Gear Review: Audio Sprockets Tone Dexter

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

How many years have I toiled, how much money spent, how much frustration have I expended to find an acoustic guitar device to make my direct signal sound even somewhere close to what I think it should be and/or the sound in my head?  Unfathomable.

Enter the Audio Sprockets Tone Dexter. When this box first came on my radar a little over a year ago my thoughts were: no way. Guess what? Way. Especially with their most recent V2 firmware improvements that make this easily the deepest and most realistic box on the market.

Tone Dexter basically uses convolution technology to create images of your particular guitar. If you’ve used convolution reverbs in your DAW for recording, this should be familiar to you and is the same principle, except for this time, you are the one responsible for creating the image on your guitar with your mic of choice. Sounds complicated right?  Nope. Couldn’t be simpler, even for a dummy like me. 

Plug your guitar directly into the 1/4″ input on the Tone Dexter. Next, choose whatever your favorite phantom-powered microphone is, plug it into the mic input on the back of the Tone Dexter (they recommended small-diaphragm condensers for their flat response and focused sound and so do I). It doesn’t have to be a super expensive mic either. Try a bunch of different mic positions to find the best spot for your guitar, unless you already know it. I was pretty sure of the spots for all my guitars but after one truly awful image (user error) I moved the mic to a spot I wouldn’t normally have thought of (all in the Tone Dexter manual and online tutorials BTW) and got a much better and realistic image. Now, tap the left footswitch to get into bypass mode then tap the right footswitch to get into first level, then learn mode. The first step—level mode—sets the correct level for your mic and guitar automatically. You just have to play.  It then enters the learn mode immediately. It’s recommended to play up and down the neck, rhythm, and lead lines, but I must admit I did a poor job of covering all the spots on the neck and still came up with a wonderful image. I was shocked. So much so that I recorded the images from the Tone Dexter for all three guitars into my DAW for playback from the 1/4″ direct output to make sure my ears weren’t deceiving me.

Additionally, the Tone Dexter has a boost function of up to +8db, an EQ character (bass and treble shelves—very useful), which is the actual blend between your direct signal and the convolution image you created, a sweep-able notch filter, pickup input level trim, output level, XLR as well as 1/4″ output, headphone output and best of all (for me anyway), a TRS to split Tip and Ring effects loop. This allows you to insert any effects you wish in the signal path of the Tone Dexter. To me, everything sounded better in the loop rather than before the unit, including compression, but do experiment on your own. Just make sure you have the proper Y cable.

I can’t believe I was afraid of this product  It’s easily the best thing I’ve ever heard, for not only acoustic guitar, but bass, violin and more.  At $399 street, it’s frankly a bargain.

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