DI’ing to try it
If guitars were where I felt the TB12 was completely at home, bass and key DI has to be its summer home. As a bass DI with a nice Yamaha passive bass, the results were excellent. After tweaking all the settings this way and that, I tended to favor the sounds at either extreme, more than the tones dialed somewhere in the middle that were neither clean, nor coloured.
Having a good feel for the DI, I put it head to head against to my go to clean DI, which is a the Hi-Z input of my True Systems P2 Analog preamp and created the audio files by setting up in the following simple way: record bass in the cleanest way possible, then run out my Apogee DA16X converter and into a Radial X-Amp. From there I did a reamp’d pass into the True, and a second pass to the TB12 at a certain setting, each time recording the results.
Of note, I did find the DI to run out of headroom earlier than I'd expected, but, as expected, engaging the Pad rectified the out of character response.
Results? While the TB12 performed reasonably well as a clean DI, it didn't have the depth, realism, nor full bottom of the True, but was still superior to most budget DI's and on-board interface Hi-Z inputs.
Going more to the other extreme and using the 1731, impedance/Tone shift, and steel transformer, I felt I lost too much of the lower octave for the big, smooth bass sound I was looking for. However, switching to the nickel output transformer and clean capacitors, I found an excellent, full, bass sound that sits very well in a loud rock mix and definitely put a smile on my face. [BASS DI FILES ARE BELOW]
Mic Pre Shootout
In comparing the TB12 with several lunchbox and rack preamps I setup a reamping rig so that I could maintain isolation and repeatable settings throughout the testing. I recorded an exhausting amount of files by feeding the output through the same Apogee AD16X and recording into Pro Tools HD.
I found the Tonebeast to be quite versatile indeed, but to also definitely have its own character. At more moderate settings I could dial it in to where I found it compared favorably with my favorite vintage API 312, although it was not quite as dynamic, had a bit more mids, and a little bit leaner lows. When put up against a vintage 1073, the Warm was again leaner in the lows, but also made the 1073 sound a little dark, missing just a little bit of the “cut” of the TB12. I also felt the Tonebeast was a smidge less 3D than some of the much more expensive preamps I put it up against, although I never felt it to sound like it was outclassed, even though some preamps were more than six times as expensive. [AUDIO FILES ARE BEING UPLOADED]
I found I could also get the TB12 to do nearly clean amplification (though still more colored than a typical interface or compact mixer preamp) by using the 918 Opamp, disengaging the Tone control, and bypassing the output transformer. I liked it in this setup the least, but for acoustic guitar and drum overheads, it can be just what you didn’t realize you needed.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Tonebeast gives you the anti-smiley face EQ curve when pushed hard and using the lower impedance/Tone control. This was particularly enjoyable on guitars, and may find its way into vocal chains for rock and indie vibe.
Speaking to the versatility of the TB12, I could not find a source that I could not dial in a great sound on by simply manipulating some of the tone shaping controls and options in various combinations. It became intuitive to do so, even, which says a lot about the design. It’s a lot of control, but placed logically.
At $599, I think Warm Audio definitely has a winner. The ToneBeast provides a plethora of tone options from nearly clean, to quite dirty with an obvious sonic signature. Although it may be aimed at those studio owners with smaller preamp collections where the versatility can really shine, I'm quite certain also going to find its way into a lot of studio racks along side the classics and studio staple preamps.
To say the Tone Beast is aptly named is grossly understating the beauty of this beast.
All 24 TB12 Option/Combinations
Bass DI Shootout Files
Blues and Rock Guitar Shootout Files
High Gain Guitar Shootout Files