Audio Sprockets Tonedexter In Use - Initial Impressions


Squawk

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I've been meaning to write up a review of some sort for this unit for some time now. I've finally had a chance to actually use the thing over the weekend. This is less of a review, and more just my initial impressions and thoughts about the Audio Sprockets Tonedexter (https://audiosprockets.com)

For anyone who doesn't know what it is, it's a pedal sized device which aspires to create the sound of your mic'd acoustic guitar from the output of your piezo pickup, in the form of a stored wavemap within the device (essentially an impulse response of your guitar through microphone).

You can think of it as an advanced version of the Fishman Aura, or kind of like a Kemper for acoustic guitars.

So, the premise is quite cool, but how does it sound you ask? Well, before I get too far into that, I've only really dove into it for a few hours. The first task was to update the firmware of the Tonedexter to the latest version (available on the AudioSprockets.com website. This involves putting files onto an SD card, and transferring the card to the Tonedexter unit, and booting it up. Updating is smooth and easy, although you could argue that it might be better to just update via USB thumb drive, instead of requiring an SD card.

That aside, there's a few things about the Tonedexter system that I did not quite realize when I purchased it, and these may matter to some more than others.

The first downside is that you are required to plug your microphone directly into the Tonedexter. So no using any of your outboard preamps. That Millenia, Forssell, or Avalon that you normally use to record acoustic guitars cannot be used here. Bummer.

The second downside is that you can't use a tube microphone with the unit. And ribbons are also not ideal. The unit provides +48 volt phantom power at all times to the microphone that's plugged into it. I would have preferred an on/off switch for phantom power, and also a mic/line combo jack for the input.

The third issue is that you are not going to be using two microphones to create the wavemap. So no stereo mic'ing, mid/side or mono microphone blending here. Strictly one microphone per wavemap profile.

In the setup video, they actually recommend the Slate ML-2 (not available to the public at the time the video was shot). Apparently the process of "profiling" the sound of your guitar through the microphone is best done with a mic with a flat frequency response.

This is a bit of a dissapointment, as I initially had thoughts of using my ELA M 260's, Wunder CM7, etc. and capturing them in this device, similar to what you would do profiling your guitar amps with a Kemper. However, this ain't that. The upside is that the recommended Slate mic is cheap as dirt (in terms of cost), and you can slap a mic model on your recorded wavemapped guitar tracks later in your daw.

You can of course use your Neumann KM184, Rhode NT-5, etc. with the unit. I don't happen to have either of those mic's here, so my initial tests were with the Slate VMS, and later the Antelope Verge SDC.

My first tests so far have been with a Larrivee Parlor guitar. You plug the guitar into the side of the Tonedexter, headphones into the headphone jack, your microphone into the unit, set your mic position, and then click a few buttons to start the process.

Now there's one other big issue that I've found (and maybe I just need to RTFM again). That is the fact that there is no way to monitor the microphone until after you create the wavemap, at which point you can toggle between wavemap, mic, and piezo input, and decide if you want to store the profile or not. This makes it impossible to monitor mic placement. In my tests, I was just using a series of "go to" standard positions, and hoping for the best.

Creating each profile takes maybe 2-3 minutes. You first play to have Tonedexter detect and adjust your mic level (piezo input level is manually set), then play through a series of "training" steps, from 1-9. Once you are done, you can compare the results to the mic input, and the piezo input signal.

I have to say that at this stage, monitoring the mic input is always a bit jarring. The combo of the built in Tonedexter preamp, combined with either microphones I tested with sounded a bit lackluster compared to my usual signal chain for acoustic. The good news is that the resulting wavemap always sounded better than the microphone input when comparing.

The Antelope Verge SDC did yield better results so far over the Slate VMS. However, that's not surprising to me.

After creating a few wavemaps, I plugged into my DAW and set out to do some tracking on a country track I'm currently producing. I found the results usable, but I was adding Slate virtual mic models to the equation (primarily the Slate C12), as well as a few plugins to smooth things out a bit.

So, the jury in my brain is still out :thinking: (even more than usual :shock:) until I can test both the Slate ML-2 as well as the corresponding SDC microphone models. That will be happening later this week, so check back if you're at all interested in this stuff. I've got 3 more acoustic guitars to create wavemaps with, and I will post some audio examples and photos.


 

Monkey Man

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I wonder how it fares against the Line6 JTV-and-newer acoustic models, Torry.

That is, the FW v2.0-onwards, so-called "HD" models.
 

Squawk

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This arrived today, so I'll be doing some testing with SDC models.

slate2.jpg
slate3.jpg
 
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