Updated: Oct 5, 2019
We’ve recently been fortunate at the studio to get our hands on a few bits of gear from someone who, sadly, is selling it due to him shutting down his studio. But I am confident it will all be used daily in one way or another, rather than it sitting about doing nothing!
I will get through all the bits of gear, but for now I’ll talk a bit more about our 3 new D.I. boxes. These little boxes are possibly one of the most important bits of gear you can have in a studio.
So what are D.I. boxes you ask?
Simply, a D.I. box (short for Direct Injection) takes an unbalanced high impedance signal, usually from an electric guitar, electro-acoustic guitar, bass etc. turning it into a balanced output with a much lower impedance. They also feature a ‘Thru’ output, splitting the signal to go to both your guitar combo and a second clean D.I.’ signal to go to either another recording track or to Front of House in a live scenario.
Okay, so why is this useful?
In a live setting you tend to use unbalanced jack cables that goes straight into your amp. Most of the time that is fine as everything is close by and the signal doesn't have to travel far, avoiding random radio signals coming through your cab. With the help of a D.I. box, it is taking an intense high impedance signal to a more usable stable level, cleaning it up!
Depending on your audio interface, most are fine to plug straight into and record. But a D.I. put in between that signal again will clean it up as you may be faced with clipping due to the instruments high impedance.
The most use personally I have for D.I. boxes is their Thru feature. Splitting the signal into two recordings from a guitarist performance.
1. Their head tones
2. The clean D.I Signal of the performance.
- Collection of images from our Cab/Head shoot out videos. Only possible with the help of a D.I/Reamp box to play the same performance and hear the difference. (See the video by following the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pouTriPkmE0)
- Nice to have Nova Hands in to help us out with getting those heavy riffs for the future Head Shootout Video. Check them out!
Since we are in the moment finding the right tones for a particular track, it doesn't always mean you’ll love it the next day. It may sound less weighty as you remember or not as bright. Thankfully we always record D.I. performance alongside tracking so it’s a simple task to get a D.I. re-amp box (more on this later) then sending your performance to a different amp setting, no stress!
At Vibes we record through our Little Labs Red Eye Active D.I box for all guitar recordings. It looks unassuming but comes with all sorts of features. For example, a switchable D.I./Reamp button to remove the need for two boxes, very handy!
So, with the arrival of two new D.I.'s boxes, we had to have them compete against our Little Labs D.I.!
Both D.I. boxes come with the 'Thru' output as expected with an attenuation switch but for different levels depending on the D.I.
The Samson MDA1 (Active) has two positions for attenuation 0db and -15db
The Samson MD1 Pro (Passive) comes with 3 positions 0dB/ -15dB / -30db. The reason is because due to it being a passive D.I. it will be taking in a active instrument, which will be a hotter signal requiring a wider range of attenuation to the signal.
-Picture of Testing recording with Bass with 500 series unit.
I set up a session to compare the D.I's and see if there are any noticeable differences to the clean signal of a Bass guitar. I chucked in our 500 series Neve 1073 emulation (Sound Skulpter 073) in with the comparison.
Thoughts or findings?
Unfortunately, there was a lot of noise coming from the MDA1 active D.I.! Using the lift button did nothing and the only way to eliminate it was to add the -15dB. Not a good start but onward and upwards!
Luckily, the passive D.I. worked a treat, it even shared similar qualities to our Little Labs in terms of tone and it's clean signal. Winner! Adding the 500 series pre-amp helped add more 'character' to the tone of the signal. It did make the signal hotter but using the trim feature helped attenuate it.
...Did you learn something?
Hopefully these insights have helped you understand the strengths of D.I's and what they are capable of. Never underestimate these little boxes, they may rescue a performance that you nailed on the day, but cringe at the tone of the amp later on!
You should check out the power of the D.I. box with Eddie Kramer who describes the impact of playing Jimi Hendrix's old and unreleased tracks through the speakers. Using his old D.I performances they can him bring back in the studio.
Check it out below at 56:40
Produce Like A Pro - Eddie Kramer Interview - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOS7YrFicsk
Also, click on our shoot out videos, particularly the guitar head shoot out using Nova Hands playing, which wouldn't have been possible with using a D.I.
Dan AKA Morgs.
Check out my personal Instagram page for general studio day to day life and below average photography of studio gear - @dandrinksribena