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Good DI boxes?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Mice256, Jun 2, 2012.

  1. Mice256

    Mice256 Active Member

    Hey all,

    I was looking around and couldn't find a thread on this(maybe I missed it). I was looking for a really good phantom powered, reamping DI box. What are some really good ones that are reliable. I would be interested in buying a tube DI as well. What are your thoughts?

    I found some countryman type 85 on craigslist for cheap. Any feedback on this DI box?


  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    The Countryman 85 is a lovely albeit earlier active Direct Box. It's quite clean. It's quite quiet. I've used them, I liked them, I don't own any. Unlike a tube or others, it doesn't present any other gobbledygook features. It's simply designed to convert high impedance to low impedance. And it has a particularly nice high impedance input that will not load down guitar pickups. Nothing really to avoid in owning one. It does the job you want it to.

    Get'er done
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. Mice256

    Mice256 Active Member

    thanks! i appreciate the response! :)
  4. bouldersound

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

    Yep, Type 85. I don't own one but I get to use them regularly. I have also used a BSS AR-133 which is quite nice but has a bit more color than the Countryman. I do have a pair of Rapco ADB+8 actives that I like a lot.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The Countryman Type 85 is a very good standard DI box. However, you asked about re-amping, which is best done using a box designed for the job. I'm not aware that Countryman makes any re-amp boxes, but other firms such as Radiall do.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    As Boswell pointed out, you indicated you want to use it for re-amping. When you go to re-amping anything, you are usually feeding it with a higher line level signal source and not a lower level signal such as what comes from a guitar. The Countryman 85 is designed for lower level sources. So if eating it from a higher line level signal such as a playback track, you would most certainly have the potential of overloading its input. This would cause undue distortion you wouldn't exactly want. Albeit it may still work in your application? We all generally use them just as good quality DI boxes.

    Potentially, if you want to re-amp something, it's already at line level. You turn down the volume control from the device you are playing back from. Since the input of a guitar amplifier is unbalanced, you shouldn't really have any trouble feeding it directly from your playback source. In fact you might get a little extra crunch because the playback source has the potential to feed a higher level signal to a guitar amplifier than a guitar has. And going into a tube circuit, that might work well for you? We all like tube distortion. We all want tube distortion. So no big whoop. Or rather, that's what you get! LOL because that's what you want. All that flavor. All that soft overload. All that rich, second harmonic, even order distortion. Of course doing too much of a good thing is never a good thing such as drugs. Just ask Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse. No! Don't try and ask them! That's an order! Go back to your room and plug some stuff in. Then clean up your room when you're done. Now listen to your mother.

    On the other side of some things, if the desire is to feed a long length of line, greater than 10 feet/3 m? You might want to look into one of the many passive transformer DI boxes. But this will also cause issues. And that's because most DI boxes by virtue of their design, are designed to take a high impedance source and convert it to a low impedance source and actually reduce the level. When you use them in the opposite way, such as feeding a low impedance source to your high impedance source, they all produce more than 10 DB worth of gain. And you couldn't use the Countryman that way because it requires phantom power to work. No line level output source provides phantom power. That is only available on microphone inputs. So that's not re-amping. Although it would work with a passive transformer direct box you would be feeding a line level signal into the direct box backwards requiring a S-E-X change female to female XLR. This would take your +4 DB reference output to over +14 and you don't want that. (Geez? It must've been really late and I must've been really tired when I first answered you? Sorry about that chief.) So then you would also need an in-line XLR pad in addition to all of that other gobbledygook. This can get all frighteningly confusing. Pads in the wrong sequence can load down output circuits way too much. And I can blow things up and/or cause more undue distortion, the likes of which you don't want because it won't be musical sounding distortion. So really the most sensible action is to not purchase anything except a patch cord in which to feed your output source to your guitar amplifier. And then voilà.

    So get that Countryman 85 if you want to take a guitar DI into a microphone input and only a microphone input with phantom power. That device is only designed for feeding microphone inputs. We all liked him. We all use them. But only in that application. Now you could get a Radial box designed for re-amping as Boswell so intelligently indicated. You could get a standard transformer DI with XLR female to female & male to female XLR pad as I indicated. Or just a patch cord. But that's the way it has to be. There really isn't any other option/options.

    I'm getting progressively senile
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. matthewfreedaudio

    matthewfreedaudio Active Member

    So, take all that advice Remy typed and ignore it.

    You can't take a balanced output from your converters and go directly in to an amp, you will get a nasty buzz and you can very easily overload the input stage of your amp.

    Most DI boxes only work one way but a few work either.

    A good DI box is like a good microphone. Good DI boxes aren't cheap. That $30 RapCo DI box you picked up off Craigslist is a piece of crap. Radial JDI is good, Countrman DI boxes are generally good, Avalon U5 is excellent.

    For re-amping previously recorded material you need a box that converts the balanced, line level signal of your mixer or converter and converts it to the unbalanced, high impedence voltage that is an instrument signal.

    For re-amping get the Little Labs Redeye. Best thing on the market for this purpose.

    Production Sound Mixing for TV, Film, and Commercials.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I've been using the Radial Xamp for reamping. No problems. Easy to use. Sounds great. I have not used the Little Labs Redeye, so I can't compare.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Well, you can ignore my reply but you most certainly can take a active balanced output into your unbalanced guitar amplifier input without buzz. There are ways in which to do that properly. Obviously Matthewfreed tried it the wrong way.

    If your audio interface has a active, differentially balanced output, there are different types of differentially balanced outputs. In most instances, you would tie the shield/ground from pin one to pin three. Taking pin two as the tip to your 1/4 inch connector. But such is not the case with all differentially balanced active outputs. Some don't want to have pin three tied to pin one. That won't cause the buzz but could make it sound crappy. So you would not connect pin three to pin one. In fact, you wouldn't connect pin three to anything. You would only utilize pin one as the ground connection to your 1/4 inch connector and pin two to the tip of your 1/4 inch connector.

    The buzz problem comes in to play when you are pulling the power from two different outlets, both having grounded AC plugs, as it should be. So you should plug them into the same outlet. If the guitar amplifier is grounded via the third pin connector on the AC plug, you could safely utilize an AC 3 into 2 ground lifted power plug into the same outlet, for your computer and its interface. Then you won't have any buzz.

    Now Matthew knows what to do also. And it's freed.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. bouldersound

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

    I think the context of the original post strongly suggests that the poster wants a DI to capture signals that will later be reamplified. Given that Remy's advice is spot on.

    If you've had trouble interfacing balanced and unbalanced connections you should read this: http://www.rane.com/note110.html.
  11. matthewfreedaudio

    matthewfreedaudio Active Member

    If a standard DI box is needed then a Countryman, Radial, or Avalon (among many others) are perfectly fine.

    However, if the intent is to take a previously recorded signal and output it from your audio interface or mixing desk then you need something like the Little Labs RedEye.

    One is taking a High-Z signal in to a DI box in to a preamp to bring the signal to line level so it is at the proper voltage for the A/D converter. The second method is doing the reverse, essentially. Pretty big difference.

    Production Sound Mixing for TV, Film, and Commercials.
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I could say that I don't know what Matthew is smoking? On the other hand, since marijuana is legal in California, I'm sure he's treating his brain ailment quite well with it. While he recommended the Red Eye (see what I mean?) He indicates, and I quote " one is taking a high-Z (ACK that's wrong. Strike 1) signal into a DI box into a preamp to bring the signal to line level (ACK it's already line level coming from the recorder. Strike 2) so it is at the proper voltage for the A/D converter (ACK is already at line level so he's telling you to convert from line level to line level. Strike 3 and he's out of here). Pretty big difference. That's right it will be a pretty big screwup and that's different than doing it correctly. This guy seems to be a competent professional from the looks of his website but when it comes to audio I would trust him about as much as Bernie Madeoff. He is a plethora of inspiring and exciting misinformation.

    Here is the problem with his comment. All outputs on every piece of professional, semi professional and even consumer equipment are low impedance, emitter follower transistor outputs. All of which range in impedance from 1 ohm to generally not much more than 50 ohms. It was high impedance, it would be something on the order of 2000--10,000 homes and you only find that in cheap Hi-Fi's. And when you put a line level signal into a direct box it's going to boost it by another 10 DB and you don't want that. That's why you just want a simple patch cord or a simple line level, 1:1 transformer rated at around 10,000 ohms primary and 10,000 ohms secondary. If you can't get one of those, you may be able to get a 1:1 rated for 600 ohms. Just know that not much entry-level equipment can truly be loaded into a 600 ohms source. Even though it's possible, even though their ratings may indicate proper line level at 600 ohms, unless you are utilizing a premium piece of equipment you may not be able to attain full headroom to +18 DBm. Your specifications may indicate it's capable of +18 DB but unless you see that "m" after the DB, that means it's not necessarily capable of driving a load that low in impedance. So it could cause your output circuit to clip because it is being loaded down by a 600 ohm to 600 ohm transformer. So just try a patch cord.

    I wish Matthew would go back to his superlative video work? I don't make recommendations on video to people even though I do video and have been for many years. Just because I can do it well does not mean I'm an expert at it and neither is Matthew when it comes to audio. He only thinks he is. I just think he's been imbibing too much of that Wacky Tobaccy? I've done it medicinally for over 42 years but having lost my greatest contacts I've utilized for the past 20, I'm just going to have to wait until it shows up in the drugstores. You suppose they'll allow them to advertise that on television just like all of those other medications? I can hardly wait!

    I've been smoking cigarettes for the past two years but they suck. So I stopped. It was easy. I think everybody has been thinking I have been utilizing a new shampoo called Pall Mall?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. matthewfreedaudio

    matthewfreedaudio Active Member

    Instrument level is "High Z." What I was describing was the signal flow from instrument to recorder which, is what a DI box is needed for. In order to go the opposite way, from a typical D/A converter back to a guitar amp you need to take a balanced, line level signal and convert it to an unbalanced instrument level.

    Was that clear enough for you Remy?

    Production Sound Mixing for TV, Film, and Commercials.
  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Matthew, I know you mean well Buddy. But yet again, your suggestion is incorrect. And here's why.

    If you want to re-amp something, which generally would be a guitar, off of a already recorded guitar track, from the already line level output digital to analog computer USB, FireWire are even an crappy $12 soundcard and a bargain computer, it is still outputting a high level line output, balanced or unbalanced. And yes, we've all used direct boxes (generally a transformer unit) you indicated you would run the transformer DI box backwards. Yup, that much is correct. Here's where this does not work properly. Let's say you're computer audio interface, digital mixer has a 3 pin XLR connector.. You are indicating that he should take that XLR output and back feed a transformer DI box. So you would be going into a DI box XLR connector which would also require a XLR female-female adapter. Then you would take that normally a high impedance 1/4 inch input and utilize that 1/4 inch input as your 1/4 inch output. Great in theory but certainly not in practice. That's because you would be going from the smaller winding of the XLR side of the DI to the higher winding ratio 1/4 inch size. And because the internal transformer is generally a winding ratio of 10:1, it actually lowers the gain. But if you run it backwards for his requested application, you would be running into the low impedance input of the XLR DI box. And when it comes out of that 1/4 inch connector it will be 10 DB higher in level than the high-level it already started with. So if the nominal output level of your digital to analog side of the converter is +4 DB/DBm, your nominal output level would then be +14. And that's not a level that any guitar amplifier input wants to see. That's overblown, over the top, the totally, 100%, wrong way to do it. So while you are making yourself clear enough you are clearly wrong. 100% wrong. Simply terribly bad misinformation, wrong. You are a lovely and highly accomplished video professional that's quite impressive but you do not know a damn thing about audio. We can't all know everything about everything it's not possible. I've run up against plenty of you video guys that because they know how to move a volume control they think they know how to do audio and they don't. 99% of those video people are incompetent with audio. And for me, I wouldn't know a crushed black if I tripped over him. In a live television musical variety show, when we finish it, we all gathered around the reference monitor in the control room. The director, producer, technical director for all commenting on the crushed blacks. I couldn't figure out why they were saying that because all of them in the audience and on stage all looked perfectly fine to me and not under any physical duress.

    I'm certainly not here to insult you. But dammit man, you are another video guy who thinks he knows something about audio. And you don't, You may have actually, probably gotten it right on numerous occasions. But that does not make one a competent audio engineer. You are just too ill-informed when it comes to anything audio. You may enjoy it, you may have fun with it, you might record some rock 'n roll bands, church choirs, schoolchildren choral & band events and people liked your work. That's just called dumb luck. And then you think you start knowing something about audio. But audio is actually a cross between voodoo & Stephen Hawking. Between toddlers & astronauts. Between those who have PhD's and others who are as dumb as dirt. I myself am a jack of all trades and a Master of one. And I Am a master of my trade both in my knowledge and my vast experience. And am I making this clear enough for you?

    No animals were harmed in this fiery post
    © 2012, RemyRAD productions
  15. matthewfreedaudio

    matthewfreedaudio Active Member

    Jesus Christ Remy, what part of this don't you understand? I can't say it any other way.

    From the beginning I've been saying that using a standard DI box to reamp a signal DOESN'T work. In order to do it properly (aka, not the way you first suggested of simply hooking up a cable directly from the D/A converter to the guitar amp and lowering the output level in your DAW) it takes something like the Little Labs Redeye. From the start I have been advocating NOT hooking up your D/A converter directly to your guitar amp because you WILL get a nasty buzz and there is a very simple, easy, correct way to do it.

    A DI box takes a High Z, instrument signal, converts it to a balanced signal so a preamp can boost the signal to line level so the A/D converter can sample the electrical signal.

    When wanting to reamp your previously recorded signal, aka taking the signal out of your DAW or mixing board and send it back in to a instrument level signal...

    You would take the output from the D/A converter, Aux out, main out, etc and send it to your handy dandy reamp box that is NOT a normal DI box. Using your handy dandy reamp box the signal is attenuated and converted from balanced to unbalanced thereby setting it at the proper level for the input of a normal, standard guitar amp.

    That is how one properly reamps a previously recorded signal.

    Production Sound Mixing for TV, Film, and Commercials.
  16. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    It's funny how some devices really don't seem to care what you plug in at the input. I have fun with reamping sometimes and once in a while will just use a passive DI box in reverse. I know it's not the very best way to reamp but it works for me in some instances.

    But I have a Vox amp from '01 that is totally OK with a straight input from the output of my soundcard, as long as the volume from the card is attenuated properly. Slap a mic in front of the amp and voila.

    I also have a few antiquated reel to reel decks that don't care what you plug in at the input. I can plug a guitar or bass or soundcard into the tape decks input and get great sound. One deck has built in speakers (Tandberg Model 12) and I use it for reamping as well as a guitar amp.

    Plug stuff in, see how it sounds, if it sounds crappy then try something else.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Matthew really you must think I was born yesterday? Nobody made any kind of boxes like that for that purpose back in the early 1970s when I started out. And you only get buzz when you don't know what you're doing and you don't. You can keep your silly ass argument going but I'm sorry, I just happen to know a lot more about this than you do. In your case a little knowledge is dangerous. Stick to the video stuff. Because with the video stuff, I wouldn't argue with you. You learn from some audio mistakes you have made in the past and believe that what you wanted could not be accomplished without a little gizmo designed to do exactly what people who do not know what they are doing need done. I mean this is ludicrous man. Don't get your panties in a bunch.

    Are you wearing your girlfriends panties?
    Mx Remy Ann David
  18. matthewfreedaudio

    matthewfreedaudio Active Member

    Really Remy? You've been at it since the 70's? It doesn't show.

    Production Sound Mixing for TV, Film, and Commercials.
  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Really Matthew a man of your caliber should know there are many different techniques utilized, by professionals, to get what needs to be done. You can believe in one theory of operation. When you deal with live network television broadcasts, sometimes, different theories and techniques of operation must be utilized. In the broadcast industry when dealing with pool feeds all sorts of things can go haywire. You do whatever you need to do with whatever tools are available. It's that simple.

    30 years ago, I was thrown a bit of a curve. I was with an NBC news reporter and we were downtown interviewing Stevie Wonder along with numerous other broadcasters. Suddenly we were interrupted by a woman in his entourage who told us folks from NBC that an Air Florida plane had just crashed into the 14th St., Bridge. The entire city was in chaos. The subway was closed with two people dead in the subway. We had taken a taxi to the hotel so we were then on foot. Thankfully, in addition to the Nagra (For which I only had the AC power supply for) I also brought a handheld battery operated cassette recorder and an extra crappy microphone. I was getting plenty of eyewitness accounts of the tragedy. It was my job to call it into NBC NYC. So then we made our way to the 14th St., Bridge Marriott where you couldn't get near a telephone. I went upstairs and started knocking on doors. Four college gals had come into town for a good time and allowed us to use their phone and then they laughed asking us not to steal anything. I tore the phone apart stripping wires with my teeth. With butchering other patch cords, I was able to do a direct connect to the phone without putting the carbon microphone up to the 3 inch speaker. And that's thinking out of the box my friend. You need things just so. I can deal with succotash. And since we both have good techniques it all comes out the same in the end.

    So as a professional, we can agree to disagree. We both know there's more than one way to get the job done.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  20. matthewfreedaudio

    matthewfreedaudio Active Member

    The OP wasn't asking about how to reamp a signal in a pinch because of some unforseen circumstance. He was asking how to properly do it. Remy, your advice of simply plugging in a cable directly from the D/A converter into the amp and lowering the output level in the box is far from ideal and yields bad results. Will it work? Sort of. You will getba signal into the amp and you can reamp/record that signal. You WILL also get buzz (if the D/A is balanced and the amp is unbalanced) and you do have an impedance mismatch. Some standard DI boxes will pass signal either way and depending on the box, it may work.

    There are always worse ways to achieve the end, as you seem to point out and be fine with. However, giving people bad advice on how to learn bad habits does no one any good.

    A mechanic can use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail but its better to use a hammer. The right tool for the right job.

    Production Sound Mixing for TV, Film, and Commercials.

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