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Active DI Boxes?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by lostindundee, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Hi Folks

    I currently have a Radial JDI. It sounds good. I'm fairly happy with it as am I with the DI on my Portico 5016. As quantative needs are increasing, I'm in the market for another one or two DIs. I have been reading opinions that Active DIs (in general) are better for guitars and basses. Is this true?

    I have read several opinions elsewhere that guitars/basses with Active pickups should be run through a Passive DI and guitars/basses with Passive pickups should be run through an Active DI. I can understand the reasoning behind this but thought I'd run it past you folks. This is the first recording forum I ever come to and I've always found you folks to be level headed and able to cut through the hype and misinformation out there.

    I cannot remember where it was suggested that I opt for the JDI I now have but on checking on current advice out there, the JDI (being a passive DI) still appears to recommended by many fro guitars/basses.

    My thoughts on Active DI's are generally either the Countryman Type 85 or the Radial J48. I'm leaning more towards the Countryman Type 85 due to its enduring popularity. I'm sure I also recall a post by remyRAD where she wrote that guitarists/bassists would give a sigh of relief if you pulled a bunch of CM Type 85s out at the begining of a session.

    Any thoughs on anything I've written?

  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Short of a DI pre like aUA 710 or Avalon U5 - to name a few, I can't think of a better DI than a Countryman Type 85. And you could use it to chock your tires if you need to.

    I don't think there's much room for improvement, but has anybody tried the new Type 10? They claim they're improved on the T85 somehow.
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The J48 is in the same ball park as the Countryman. Slightly different flavor. Don't get rid of the JDI. I've had weird situations with flaky instruments/PAs where switching from an active to a passive DI eliminated problems. Worth keeping a passive DI in the bag.
  4. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Thanks Guys

    I have a Countryman Type 85 on its way from the US as we speak. I went with the Type 85 due to its enduring popularity and solid reputation. Anything that can last this long in the recording gear market and still stand its ground gets my vote. I think the Countryman and Radial both have reputations for being almost indestructable. In addition to the JDI, I also have a Radial X-Amp. They're built like tanks. I have to say though, I like the Countryman pics of their gear chocking wheels. ha ha

    I won't be parting with my JDI anytime soon. I can see why it can come in handy in various situations as you detailed Bob. I did consider the Reddi at one point. However, I just can't get my head around the price.

    I've listed the features of the Type 85 and Type 10 below. In addition to what's detailed, the Type 10 has a pad and a power test feature. I've no idea what differences lurk underneath in relation to the Type 10's electronics. It would be good as dvdhawk says, to get an opinion on how it is.

    Type 85
    An industry-standard with proven ruggedness, the Type 85 DI is a classic. Using only the highest quality, hand-selected discrete components woven into a single-ended Class A circuit, the Type 85 delivers a smooth sound much like a classic tube microphone preamp.


    Freq. Resp.: 20Hz–20kHz (+/- 1dB)
    Noise: -122dBu
    THD: 0.018%, 1kHz and 1Vpp in
    Max Input: 5Vpp (pickup), 300Vpp (speaker)
    Input Res.: 10MΩ (pickup mode)

    Product Highlights
    • Pure, elegant circuit design
    • Time-proven ruggedness
    • Exceptional signal-handling capacity
    • Rock-solid transformer isolation

    Type 10
    The Type 10 delivers unparalleled performance, with an innovative design that minimizes noise and distortion better than any competitor DI. Armored inside and out, expect ultimate sonic purity and accuracy from the Type 10 night after night, even in the toughest venues.

    Product Highlights
    • Supremely accurate response
    • Ultra-wide, flat bandwidth
    • Built extremely tough for the road
    • Phantom/battery power test feature
    • Rock-solid transformer isolation

    Freq. Resp.: 10Hz–50kHz (+/- 1dB)
    Max SNR: 122dB
    THD: < 0.001%, 1kHz and 1Vpp in
    IMD: < 0.005% (10kHz/60Hz, 4:1)
    Input Res.: 10MΩ (0dB)


  5. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Just tried the Type 85 today.

    I tried it using just its battery powering it and then removed the battery and solely used it with Phantom Power. I decided to record a third track using the Radial JDI. I done my utmost to get the levels set correctly. Not exactly scientific I know...just a simple and crude comparison I guess.

    Out of the three, I preferred the Countryman running on Phantom Power.

    The battery is only for backup in case of a phantom power issue right? Leaving the battery out isn't going to cause any strange issues is it?


  6. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    D-TAR is a manufacturer worth looking at, certainly for acoustic instruments. I spent a week with the DTAR and the Radial and was surprised to find the DTAR had a massive advantage in quality, depth and that elusive shimmer factor.
  7. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Thanks Jeemy

    I'll need to look into those when I feel I need another.

  8. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    I use an LR Baggs Para DI on all kinds of acoustic and electric instruments with amazing results.

    Most DI's, either active or passive, have no control over the sound other than the sound of the DI itself. Why not have control over EQ and volume? The Para DI runs on phantom power or a nine volt battery and it gets used much more than any of my passive DI's.

    For less than a Radial DI, get an LR Baggs and never look back.
  9. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Thanks Mark

    That's another one I'll have to look into if I ever need more. I'd never hear of LR Baggs before.


  10. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    The LR Baggs unit is very popular with the acoustic and bluegrass community. I see lots of them at acoustic and bluegrass festivals.
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    My Bluegrass ensemble has 3 Para's, a Countryman 85, and a couple 'others' built by the genius bassist. They're active with tranny's.
  12. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The Baggs Para is my favorite for piezo pickups on acoustics. The only thing I don't like is that it is so touchy about phantom power. You have to be very careful not to plug or unplug it while phantom is on. I am pretty careful about this, but the Baggs seems worse than other boxes in this regard. One of my friends got a Baggs Venue. As good as the para with more features.
  13. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    Nobody really answered this question. I ran into this very topic a couple days ago where someone mentioned that active DI boxes should be used on acoustic guitars. I don't see why this would really matter. Isn't it just a question of preference on how the unit is being supplied power (48V phantom over battery/ wall wart)? is there a justified advantage to using one over the other in certain applications?
  14. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Because it's easier to do it at the board, where I can hear the results, than it is to run back and forth between FOH and stage (or the control room and the recording room). And just when I get it sounding right in the room (to tape/disk) the musician goes and fiddles with it.

    I like the Para DI well enough, but the knobs are a little fragile. My favorite application is at coffeehouse open mic type events.
  15. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Piezoelectric transducers require a very high impedance load to sound right. Magnetic pickups also benefit from very high impedance loading. Transformers (in passive DIs) don't present a high enough impedance load for these sources.
  16. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    So would that apply only to passive pick-ups or to passive and active? People have used passive DI boxes for these applications for a long time. So they work, but maybe don't perform as well as an active DI would in these circumstances? If a guitarist has a passive pick-up then I should be using an active DI on that instrument?

    I have one guitarist in particular that has a passive pick-up in his acoustic guitar that is so weak you have to put +40dB of gain on him to get any sort of decent volume through the system. Would an active DI help solve this problem?
  17. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Active pickups are resistant to the loading issues of piezo and magnetic pickups. Active DIs often sound much better than passives on certain sources, even if the passive "works". I would use an active DI on a guitar passive pickup given the option.
  18. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    That's a good point, but normally, my Para DI is set and I never mess with it. On rare occasions I may have to turn it down and I have only had a couple of musicians...bass players...fiddle with the knobs and that was during sound check.

    In my experience, there is no comparison when running off a piezo pickup on an upright bass...for example. No normal active or passive DI I have ever tried can make that particular setup sound as good as my LR Baggs Para DI or my Fishman Pro EQ DI. I have slammed the board EQ and still couldn't get any bass out of some instruments. They just need a preamp to sound good.

    Here in the studio I have a 1920's 3/4 German upright bass with Fishman pickups under a relieved bridge and an Eminence cut down upright with Realist pickups installed. I have tried every combination of DI's in my arsenal and the Para DI seems to work better than any other on both basses.
  19. quesne

    quesne Active Member

    I realize I'm not adding much to the discussion by posting this 2 1/2 years later, but I use a Baggs Para DI with a McIntyre acoustic feather pickup in my Taylor 714.

    Everyone -- especially other musicians -- comments on how well it reproduces the natural sound of the guitar. It is really an astounding little unit. FWIW

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