Radial claims that its Tonebone PZ-Pre is the most powerful acoustic preamplifier ever to be put inside a pedal. Note that they say “acoustic”, not just “acoustic guitar”. That’s because its designed to work with any acoustic instrument: guitar, banjo, violin, cello, mandolin, contrabass, bouzouki, lute…
At the heart of the PZ-Pre is a combination of selectable discrete class-A boosters for piezo pickups, a super-quiet preamp circuitry that will adapt to any pickup system – not just piezo – and a whole bunch of connectivity options. There are: two footswitchable inputs (so you don’t have to futz with a separate A/B box on stage if you need to switch instruments), a semi-parametric EQ with bass, frequency, midrange and high controls; a dual-Q notch filter for locating and zapping feedback, a high pass filter for cutting low frequencies, a phase reverse switch, and the ability to assign different tasks to its central footswitch: loop, boost, or both. That last feature is a hint: the PZ-Pre also includes a switchable effects loop, which keeps everything neat and integrated on stage. Other connections include a ¼-inch on-stage instrument amp out, a balanced XLR pre-EQ direct out for the mixing desk and a separate balanced XLR post EQ out for stage or in-ear monitors. There’s also a dedicated tuner-out with mute switch.
Like all Radial gear, it’s ridiculously road-tough. The case is heavy and chunky, and the knobs require a little bit of heft to turn, so you don’t need to worry about them getting bumped and messing up your settings at a gig. And they’re rubberised, so even if they do take a knock, the impact energy will be spread around instead of cracking.
I plugged an Ovation CC24 into the PZ-Pre to see what it could do. The CC24 is a very well-made, playable guitar, but its preamp doesn’t give you very much to mess around with, so of all the acoustics currently filling the house (and which you can read about in this issue), I decided it was the best for testing. The PZ-Pre is designed to sound good but to also sound relatively transparent – it doesn’t aim to make your guitar sound like a different instrument entirely, but instead it seeks to work with what you have and to improve it. Part of this is achieved via the Class A booster circuit for piezo pickups like that of the CC24. It helps the sound to become fuller and more robust, taking away some of that fragile crackle often associated with piezos. Next, I plugged in a Martin Performing Artist model with a Fishman Aura F1 preamp, a much more sophisticated system. With the Martin I found that I didn’t require much (or any) tweaking from the PZ-Pre, but I appreciated being able to toggle between the Ovation and the Martin.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the PZ-Pre is that you can use it as a virtual base station for your entire onstage experience, particularly if you’re a soloist. You can plug two instruments in and toggle between them as needed; you can add a suite of effects via the loop as needed then remove them when not required; you can send an output to the house mixer and another to either a recording device or a powered monitor; you can mute the signal between songs while sending an output to your tuner; and you can route the instrument signal to an onstage amp – all at once.
ONE STOP ACOUSTIC SHOP
The PZ-Pre is a virtual brain for your entire acoustic guitar rig. It may not add ambience and dimension to the bare piezo sound (that’s what its effects loop is for) but it can certainly help you control it, and, more importantly, it will help you take control of your stage environment.
By Peter Hodgson
Price: RRP $479
Distributor: Amber Technology
Phone: 1800 251 367