Test Drive: Voxbox from Manley Laboratories

THE FRONT PANEL

The three rack space front panel is a full quarter inch thickness of brushed and blue-gray anodized aluminum, with a stylish VU meter embedded on the left side. Graphics and labels are engraved into the aluminum, and the entire unit looks very classy and professional. Trust me, you’ll like this one in your rack; it’s gorgeous.

All controls on the Voxbox are either positive acting toggle switches, smooth pots, or detented knobs that click into place with a satisfying “thunk.” The anodized aluminum knobs extend out about an inch from the front panel, so it’s easy to grab hold of them.

The front panel of the Voxbox is well thought out and features some very good ideas. The PHANTOM power switch is a locking toggle that must be pulled out before it can be switched—a particularly good idea for knuckleheads like me who occasionally forget to turn on the phantom power until after I’ve raised the fader. This particular bonehead move has cost me a set of tweeters in the past, and the locking toggle is a nice little reminder to help me avoid doing something stupid.

Another thoughtful feature is the rotary switch under the cool-looking VU meter. With it you can check your levels from the line input, the preamp output, or the EQ output, and you can also check the amount of compression or de-essing that you’ve dialed in.

voxbox-rear-panel

THE REAR PANEL

The rear panel features connectors that are grouped into the same two sections mentioned earlier. All inputs and outputs are available on XLR and 1/4" jacks, except the mic input. Rightmost on the back is the mic preamp/compressor section with an XLR for connecting a microphone at mic level. Next is the line input, which will handle both balanced and unbalanced audio at a +4dBm level. The preamp out completes the first section. Interestingly, Manley claims that the 1/4" preamp output is the cleanest output for direct to tape recording, since it bypasses the output transformers.

The second section contains an insert input, which injects signal into the EQ section and is intended as a return for an external noise gate or other processor. Finally, there is the EQ output, which acts as the final output of the Voxbox.

Two Stereo Link connectors complete the rear panel connectors, allowing you to link two Voxboxes together and have their compressors and de-essers work in lock step. There are separate ground terminals for both circuit and chassis ground, enabling the Voxbox to function hum-free in a variety of studio wiring configurations.

UNDER THE HOOD

Of course I took the top off; what did you expect? I’m pleased to report that the inside of the Voxbox is as impressive as is the outside. This is obviously a hand wired and hand soldered product, and several signatures are visible on components that have obviously been selected and checked for performance. (I don’t know who Carolina is, but I’d like to thank her for checking out those capacitors.)

The PC boards are robust, with very thick traces that appear to be able to handle high current. The several input and output transformers are labeled as being custom-built by Manley, and it is obvious that the unit’s performance is in part due to the extensive use of shielding between the various sections. The construction of the Voxbox is all first-class.

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