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M-Audio Black Box

M-Audio Black Box

Unless you’re a guitar-slinging hermit living out in the sticks where not a soul can be pestered by the sound of your endless practice sessions, there are bound to be times when you need to noodle as quietly as possible. Neighbors, spouses, roommates, even pets seem to become all the more irritated each time they endure the sound of a repeating scale exercise. So, not wanting to lose the folks I’ve managed to trick into friendship, I’ve long searched out machines that allow me to plug in, strap on the cans and practice without anyone knowing it. And with every passing year it seems that the technology in these boxes gets a little better, more realistically creating in my headphones the illusion that I’m playing through a bona fide tube amp, the way God intended. At the moment I’m taken with M-Audio’s Black Box, specifically its second incarnation, version 2.0, which supplies a tour van’s worth of amps via digital modeling and provides a helluva lot more than just a means to silently practice.

Developed in league with Roger Linn-a tireless musical tinkerer and a legend in hi-fi audio design, look him up-the Black Box comes touted as a Guitar Performance Recording System, encompassing amp models, onboard effects and drum patterns, and a means to record your music. It’s sturdy yet svelte, has roughly the same size footprint as a six-pack of beer and besides headphones and guitar inputs, offers connections for a microphone and three pedals, and enables output to computer via USB, plus additional balanced stereo phono and S/PDIF outputs. If you’re total recording needs boil down to your guitar, a voice and preprogrammed rhythm, it’s possible the Black Box is all the interface you need, providing you can live with modeled amp sounds.

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