GMF Ai1 Acoustic Preamp/DI Box
By Chris Loeffler |
GMF Ai1 Acoustic Preamp/DI Box
An Exercise in Transparency
By Chris Loeffler
Let’s get this out of the way; GMF may be a new brand to the music instrument industry, but its founder and CEO, Greg Farres, has over 35 years in the industry, notable for being the founder of Ultrasound Amps.
What You Need to Know
The GMF Ai1 is an extremely portable, ruggedly built box that has the chameleonic-like ability to serve as a preamp for acoustic-electric instruments, a DI box to run into a PA system, a headphone amp for silent practicing, or a way to connect to nearly any consumer audio device. The Ai1’s multi-application status is hidden beneath an incredibly simple and compact form factor. At less than 4”x4”x2” in size, it’s hard to believe the Ai1 can squeeze in its two inputs, four outputs, and seven controls.
GMF's Ai1 gives players control over their acoustic DI tone through its 100% analog signal path. Controls include active tone controls for Treble, Bass, Level and Gain as well as toggle switches for Ground Lift, Phase In/Out and Shape On/Off, which provides a preset mid-scoop. In and outs include ¼-inch and ⅛-inch outputs, a balanced XLR out, and a pair of stereo RCA in/outs for preamplification with audio players. Power comes from a standard 9v power supply or even a 9v battery. The manufacturer recommends using an AC adaptor for optimum performance, but I didn’t find any audio degradation using a new 9v Duracell.
While most pieces of music gear are about what they add to the tone of the instrument, the GMF Ai1 is about keeping the sound as true to the source instrument or microphone as possible. The sound is transparent; it isn’t a "warmer" and doesn’t round out your sound, it just sounds like what you put in (and gives you a bit of EQ control along the way). Running an acoustic guitar with piezo pickups through the Ai1 yielded more open tones than the guitar's onboard preamp, and it had less “effect” than a couple of the current go-to DI boxes I ran it against. The range was full and the highs bright without getting brittle. The tone controls offer a musical range of tweaking without letting anything get too exaggerated, and there's enough output to goose things a bit.
The RCA inputs expand the Ai1’s uses to include headphone jamming with an MP3 player, and another bonus application is running your instrument through the Ai1 into a car stereo's aux input for campsite jams.
For what it is and its intended applications, none.
Given the number of uses, small price point, and smaller physical size, the GMF Ai1 almost classifies as a “must have” for any player. There are more colorful and expensive preamps or DI boxes available for players looking to add vibe to their sound, and there's deeper control available in larger format alternatives. But I’d be hard pressed to find a more pure and competent product than the Ai1. It knows what it is, gives players access to everything they need (and nothing they don’t), and is equally competent at each of its applications.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.