Reviewed: Ashdown Phone Box

Pro Music Australia | promusicaustralia.com.au | Expect to pay: $229

The Ashdown Phone-Box is a working bass player’s product. Designed to sit between your head and cab, it can turn an amateur rig into a professional one with style and ease. The Phone Box is a personal “monitoring exchange system” that allows for extra routing without multiple units and cables.

At its core, the Phone-Box splits your signal before the speaker cabinet and offers the player a balanced D.I., line out and two headphone outputs (both ¼” and 3.5mm) on top of their normal tone from their cabinet. The signal is intercepted by speakON inputs, and the robust, solid chassis of the Phone-Box will be equally prepared for touring and constant studio use. The headphone out can also be used for more accurate practice and rehearsal, offering the player a direct feed of their playing in conjunction with their speaker sound.

 

The Phone-Box offers a great solution to bands wanting maximum control of their rigs. A standard head and cab can be used, while a line out can be sent to a mixer that is feeding a wireless in-ear-monitoring system, or IEM. This offers a bass player complete control of their IEM system, which is often controlled by either a venue’s sound engineer, or forking out for a more expensive monitoring system. In the studio, this unit offers an easy way to split out a bass signal and record a speaker cabinet, effected line out, as well as balanced D.I. (albeit post-amplifier) from the single unit. While a D.I. is most commonly used before pedals and the amplifier, this simply offers even more solutions for ready-to-mix bass sounds. Use both the D.I. and Line Out, and you’ve got plenty of options for a mix of any genre, to either blend together and commit, or to pick-and-choose the ideal tone for any section of a song or record.

 

At a glance, the Phone-Box features two speakON inputs, a balanced D.I. via an XLR, a ¼” line out and both 3.5mm and ¼” headphone outs. The Line Out can be used to record direct to an audio interface, as can the balanced XLR D.I. The speakONs offer no attenuation, and are simply a way to split up your signal for either wet effects or monitoring. Unfortunately the unit doesn’t feature any volume controls, so your headphone outs are at the mercy of the volume of your amp, or vice versa. Obviously this would make the unit much more complicated and costly, but an external mixer or similar would be required to lower the gain on your amp, monitoring or D.I. The metal chassis protects the circuitry inside, and all the ins and outs would be safe from the rigors of the stage or studio, be it coffee, beer, sweat, condensation, vibrations and stage-moves gone-awry.

 

The Ashdown Phone-Box is a tidy and compact solution to a bunch of routing that often requires multiple units. While the Phone-Box admittedly isn’t reinventing the wheel, it’s placing a bunch of commonly used routing into one, well-made unit. The ins and outs are clearly labelled and well laid out, ensuring it stays out of the way and serves its purpose: opening doors to new tones. The Phone-Box can be used to pave the way to clear and concise IEM monitoring for bands, without the hassle and expense of massive rigs for this purpose. Bands can also retain more control of their mix, intercepting the signal before it hits front-of-house. The unit, as is everything from Ashdown, is well made, designed for a specific purpose and really nails the task at hand. So well, in fact, that I’ll take two please!

Hits and Misses

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Well-built; robust

Inconspicuous size

Well-laid out nicely organised face-plate

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All outputs controlled by amplifier in level; no internal gain control

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