WHEN LAPTOPS MET PLUG-INS, MUSIcians started taking
computers on the road
to run instruments and/or effects. MuseBox provides the same functionality
out the computer. Well, it is a computer,
but one optimized for gigging. It’s substantial, compact, and housed in a
MuseBox is a four-channel device. Two
channels accept audio, which could be mic
and guitar, two mics, or a stereo instrument such as a drum machine. Each can
run through its own plug-in, and phantom power is switchable simultaneously
for both inputs. The other two channels
host plug-in virtual instruments, playable
via MIDI controller (keyboard, drum pads,
etc.). All four channels go through two
additional master effects, such as reverb,
compression, and EQ.
MuseBox ships with a bunch of plug-
ins: 13 effects (including some really cool
AdrenaLinn-type ﬁlter effects and a looper)
and six instruments, But that’s a little
misleading, because many of the effects
are more like multieffects, and the instruments are very ﬂexible. The
instrument alone has 4GB of samples,
while Peavey’s ReValver HP is the “crown
jewel” of the guitar-oriented effects. This smaller version of ReValver MK
six Peavey amp models and 30 models of
stompboxes and rack effects.
You can’t upgrade to the full version of
ReValver, or add another amp sim, because
MuseBox is a closed system, and it only
runs plug-ins that have been adapted for
use with the MuseBox engine. However,
while you can’t install your fave plug-ins,
MuseBox has a slot for CompactFlash cards
on the back, and Peavey plans to offer additional plug-ins via this medium.
MuseBox can handle a wide variety of
musical applications, from drummers who
want to hook up pad controllers and drive
the onboard drum sounds to guitar players/singers who want a system that can
process acoustic guitar and voice. Overall,
MuseBox tilts somewhat toward keyboardists—not just because of the huge selection
and quality of the instrument sounds
(many of the best ones are provided by
UVI, who also do work for MOTU and
Spectrasonics), but because the compact
size is a major plus. Drive it with a MIDI
or USB-over-MIDI controller, and that’s all
you need. Keyboards with a control surface are the best choice, as eight parameters
can be assigned for real-time tweaking
from MIDI controllers.
From a guitarist’s standpoint, there are
four main scenarios for using MuseBox.
Latency is sufficiently low that I didn’t
ﬁ nd it an issue.
Guitar Processor. You’ll ﬁnd lots of pre-
sets for both electric and acoustic guitar (as
well as bass), so you can just use these pre-
sets to “load-and-go.” To create your own
sounds, you can insert ReValver HP as a
processor on one of the audio inputs, along
with two additional post-ReValver effects
to shape the overall sound. You can increment through presets with a
and decrement with a second footswitch,
but note that loading a new preset takes a
couple of seconds.
Guitar and Voice. Each signal would go
into its own input and have its own effect,
like ReValver HP on guitar and MuVoice LE
on the vocal. These could both be followed
by the master effects, like a little delay or
reverb, along with EQ.
Musical Group. A keyboardist could
play one instrument, a drummer could
trigger drum sounds, and you could play
guitar and sing. The master effects would
affect all sounds, so you’d probably use
bread-and-butter effects such as reverb,
EQ, or compression.
Yes, the rear panel looks like what you’d ﬁnd on a computer, because the MuseBox is a computer.
The MuseTools editing software lets you edit, create, save, load, and transfer presets.
MIDI Backing Tracks. If you have a MIDI ﬁ le player or sequencer, you
trigger two instrument sounds (like drums
and bass) while you play guitar and/or
sing through the audio inputs.
Presets are “tagged” as being in categories, so you can look for
within a particular category, and blow off
the ones that aren’t relevant. As a result,
one of MuseBox’s outstanding features is
that you can simply treat it as a signal processor with plug-and-play presets.
However, you can also go very high-tech by
using a variety of included software tools
to edit, create, save, and re-order presets.
There are two ways to play “custom
shop” and modify the presets. One is to
network the MuseBox to a Mac or Windows computer via Ethernet, and run the
editing software. The MuseBox Ethernet can connect straight into the computer
through a crossover cable, or hook into
an existing network, like what you use
for Internet access. However, when using
this method, the software is quite sluggish, and the lag as you move controls
considerable. At ﬁrst, I thought it might
be due to running 64-bit Windows 7, but
I experienced the same performance on a
quad core Mac running OS 10.6.8.
A better option is to connect a video
monitor to the rear panel’s VGA output,
then plug a mouse and keyboard into two of
MuseBox’s four USB jacks. This eliminates
the computer—and frankly, it’s pretty slick
to just hook up a monitor and start tweaking—and, as a bonus, the editing
is much more responsive.
Editing can make a signiﬁcant difference in terms of personalizing the
are subjective, and amp sims are particularly
so, because whoever designed the presets
was probably not using your guitar, strings,
pickups, pick, and playing style. I could often
take an “unusable” (at least for me) ReValver HP preset, and make it “sing” by
a notch after the cab using one of ReValver’s
parametric equalizers, and then tweaking the
amp drive settings a bit.
Finally, while concentrating on live per-
formance, MuseBox is also a very utilitarian
studio tool. The instruments can lay down
just about any type of track, and you can use
the presets if you want to record with effects,
as well as for external processing on DAW
tracks. There’s nothing quite like the Muse-
Box (except for Receptor, the “big brother”
on which it’s based), and it packs a whole
lot of functionality into a small package.
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