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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Sweetwater vs. Reverb
Which one do you prefer?
Rhett and Zach unpack the big news for secondhand guitar sellers and buyers: Sweetwater has launched their new Gear Exchange. How does it compare to Reverb, Craigslist, and Marketplace? To find out, Zach takes the site for a spin and buys a pedal. He calls the process both “very easy” and “normal.” They discuss the pros and cons of the various used-gear outlets and share tips for not getting got when buying gear. Plus, Zach grew a mustache, Mythos Pedals is moving, and he talks about his forthcoming line of Strat pickups inspired by Hendrix’s reverse-stagger setup.
Sweetwater vs. Reverb
Get 10% off from StewMac when you visit stewmac.com/dippedintone
Cort Introduces the KX508 Multi-Scale II
Expanding on the innovations of Cort’s original 8-string multiscale, the KX508 Multi-Scale II features an updated okoume body and a specially designed Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker.
The KX508 Multi-Scale II is the second iteration of the eight-string KX508, Cort’s first multi-scale 8-string guitar introduced in 2020. Like its predecessor, the KX508 Multi-Scale II has a visually stunning poplar burl top in a Mariana Blue Burst finish. Beyond its visual appeal, the poplar burl is an ideal tonal complement to Cort’s newly introduced okoume body. Okoume is known for its light weight and ability to improve tonal clarity. It has a tight low-end and highly articulate high-end, which matches the overall sonic characteristics of the KX508 Multi-Scale II. The multi-scale, measuring 26.5 to 28 inches, offers a punchy low end while maintaining a familiar feel and tension on the treble strings, which allows for speedy runs and string-bending. Players have unhindered access to the high frets thanks to the low-scooped heel.
The 5-piece maple and purple heart neck not only provides strength and stability, aided by a spoke nut hotrod truss rod, but a strong and focused sound. The Macassar ebony fingerboard (15.75-inch radius) offers smooth playability along the 24 frets with teardrop inlays. Macassar is an ideal tonewood for high-gain applications because of its ability to cut through a dense mix. At the top of the neck, the 2 7/32-inch nut width (56.5 mm) is surprisingly comfortable for an 8-string guitar and is even suitable for players with smaller hands. The individual hardtail bridge with string-thru-body design results in greatly improved sustain, superb string separation for enhanced articulation, and precise intonation. Deluxe locking machine heads offer reliable tuning as well as easier and quicker string changes.
The Cort Sessions | KX508 Multi Scale II Electric Guitar
MSRP $1699.99 USD
MAP $1199.99 USD
For more information, please visit cortguitars.com.
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.