The Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal: One to Many, Many to One

The Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal: One to Many, Many to One

I’m a musician and a recording artist. I’ve always been in search of new ways to make sound with my instruments – and new ways to record unique and fulfilling sounds from many different types of instruments. Some things one tries when searching for new sounds is to use effects pedals, another might be using different tubes in a pre-amp or amplifier. There are nice upgrades in guitars, basses, gear, and rack-mounted gear that really change your sound.

MorleyABCSwitchFront

But sometimes, something VERY simple comes along that lets you truly turn your playing and recording on ear. The little tank-built Morley ABC Switch box is a surprisingly versatile tool that really makes your setups incredibly flexible and easy-to-change. This review is about my journeys with my four-year-old Morley ABC boxes (I am buying a second one this week!) and the wonderful things they’ve brought me.

You can see more information about the Morley ABC Switch box here at zZounds, my favorite internet gear seller (my sponsor, too). If you click here and buy stuff, I can write more reviews!

Quick Opinion

Buy one or two after you read this review. You’ll be VERY glad you did!
I am not hard on my gear – but I do use what I own. And when I brought the Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal into my life, it became something I use EVERY day. It started with being a way I could play through three amp stacks at once – and then it evolved into a recording tour de force for my home studio. WOW. Amazing, simple, durable, quiet, efficient, well-made, inexpensive, and downright fun!

Please read on: I’ll tell you why I took the time to write this review and to help spread the word for this wonderful little box from a strong instrument gear brand!

Durability and Ease of Use

I bought my first Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal out of necessity. I wanted to have a few different amps in the house (and later the garage), and I didn’t want to have to have redundant pedal setups or spend time playing with cables when I wanted to go from my Marshall to my Fender to my VOX. As time went on, I was even experimenting with combinations of one, a pair, or all three. This little box makes it all just a click away!

Durability? My first Morley ABC Switch Pedal sat in the garage for a couple of years, with little climate control and LOTS of use from LOTS of different players. Just bring in your instrument (bass or guitar or ?), plug it in to the right-most ¼-inch jack, click a few stomp buttons and you get lots of different amp sounds all at once!

Want to see more about this awesome pedal at the Morley site? Click here.

It’s only a quick change to have three instruments punching down to one amp (not something I recommend very often, folks!) – and all the pushing, pulling, stepping, re-wiring that went on with that little blue Morley box was amazing. In the recording arena, I often have signal that’s 3-to-1 or 1-to-3 when it comes to computer input gear (read below), signal chains, and more. And it still looks almost new, and it works FLAWLESSLY in its fifth year!; This little metal stomp box is amazingly durable. it has taken everything that has been thrown at it and it still is the quietest (heavy-duty metal push-push switch-noise wise) stomp box I’ve ever owned and still to this day creates no discernible circuit noise.

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It’s incredibly easy to use. You have three switchable ¼-inch jacks, A, B, and C. You have one 1 ¼-inch jack on the right-most side of the pedal. The pedal doesn’t care if you want three ins to one out or three outs from one in. It works flawlessly in both directions.

Believe it or not, you can easily daisy-chain more than one of these little ABC boxes and do some pretty amazing things without any discernible signal loss. Just draw your ideal setup on paper, follow the cables with your diagram, and Poof! Many-to-Many signal chains!

Price and Quality

The price of this little blue Morley ABC Switch Pedal stomp box is one of the easiest parts of this review. They’re less than $100 US in most retail outlets. It’s worth every cent and will last pretty much until the next EON (YMMV). The price is definitely just right, although five years later I would probably be just as happy had I paid $125 US or so back then. It’s flawless.

Quality? The Morley ABC Switch Box stomp pedal is made strong enough to withstand the heavy stompers of some local metal-music heads that have used it. It has withstood HUGE temperature fluctuations, endured well-below-freezing temperatures and well above 100 F degree temperatures. it has withstood LOTS of drops (from six feet or so). it has been slammed around in pedal cases, trunks, hatchbacks, and on stages. It has been around cat fur and garage dust and high humidity and low humidity. After a simple wipe-down, it looks almost new, and it BEHAVES as if it was just brand new!

The Morley ABC Switch Box stomp pedal is my OFFICIAL switcher box. I’m good to go for a lifetime with mine!

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How have I used mine?

Interestingly enough, the Morley ABC Pedal truly is only limited by your imagination in the ways it can be used. I’ve used mine for two very specific purposes (mainly): playing through 1, 2, or 3 amps (in different combinations) from one guitar at a time (this gives LOTS of tonal variations!); and creating signal/effects/pre-amp chains that send the signal from one guitar through different chains to different inputs in computer recording input devices hosting multiple ¼-inch mono inputs.

In the early days of using my Morley ABC Switch Box, I primarily used it to experiment with and enjoy playing through multiple amps at once. I often played through combinations of a Marshall, VOX, and Fender amps, each with its own pedals and signal chain. It’s amazing what you can do. In addition, when playing one of my Rickenbackers with Ric-o-sound, I was able to have one output jack going to the Morley and the other going to yet a fourth amp.

It’s amazing what you can do with a few amps in your garage, a Morley ABC switch, and pedals with multiple outputs. Here’s a fun one: Guitar in; A to a Marshall with no effects, just clean gain; B to a Fender solid state with a pedal setup signal chained; C to an Electro-Harmonix Sitar pedal with the primary out to my old VOX and the Sympathetic output to yet a fourth amp, an Egnater tube amp I used to own. WOW. Imagine the multiplicity of chorus, phase, special features, and amp sounds coming from one guitar all at once!

More recently, I’ve been using my Morley ABC Switch stomp pedal to broaden and enrich my recordings from my electric instruments. I’ve got two rack-mounted multi-channel computer interfaces and three small effects chains, with three channels running through NICE tubes in good tube preamps. I plug the guitar into the Morley ABC, and A goes through lots of pedals to one tube preamp channel, B goes through a Seymour Duncan Pickup booster pedal to another tube preamp channel, and C goes through a funky old Danelectro chorus pedal into a tube compressor and preamp rackmounted device. All three go to the back of one or both of my computer input channels. Sometimes, to throw in some spice, I have two-channel pedals in my chain: Since my computer input devices are 8+ ¼-inch mono input channels, I actually have the second output of my chorus pedals and my Sitar pedal all feeding to the inputs. In some setups, I’ve got 7 individual channeled inputs from my guitar into my recording.

Most of the time, I’m just running one or two channels through my good tubes for the recordings. It is awesome, however, to make entirely new sounds in my recordings with the simple click (or three) of my Morley ABC Switch.

There are other great Morley products, too! Click here to see lots more at zZounds! They guarantee you’ll love your gear!

There’s another useful way (of the many) to use a Morley ABC: One ¼ instrument input going out to two amps with A and B, C going to a tuner pedal or tuner rack component. The tuner can be on all the time without causing any signal interruptions or noise in the actual amplified channels. Nice!

Wishes and Wants

Honestly, I don’t think I have any wishes and wants on this gear: the Morley ABC Switch Box stomp pedal is JUST RIGHT and is the F-150, the Cadillac, and the Mercedes of stomp-switchers. I like it just like it is.

Peterson Tuners’ StroboSoft Mac/Windows Software Tuner Review – Still going strong after years of use!

I first wrote this post December 10, 2007. I still use StroboSoft EVERY day on a variety of computers. I hardly use a hardware tuner when I’m noodling through the computer. I now use my iPhone StroboSoft app for hardware/living room tuning… even the occasional gig situation!

Peterson Tuners StroboSoft Tuning Software Review

I record many different types of music via my computer. I use guitars, basses, keyboards, and mic-recorded vocals and acoustic sounds/instruments. I am constantly in need of a tuner which keeps me from having to worry about intonation issues. Chromatic tuners are great, but by golly, they really don’t do the trick for getting a guitar to PLAY in tune. Read on…

Guitars (the whole family, basses, 6-strings, 7-strings, exotics) and just about every stringed instrument are not well-tempered. Read about instrument tempering here. It’s fascinating – opens new window. Sometimes, just tuning your instrument to the exact correct chromatic pitches isn’t going to give you better sound – “in tune”, yes, better sound, no. I’ve fought the tunings of my guitars for ages (particularly acoustics). Tune up to the correct notes, play three different tracks together with the exact same instrument and the exact same tuning – sometimes the three tracks played together don’t sound too good. Why? Tempering. Lack of sweetening.

If you want to tune to the exact pitches your instrument plays, then the StroboSoft sofware (and Peterson’s peerless hardware tuners) will give you just what you want, down to the cent (a cent is effectively a hundredth of a tone). But, some technologies help you by giving you “sweetened tunings” – these tunings include the famous and wonderful Buzz Felten tuning system sweetening settings. There are other excellent tunings available to warm and broaden your harmonic and melodic sounds. With StroboSoft, you can spend your time with your music, not with fiddling with your tuner for hours on end.
StroboSoft Setup Window
Peterson’s hardware strobe tuners are the best of the best of the best. I’ve been interacting with them since I was in school band back in the seventies. Recent Peterson Tuners for guitar, bass and other stringed instruments include sweetened tunings. StroboSoft Deluxe also includes sweetened tunings – all of which work WONDERS for your music and your ears!

I love using Peterson StroboSoft on my computers, but I also love the new Peterson StroboClip tuner! This thing fits in most any case or gig bag and works with just about anything with strings, electric or acoustic! Check this thing out. I use it while I’m doing guitar tech work.

If you’d like to read more about StroboSoft in detail, you can visit the StroboSoft site here:StroboSoft.

Quick Opinion: Buy this piece of software. Buy this piece of software. Buy this piece of software. Really: Buy this piece of software. Your music will sound better, your music will flow better, you’ll have more time to work on your music… Buy this piece of software. Have you bought it yet? Don’t wait. Do it now. Really.

If you’re gigging, playing outside a studio, or on the road – invest in a hardware Peterson Tuner (and take StroboSoft’s capability with you). The hardware tuners are more expensive than the average hardware tuner, but they are worth it. At some point, I’m going to save up enough sheckels and buy a StroboStomp or the rack version for myself… Their hardware is well worth twice (or more) than their current street prices.

StroboSoft sweetened tuning example window

Features: StroboSoft is a snap to use. Install it, go to the setup tab, select your instrument input hardward device, click on “Instrument tune”, then choose what kind of tuning you want (6 String electric? 6 String Acoustic? Sweetened? 5 String Bass?). Pluck your strings, and work your tuners/slides/instrument tuning device until the strobe stops moving up or down. You’re done.

Set up for the first time takes very little time. Just take a few minutes to read their introduction, set it up, and GO. YOUR music will be sweeter, warmer, and more natural-sounding in a few minutes. Be sure to check out and set up the noise canceling feature (so it can tune easier, even on a noisy guitar or mic) – once you’re up and running and understand what the tuner’s doing.

Quality: I have had no issues whatsoever with StroboSoft on any of the three computers I use for recording. It has never crashed, misbehaved, or given me the first issue. Flawless.

In case you’re wondering, this review is glowing because the product REALLY deserves it – not because of any other factor.
StroboSoft Chromatic Tune Window

Value: In my opinion, this software is worth at least as much as Peterson Tuners’ StroboFlip and StroboStomp hardware. I’m very impressed (and, frankly very, very happy) that it costs so little. The forums get answered, the emails get answered, the folks at Peterson care about their customers, and you cannot find a better value on the market.

Support? I’ve needed to have a license re-set a few times (hardware crash, etc.) They’ve always been GREAT. I love their support peeps.

Period.

Wishes: I’d love to see a Mac OSX dashboard widget interface to StroboSoft… just a thought…

M-Audio MobilePre USB Computer Recording Interface Review – An oldie but goodie! Great gear

I originally wrote this review April 12, 2007. I still use one of these from time to time on travel recordings… Good stuff, still supported by even the latest Mac OS and Windows… still going strong!

M-Audio MobilePre USB Guitar/Microphone Recording Interface and Mic Pre Review

Tons of people now own computers that are capable of recording music. Processors, hard drives, and RAM are now sufficient to (at least) record music and store it on their disks. Macintoshes with OSX now ship with GarageBand – an excellent means of recording – simple, effective, and transparent (it doesn’t get in the way of the creative process).

The market has become filled with recording interfaces for personal computers. There are some that are ultra-basic and well-suited for jamming along with your favorite music. There are also some that are very high-end, with huge mixer interfaces and large numbers of instrument/mic inputs.

What do you do if you want to record one or two instruments/mics at a time? What if your budget is tight, and you want to get started with making music, voice, or sound effect recordings? I’ve found the MobilePre USB from M-Audio to be an excellent starting point. Although I have more advanced recording equipment and gear, I still keep my MobilePre around to do clean-channel acoustic recordings and to do on-the-go recordings.
You can see more about the M-Audio Mobile Pre (now V2!) here at zZounds.com – Still a bargain 5 years later!

Bear in mind that I could write an entire book on using the MobilePre in the recording process, along with its nuances, its quirks, its strengths, and its weaknesses. But I will keep this review in the realm of just that – a review (not a how-to). Perhaps, I’ll have some time someday to write a user-friendly “how to” on making recordings with the MobilePre… Things are so hectic that I don’t usually have enough time to write a book or tutorial, though…

Quick Opinion: The M-Audio USB MobilePre is a superior and excellent choice for simple/beginner computer-based recording and for computer-based recording on-the-go. Throw this box in your laptop bag with an A-B USB cable, grab your instrument(s) and mic(s) and go. You can record sitting on the porch of a vacation room. You can record that fleeting idea sitting in the hotel room on a business or vacation trip. When one part of the house gets noisy, grab your bits and go to another part of the house. The MobilePre is simple and extremely portable.

It has two input channels, headphone out, stereo mini-plug out, L/R 1/4″ out, stereo mini-plug in, and a single USB cable port. It is powered by the USB connection. It weighs less than a stack of CDs. It is clean, class-compliant, and has a wide range of drivers and freebie (“starter” or “limited”) recording software options. The M-Audio MobilePre is an excellent basic/beginner/mobile choice.

What’s not to like? Go get one. They’re a perfect reliable tool for everyday use.

Usability: Recording interfaces are not always as simple-to-use and elegant as the MobilePre. Really. It’s that simple.

There is one 1/4 unbalanced instrument input port on the front (Unbalanced 1/4? What’s that? It’s the basic mono plug guitar/bass instrument cable type of input you use to plug your instrument into an amplifier – in use for guitars, basses, keyboards, some types of microphones, and more.). The front port is the left channel input for 1/4. The right channel 1/4 input is in the back of the device, as are both the left- and right-channel XLR (XLR? What’s that? It’s the big-diameter, three-pin cable type that is most associated with microphones, but is sometimes used with specially-quipped guitars, amplifier interfaces, and more. Most often, though, most folks will use XLR ports to hook up a mic.) It is kind of weird to have one 1/4 port in the front, and the rest in the back, but it ends up being no big deal after you use the MobilePre for a while. You fall in love with the little box, and the quirky front input becomes second nature.

The left- and right-channel level knobs are easy to use and marked intuitively with a silver pointer ridge. The headphone output level knob is simple, too. I like the little blue light on the front of the MobilePre – it lets me know that the box is active, hooked up, and powered on its USB connection.

You get little green blips on the front panel when sound input is going in to the channels (one each for left and right). The green blip gets brighter as the signal gets stronger. Similarly, you get red blips when your signal is too strong (sometimes called “clipping”). The stronger the clip, the redder the light. When I’m using my MobilePre, I try to let my computer software input meters do their job for me, but it is nice to have the signal strength lights on the front of the MobilePre for when you’re not staring at the computer screen.

The rest of the MobilePre box is simple. Standard input/output ports… all are clearly marked, and the 48v phantom microphone button is simple to use. It is light, easy, and intuitive (if you’re already familiar with the ports). If you’re a complete newbie to recording, devices, and ports, the MobilePre is a comfortable, hard-to-mess-up box with which you can learn.

Compatibility: The M-Audio MobilePre is “class compliant” with some computer operating systems, including Mac OSX. I most often use Mac OSX, and I’ve always been able to plug in the MobilePre and rip sounds into GarageBand or Logic in no time at all. The MobilePre works with almost every major computer operating system in the consumer market. Sorry Linux and Solaris fans – I’m not aware of an official M-Audio driver for those platforms.

I won’t go into a list of what platforms are supported, because it changes more often than this review will. You can see the currently-supported driver list here: http://www.m-audio.com/index.php?do=support.drivers (opens new window). Bear in mind that as of this writing, Vista is not supported, and Windows XP Media Center is not supported. This may change – check with the M-Audio site.

One important point: the MoblePre works flawlessly and effortlessly with Apple’s GarageBand software (part of iLife), and with Apple’s Logic Express and Logic Pro software packages. I’ve never had the first fit, glitch, or issue with my MobilePre in GarageBand 2.0, 3.0, and Logic Express 7.1. NOT ONE. That’s cool. If you’ve got a Mac, and want to record music, words, podcasts, or other sound-based things, the MobilePre is an awesome place to start out.

Note that my MobilePre is a different color than the factory images:

Features: The M-Audio MobilePre USB interface has excellent features, better than average – and very good considering its price range. The MobilePre has one mic channel with phantom power – remember that both mic inputs don’t support 48v phantom power. It is VERY important to realize that not all budget computer sound interfaces have phantom power (Phantom Power? That’s where the microphone preamp, in this case the MobilePre, provides a little juice to condenser microphones or other mic-like devices.)

Its two-port (two-channel, left/right) design means that you can have two mics recording at the same time, or perhaps an electric bass and an electric guitar, or combinations of both. You can record real two-channel stereo with the MobilePre. (Bear in mind that there are actually four inputs – but only one left and one right can work at the same time.)

Bundled Software (at the time of my purchase) included Live Lite 4 and Reason Adapted (a lite version of Reason). These pieces of software were compatible with both the Windows PCs and Macs in my house. These two programs let you record sound, layer sound, blend, edit, and mix. Both programs are “starter” programs – that is, they are not the full-retail commercial versions of Live and Reason. Some features are not available in the “lite” versions, and certain limitations are in place. If your recording needs outgrow these starter programs, you can purchase upgrades from these starter packages at a reduced rate.

Sound: Clean. Quiet. No bones about it. The M-Audio MobilePre USB box captures as good a sound as you can muster. Of course – your experience, your wiring, recording environment, and recording gear have a great deal to do with the quality of your recording. However, this device adds NOTHING to your recording. It is very clean.

Downside? It doesn’t really have a lot of “oomph” for recordings… if you want brilliant acoustic sound, you should add a tube mic preamp between the mic and the Mobile-Pre… this also solves the “only one phantom power” thing…

For my acoustic recordings, either voice or instrument (acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, mandolin, banjo, dulcimer, etc.), I use a nice tube pre-amp to warm up the sound. The MobilePre is very, very clean on acoustic inputs, but is very, very quiet. Sometimes it’s nice to add some warmth and punch to your acoustic recordings. I’ll try to write about that another day. If you’d like questions answered, some basic advice, or have questions, post a contact question to me and I’d be glad to try to help.

Value: The MobilePre USB interface is a bargain. I think it is worth more than it sells for (street price), but I think it is intelligent to market it in the $150 range… (marketing: maybe run occasional $129 “special sales”?)

You can spend $99 to $699 for basic computer recording interfaces – but no single one of them can compete with the features, number of ports, extreme light weight, durability, and overall compatibility of the MobilePre.

I have been asked a great many times about my opinions of starter/beginning recording devices. It is rare that I don’t recommend the M-Audio MobilePre. Even more interesting, I’ve found that folks keep their MobilePres and still use them after they become more advanced at their craft, and after they’ve bought more advanced and expensive equipment. I have more than one interface, and I’m still using my MobilePre for certain acoustic things and for travel.

Wishes: I think that it should be very clear in packaging, or more importantly, web site data, what computer operating systems are NOT supported at the time of purchase, or at least give folks a super-simplified means of looking up compatibility before they purchase.

I like VU Meters. They’re cool and they make me remember the days of old tube stereos – VU meters would be nice. But, since the MobilePre is so inexpensive and so lightweight, I guess VU meters can be left out. Perhaps a “MobilePre Pro” that would give us all back access, lit VU meters, and dual phantom power (one for both left and right)? M-Audio, are you listening? 🙂