what you hear and what you like, I suppose. I'm comfortable that none of them make the AliKat sound worse, and in a real world gigging situation I rather like the idea of having four slightly different outputs available at the twist of a knob in order to make the sound 'fit' the gig.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Live band rehearsal

With the first post-Covid gigs coming up, my Rockabilly band was well overdue for some rehearsal time. We routinely rehearse amplified but low-volume, with the singer's mic NOT plugged in; that way we have to play at the volume level set by unamplified lead vocals.

I chose to use the setup heard in recording #08 and it just sounded wonderful. To my ears, and in the mix, it sounded exactly like the bass played acoustically and amplified through Nadine.

Unlike me, the other two guys in the band are Rockabilly afficianados with a wealth of knowledge and experience plus very strong opinions on what is acceptable. They both liked it.

Result.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How to irritate a new user

The manual is colourful and glossy, but poorly worded and badly thought out. As an exercise in communication it is really quite frustrating. The box says "for Piezo pickups", page #1 of the Introduction says that "Magnetic pickups are not recommended ... but may sometimes yield usable results", page #5 states that "ToneDexter only works with piezo pickups".

The trickiest part is the initial set-up. The process is fraught with pitfalls for the first-time user which could easily have been avoided.

Example #1: The manual emphasises that it's best to use headphones to ensure that you can hear what you're doing clearly, and goes on to suggest that you set the level from the mic input by playing in a certain way. So, position the mic, on with the headphones and start playing ... the correct lights are flashing, it's obviously receiving a signal, but the headphones are dead.

Play with the settings, check the connections, replace the leads, adjust the headphone volume level, exchange the headphones for another set, nothing, nada, not a sausage, bugger all.

To hell with it, let's go forward anyway. Plug in the instrument lead from the DB pickup and instantly everything springs into life. It was all working all along. Turns out that you're not actually supposed to hear the feed from the microphone in the headphones. A single sentence of a dozen words would have saved 30 minutes of frustration.

Example #2: Having created a first pass at a WaveMap (their jargon), obviously it's time to listen back. There's no difference, none at all, whether the pedal is engaged or disengaged. More checking of cables, connections, settings before realising that the Character control is actually a Blend control with a really silly label. If Character is rolled right off, then all that feeds through to the amp is the uneffected signal. Another short sentence opportunity comprehensively missed.

For a section entitled 'Getting Started' this is a very poor performance.

Incidentally, on a much closer reading of the manual, the Character knob turns out to be even more complex, having three different functions depending on where in the range of the knob you are operating. The first half of the travel (from 8 o'c to 12 o'c) does one thing, the next quarter (to 2 o'c) does something else entirely, and the final quarter (to 4 o'c) does something slightly different.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Happy Jack said:

I gave the whole lot a listen; it's very instructive. No, I'm not a db player (I'm a drummer, remember..?), but the description was intriguing, so...
As preamble, let me state that I systematically 'normalise' audio (using Audacity...), so as to have a baseline for volume. Weak/strong signal... Whatever...

The most flagrant definite improvement was the AliKat with the Kolstein/Nadine map, which turned the raw 'clank' into a wood-sounding musical tone. All the other recordings of the Wave map from the studio mic showed distinct improvement. Impressive, and, for the Alikat, a game-changer, tonally.

Although that wasn't the object of the exercise, it also showed up for just about every session, a lack of precision in intonation..! Good Stuff, just the same, and kudos earned for posting such a comprehensive review. Far too expensive for any use I could put it to (change my Sabian cymbals into Paiste 602's..?), but certainly more than useful for anyone with modest piezos in an otherwise fine instrument. Thanks for sharing. :i-m_so_happy:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Jack


I follow this post with great interest because I am interested in a pedal similar to the ToneDexter but smaller: LRBaggs Voiceprint DI

https://www.thomann.de/fr/l_r.baggs_voiceprint_di.htm
And for the moment there is not much feedback on this type of product, and more especially coming from bass players.
I play jazz on a big acoustic bass, Takamine TB10.

https://www.thomann.de/en/takamine_tb10.htm.

For your recordings, I particularly listened to the Zeller and the Kostein.
If I understand correctly, when you say that the recording is bypassed, that means that the sound comes just from the microphone or pickup installed on the bass, compared with the recording modified by the Tonedexter which is therefore a mix of the two?
Personally, so far and from what I've heard, it's not easy to hear if the difference in sound is important or not, especialy for the price of the pedal.

Happy Jack, Thank’s for your recordings and I will follow this post with great interests to learn more about it.
Alain 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

Although that wasn't the object of the exercise, it also showed up for just about every session, a lack of precision in intonation..!

Why Douglas, I'm touched ... that's quite the nicest thing anyone has said to me this year!

Not get back to yer tom-toms. 😂

  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Happy Jack said:

Why Douglas, I'm touched ... that's quite the nicest thing anyone has said to me this year!

Not get back to yer tom-toms. 😂

No spell check, then..?  xD :P

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, Aalin said:


I play jazz on a big acoustic bass, Takamine TB10.

https://www.thomann.de/en/takamine_tb10.htm.

For your recordings, I particularly listened to the Zeller and the Kostein.
If I understand correctly, when you say that the recording is bypassed, that means that the sound comes just from the microphone or pickup installed on the bass, compared with the recording modified by the Tonedexter which is therefore a mix of the two?
 

Hi Alain, used to love my TB10, only sold it when I had Safran Bass make me a custom 5-string Iris.

When my recordings mention 'Bypass', I'm playing the bass with the signal from the pickup passing through the ToneDexter pedal but NOT affected by it. I could have routed the signal straight to the amp but I wanted the most direct A/B comparison I could get.

I should also have stated that, wherever I am using the ToneDexter in a recording, it is always a 100% blend ... i.e. there is NO uneffected signal there at all.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By the way, Mark Gollihur has read this review and emailed me to say

Did you not get our "quickstart" sheet that I wrote up? We include it with every TD we ship out, and it "bullet points" the process of creating and testing a Wavemap, using layman's language. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HJ, the Kolstein will rattle if the Schaller mag pickup is left unplugged. Other than that I don’t remember any other rattles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, bassace said:

HJ, the Kolstein will rattle if the Schaller mag pickup is left unplugged. Other than that I don’t remember any other rattles.

That would be it then, for that recording I had nothing plugged in.

More importantly, that means I can only hear it when playing acoustically. As soon as I amplify the bass, it disappears.

I'll be gigging this bass on Sunday afternoon (at The Nag's Head in Sunningdale) and I'll post a video from that gig as soon as I can. I doubt any rattle will be audible. 😎

Edited by Happy Jack
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting that, some of these expensive toys that we buy, don’t always give the desired effect we’re looking for but from what I can hear on the AliKat clips I think I could use one of these. 😉 Nice!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I'll also be following this thread with interest. I'm pretty sure that Daniel Kimbro was using one of these on his last tour over here with Martin Harley. Not heard of that many people using them over here. 

I'd also be interested to know what results you get blending a fantastic sounding bass with something that doesn't sound as good. Does that work at improving the amplified tone of the lesser bass?

@Happy Jack Did you buy direct in the UK or import it from the US?

Edited by MrTea

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, MrTea said:

I'd also be interested to know what results you get blending a fantastic sounding bass with something that doesn't sound as good. Does that work at improving the amplified tone of the lesser bass?

That was the whole point of using it with the AliKat. I was using the WaveMaps from the Zeller and the Kolstein to modify the sound of the AliKat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah - I remember when I looked at these i struggled to find any outside the US. Looking forward to the gig report. 

Out of interest and as a point of reference what was your gigging signal chain before? Did you have an AI Clarus? Are you now going straight to the PA with the tonedexter?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MrTea said:

Out of interest and as a point of reference what was your gigging signal chain before? Did you have an AI Clarus? Are you now going straight to the PA with the tonedexter?

My signal chain is unaffected.

Previously I ran the signal from the DB pickup into an AI Clarus, using the amp both to drive my cab (stage) and as a DI to the PA (for FoH).

That's exactly what I will do tomorrow, except that the signal from the DB will pass through the ToneDexter to get a mic'd up sound.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was very happy with the ToneDexter and quite content with my sound, but we were performing under ... ahem ... acoustically adversarial conditions and @Silvia Bluejay isn't happy with using these results as the yardstick of success.

First gig in six months, performing at fairly low volume with a noisy crowd between us and the cameras, the overheads didn't work quite as planned, we had a f***ing bouncy castle right next to us (with a compressor that masked/interfered with a range of bass frequencies), and the Kolstein turns out to have a bit of a wolf note at C# which Silvie had to EQ mercilessly to tame.

Don't get me wrong, it was a great gig and we had a whale of time playing to a garden full of very happy punters who were quite clearly there for our music ... there were Rockabilly fans, Elvis fans, Eddie Cochrane fans, Jerry Lee Lewis fans, these weren't random people and they really liked what we were doing.

But if we're being picky, this wasn't a gig where we'd have boasted about either our performance or our sound.

So we're playing again on Saturday (at The Wonder in Enfield), the setup will be very similar but with no bouncy castle and we'll have learned from Sunday's gig. I'll be playing the Zeller to see how that fares with the ToneDexter, and hopefully we'll get some better-quality recordings.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...