These guys really have a knack for making useful stuff, hey? Ashdown’s Tone Pocket is a palm-sized pre-amp/interface with a three band EQ, headphone and line outputs, and a sleek, metal chassis. Designed primarily as a bass headphone amp, the Tone Pocket can help players rehearse silently, EQ a signal before their amp, or push a signal harder into other pedals or another preamp. The Tone Pocket doubles as a recording interface, connecting to your Mac or PC via USB 2.0, though it only offers digital to analogue (D/A) conversion, so the headphone out will remain latency free.
The Tone Pocket, as an interface, offers 44.1kHz and 48kHz recording, at 16-bits. Data is transferred via USB 2.0, so it will be compatible with almost everyone. The unit responds from 20Hz all the way up to 20kHz, so you can be sure that whether this unit is coupled with a bass, inserted into a guitar signal, or even incorporated into a synth setup, that you won’t be losing anything along the way. The unit runs on an included 12V adapter and a handy little light signifies that power is connected, as well as when there is an input connected. The unit features an input, line input for jamming to auxiliary tracks, three band EQ with +/- 15dB, and finally an output volume and headphone out.
The final master volume controls both the line out and headphone out, so the Tone Pocket could be used to subtly EQ your signal before an amplifier head or similar, or to EQ out nastiness introduced by a pedal or effect. Using the master volume, the pedal can also amplify your signal into the red before another preamp, providing subtle or overbearing grit, with the handy addition of an EQ stage before it.
On the contrary, the Tone Pocket could also attenuate after a particularly hot guitar or bass, offering a clean signal before whatever else you decide to insert into your signal chain. When using the unit like this, it becomes pretty clear that the unit would benefit from an input gain, allowing instruments to be run wide open without having to dial back the master volume on the Tone Pocket. A dimed input gain would also allow the user to give themselves some grit to accompany an otherwise fairly clean signal when rehearsing alone. To be fair, the Tone Pocket has clearly been left fairly simple to allow users to maximise use of pedals and tones before and after the Tone Pocket, while the unit allows for an extra gain stage, and some cheeky EQ at a very practical and mobile size. The Tone Pocket would be great for travelling, allowing it to be easily stowed away in the included soft case.
The Tone Pocket is a home run. Similar to the Phone-Box, Ashdown aren’t attempting to reinvent the wheel, but just make the wheel a little smoother to run, or allow users to maximise the use of their wheel. The Tone Pocket is like a preamp with an EQ section, headphone amp and sound card/interface all in one tiny unit. It can be used on the go, thanks to its tiny size, or alternatively as a mainstay of your studio or live rig, allowing players to push or pull a little gain from anywhere in their chain, and dial a little more or less of some frequencies for subtle or overt tone-shaping. A little EQ after a delay, or in your effects loop to ensure that only wet effects are EQ’d. A little more gain before a distortion, or a little EQ before a fuzz to ensure your signal is good as the one you hear in your head. You’re really only limited by your imagination.
Hits and Misses
Handy size, great layout
Line out as well as clear headphone out
No input gain