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JHS Colour Box Preamp Pedal Reviews

4.0 stars based on 9 customer reviews
Questions about the JHS Colour Box Preamp Pedal?

Questions about the JHS Colour Box Preamp Pedal?

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Sweetwater Advice

  • Keith Klikas

    I could never imagine taking my JHS Colour Box off my pedalboard. Like most people, I can't always crank up my amp to get the tone that I want. I got a Colour Box to stick at the end of my pedalboard for late-night practice sessions and recording. I enjoyed the tone and sonic control right away, so I tried plugging it into my amp. It was amazing! This pedal has helped me dial in vintage clean tones I could never get before. I also love the way is stacks with overdrive pedals, especially when pushed into the fuzz range.

  • Zach Neels

    The JHS Colour Box is one of the coolest pedals on the planet. I've used it as a classic overdrive in front of my amps, a DI for my bass, and a simple preamp for my mic. It's a great way to get a single channel of a vintage-flavored console tone!

  • Customer
    from December 15, 2015

    Worth every penny!

    Very impressed by this pedal, which is so much more than just a pedal. Not only can you get crazy guitar or bass tones, it's a fantastic pre-amp for recording in the studio. I've even used it as a DI box when playing live, and it is simply fantastic.

  • James Meeker
    from North Canton, Ohio December 4, 2015

    Bold Tonal Shaper!

    It would be a disservice to consider the JHS Colour Box to be a 'distortion pedal.' Instead, the Colour Box is a multi-purpose tool that is a vital studio tool. This Swiss Army Knife device functions as: (1) an instrument level DI, (2) a line level tone shaper, (3) an EQ, or (4) a console-themed overdrive/distortion device. Because of its unique "I'm a console strip in a box" concept, the Colour Box offers a wide range of sounds at your disposal. Its base sound is rooted in the classic 70's console (Neve obviously) and can range from the transformer-laden clean to sputtery, circuit overload clipping well beyond the point of failure. Direct guitar is particularly stunning and through careful gain staging and radical EQ it is possible to capture David Gilmour's "The Wall" types of tones--big, bright, and full of life.... something no amp could ever hope to capture.

    However, the Colour Box is not restricted to just guitar types of sound. Synths sound equally good ran through the JHS. The degree of tone shaping ranges from subtle (but unmistakable) to overkill. I could see Trent Reznor loving the Colour Box for its range of overdrive, distortion, clipping, and 'destroying gear' overload. You can drive this thing FAR beyond clipping... to where it sounds "awful." One note: even on the lowest gain settings the Colour Box imprints a pretty noticeable sonic character to synths and keyboards; this is not always appropriate depending on what you are trying to achieve. This is not a "run everything through it because it makes everything better" kind of box. It has a very distinct, bold flavor that is either very obviously awesome, or very obviously inappropriate.

    The build quality is top notch, equal to any other top shelf piece of equipment. It is easy to dial in tons of useable sounds. The EQ works great and, while not versatile, is dead effective on a number of sources. Surprisingly the EQ is very phase coherent sounding, reminding me more of an API/Quad EIght sound than Neve. Personally I have always found Neve EQ's to be a bit 'grainy' for my tastes so I appreciated the clean, solid sound of the Colour Box.

    Don't let the price tag fool you--this box is a steal for what you get and the possibilities it opens up. For more mid-level home recording studios it should be a no-brainer--you get a DI, tone shaper, EQ and potentially another mic preamp for around 400 bucks. I may be going out on a limb here, but I can see the JHS Colour Box being used in almost every session by a home recordist. Hats off to JHS for not only a great idea, but a perfect implementation of that idea.

  • Lance Zechinato
    from Ellicott City, MD September 10, 2015

    Beautiful piece of gear

    I plugged in my Colour Box last night for the first time. My signal path was/is:

    1. Schecter Hellraiser C-1 RF-S
    2. Colour Box
    3. Line 6 M13 w/JHV3 mods
    4. Mac

    Note: that I'm using a Torpedo C.A.B. in the effects send/return of the M13 for nice cabinet emulation, with insert point (on the M13) set to "after FX1".

    High-level evaluation:
    At first, I was disappointed. I couldn't find any kind of "clean" tone with my guitar, no matter how I dialed the Colour Box gain knobs. I coaxed some big, spitty "console" overdrive tones out of it. But no matter how I tweaked it, there was nothing I could use for clean guitar. THEN, it dawned on me! The Schecter is very HOT output-wise. I dialed back the guitar's volume knob, and the sky opened up. Ahhhh... beautiful.

    More info:
    Once I figured out how to make clean guitar tone through the Colour Box -- and the first time (I think, ever!) that I've made significant use of my guitar's volume knob for anything besides volume swells -- I was sort of transfixed by what I was hearing. I'd put the Colour Box in bypass, then activate it, then deactivate it, then activate it, so I could get a good idea what I was hearing. The mids were just sweet and musical, and it seemed to be compressing the signal a little. It added a kind of satisfying richness to the whole midrange of the signal, and the pick and hammer-on/pull-off articulations were just beautiful.

    The way I set the Colour Box for clean -- remember *with* my guitar volume knob rolled back almost halfway -- was as follows: Master @ 3 o'clock, Pre-Vol @ 1 o'clock, Step @ 7 o'clock, Treble @ 3 o'clock, Middle @ 2 o'clock, Bass @ 1 o'clock. The Hi Pass is deactivated. Amazing. I was thinking, "I may never turn this off." It just sounded so good to me. Almost "intangibly" more pleasing, though I think I've done it some justice with my description above.

    Anyway, I love it. Can't wait to record with it.

  • Tonedog
    from Austin, TX March 11, 2015Music Background:
    Pro Musician

    Magic & Vital

    Sure, it's not *exactly* the same as the legendary Neve console from which JHS took their inspiration. But it's pretty fantastic sounding on everything I've run through this beauty. As someone who used to dismiss any bassist who used a pre-amp or pedal in their signal path, the Colour Box has become an integral part of my setup. The powerful warmth and articulate tone added to my sound makes my bass sound studio perfect at every performance. The EQ allows me to set my live sound to sit just right where I belong in the mix without competing with the rest of the band. This pedal is all about accentuating the inherent tone and timbre of my instrument and playing style while making it just sound more fantastic and effortless. I really dig my Colour Box!!!

  • Eine Blume
    from Joplin June 17, 2014Music Background:
    Recording, musician

    Unparalleled in it's versatility, quality for the cost

    This little box is stellar. As a guitar pedal it is a tone monster. Dynamic, responsive and extremely versatile. The most musical guitar pedal I have played yet. As a mic pre it is even more. I have a $600 BLA Auteur 2 channel mic pre that I love. The color box is quieter and is a channel strip to boot. Frankly it outperforms my very nice preamp. I recorded some vocals through my Cascade Fathead ribbon mic today into the color box and can't say enough good things. I am quite sure it's not on par with a Neve console, how could it be for $399, but it sounds great nonetheless. The highlights for me are the 3 band Baxandall eq and the Lundhal output transformer. I'll probably buy a 2nd color box in the next year.

  • Simon W
    from Fort Wayne June 3, 2014

    Tone Overload!!!

    I have owner many preamps and tone shaping pedals and rack effects. This JHS puts them all to shame. The tones you can achieve from this pedal as limitless. I was overwhelmed by just how great this pedal works. It is simple to use and provides all the essentials of a great and timeless preamp. Any studio style you want to achieve is packed in this unit. Chet Atkins, Freddie King, The Beatles, Cream, The Who, The Yard Birds, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Black Sabbath, SRV, AC/DC, Rush, LA Strip era, Grunge, Primus, Tool, Black Label Society. This thing is able to produce past to present tones. It is honestly worth every penny. JHS has built a total knock out. I tip my hat.

  • Jovy
    from VA August 18, 2015Music Background:
    Gear Enthusiast.

    JHS Colour Box Review

    I ran the pedal (only) to my 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb and Deluxe Telecaster. I used Pedal Power 2 and used dual voodoo lab cable to run 18v on the pedal. First thing I have to complain, it hisses ( I know I have single coils I know how it hisses but it's noticeable). Then I ran this in order boost, OD, Distortion and Fuzz. Let me start with a boost (perfect) it's a great booster pedal, if your pedal is long and or just playing straight to the amp. OD( it's good) It's slightly gritty but not Tweed or Blackface gritty and it also depends on your amps like a Vox, Orange and Marshall. Distortion (okay) it's decent I'm not a punk, metal or hard rock player. Fuzz (perfect) nice and gated. Overall, it's a good pedal not too surprising, I like it as volume/booster/buffer. If you're a travelling musician that needs a studio console at your feet or a sound engineer that want a console at hand this is a pedal if you can deal with the hissing.

  • Matt
    from December 28, 2015

    JHS Colour Box

    The sound of the pedal was super cool but the bypass switch broke after just twice playing the thing. In other words "great sounds, poor quality."

  • Russ Flynn
    from Brooklyn, NY November 23, 2015Music Background:
    Touring Guitarist/Bassist, Producer

    Be warned!

    Be warned, this pedal does NOT replace a Neve 1073 (or any kind of traditional studio preamp). There is virtually zero clean headroom before breakup starts to occur; even with single coils, the 'step' control at it's minimum setting and the 'pre-vol' all the way down. In fact, to suggest that one could achieve anything (even remotely) close to a 'clean tone' with the Colour Box is false advertising. I, very literally, thought that my unit was defective when I first got it.

    It's a $400 fuzz box with a very malleable EQ section; plain and simple. Don't expect to be able to get a Nile Rodgers-esque DI sound out of it (as the JHS website suggests). If JHS had built the Colour Box with more clean headroom I think it may have been one of the greatest stompbox developments in a very long time. But, because it doesn't have that, it's somewhat of a one-trick-pony. If you're looking for a Neve pre I recommend saving up for the real thing.

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