REVIEW: T-Rex Engineering’s ToneBug Overdrive Pedal

T-Rex Engineering is a Danish company built initially on the success of their MIDI gear for guitar. Venturing into the world of stomp boxes over a decade ago, T-Rex adopted a philosophy of simple design with focused, high quality performance. With their ToneBug series, T-Rex simplifies design further in order to offer the same high quality at a more affordable price.

The T-Rex Tonebug Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal!

FRESH OUTTA THE BOX

My initial impression pulling the spartan aquamarine pedal out of the box was that of a vintage 50’s home appliance. This may sound like I’m poking fun but I’m not – the pedal looks cool! The casing is all metal and the base is heavy duty plastic with a little bit of a rubbery feel. The pedal has weight and I feel like I could drive over it with a tank and then have to change the treads on the tank. Three shiny chrome knobs on top serve as the controls and sit atop a brushed aluminum base labeled with the knobs’ functions. They’re thick and turn smoothly with the perfect amount of drag to dial them into place where they’ll stay put. A wide rectangular ON light rests atop the pedal face just above the knobs. The footswitch is equally heavy duty with good action on the spring inside and it’s well clear of the knobs so there’s little risk of tap-dancing your controls out of whack. Metal input and output jacks on either side of a 9V power adapter plug are reinforced with hard plastic washers. The battery compartment is accessible underneath the pedal via a door that swings open. Thank you T-Rex for not making me have to break out a screwdriver to get to the battery! An extra nice touch is the battery door is hinged to the pedal which greatly minimizes the chance of losing it.

SHIFTING INTO OVERDRIVE!

Being in a vintage mood I chose to test this pedal with my Goldtop Epiphone ES-295 which is a hollowbody sporting a pair of P90’s. I used the blend of neck and bridge pickups and took this signal through the overdrive into a Blackheart Little Giant Half Stack. No other effects were used. Here’s the clean unaffected sound.

[audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/01_Clean41.mp3|titles=01_Clean(4)]

With the tone knob set “flat” at 5, I turned the gain knob halfway as well and “kicked into overdrive”. The bright red LED gave me clear indication I was good to go but I was surprised by the lack of feedback from the footswitch. I’m used to a nice ‘ka-chunk’. This footswitch doesn’t ‘ka-chunk’, rather it smoothly presses down and springs back up. At first I was put off by this, but the more I used it, the more I liked it – something I could get used to. More importantly, switching the pedal on and off is totally silent! No pops of any kind. Sweet! Overdriving away, my tone got crunchy with real grit. My biggest problem with a lot of overdrive pedals is how they suck away the lower frequencies while pushing the mids making for a harsh sound. This pedal pushes that mid level crunch but maintains the bottom end so it is more of a full signal. The quality of the crunch is a bit clippy which affects warmth and clarity but the fullness of the tone helps make up for it.

[audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/02_Half-Gain.mp3|titles=02_Half Gain]

With gain turned up to 10, I rocked to full overdrive. My tone was dirty, aggressive, and wanted to punch you in the face. The pedal came into its own and I really enjoyed dishing out raw overdrive. Comparing the previous setting to this one, the gain knob feels almost like a blend control in that it’s controlling a mix of dry signal and overdrive rather than the dry signal itself going into overdrive. Still a bit clippy for my taste, but this pedal definitely dishes out the dirt.

[audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/03_Full-Gain.mp3|titles=03_Full Gain]

Though not advertised as a clean boost, I tried this pedal with no gain to see how clean a signal I could get. I achieved equality in volume with the pedal both on and off between 3 and 4 on the level knob. This left plenty of room to boost volume to taste. But this pedal is not a clean boost – there’s a little bit of grunge no matter how the pedal is dialed in. This grunge doesn’t change throughout the range of the level control, however, which is helpful in dialing in your sound. The following example starts with a few bars of the dry signal and then you’ll hear the boost kick in. My level setting for this example was halfway at 5 so you can imagine how much more this pedal can be cranked.

[audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/04_Boost.mp3|titles=04_Boost]

Finally, I tested the range of the tone control. With gain set between 7 and 8, I dialed tone all the way up. This emphasized, as you would expect, the higher end. Happily the lower end was preserved and T-Rex found the right spot to push resulting in brighter, sharper sound without going overboard into piercing harshness – in other words, the tone control is useful all the way to its max setting. The first few bars of the audio example are dry followed by overdrive.

[audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/05_Full-Treble.mp3|titles=05_Full Treble]

T-Rex scored again with tone turned all the way down. I was prepared for mud. I was met with a boost in the low to mid frequencies that worked in conjunction with my original sound, preserving the quality of the signal while giving it a round bottom boost.

[audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/06_Full-Bass.mp3|titles=06_Full Bass]

THE FINAL WRAP

T-Rex hits the bullseye for simplicity and quality. This pedal is built as well as any I’ve ever used. It looks cool and the controls serve the intended purpose – no more, no less. I’m impressed by how quiet this pedal is even when maxing out the settings. My only two requests would be to trade in the clipping quality of the overdrive for more natural sounding crunch and the ability to completely dial out the gain for boost that is pure and clean.

PROS: Built like a tank. Quiet! Maintains dry signal integrity. Great vintage look.

CONS: No clean boost. Overdrive is a little artificial sounding.

MSRP – $129

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  • seems like a cool pedal, nice review and cool audio samples. that really helps to put perspective on what you’re saying… now I gotta learn more about t-rex pedals!!

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