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At one point in time I had installed and/or gigged with just about every pickup system on the market. In my heavy solo gigging days that was 5-7 three hour gigs a week. This gave me a pile of personal data about pickup systems and related processing devices. What did I find? There are a lot of fine pickup systems on the market that will make your guitar amplifiable. Some offer amazing gain before feedback, others better touch sensitivity (meaning they feel better), and some blend multiple sources from the instrument to give you more of the good stuff and less of the ugly stuff. Now, if I'm being completely honest, my standard line regarding all these things has always been, "There is no perfect pickup system for acoustic instruments. If you want perfect, get a great microphone in front of your guitar, put it in the perfect position, never move, and tell everyone in the room to be quiet." This, of course, isn't exactly perfect either because great microphones in front of great sounding guitars can still give you headaches, not least of which is significantly lower volume before feedback. But generally you can't beat the sound of a well mic'ed acoustic guitar.
So when a new box comes on the market claiming to solve acoustic amplification problems I perk up. This box came to me by way of our friend Brent Rowan, who heard about it from John Jorgenson. The concept is a little like some other devices that have been on the market for a while, but there are some twists. The first and most significant to me is that this box allows you to capture the sound of your instrument. You plug a condenser mic into the back, fire it up, play a bit, it listens to your instrument and how you play it, and effectively captures a 'picture' (they call 'em WaveMaps) of the sound. There's all sorts of fancypants tech going into this and I'm definitely simplifying here, but that covers the concept. The WaveMap can then be used by itself or blended with your pickup signal.
And notice I said instruments? Not just guitar? One of the excellent things about this box is it can do this with virtually any stringed instrument. Violin, Mandolin, Bass, Uke...anything with a piezo pickup works. If you're a multi instrumentalist this is awesome. Capture everything in the quiver and you're off to the stage with a single box. It also includes a tuner, adjustable boost, a simple but effective two band EQ and notch filter.
So, is it perfect? The One Box to rule them all? Turns out that's the wrong question. These are tools, my friends, and we're after the ones that do the best job for the task at hand. And in this regard the Tone Dexter gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. What I truly dig about this box is the ability to capture a WaveMap, give it a listen to see if it's working, then do it again if it's not. Or maybe it is but you just want a different sound from a different mic position. Want it brighter? Move the mic. More bass? Again, move the mic.
Shortly after we received our first batch of Tone Dexters I was on the phone with James at Audio Sprockets and he told me they had just updated the firmware to make some improvements to the capture process. This was on the heals of a previous update. I like this. It tells me the company is committed to making their products the best they can be and that they're not sitting around all day plotting their retirement.
Check out the Tone Dexter. It is definitely worth a listen.