The Tone Block 202 is a 200-watt solid state amplifier. Developed to be a multi-platform amp (for guitar, bass or keyboards), it connects to a speaker cabinet, PA system or direct to DAW by way of XLR, Cab Out and signal out options (more than one option can be chosen, e.g., out to a cab and out to a PA, thereby controlling cab output separately from PA). The Tone Block 202 has the usual amplifier elements, such as Gain (ranging from ultra clean to rock crunch overdrive), an FX Loop and a 3-band EQ for wide ranging tonal control. The tone is expressed further via the Voice switch – FullQ provides a classic ‘tone stack’ response, Vint (vintage) has a more traditional mid-scooped electric guitar sound and FRFR provides a flat response (set all EQ knobs half-way), the latter of which is ideal when working with modeling rigs and external cab sims (or turn off your modeler’s cab sim and use the Tone Block 202’s cab sim via the FullQ or Vint setting). The Tone Block 202 also includes Headphones out, a smooth and organic spring Reverb and a Limiter to tighten up those spanky chords. It comes with a power chord that includes a locking mechanism, so that you don’t have to worry about accidental unplugging, disengaged by a press of a tab.
The Tone Block 202 may be a solid state amp, but there is nothing sterile about it – superb warm clarity and responsiveness to playing dynamics – whether going clean and turning up the gain for some heat. If you’re looking for that ‘tube amp’ feel, but while retaining note definition and harmonics that cut through the mix, the Tone Block 202 certainly is a viable option. I find the response when playing clean to be very full-bodied and the notes are almost bell-like in how they pop. When turning up the gain, there is no heavy bottom end (unless there is excessive bass EQ) or compressed saturation. This clarity in response further makes the Tone Block 202 an ideal pedal platform, for delays, reverbs and modulations, but also drive pedals and when wanting to push those intense rhythms or soaring loads. The Reverb sounds great with a very natural decay, ideal for thickening up the sound, and to my ears its sweet spot lies around the 11- to 1-o’clock range. I developed three sound demos to best illustrate the diversity of the Tone Block 202.
Video 1: 8 ohm Cab Out (using the Blubox speaker simulator) with tones ranging from clean to driven
Video 2: Headphone Out w/Cab Sim and while adding the Blubox speaker simulator; using the Headphone Out allows the Master to adjust volume and to accommodate Gain levels
Video 3: Signal Out w/ built-in Cab Sim; this video goes through all the features of the Tone Block 202 (Note: the Master has no effect on this setting as using the Sig Out results in full volume that increases with Gain increases)
Small, compact and light-weight (4 pounds [1.8kg] and measuring 2.9” [H] x 8.6” [W] and 7.3” [D] or 7.35 x 21.8 x 18.5 cm), the Tone Block 202 has a rugged metal chassis ideal for setting atop a cabinet, on a pedalboard, or rackmounted in pairs (if going for that stereo sound or integrated with the Overdrive 200 model). Its portability is only a side issue, as Quilter is known for its sound and how well it translates a player’s dynamics and playing nuances. I know of two individuals who gave up their big amps in favor of the Quilter Tone Block 202, and one in particular had a long-time love affair with a Fender Twin Reverb. It was from this individual’s endorsement that I investigated the Tone Block 202 and I concur that it does not disappoint in any manner. Its tone definitely is expressed best by going direct to a cab (or a quality cab/speaker sim) when compared to using the built-in cab sim. However, the cab sim does sound very decent for private practice and laying down some tracks direct to DAW. Its additional flexibility as a modeler platform, via its FRFR setting, makes it ideal when wanting to use regular cabs rather than investing in more costly FRFR speaker systems (and you can disable the modeler’s ‘cab sim’ and use the Tone Block 202’s cab sim with the FullQ or Vint setting). At $575 USD the Tone Block 202 is priced moderately, but both sound quality and features should bring it to the forefront for any musician gigging, recording (at home or studio) or using the Headphone out for silent practice. With a range of 0 to 200 watts, direct line/headphone jack, cab/PA ready and with three difference voices (frfr or with cab sim) there is a lot to like about this amp. Limitations are minimal, but be aware that if placing the Tone Block 202 on a pedalboard there are inputs/outputs (including the FX Loop) located on the front panel; this may result in those cables hanging over the front of the pedalboard to some extent, but this issue can be rectified by running cables with right-angle plugs under the amp, since the unit is elevated on rubber feet. This also presumes that the Tone Block 202 would be located toward the front of a pedalboard.