Mar 23, 2014
The original MI Audio Crunch Box is probably one of the most cloned stompboxes out there, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it must certainly have earned its place among the ranks of other oft-copied classic stompboxes like the Fulltone OCD, MXR Phase 90 or Ibanez Tubescreamer.
That being said, personally, I was never much of a fan. I always felt like, while it was a great, ballsy “Marshall in a box” tone, the question of “which Marshall??” was quite difficult to answer.
Always improving and moving forward, MI Audio have addressed that with the Super Crunch Box, which takes you from original Crunch Box tones, to Plexi bark, all the way up to Jose-mod Marshall madness. And let me say that the results are just phenomenal.
The Super Crunch Box
The “cracked pavement” paintjob is quite gnarly and a little “love it or hate it”, but once you start playing this pedal, it really won’t matter either way – and it’s probably pretty apt, considering what it can do.
Somehow, MI Audio have succeeded in cramming a helluva lot of improvements into the same, small footprint housing, which in itself must be a bit of marvel of engineering.
Here’s what’s changed since the original Crunch Box:
- 3 compression modes – 0 gives you the most dynamics and least compression, 1 gives you the compression inherent in the original Crunch Box, while 2 takes you up to modded Marshall territory.
- Lo/Hi gain modes – flick over to Lo gain to explore the more touch sensitive side of things, or juice it up with Hi gain mode.
- Presence – instead of the single Tone control of the original, you now have the combination of Tone and Presence so that you can dial in your tone a little bit more precisely.
It’s a short list, but boy does it make a difference. With these tonal options, the sky’s the limit in terms of what Marshall tones you can dial in.
With great power comes great voltage responsibilities
Just a little word of warning here. You know how sometimes people try to run pedals at 18V instead of 9V to get added headroom? Well, DON’T do that here. Apparently, they already anticipated that you’d try that, and the LO mode (via some form of electrical engineering black magic) already runs at 18V internally, even though you’re only putting a 9V source into it.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a direct quote from the manual:
The Super Crunch Box is designed for 9v, and will not run
better at higher voltages (for technical reasons). In fact you
can cause damage to the circuit if a higher voltage is applied.
Phew, crisis averted.
Okay, let’s see how this mofo sounds.
So… I’m not going to bother covering the original Crunch Box tones contained in this pedal. There are just about a million reviews and clips of this already out there, and like I said, I always found it a little “neither here nor there” for my liking.
Let’s look at the lower-gain tones that the SCB can get with its brand spanking new compression selector on 0. This is meant to give you the most headroom, and deliver tones and feel similar to the hallowed Marshall Plexi.
Here, I’ve started off with the gain switch on LO, and then leaving all the dials in the same position, switched over to HI to get a slightly more driven sound. On both modes, you get just what they promised on the box – a lithe, snarling tone with lots of bite and bark. Not as much chunk in the low end, but we’ll address that later…
These clips were recorded with the SCB going into the clean channel of my Mesa Mk V, set very clean, so everything you’re hearing is be coming straight from the pedal. Miked slightly off axis with an Audix i5.
Okay, so I can’t figure out how to make the little squiggle on top of the “e” for Jose. But that’s okay, we’ll worry about that another day.
So now we know that the SCB can be a lean, mean Plexi machine, and that it can do the generic “wall of Marshall” tone of the original Crunch Box – but wait a second, they also promised us uber gain tones!
Flick the SCB over to compression mode 2 and HI gain, and you’ll be in hotrodded Marshall heaven. Where compression mode 0 was all about headroom and snarling crunch, this mode delivers all the beefy, chunky tones that you could ever want out of a British-styled pedal. It will turn your pristine clean channel into a roaring volcano of sonic lava, which will melt your face, Pompeii style. Literally. YES, LITERALLY. (No, not literally)
Check out what it did to my clean channel!
A Superb Box of Super Crunching
I’ve gotta say, I think this is my favourite “Marshall in a box” pedal of all time! I mean, it’s really at least THREE Marshalls in a box, if not more. Spend some time tweaking the infinite combinations of LO/HI gain, compression modes, and Tone/Presence, and you could nail almost any Marshall tone under the sun. As a hardcore hotrodded Marshall kid, I’ve played a bunch of much more expensive, boutique MIAB pedals and haven’t come away quite as impressed as I did from the SCB! Let’s put it this way – I already have amps that can make the crazy amazing gain sounds, BUT I’ll be holding onto the SCB nonetheless, because if I ever do a gig where I have to plug into someone else’s amp, and all they’ve got is a clean platform, THIS is the pedal that I want providing my Marshall drive tones.
I think it’s time to roll out the much coveted 5.0 F*ck Yeahs. I don’t even remember the last time I gave out so many F*ck Yeahs. Go MI Audio!