At last week's Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, Calif., MOTU announced that it is now shipping ZBox ($39.95), a guitar pickup adapter that matches the output impedance of a guitar with instrument inputs on audio interfaces or other devices.
Guitar inputs on audio interfaces, mixers, P.A. systems, wireless transmitters and other similar devices (often labeled “instrument” inputs) usually have impedance levels that differ significantly from those typically found on guitar amp inputs. This mismatch can make a guitar sound unnatural (too bright, thin and brittle). In addition, the guitar may not "feel right" while played through software- or DSP-driven amp models.
By providing the proper impedance levels, ZBox restores natural guitar tone that would otherwise be lost through a non-amp input.
"During the development of our own guitar FX software products, MOTU's number one R&D goal was accuracy: We got completely obsessed with delivering the most faithful reproduction possible of the sound and feel of the amps, cabinets and pedals we model," says Jim Cooper, Director of Marketing at MOTU.
"We discovered a crucial factor that's impossible to model in software, because it occurs at the input stage, long before the guitar's signal even reaches any software processing: mismatched impedance levels between the guitar and the input. This mismatch not only affects the guitar tone, it has a negative impact on how the guitar plays: it just feels strange...not quite right. So, we developed ZBox to faithfully replicate the impedance levels found on classic guitar amps. We found the resulting feel and guitar tones to be subtly, yet dramatically more realistic, even with third-party guitar tone products from Waves, Native Instruments, Line 6, IK Multimedia and other developers."
ZBox is designed with authentic matching circuits that emulate the two-jack switching network found on many classic amplifiers, complete with analog simulation of the input tube grid. This unique approach delivers the most authentic amplifier impedance matching available for the absolute truest sound and “feel” from a guitar.
To use ZBox, plug a guitar into ZBox’s lo-Z or hi-Z input (whichever sounds better) and plug the ZBox's built-in, 16-inch cable with ¼-inch jack into the guitar input on the destination device. MOTU states that ZBox is suitable for use with any device that has an "instrument" or preamp input for a guitar, such as audio interfaces, mixers, recording devices, wireless transmitters, P.A. systems and effects processors. ZBox is not a computer interface and does not require any software drivers. It does not require a power source or extra cables—only the cable from the guitar.
ZBox is housed in a small (1x1.75x2.5), lightweight, virtually indestructible aluminum housing that can be conveniently fastened to a guitar strap with Velcro or duct tape for live performance through a wireless transmitter.