Using the Loopbone
As with all great designs, the device should be easy to use even if the internal workings are complex. The Loopbone follows this doctrine by reducing switches and clutter to the absolute minimum so that just about anyone can use the Loopbone without an owner's manual.
In order to route the guitar signal to various loops without changing the volume, increasing the load on the pickup, or adding noise, it must be buffered with introduction of a pre-amplifier into the signal path. To ensure the very cleanest and most natural sounding tone, there must be no signal degrading chips or op-amps in the audio circuit – the Loopbone employs Radial's highly acclaimed 100% discreet Class-A circuit, which as serious audiophiles know, is the only choice.
The Radial engineers weren't done yet – they went one step further and equipped the Loopbone with Drag Control™, our unique load correction circuit that allows the guitarist to properly match the load on his pickup so that it replicates the tone when connecting directly to his amp. Simply brilliant!
The Ins & Outs of Loopbone's Loops
The Loopbone is a unity gain device. This means that what you put in - you will get out. This of course completely gets tossed out the window based on the type of effect device you place in the effects loops. For example, some effect pedals tend to rob signal for no apparent reason. (Tuners can be particularly bad – this is why the Loopbone has a separate tuner out.) Other pedals are so noisy, you do not know how they ever got past the research & development stage. But love 'em or hate 'em, these effects can be loads of fun and using them can often lead to some great creative tones that can spur on new ideas and make your music more interesting.
To deal with these "problem children", the Loopbone has two separate effects loops. This allows each loop to contain several different effects in a chain that can be inserted into the signal path as needed. You could for instance have five pedals in the chain, turn three on and two off to set-up a searing solo tone while playing a clean rhythm, and when the moment comes, simply engage the loop for that moment of bliss!
In order to make this work, the Loopbone employs photocell technology. This is the same time tested switching system used on old Fender amps. Photocells have the distinct advantage over relays in that they do not "snap" on causing a click, but can actually be set to ramp-up and ramp-down for completely silent switching. On the downside, photocells are much more expensive thus limiting their use to only high-end gear.
With two separate loops, you can set up two completely different effect chains. You could for instance designate one for soloing and the other for wild effects. In fact you could even turn both loops on at the same time if you wanted to combine devices and have the two worlds collide!
Augmenting Your Tone with the Booster
The Loopbone's power booster is true to one of the cardinal the rules of great sound... it employs a true Class-A circuit to boost the signal. One cannot overstate the advantages of Class-A. Although less efficient than the "easy school push-pull circuit designs", Class-A circuits are without a doubt the most natural sounding and transparent. They also require more physical space and more power, which is the reason a 15V supply is necessary instead of the typical 9V supply.
Class-A circuits employ a single buffering device to amplify the gain, thus eliminating zero-cross distortion; a nasty by-product of the usual op-amp style AB designs. By eliminating zero-cross distortion and increasing the headroom with more power and larger, discreet components, we enjoy lower phase distortion and significantly less intermodulation distortion. This yields a more natural tone, which has the distinct effect of allowing natural harmonics to flow, augmenting the tone of the amp – not fighting it with odd-harmonics.
The Power of Slingshot™ – The Un-MIDI Solution
For the past 20 years, MIDI has been the standard control interface for keyboard players. MIDI works exceptionally well in the world of synthesizers, keyboards, samplers, drum machines etc. using digital on-off signals to turn notes on and off and using voltage controlled oscillators, amplifiers (VCO's and VCAs) and digitally generated signals as their tone generators.
The guitarist has never quite adopted this technology as it is the relationship between the guitar body's resonance, the pickups, amplifier and speakers that magically combine to create the tone. Guitar strings vibrate in a magnetic field causing electron flow. There is no on-off switch. It is all analog, it is imperfect, it spits and sputters – it is alive.
But the allure of MIDI is certainly valid. Stomping on a single footswitch and having multiple devices spring into action is fascinating. This led Radial to develop Slingshot. Slingshot is a remote control system that follows the traditional method of channel and reverb switching found on most amplifiers whereby a simple contact closure is all that is required to make a device change status. The system employs a standard, everyday 1/4" guitar cable to interface between various pieces of gear.
Radial has equipped several Radial Tonebone pedals with Slingshot switching including the Loopbone, the Cabbone and the Headbone. Each pedal's Slingshot implementation has been optimized for simplicity and set in the most practical format possible. For instance the Loopbone, as a master controller, is equipped with an assignable Slingshot output to control various devices. The Headbone on the other hand, is designed to receive status changes. Cabbone is slightly different again whereby it features both a Slingshot in-put and a thru-put.
In an effort to be as universal as possible, the Loopbone is equipped with two Slingshot control switches. The first switch assigns the 1/4" jack to either ring or tip for amplifiers that employ TRS style 1/4" cables with their foot switches. The second gives you a choice between latching or non-latching (momentary) switching for amps that employ a pulse to switch their channel status.
What makes the Loopbone particularly fun is that the Slingshot remote control function may be assigned to any one of the three footswitches. This could for instance allow you to activate an effect loop and send a channel change command to your amp at the same time. Add Cabbone to your system and you could instantly switch speaker cabinets and really zero-in on the tone you are looking for.
Best of all, you can make all of these devices switch at the same time with a with a single foot action. No Tap dancing!
And Then There Was MIDI
Of course for those players that choose to employ MIDI systems as a means to get as many tonal variations as possible on stage, there is good news here too... Most MIDI controllers are equipped with contact closure style I/O connectors that can be set to receive a status change command from the Loopbone or transmit a status change to the Cabbone or Headbone.