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Passive or active . . . DI box?


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While I understand the basic function of a DI box, to go from an unbalanced input to a balanced input, I don't know when it is necessary or appropriate to use an active box instead of a passive one. When is the choice of an active DI going to be "wrong", and why?

 

BTW, somebody recently called a DI the condom of the audio world - it protects the parts that are being plugged together. Great analogy! :thu: Mark C.

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In a nutshell, if the source is active pickups or line level, you go with a passive DI box. If the source is passive, you'll want an active DI box. Some will say you can use a good active DI box for all applications, but I don't think you'll find many (or any) that'll say a passive DI box works in all situations. As for the technical reasons, give it a few hours - I'm sure the gurus of the board will chime in!

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I will use a passive box where I want to be sure of as much isolation as possible. Active boxes generally don't offer as much isolation, especially where it can be phantom powered. The very act of phantom powering reduces isolation. Also, generally active boxes have lower isolation at higher frequencies (RFI) and usually have a higher noise floor.

 

Where being fed from a very high impedance source (passive pickups), the benefits of a higher input impedance far outweigh the lower isolation, and isolation is not usually a problem with high Z pickups unless being interconnected with other electronics.

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