Thanks for joining me on another gear review. This weeks piece of gear under the microscope is the Hughes and Kettner Red Box Classic. The Red Box is designed to take the speaker output of your amplifier and connect it directly with a recording interface or sound desk.
Thankfully there really isn’t much to this piece of gear which should make it very easy to inform your purchase. There is really two options for operation dependent on the amplifier that you wish to use with it.
For tube amplifiers which require a speaker load there is a simple speaker in and out. This allows you to connect the amplifier to the Red Box and then out to a speaker cabinet. This isn’t a silent recording method, but if you have a load box or attentuator you could attach it in the place of the cabinet to achieve this. For live applications you could run the DI to the sound desk and use the cabinet for onstage monitoring, very handy.
For solid state amplifiers there a number of ways to connect this device. If you require a cabinet simply hook it up the same as a tube amplifier. Due to way solid-state power amps function you can connect the Red Box without a cabinet for silent recording (double check your amplifiers specifications for this as I found some clipping with a Micro Terror). If your amplifier has an effects loop or pre-amp out you can connect this to the Line In. Due to the low impact a solid-state power amp has on tone, this option is great for silent recording with a very hi-fi quality.
Which ever way you hook up your amp, the line out (which is an XLR connector) sends the signal to your recording interface. If your rig suffers from a grounding problem simply flip the Ground switch which is hidden underneath pedal. As far as powering this unit you can use phantom power, 9v battery or a separate power supply which is notably not included. Definitely bear that in mind when considering how you want to incorporate it into your setup.
The Red Box has two cabinet simulations, a combo setting (which is modeled on 2×12) or a classic 4×12. The actual tone of the unit is pretty good. I’m not about to throw out my microphones and preamps anytime soon as it but it would be good for capturing a solid second tone to blend with the first.
The 4×12 setting is darker and more compressed with a bump in the low-mid frequencies around 100Hz-400Hz and second bump at 5Khz for some added presence. The Combo setting is much more mid range focused with a bump around 1Khz and 2Khz with less low-end. I’d happily use this box to capture clean guitar recordings, it’s bright, full and musical but it wouldn’t be my first choice for higher gain tones. I think the simulations prefer a consistent level as when I tried to mix in lead lines with rhythm the gain seemed to unnaturally drop away.
The idea behind the cabinet simulations tone is to simulate just the sound of a speaker. This unit doesn’t add any microphone voicing or any sort of room ambience so bear that in mind when listening to the examples. There is no post production to the audios in these videos. I wouldn’t put them in a track without a pinch of reverb and an EQ to help give them a sense of space and carve the mid-range slightly. I’d really need to trust a sound engineer to hand him this signal for live applications.
In the video below I’ve explored the sounds of both simulations with a clean, crunch and high gain application. The amplifier is an Orange Tiny Terror and the guitar is a 2002 Mexican Fender Stratocaster (instrument and speaker leads are Planet Waves). Enjoy!
There are an increasing number of options for recording the electric guitar and depending on you amplifier, playing style and budget the perfect piece of gear out there. No matter what I’ve tried, a live amplifier miced up still sounds the best but living in flat this isn’t always an option.
As a result I’ve been developing a silent recording rig for late night sessions. I was previously using an Orange Micro Terror into a Behringer GI100 which is another decent unit for half the price of the Red Box (check out my review here). The problem I had with this unit wasn’t the quality or sound, it was the size, it’s very chunky and not ideal for carting around in my gigbag or on my small pedal board. The Red Box is very slim, around the size of an MXR pedal.
Since the release of the Classic the Red Box family has had a new arrival, the Red Box 5. This new unit has a lot more options including room size, vintage/modern and tight/loose speaker response but after watching a videos it didn’t sound quite as good to my ears.
The Red Box Classic will definitely be a main stay in my recording rig for the foreseeable future. The next up grade would be to something with a speaker load and more cabinet simulations like the new Palmer PDI 03 JB or the new favourite Two Notes Torpedo Live.
Any thoughts on this unit? Have you any experience with other speaker simulation hardware? Thanks for visiting the site, check out some more gear reviews and if you have any questions leave them in the comment section below.