MI Audio Tube Zone!!

Splattle101

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I can’t say I’ve been moved to write a review of a pedal very often, but I’ll make an exception in this case. A couple of weeks ago I bought a cheap (scratch n dent sale) MI Audio Tube Zone. It looks like this (sorry about the crappy reflection! It’s all shiny :D):

CloseUp.jpg


This is the last version, not the current one, but the controls are the same. I’m a convinced user of MI’s stuff. I’ve bought four of their pedals, three of them new, and they’ve all done what they’re meant to do and done it really, really well. But this pedal takes the cake.

This has the normal three controls: volume, tone and gain. They’re the ones in the row closest to the switch. They operate pretty much as you’d expect, except that there’s a lot more volume than any TS808-type pedal. Apparently there’s even more if you run it at 18 V. I’ve not done that yet. The tone control is active, so it boosts the treble when it’s clockwise, and boosts the bass when it’s anti clockwise. It is not your normal passive treble cut. And the gain control has a really good taper so there’s a lot of fine control in the lower gain settings. They’re three really good, well thought out and useful controls.

The gain itself sounds excellent. It’s not a fuzz, so look elsewhere if that’s what you want. It’s not really a hard distortion, either, even though you can get loads of it. I don’t know enough about symmetric and asymmetric clipping to go into detail, but to me it sounds like a complex overdriving sound rather than a distortion. It’s a sound that sits very well as the overdrive sound in front of a clean amp (e.g., Bassman, Champ at low vols), or as part of the overdrive voicing of a master vol amp (e.g., Tiny Terror), or as part of the overdive voicing of a flogged-dirty non-master amp (e.g., Bassman or Champ flogged hard).

The other three controls in the top row are, from left to right, the ‘brightness’, the mids and the ‘character’ controls. The mids first. This is an active mid control, boosting meaty, guitar-important parts of the spectrum, and it works really well with the tone and character controls. But it’s the other two controls that really make this pedal in my view.

The brightness is a post-clipping filter. It allows you to set the tone of the pedal to suit the amp. I’ve done this briefly in setting up the pedal for rehearsals, so it sits well with my two amp rig. But tonight I used it to voice the pedal for my Champ (which is much brighter than my bigger amps). I was astonished at how well it did this job, without loosing the high frequencies in the distorted sound. I don’t know how better to explain it, but simply turning the brightness control down allowed me to use the same settings on my Champ that I’d used on my Bassman a few nights ago, playing loud as hell. :shock:

But even more surprising was the ‘character’ control. This is a PRE-clipping EQ, with the emphasis on the bass. Turned anti clockwise it’s like your typical TS type pedal, and it fills out it’s turned clockwise. But as you get around past 12 o’clock, the bottom end really fills out. I thought I’d experiment a bit with this on the little Champ tonight. Oh-my-f**king-goodness! It made this little single-ended-class-A-5-Watts-downhill-with-the-wind-behind-it amp sound freakin HUGE!!! I stuck a little delay on it and was drifting off into California Jam Mistreated land…

Very impressive. The controls work really well together, and while 6 of them sitting on top there seems a bit too much to get one’s head around in a flash, they’re actually pretty simple. There’s also an internal trim to set the mid point of the tone control, too, although I’ve not mucked around with that at all yet.

So this is a really versatile pedal in it’s own right, and I find it takes the TS808 in front of it very well. It handled the booster function of the Boost N Buff very well, too. I’ve not yet tried a fuzz so that’s next. Importantly, whatever I did on the Tube Zone was retained when I turned on a pedal in front of it. So when I set it for that big sound through the Champ (still geeking out about that :D), and then turned the TS808 on in front of it, the tone was coloured by the TS but it still sounded huge, stadium filling, etc.

But beyond the range of possible sounds in this box, what I’m most impressed about is its ability to be tuned to a particular rig, or to tune a particular rig. And that’s really quite something in my experience.
 

Hector Arcadius

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This pedal is supposed to be Michael Ibrahim's pride and joy. And from the reviews I've read, I can see clearly why. I wouldn't mind owning any of the M.I. Audio stuff (and for the time being I'm more than satisfied with my Crunch Box) but this one is definitely in my top-ten of my wish-list. But first I need a good tube amp to match it with.

Congrats on the great pedal and many thanks for the review Splattle!:cool:


P.S.: And after such an impressive job, there are still people in this forum that call Michael Ibrahim ''a hack''.:rolleyes:
 

Splattle101

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... And after such an impressive job, there are still people in this forum that call Michael Ibrahim ''a hack''.:rolleyes:
A hack? When? Where? Who are these f**kwits? Let them be named so we can at least have a decent laugh at their expense. :rolleyes:
 

PINKBITS

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Nice review Splatts :thumb:

I use the MI Audio Boost N Buff and am more than pleased with it.

These guys seem to be making booteek pedals at a fair price which is truly a rarity in the guitar world.

How did it react to volume and tone manipulation on your guitar itself?

Did it have a prefernce for buckers or p90's?

I'm certainly interested in how you say it is able to be voiced to YOUR amp.

The only OD pedal I have used that I was happy with was an Xotic BB preamp. However I was mainly using it to boost and tighted my GH50L.

It worked very well at this particular task, with this amp but did not work nearly as well with my Lionheart. It just seemed to compress the hell out of the signal in that amp.

I'm certainly interested in giving this little silver surfer a looksee. :hmm:
 

Splattle101

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Nice review Splatts :thumb:
Thankee. :thumb:

How did it react to volume and tone manipulation on your guitar itself?
Very well. It cleaned up with the vol controls as well as the TS808 or the Blues Pro. It's also sensitive to pick attack.

Did it have a prefernce for buckers or p90's?
No, it handled both very well. In fact I intend to get out the Strat later today and give that a run. I suspect it will sound very fat with this shiny box of cane toads. :cool:
 

PINKBITS

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I didn't know you were in possession of a Strat my friend :shock:

How bout the Skank Plank :hmm:
 

Splattle101

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I didn't know you were in possession of a Strat my friend :shock:

How bout the Skank Plank :hmm:

Yeah, I have a Strat. In fact, this particular one has lasted with me since 2002, which is a record for Strats. They usually last about 6-9 months before I change them for something else.

But I imagine that this pedal will sound good with any of my little harem. I might even get out the Dan DC 59 later.:cool:
 

PINKBITS

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Well pull yer finger out and post up some clips ya lazy git :laugh2: :thumb:
 

Figgystardust

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Hi Guys
i have been using a tube zone for a couple of years now & found any amp i use this thing sounds great. Theres is also a presence control pot inside the case for adjusting more top end. Im currently using it with my Ulbrick areana 50 & couldnt be happier.
 

Goldtop75

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I used to have this. Way too much pedal for me. It's so versatile that I spent more time experimenting than playing. One thing about it I really loved: it's a fantastic clean boost!!!
 

Splattle101

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Yeah, it's got a lot of volume.

Regarding the controls, I understand the 'way too much pedal' comment. It's what I'd thought of these before when I saw them in shops. But I sat down with one after reading the documentation and mucked around with it for a while. What I found was that it was basically a normal OD with two extra (external) controls: a pre clipping bass control; and a post clipping brightness control. I have for some time believed that it's a good thing to get some EQ around distortion and OD pedals, and this device has that sort of feature built in.

The other controls are really just a normal three band EQ, but in two pots instead of three.
 

Hamtone

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Great review splat. Sounds like you are using this about how I use my tube driver. Have you trie running this post 808?
 

Splattle101

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Yes, I run the TS808 in front of the Tube Zone. I also have a treble booster / buffer right up front in the signal path. Both work very well through the TZ.
 

Goldtop75

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Regarding the controls, I understand the 'way too much pedal' comment. It's what I'd thought of these before when I saw them in shops. But I sat down with one after reading the documentation and mucked around with it for a while. What I found was that it was basically a normal OD with two extra (external) controls

Yeah. But that's not all. It's got how many? Four gain stages? And it's so tweakable that I got lost each time, and could remember my settings! Hahaha...

I realized after using the tzod that all I really needed was a kickass overdrive with simple controls. The tzod is a great pedal. But just a bit too complex for me for what I used it for.
 

lexluthier

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I like the MI stuff, and it doesn't cost a fortune like some other boutique brands. I have a V1 and V2 Crunch Box as well as the V1 8 knob Classic Distortion.
 

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