I started off by reading through the schematic-laden manual and wasn’t sure how easily I could get around on the unit . . . I was worried that any piece of gear requiring several pages of schematics to explain its varied uses may be a little convoluted. I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case; the MW1 is really easy to understand and navigate. I moved confidently from recording direct to re-amping in a matter of seconds, and vice-versa. The MW1 is a sturdy box with great feeling knobs and great labeling—it even has lit up labels on the back for those of us who end up digging behind dimly lit racks of gear trying to swap stuff around. Nice!
First, I tried re-amping some guitar tracks I had recorded on an earlier session by running the MW1 into a Vox AC15. It was whisper quiet—no hum or buzz whatsoever, which was very impressive. The phase switches are a nice touch, because when re-amping you can easily get into a phase reversal situation. I really liked the multi-colored LED indicator on the balanced line in adjustment, as it let me know what the gain structure looked like; I also noticed this same metering on the balanced line out and clean boost as well, which led me to believe that I can keep track of the gain stage no matter how I’m running signal around the MW1. However, it seemed odd to me that the ground lift switches were located on the back of the unit; I think it would be much easier for the end user if they were located on the front.
While I was in re-amp mode I added a phaser pedal to the mix and it worked seamlessly—no fuss, no muss. Usually this type of re-amp situation gets a little sticky, but not so with the MW1. It sounded great on my re-amp test, so I moved on to recording some sounds through it.
I had a friend run his Strat into the MW1, then took it direct to tape and also ran it to his AC15 via the clean boost output on the front of the MW1. The amp sounded amazing. The clean boost added some really cool compression-type beef to the front end that just blew us away. I also liked the idea of a clean boost in general—I often record players in the control room with their amps in other rooms, so the clean boost would allow the player to drive the amp more or less without leaving the control room. Sweet! The output impedance adjustment came in handy to make sure we were getting the full frequency response by matching impedance properly. I could also see this as a way to shape the sound by dulling the sound a bit—which could really come in handy when dialing in sounds for multiple tracks, or switching guitars. This is a very cool feature.
Then I moved on to try it out simply as a direct box for bass. Again, it sounded great: clean and punchy, for lack of a better term. I didn’t have a suitable bass amp lying around to hear what the clean boost would do for a bass signal, but based on what I heard with guitar, I’m sure I would’ve liked it. This is a great box for such tasks; anyone who’s tried to record a direct signal and run it through an amp at the same time knows it can get pretty hairy, yet the MW1 made it effortless.
Aside from the ground lift switches being on the rear, the only other thing that struck me as not being very ergonomic for a piece of rack gear is how the unit is set up to drive multiple amps at the same time. You can drive two amps with each gain stage of the unit via a mirrored output on the rear of the unit; to drive more than two amps, you have to run a jumper from the XLR line level output to the XLR line level input (again on the back) to bring the clean boost and instrument level outputs into play. As a result, if I had an MW1, it would end up sitting on top of a rack for easy access to all of its features.
Other than that, the MW1 is a great unit that lives up to its name “studio tool.” Perhaps an introductory price of $995 is a bit steep, but kudos to Creation Audio Labs for putting something on the market that isn’t the same old thing—and does what it claims to do very well.
PRODUCT TYPE: 1U multi-function re-amping device for recording/live performance.
TARGET MARKET: Recording guitarists and bassists.
STRENGTHS: Smart design. Feature-rich. Clean sounds. Works well both in studio and onstage.
LIMITATIONS: Ground lift switches in back of unit.
LIST PRICE: $995