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Savvy students of rock guitar recording know that some classic tracks were played through a very expensive and specialized amp: the input channel of a vintage mixing console. From Zep’s “Black Dog” to many great Motown hits, the signal path was simply guitar/direct box/mixing desk.
But there are consequences to sidestepping a conventional guitar amp. We often forget how heavily guitar amps and speakers filter our signal, especially the highs. When you go direct, you capture your guitar’s full frequency range, including much fizzy high end. Direct-recorded clean parts sound blunt and authoritative, while studio-preamp distortion can yield blistering solid-state fuzz of a type we usually avoid. It can be the worst sound in the world, or the best. (Perfect example: the Beatles’ “Revolution.”)
JHS’s all-analog Colour Box is fashioned after perhaps the most beloved preamp ever, the Neve 1073. It also includes four EQ bands and both 1/4″ and balanced XLR connectors. You can record direct with it, or place it in front of a conventional amp. The pedal requires 18V power, either via the included adapter, or any pedalboard power supply with an 18V option. Inside are a modern, auto-assembled circuit board and the marquee component: a spiffy Lundahl power transformer.
On the input side is a double-duty 1/4″/XLR connector, while the output has discrete 1/4″ and balanced XLR jacks. When you’re connected via the 1/4″ input, the footswitch turns the effect on and off, but when using the XLR output in instrument mode, there’s no bypass (which makes sense if you’re using Colour Box as an always-on preamp). You can employ both outputs simultaneously, driving an amp while sending a direct signal to the board. You can also use Colour Box with a microphone, though there’s no phantom power—you must bring your own juice when using a condenser mic.
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