Hack: Using Mbox2 as a standalone / without computer (requires soldering)

Tools:

  1. Solder iron and solder
  2. Jumper cable (or any cut wire)
  3. Screwdriver set
  4. Allan key
  5. Scissors (to pry the box open)
  6. Multimeter (to measure continuity/voltage after modification)
  7. Mbox2
  8. USB cable with 5V power supply

I have an old Mbox2 that I used when I was a student at Berklee. Never sold it for nostalgic reasons. As time passed, the manufacturer stopped supporting the software driver and I even though I really wanted to use it as a preamp/mixer, I couldn’t just connect a 5V (any current rating from 1A to 2.5A) DC USB power supply and use it as a standalone. It requires the box to be connected to a computer.

Thanks to the internet, I found two partial solutions:

Here is my solution to the Mbox2 standalone.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage caused with this modification.

Start by removing the box’s stand with the provided Allan key.

Remove the three Phillip screws underneath the sticker.

Remove all the screws on the back panel. Remember to organize them in groups.

Remove the rings around the 6 1/4″ mono jacks. (Notice the screw difference used to tighten the MIDI ports and the others).

Remove the front panel’s sticker using the smallest flat head screwdriver. Checkout the YouTube video above, if necessary. The video suggested to have the knobs removed. I didn’t think it was required. Also, I recommend removing the front panel with it facing the bottom. This will keep the LED casings and plastic buttons intact. You can now slide the front panel out – slowly.

You’ll then expose four screws for the top cover. Unscrew them. Remember to organize your screws accordingly…

Then, unscrew the screws attached to the bottom cover.

This may be the hardest part – prying the plastic cover open. As they are not only tightened to the box with screws, they top and bottom covers are held together with double sided tape on both the left and the right side. Use common sense. For me, my best tool was the pair of craft scissors. Be careful with the amount of force you use. If needed, watch the YouTube video I posted above.

The back panel should also come off easily at this point. If not, try checking if you missed anymore screws on the back panel.

Once that part is over, you’ll find eight more screws on each side of the box. Remove them. Remember – organize.

Look, more screws to hold the shield of the box together!

… and more screws… when all the screws have been removed, slowly separate the top shield from the bottom shield from the back panel side, as there are wires connecting the top PCB to the bottom PCB. Sorry I didn’t take a photo to show this part. But you can roughly see the said wires from the 3rd photo from the end of this post.

This is how I organized the various screws.

Wet your soldering iron sponge with water (if that’s what you use), and turn the iron on. If you don’t have flux, I recommend melting some solder on your jumper cable legs first, then attempt to solder one end of the jumper legs to U19 (74HCT14D)’s pin 14 (in this case I soldered it to the via/little hole next to the pin) and the other to U23 (6N137)’s pin 8, as shown in the pictures below.

Test your continuity with the multimeter. If it’s all good, plug in the USB cable power supply to the USB port. The LEDs should come on immediately.

The working theory behind is briefly explained in the Mbox1 software bypass link, except that on Mbox2, the components have changed. In a nutshell, the original design of the box is to hold back the power to the amplifiers (MAX4488 ICs located near the front panel) to prevent any power surge damage to the amplifiers until the power is stable and your computer has completely loaded the driver for the Mbox. That’s the risk I’m willing to take since the box is of no use to me anyway if I don’t modify it. Furthermore, the surge risk is higher when the Mbox is powered via a computer’s USB port, as different computer manufacturers have different USB output power tolerance, whereas the power coming from a wall adapter is better regulated.

When you are ready to put the box together, simply reverse the steps above. When you come to the part of putting the front panel back, this is how I arrange the LED casings and buttons before re-attaching the front panel back to the box.

You are now a proud new-old owner of a standalone Mbox2!

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