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Peavey MuseBox

8/21/2012

 
 
Peavey’s MuseBox packs the power of a computer dedicated to musical applications.
 
 
Apparently, musebox couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, so it decided to be as much as possible. A Muse Receptor offspring, it’s basically a computer disguised as a roadworthy, compact 2U half-rack module that offers two audio inputs with processing, two channels of virtual instruments you drive via the MIDI input (USB or 5-pin), and the ability to mix all signal sources and process the mixed output.
 
Like Receptor, the MuseBox architecture runs plug-ins—six instruments and 13 processors, although most are multi-purpose, so they do more than you might initially think. You can’t just install any plug-ins you want, but MuseBox is expandable with additional Peavey-authorized plug-ins that load from a CompactFlash card port.

Inside and Out MuseBox runs Linux on a dual-core processor, with 2GB RAM and an 8GB solid-state drive. The VGA video out and four USB ports allow hooking up a monitor and mouse, then accessing the internal software to re-order plug-ins, open plug-in GUIs, and more. You can also run Mac/Windows software and control MuseBox via Ethernet, but the software is more sluggish than running from the MuseBox itself.
 
Two front-panel mic/instrument Neutrik combo input jacks have associated level controls, along with switchable +48V for the pair. Or, use two rear-panel TRS 1/4" line inputs. Two knobs provide parameter navigation/tweaking, while eight switches cover edit and setup. For monitoring, a front panel headphone jack supplements the two rear panel 1/4" unbalanced outs; there’s also a single- or double-footswitch jack.

Using It Guitarists and bassists can use the included version of ReValver HP (and multiple other processors) to create a portable guitar rig—while also feeding in a mic for vocal or instrument processing. Keyboardists can split/layer the two virtual instruments for a very capable tone module, and drummers can hook up a drum controller—instant electronic drum “brain.” But MuseBox really shines when you take advantage of all of the above; for example, a duo with a singing guitar player and keyboardist wouldn’t need anything more than MuseBox, a MIDI controller, and P.A. system. (Note that it takes a few seconds to load instruments and presets, as the RAM has to be flushed and reloaded.)
 
MuseBox is also a versatile studio tool, with hundreds of quality instrument presets—drums, keyboard, bass, brass, pads, loops, sound effects, you name it. You can even use a synth controller that generates sound, and patch its audio outs into the audio ins while driving the internal sounds via MIDI. Furthermore, as most DAWs have the ability to use external processors as inserts, you can bounce your tracks through the wide variety of processing; there are hundreds of presets, and like the virtual instruments, they’re tagged into categories so you don’t have to hunt too hard to find them.
 
While it’s useful in the studio, I see MuseBox’s “killer app” as onstage—few devices offer this kind of power, at this price, and can handle both solo musicians and small ensembles. Peavey's record of tech innovation has sometimes flown under the radar, but MuseBox is their latest example of tech innovation in a powerful, intuitive package.
 
SUMMARY
STRENGTHS: Processes and mixes two audio signals and virtual instruments. Roadworthy, compact. Useful mix of plug-ins and instrument/processor presets. Can expand with additional plug-ins. Painless user interface.
LIMITATIONS: Controlling with external computer is slow compared to onboard editing. One headphone jack. Expandability limited to plug-ins adapted to the MuseBox platform.
 
$1,399.99 MSRP,
$1,000 street
peavey.com
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