Unsurpassed effects, intuitive operation, and a diverse set of speaker emulations elevate this top box to industry standard status.
The three devices reviewed here cover similar territory as Universal Audio's $1,299 OX Amp Top Box. In some cases, the OX influence isn't exactly subtle.
We reviewed the OX almost exactly two years ago. I purchased the review model and have used it regularly ever since. The OX proved to be a hit, acquiring a large pro user base. It remains a go-to solution for low-volume recording and related tasks. I stand by the original review, and the device hasn't changed much since it debuted. So this is a rare opportunity to revisit a piece of gear after years of use while comparing its features to those of newer arrivals.
IRs vs. Modeling
Universal Audio refers to its emulating process as speaker modeling, not impulse responses. Impulse responses are realistic but static snapshots, whereas the OX aspires to mimic speakers in varying states, with a front-panel speaker breakup knob that introduces the harmonic variations that occur when speakers are pushed to extremes.
The OX's speaker emulations are magnificent. You get 22 superb models based on Fender, Marshall, Vox, Mesa, and Hiwatt cabs. There are six "usual suspect" mic models, and six virtual room mics. The room sounds are lush and realistic, and you can adjust the amount of room ambience via a dedicated knob on the box's front panel. You can also assign two virtual microphones to each cabinet, position them in virtual space, and tweak their characteristics.
But there's a downside to UA's proprietary speaker emulation process: You can't load additional IRs. I've never failed to find appropriate tones within the OX sound library. But if you insist on a specific speaker sound not included here, the OX may not be your best option.
The OX's software editor is attractive, powerful, and intuitive. Photorealistic depictions of the modeled gear make it easy to visualize your edits. You can store six favorite speaker/mic/effect combinations ("rigs") within the OX box itself and access them without connecting to a computer. The editors are available for Mac and PC. There's a mobile version for Apple iPads, but not for iPhones or Android devices.
The OX's software editor has the sophistication of a full-featured DAW.
You don't need a physical connection to edit the OX's sounds. The device includes its own WIFI network. Just connect your computer or iPad to the network, and tweak away. It's a great idea, but it is sometimes problematic in practice.
We must often go online while recording to access files, manage authorizations, and search for relevant data, which can mean constantly switching networks mid-session. Most pro users I know keep a dedicated iPad connected to the OX network, while the DAW's computer remains on its usual network. Even then, the iPad tends to drop its connection if it goes into sleep mode. I've always managed to get the job done via the OX's network, but this clever feature has never quite lived up to its promise.
To my ears, Universal Audio's effects modeling is unsurpassed. The OX includes two dead-accurate models of classic recording gear: a Urei 1176 compressor and an EMT 140 plate reverb. There's also high-quality EQ and delay. All the devices covered here include excellent effects, and picking favorites is a subjective task. But to my ear, nothing else touches the OX's.
Other Noteworthy Details:
- The OX's impedance switcher supports 4, 8, and 16 ohms.
- The OX is an excellent direct recording preamp.
- The OX outputs sound via balanced stereo analog outs, digital AES/EBU, and optical digital TOSLINK. The analog outs are 1/4" TRS. But I've always wished there were pro-quality XLR outs, especially considering the OX's pro-level price. (The three newer devices all have XLR outs.)
- The attenuation level is continually variable, as opposed to using fixed steps.
- You can use one-, two-, and three-button footswitches (not included) to toggle the OX's effects.
- The OX has no MIDI control.
- The OX comes with 125 unusually good factory-preset rigs.
Despite the minor frustrations mentioned above, OX has been a miracle worker for me. I use it incessantly (including on many PG gear reviews) and I'm always delighted by the results.
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D’Angelico Guitars Announces the Excel Tour Collection
The Tour Collection is defined by a minimalistic, vintage-inspired aesthetic, top-of-the-line components, and a simplified electronics configuration featuring new, custom pickups by Supro.
Available in the collection is the 16-inch-wide double-cutaway DC, the 15-inch-wide single-cutaway SS, and a 14-inch-wide Mini DC. Each model comes in three finishes: Slate Blue, Solid Wine, and Solid Black.
Every detail of the Tour Collection was chosen to achieve retro minimalism. Small diamond fingerboard inlays match 1930s-style diamond f-holes, and an undersized Throwback Scroll-style headstock achieves excellent head-to-body balance. The collection also features satin nickel hardware and custom Vintage Deluxe Grover tuners with a 15:1 gear ratio. Each model also features a simplified two-knob electronics configuration with 50s-style wiring to retain top-end clarity upon rolling off the volume knob. The neck shape in the Tour Collection is similar to the slim C-shape found throughout the D’Angelico line, but with more thickness in the shoulder to allow for snug hand fit as well as extra sustain. Medium Jumbo fret wire and a 12-inch fingerboard radius allow for quick navigation of the fingerboard while also prioritizing comfort for both rhythm and lead playing.
In 2020, Supro and D’Angelico became part of the same family of brands under Bond Audio. At that time, EVP of Product Ryan Kershaw and CTO Dave Koltai began designing custom pickups under the Supro name for the Tour Collection project.
“Supro Bolt Bucker pickups were designed to offer the tone of the most sought-after vintage "PAF" pickups from the late 1950's. Scatter wound, just like the originals, Supro Bolt Buckers utilize 42-gauge enamel wire along with a mixture of Alnico II (neck) and Alnico V (bridge) magnets to provide the perfect balance of warmth and clarity with unrivaled articulation and note bloom.” - Dave Koltai, Chief Technology Officer at Bond Audio.
Introducing the Excel Series Tour Collection | D'Angelico Guitars
All models are available for pre-order and will be in stock this holiday season. US MAP $1499. For more information, please visit dangelicoguitars.com.
Ananashead Announces the Cream Amp
The Cream Amp is a handmade low-gain overdrive pedal based on the Electra Distortion circuit.
The Cream Amp was designed to deliver full dynamics amp-like dirt to your clean and crunch amp or to another pedal in the chain without altering your tone too much. To add some grit at low volume or to make your amp sound more full, use the Drive control to set the gain and the Level control to match with your amp.
- Two knobs to control Volume and Drive
- Shielded inputs/outputs to avoid RF
- Filtered and protected 9VDC input
- Daisy-chain friendly
- Current draw: 7.5mA
The Cream Amp pedal is hand-made in Barcelona with carefully selected components and has a price of 100.00€. The pedals are available and can be purchased directly from the Ananasheadonline store.
For more information, please visit ananashead.com.
JET Pedals Releases The Red Sea
The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment.
Introducing the Red Sea, an all-analog signal routing matrix, designed for countless stereo and mono signal path routing options. The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment. The Red Sea has accomplished this in a compact, easy-to-use, and cost-effective solution.
Wet | Dry | Wet
The Red Sea gives you the ability to run a FULL Stereo wet dry wet rig using only 2 amps or just 2 signals to the FOH, while also giving you complete control over your Wet & Dry mix! Use the Blend knob to control the overall mix between stereo wet effects and mono dry/drive signals.
Stereo Dual Amps
Run dual amp modelers if full stereo w/ stereo effects. Gone are the traditional ways of one amp in the Left channel and another in the Right channel. Now use the Red Sea to seamlessly blend between two separate amps in true stereo. Think of this as a 2-channel amp where you can blend anywhere between both amps.
Stereo Parallel FX
Red Sea has two independent stereo FX loops. Use each FX loop to run stereo delay's and reverb's in parallel, where each effect does not interact with each other. Huge soundscapes can be achieved with washy reverbs and articulate delay repeats while being able to blend between each FX loops mix level.
The Red Sea can also do the following routing options:
- Wet | Dry utilizing a single amp
- Clean Wet | Dry | Wet (drives DO NOT run into wet effects)
- Wet | Dry | Wet with dual delays (one in the L channel & other in R channel)
- Parallel Dual Amps (run dual amp modelers in FULL stereo)
- Convert a tube amp's serial FX Loop to a parallel FX Loop
- Stereo and Mono analog dry through (avoid latency in digital pedals)
Crazy Tube Circuits Announces the Stardust V3
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct amplifier models.
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct maxed-out amplifier models. An all-analog signal path with discrete gain stages featuring MOSFET transistors provides juicy overdrive tones with great note separation that clean up to that sparkly sound that we all love and heard in recordings of the past. Set gain and tone and control everything from your guitar. Sparkly clean to crunchy mean are all there.
You can select the amplifier voicing via the onboard toggle switch.
BSM: Voiced after a blackface amp head that was primarily targeted for bass guitar players but got famous for electric guitar classic rock tones.
VLX: Voiced after a chimey 2x10” combo offering the perfect amount of controllable crunch
DLX: Voiced after one of the most popular low wattage 1×12″ combo amps that have found their way in countless recording studios and clubs around the world.
Stardust V3 now comes with top-mounted jacks and soft-click true bypass via a high-quality relay. The pedal has loads of output volume and enhanced headroom provided by 18V DC (boosted internally) so that it can also be used as a preamp going straight into your Power Amp or AudioInterface when combined with a separate speaker simulation device.
Street price: 199 Euro / 199 USD.
For more information, please visit crazytubecircuits.com.