The Vox Tonelab SE Takes The Guesswork Out Of Pickup Selection

Vox Tonelab SE

Read Time 4 Minutes

The Vox Tonelab SE Changes Everything

The Pickup Dilemma

In my last article there was a piece about my “old forgotten Cort” guitar that is currently being modified and rebuilt. This article will expand on something that was a major roadblock for me. Selecting the right pickups to get he exact desired sound. If you did not get to read that article you can check it out here (Collect Great Guitars Without The Great Cost). What I want to expand on is the rebuilding of my old Cort.

It’s gonna look great, that’s for sure, but now what about the sound? What do I want my custom guitar to sound like. After much consideration the vote is in, it’s needs to have a lot of high end with some twang. A cross between a Telly and a Brian Setzer Gretch sound. Now comes the hard part, how do I get that sound? Of course, I will just mix and match different pickups, no problem. WAIT A MINUTE!!!! Mixing and matching pickups could be next to impossible. There are so many to choose from, then being able to listen to them being played together would be really impossible.

I was talking to a friend of mine about it and he quickly took me over to his new effects processor that has a tube in it. He hit some switches and had the exact sound that I wanted. Now I am not an effects kind of guy, I like natural sound, if I’m going to use distortion, it’s not gonna come from a pedal. Well, after seeing this I realized that my thinking was all backwards. This processor has a tube which gives it a tube sound with a natural distortion sound.

The long and short of it is that I was over thinking the whole thing. I was spending so much time worrying about pickups. I already liked the nice lipstick tube pickups, but I was so worried about “that sound” that it was making me crazy. I mean these pickups look great and have a nice top end sound, but I was too concerned about having the perfect unique sound that is impossible to get with pickups alone. So the lesson I learned is that I am going to be able to have the unique sound that I want, but I don’t have to go crazy with the thousands of different pickups that are out there.

So, the final decision is to get the lipstick tube pickups that I liked in the first place and use the VOX Tonelab SE to tweak for the perfect sound. In retrospect it seems silly that I was fretting (yes, pun, I know) over such a silly thing.

The Tonelab SE

Vox Tonelab SE
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Now on to the machine. The VOX Tonelab SE has it all. I truly believe that this is the last effects module that I will ever have to buy. Of course, it has all of the popular effects built in, that’s a no brainer. What makes this board so unique is that it has a tube in it, to get that tube amp sound without a tube amp. You can take this thing to a gig and plug straight into a PA system without dragging a cabinet around and still get that tube sound. After playing with it for about 10 minutes and checking it out, it took me no time dial in the sound that I wanted, very user friendly.

Another feature that I liked so well is the double pedals. You can have one pedal as a wah wah, and the second pedal set to volume. If you’re like me you like to play some songs tuned down a half step and find it a real pain to either switch guitars or have to tune down, that’s no problem either. You can set one of the pedals to do it for you. The pedals are totally programmable, so you are not stuck with what VOX thinks you need, which is a real bonus.

As previously stated before, I am not a big fan of effects, you know, phasers, flangers, heavy distortion metal pedals, etc. This, however, is much more. You also do not have to worry about limited presets. I got a short schooling on this, so I’m no expert, but the midi capabilities are a great feature. There is no need to worry about running out of storage room for your presets. You can save them on your computer through the midi. The cool part is that it does not save modeling files. When you connect to your PC you see a virtual pedal board and can control the knobs to create tones. The PC saves the knob positions for you. The board saves up to 96 presets for gigs, but the PC will save an infinite amount.

The durability was also quite impressive. This thing is made of all steel, which does make it pretty heavy, but I’d rather have that than some cheap plastic thing that’s gonna break while being toted around to gigs.

Some of the other features are the auto chromatic tuner, which allows you to tune up your guitar while the volume is muted. You also get an array of amp/cabinet presets that can be selected from the board, which do sound realistic.

This is just my humble opinion of course, but the VOX Tonelab SE put together the machine that has taken the “if it only had” phrase and threw it out the window. It has everything, whether you use the stuff or not, it’s all there.

In conclusion, my guitar will be getting the lipstick tube pickup that I originally liked and I will be depending on the VOX Tonelab SE to get the perfect sound that I want. That, my friend, is my final answer!

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