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  • How important is a DI box?

    Hey all,

    I know that a signal chain is only as good as its weakest link, but how much importance should be placed on the quality of a direct box (for electric guitar and bass)?

    I have a couple of Whirlwind IMP-2s, and that's what I've been using for most recordings. They run about 40 bucks each.

    If I were to compare them side by side with a Countryman DI, is the difference going to be dramatic?

    One day I'll have a much better mic preamp, and many units have a dedicated Hi-Z input. But for right now, I'm wondering if the cost of a higher quality DI (such as a Countryman) will pay off.

    Thanks in advance.

    Todd
    144 dB

    "A good mix is like a cocktail party... There is some action over here, some discussion over there, and plenty of room to move around."

    Hardware: Korg Wavestation EX / Roland XV-3080 / Roland D-20
    DAW: Rok Box MC 7xs / RME Multiface II / UAD-2 Duo / Cubase 6.5 / Wavelab 7.x / HALion 4.5

  • #2
    According to Whirlwind, the IMP2 has an impedance ratio of 133:1, and loses 20dB in terms of level. It's a passive DI, and all passive DI's live and die by their transformers - the little chunks of iron and wire that convert the impedance via induction in their warm little cores. Really Nice Iron (Jensen, Cinemag, Lundahl) costs - generally more for just the transformer than the entire IMP2 sells for, if that tells you anything. Not that they're awful, but I generally see them being used in touring rigs a lot more often than in studios, and IMO there are better passive DI's out there.

    Would you like the sound of another DI more? Possibly. It's like mikes - it's all pretty subjective. I'd definitely suggest giving an active DI, like the Radial JDV, a try. If you'd rather not have to muck around with a power supply for the direct box, you might want to check out the Radial J48, which is also an active DI, but is phantom powered. Active electronics means more noise than a passive DI (although with a quality design like these, you'll probably never notice it), but it allows you to change the impedance and the levels optimally. In other words, you don't get the signal level drop like you do with a passive DI. You also won't get the low frequency distortion on hot peaks like you sometimes can with a passive DI's transformer. And the loading (impedance matching) is generally better with an active DI too, which generally results in a more hi-fi or full-range signal.

    Passive vs active DI differences are definitely noticeable enough that it at least warrants a trip to the nearest store to hear the differences for yourself. Or just buy a good active DI from an online dealer with a good return policy and try it out for yourself at home and see what you think. Return it if you don't like it - but I think the difference will be dramatic enough that you'll probably not want to send it back.
    **********

    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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    • #3
      I have the J48 and it's pretty great. I use it primarily for getting a DI on electric recording before amp and pedals so I can later reamp as needed. The signal I end up routing out for reamp is perfect.

      But really, what are you using the DI for? I never use it when I'm tracking me playing my Jazz bass. I mean, it's great but, it doesn't have the mojo I want as a basic tone. For me, that DI is perfect for not screwing things up. But beyond that? I plug into an API and crank it for bass. That's got girth. The DI? IT's perfect. If you want perfect get the Radial.

      For reamping, it's a case where the guitarist is here now but won't be later. I can't afford to screw it up if I need to reamp later.
      __________
      Ain't no sacrilege to call Elvis king
      Dad is great and all but he never could sing -
      Jesus

      Comment


      • #4
        I have a couple of passive and active DI's.
        You can get a sans amp clone for about $30 and they sound
        clean and decent for guitar or bass and you can add trebble, bass mids and gain
        if you need it. I have on older morley JD20 thats basically the same thing.
        It will allow you to boost the signal over a longer cable run and compensate for
        trebble bass losses.

        I had a keyboard player who bought a fancier one that allows him to connect all 4 keyboards into
        the low Z mic snake when we performed live. It sounded well enough and was pretty simple to use.
        I think he paid way too much for it, but what do I know. I'm an electronic tech and he didnt ask my
        advice on the best bang for the buck so I didnt much to say other than bust him on what he overpaid.

        If you're just wanting to record bass or guitar direct, I suggest one of these.
        Cant beat it for the price. They use the same chips as the sans amp and have the same basic controls.
        You can get great clean tone, they have a low and high Z output, and you can beef up the tone and drive as needed.

        bass http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-BDI21-V-Tone-Bass-Modeler/dp/product-description/B000KIPUQG
        Guitar http://compare.ebay.com/like/380439278913?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&va r=sbar

        I do have an older sans amp as well and when you consider the difference in cost you dont get much more for the monsy.

        The options I use for direct recording are either amp simulated line outputs that take the signal from the speaker jack.
        This can sound pretty good on tube amps. For other stuff I use guitar presamps designed for recording direct.
        I have several of these and they can be bought cheap these days. i have several Digitec, Art, Boss, Yamaha, Rocktron and others.
        These do color the sound depending on what you dial up of course the same as any guitar amp colors the sound.
        If you want cloan sound coming from a pickup its not going to sound very good without EQing the crap out of the signal anyway
        so its a moot point. If you're using keyboards, I can see them needing a flat responce, but most will output a line level signal for recording.

        Comment


        • #5
          DIs do make a difference. (Disclosure, I rep Countryman). A Type85, or the newer Type10, are amazing sounding. I was kind of sceptical until I tried a few DIs side by side, and gatdang, the Countrymans added nearly an octave to the low frequency extension on a bass, as compared to a passive, and another popular active DI.
          Originally Posted By Trace-P38
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          • #6
            Thanks guys...

            In my setup, a DI is used to capture a clean bass, a clean electric guitar, or to capture electric guitar that will be processed with software (via amp sims). In addition to my Whirlwinds, I have a Presonus TubePre, but in my experience it runs too hot (especially with active pickups). I really can't dial in the drive at all without overloading the input/output.

            I'll give it some more thought and perhaps consider a Countryman or a Radial. Thanks everyone for the feedback...

            Todd
            144 dB

            "A good mix is like a cocktail party... There is some action over here, some discussion over there, and plenty of room to move around."

            Hardware: Korg Wavestation EX / Roland XV-3080 / Roland D-20
            DAW: Rok Box MC 7xs / RME Multiface II / UAD-2 Duo / Cubase 6.5 / Wavelab 7.x / HALion 4.5

            Comment


            • #7
              No problem. Please let us know what you think if / when you get a chance to try one out Todd.
              **********

              "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

              - George Carlin

              "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

              - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

              "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

              - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

              Comment



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