First Look: Tone City pedals

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First Look: Tone City pedals

Tone City Heavenly Lake
Words by Andy Lloyd-Russell

Big, Heavenly and Holy - three words that immediately spring to mind when looking at three new pedals recently released from Tone City.

Having become quite well known for for their small footprint 1590A pedal enclosures such as their little green Tape Machine, Golden Plexi 2 distortion and Tiny Spring to name but a few, Tone City have more recently been venturing into dual stompbox territory, with a family of dual circuit and/or tone stack type designs, with three new members to add to their already impressive array of tone machines.

Tone City guitar pedals

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Revered for their quality, tone and very appealing price point, the three new Tone City pedals named Heavenly Lake, Holy Aura and Big Rumble each bring their own sonic flavour to the table, with an offering of reverb, delay, overdrive, distortion and boost, so let’s dive in.

Heavenly Lake

Drawing inspiration from their popular Tape Machine and Tiny Spring, the Heavenly Lake dual reverb and echo pedal builds upon these already great circuits, bringing some fresh improvements to controls adding decay and tone adjustment to the reverb side of the pedal and new analogue tones and newly designed modulation section with rate and depth controls for the echo.

The reverberation creates spacious depth, dimension and airy soundscapes whilst retaining that distinct springy-like quality to the decay of the reverb, with some distinct modulation inherent in the decay. Dialling up the wet and decay controls doesn’t get out of control but rather just adds a nice space around the notes without getting in the way. The tone controls take things from typically dark timbres that springs are more known for but can be dialled in to be brighter if required.

The analogue vibe of the delay side of the Heavenly Lake ranges from subtle bucket brigade style darker trails right through to full on psychedelic mayhem, in the best possible way. Bend pitch by adjusting the time and space things out with the mix control. Getting even deeper with the depths and speed controls of the modulation section or go full psych mode pushing the echo into self oscillation diming the repeat control. Combining the two sides of the Heavenly Lake makes for some lush soundscapes or just some subtle verb and delay. Everything’s on tap and sounds great, especially given the very reasonable price tag.

Big Rumble 

From subtle “edge of breakup” through to raucous, crunchy, clipped overdrive, the Big Rumble has a nice broad palette of overdrive tones on tap with a heap of controls available for precision tone dialling. Switching between the jazz and rock circuits gives users the immediate flexibility of bright shimmering like drive through to smooth creamy heavy blues type drive – classic Skynyrd tones for days. 

Focusing on just the drive part of the circuit, the one knob has a surmising wide range of tone available, particularly when used in conjunction with the jazz/rock switch. The attack knob adds some more control over the roundness of tone from punchy attack through to wall of sound saturation. Where things get particularly interesting is the clean side of the circuit, essentially giving Big Rumble the ability to blend in clean tone parallel to the overdrive. This can make for some interesting tone stack effects, where one can really crank the overdrive into a more exaggerated overdrive then subtly blend the clean tone back into the signal for more note definition and detail. Adding to this the switchable 20dB boost separate from the drive circuit but positioned in front allowing for more tonal possibilities when both drive and boost are engaged. Big Rumble is right – plenty of tone available at even higher volumes if and when required. 

Tone City Big Rumble

Holy Aura 

The Holy Aura is Tone City’s equivalent to a classic ‘67 Chevy – far from subtle with plenty of high octane muscle. A USA inspired high gain distortion with a 20dB boost to match, the Holy Aura strikes to perfect balance between tonal flexibility and control. With a refined 3-band EQ of bass, mid and high, presence and tight controls as well as the expected volume, gain and boost controls there’s a huge tone stack again here and sounds just massive. Reminiscent of classic high gain amplifiers designed for really moving some air, even just running the everything set to 12 o’clock, the Holy Aura is simply commanding. 

The 3-band EQ is incredibly powerful giving the Holy Aura ability to range from classic scooped metal tones through to cranked top end with rolled off lows and pretty much everything you’d need from a high gain distortion pedal in-between. The gain on tap here is wild, absolutely not subtle and really is a high gain amp in a box. The presence and tight controls add in that extra level of tonal control that a lot of distortion pedals simply don’t offer, making it a great choice for both stage and studio when more refined control is required. The boost control whilst more subtle when engaged with the distortion circuit certainly has its place as a clean boost on its own, which is a great addition to any pedalboard. 

Tone City Holy Aura

Three distinct flavours of effects in a dual stomp box footprint, Tone City have introduced some exciting tonal flexibility from the time based Heavenly Lake through to the overdrive bliss of the Big Rumble and the full throttle distortion madness of the Holy Aura, literally every gain stage is covered, with some luscious airy soundscapes to taste. An exciting expansion to their already wide range of pedals, Tone City have struck gold once again!

For local enquiries, visit EGM.