Review: Universal Audio OX Amp Top Box

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(Image: © Universal Audio)

Universal Audio is already beloved by engineers and producers alike, worldwide, for their high-quality hardware interfaces and plug-in emulations of classic studio processors. This time around, Universal Audio has used all that engineering experience for the performing guitarist, with the new OX Amp Top Box — an impressive professional tool that offers a ton of functionality in one stylishly retro box.

FEATURES The OX is a combined reactive load box, output attenuator, digital speaker-cab and effects emulator. It can handle tube amps of up to 150 watts, while the Speaker Level switch offers five degrees of attenuation to a traditional guitar cab, for self-monitoring; or a “0” level, for silent recording or front-of-house (FOH) signal only. Within the unit, your amp’s signal is sent through UA’s high-quality ‘Dynamic Speaker Cab’ and mic emulations — plus compressors, delays and reverbs — then routed to stereo analog TRS outputs and S/PDIF digital output, via RCA or ADAT (aka lightpipe) connection, fixed at 16 bit/44.1kHz.

An app for Mac and iPad lets you audition, tweak and save more than 100 rigs, via wireless connection, to the OX (and offers tons more functionality besides); while the OX itself can store six at any one time, selectable from its Rig knob. The Room knob adds room mic emulation on the fly, and the Line Out and Headphone controls do as you’d expect (the latter, coupled with its stereo headphone output, makes the OX superb for silent late-night practice).

PERFORMANCE Given UA’s reputation for pro-quality studio gear, it’s no surprise that the OX sounds superb. Almost more impressive, then, is that the playing feel is so outstanding. Tested with a Friedman Small Box 50 head, a Divided by 13 JRT 9/15 and a tweed Deluxe combo, this thing beautifully maintained the raging, dynamic, interactive touch sensitivity of each amp — whether attenuated through a traditional cab, or through its cab and processor emulations via the studio monitors. The real bonus in all this “sounds great” stuff, though, is how the OX delivers the tone of a classic cab, professionally mic’d, for your FOH or recorded signal, without the need of lugging a truck-load of cabs to the gig. For example, you can rein in your volume for a small club show while self-monitoring via the OX’s attenuator into a portable 1x12, and still deliver gut-thumping cranked-4x12 sound to the crowd. In addition, while we’ve barely touched upon them, the OX’s included studio processors, compressors, EQs, delays and reverbs are equally outstanding; providing unbridled versatility to your live rig.

STREET PRICE: $1,299 MANUFACTURER: Universal Audio, uaudio.com

The OX features UA' s high-quality Dynamic Speaker Cab and mic emulations, plus included studio processors, delays and reverbs can be routed to mono or stereo outs for live or studio use.

Built-in reactive attenuator can handle amps of up to 150 watts, for easy self-monitoring while on stage at five preset dB levels or bypassed.

THE BOTTOM LINE Far more than just the sum of its parts, the OX is a professional performance tool that unleashes your high-wattage tube amp, and unchains you from the need to cart cabs to the gig — while ladling on studio-quality effects to boot.