Review: Ampli-Firebox Tube-Amp Modeling Pedal

The Ampli-Firebox is a beautifully utilitarian pedalboard or gig-bag rig solution. Find out more about this Editors' Pick award winner here.
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Emerging solidly from Atomic’s amp-modeling wheelhouse, the new Ampli-Firebox ($299 direct) aims to deliver the most compact and form-factor-familiar live modeling tool yet. Its success in that realm might just make it a first-call solution for many players in search of a backup amp or all-in-one virtual rig for fly dates, or both. The unit contains the same tech created by Studio Devil for Atomic’s more fully featured Amplifire 12, all packed into a rugged 4.5” x 3.5” x 1.5” pedal with eight knobs, three toggle switches, and two footswitches, with both ¼” and XLR outputs (one 3-way toggle assigns cab simulation to either or both, so you can run a ¼” cable to your backline amp without sim and an XLR feed to front-of-house with sim), input for standard 9V center-negative power supply (included), and a USB out to connect to Mac or PC, where all the deep-dive setup takes place.

To be clear, the Ampli-Firebox is ready to go right out of the box: plug it into your amp or PA, select from the nine factory-loaded presets, and away you go. To really tap this thing’s potential, though, connect that USB cable and download Atomic’s Editor software for Mac or Windows, and you access fine-tuned adjustment and pairing of the available 14 amp models (many of the usual suspects, and some interesting alternatives); related cab sims (to which—great bonus—you can add third-party IRs in WAV form); the clean boost or overdrive, fuzz, or distortion model assigned to the Boost footswitch; and the parameters for compressor, EQ, delay, and reverb effects. There’s also a handy A/B Mode that converts the Enable button’s otherwise on/off function to a channel-switching function, letting you toggle between two amps and their related parameters and effects. Between that and the Boost button, that’s four on-the-fly voices on stage.

I tested the Ampli-Firebox with a variety of guitars, mostly into a pair of Mackie HR824 studio monitors via an audio interface, but I also checked it into a standard tube guitar amp and cab, and a powered PA cab. Without re-litigating the quality of the amp and effects emulations themselves, which have already proven to cruise ably alongside many of the popular digital alternatives today, let’s cut to the chase by saying this little box offers a lot of tone and flexibility in a stunningly portable package, providing impressively amp-like playing feel and dynamics along with it. Part of the fun is that the Ampli-Firebox forces you into a more traditional amp-like relationship with the rig, rather than beckoning you to constantly change up presets. Yet those nine factory or user settings are all still there via the Amp Style and Amp Channel toggles when you want them (the sausage-fingered among us will need to flick carefully to avoid nudging knob settings in the process).

You might feel it would be nice to have a small LCD to display your selection, or some interface for effects selections and parameter tweaking while offline, but that would bust the compact size and familiar stombox form factor wide open—and that’s what Atomic’s Amplifire and Amplifire 12 deliver in any case. As it sits, the Ampli-Firebox is a beautifully utilitarian pedalboard or gig-bag rig solution, and a welcome new product to the market. For doing all of this so well, and at this price—and the fact that we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what it can do—the Ampli-Firebox earns an Editors’ Pick Award.

KUDOS Versatile and great-sounding ampmodeling in a compact, pedal-like box.
CONCERN: The toggle switches might be tough to reach without jogging knob positions. Manual could explain some programming functions more clearly