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Author Topic: Passive or Active  (Read 3002 times)

Joel Colin

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Passive or Active
« on: April 03, 2017, 09:02:30 pm »

Hi,
I am looking to buy a series of passive direct boxes for the church that I do sound in. The instruments that I have are as listed: 2 keyboards, 1 electric drum set, bass guitar and acoustic guitar (with pickups). The bass guitar is having a mic placed in front of the amp, however the acoustic is running straight from Di through to front of house.
The question that I have concerning the setup is whether I should be using active or passive direct boxes. Some have told me that if you are using powered instruments, you should be using passive direct boxes.
In that instance, would the guitar be considered as a powered instrument or would I have to use an active direct box for it?
Thanks
Joel C
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Tim Hite

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2017, 09:43:39 pm »

Hi,
I am looking to buy a series of passive direct boxes for the church that I do sound in. The instruments that I have are as listed: 2 keyboards, 1 electric drum set, bass guitar and acoustic guitar (with pickups). The bass guitar is having a mic placed in front of the amp, however the acoustic is running straight from Di through to front of house.
The question that I have concerning the setup is whether I should be using active or passive direct boxes. Some have told me that if you are using powered instruments, you should be using passive direct boxes.
In that instance, would the guitar be considered as a powered instrument or would I have to use an active direct box for it?
Thanks
Joel C

Acoustic guitar with a built in preamp would use a passive DI box. Something like an electric guitar with passive pickups you'd want an active DI for.

http://www.radialeng.com/di-questions.php
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2017, 07:20:47 am »

Acoustic guitar with a built in preamp would use a passive DI box. Something like an electric guitar with passive pickups you'd want an active DI for.

http://www.radialeng.com/di-questions.php
You can use an active DI on anything you want to, including acoustic guitars with built-in preamps.

Other than potentially cost, the only downside of active DI boxes is you can't run them backwards in a pinch.  Every sound board made in the last 25 years supports phantom power, so the battery issue is no longer a thing.

I would do one of two things - either use all active DI boxes for everything - Radial Pro48 probably so everything is standardized, or go with passive for the multichannel stuff - drums and keys (ProD2), and active for all the guitars.
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2017, 09:27:21 am »

You can use an active DI on anything you want to, including acoustic guitars with built-in preamps.

That's all I ever use.  Usually a BSS AR-133.


Steve.
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2017, 02:03:11 pm »

That's all I ever use.  Usually a BSS AR-133.

Steve.

There is a down side to the less expensive active DI boxes.  They do not have a true ground lift. there for you can't get complete isolation and this can cause hum or buzz problems.  The expensive active DI boxes like the Radial J48 have a switching power supply and complete ground lift.

On the passive side, The transformer is everything.  A passive DI with the filters and pads turned off has a transformer and a resistor between the input and output, nothing else.

Disclaimer, I make and sell passive DI boxes.
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2017, 03:09:29 am »

The expensive active DI boxes like the Radial J48 have a switching power supply and complete ground lift.

As does the AR-133.

I also make my own DI boxes, they are active with high impedance FET inputs for piezo pickups.

Steve.
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Jay Barracato

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2017, 11:27:56 am »

If this is an established stage setup, this might be a good time to get a couple of drop snakes with the di's built in.

Whirlwind has had several configurations through the years.

Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk

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Robert Lofgren

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2017, 02:12:15 pm »

Be careful with high output devices like 18v basses as they can clip the active DI unless being pad'ed.
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Joel Colin

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2017, 11:05:14 pm »

You can use an active DI on anything you want to, including acoustic guitars with built-in preamps.

Other than potentially cost, the only downside of active DI boxes is you can't run them backwards in a pinch.  Every sound board made in the last 25 years supports phantom power, so the battery issue is no longer a thing.

I would do one of two things - either use all active DI boxes for everything - Radial Pro48 probably so everything is standardized, or go with passive for the multichannel stuff - drums and keys (ProD2), and active for all the guitars.

First of all, thank you for your reply.

I have one question regarding a previous setup that I had. I originally had an active Di Box (https://www.storedj.com.au/behringer-ultra-di-di20-2-channel-di-box-splitter) running out from the acoustic guitar (with a built in preamp) and then into front of house. It produced a large hiss noise, and I wondered where this was coming from. I then tried plugging the electric keyboard into the active DI and the same result was present. I then concluded that the Di box was broken. Would the hiss have occurred because I did not use a passive Di box instead of the active, because both instruments had built in preamps?
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Robert Lofgren

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2017, 05:23:04 am »

The di20 is not a good di. It is very noisy...

Their di100 and gi100 are very decent though.

First of all, thank you for your reply.

I have one question regarding a previous setup that I had. I originally had an active Di Box (https://www.storedj.com.au/behringer-ultra-di-di20-2-channel-di-box-splitter) running out from the acoustic guitar (with a built in preamp) and then into front of house. It produced a large hiss noise, and I wondered where this was coming from. I then tried plugging the electric keyboard into the active DI and the same result was present. I then concluded that the Di box was broken. Would the hiss have occurred because I did not use a passive Di box instead of the active, because both instruments had built in preamps?
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2017, 07:11:33 am »

First of all, thank you for your reply.

I have one question regarding a previous setup that I had. I originally had an active Di Box (https://www.storedj.com.au/behringer-ultra-di-di20-2-channel-di-box-splitter) running out from the acoustic guitar (with a built in preamp) and then into front of house. It produced a large hiss noise, and I wondered where this was coming from. I then tried plugging the electric keyboard into the active DI and the same result was present. I then concluded that the Di box was broken. Would the hiss have occurred because I did not use a passive Di box instead of the active, because both instruments had built in preamps?
Robert is right - your DI is very low-quality and/or broken; it's not an active vs. passive thing.

Generally speaking, active DI boxes were designed for very low-level devices like passive guitar pickups because their extremely high input impedance won't load the guitar pickup down which could affect the guitar tone. That said, a quality active DI can take a very high level as well.  If I remember correctly, one of the first active DI boxes - the Countryman 85 - boasted that it could take a 120v mains level signal without damage.

If necessary, the pad switch is there to knock down really hot signals.

Get a good active DI and you will be fine. The Radial Pro48 is a great choice at a reasonable cost, as is the BSS mentioned, however I prefer the Radial as the BSS effectively has an off switch that is problematic.
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2017, 08:34:29 am »

A guitar with a built in preamp or any guitar with a peddle board will work very well with a quality pasive DI. There are others, but any passive DI with a Jensen transformer is a quality DI.  I prefer passive because there is less to go wrong on a Sunday morning. 
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brian maddox

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2017, 08:42:46 am »

A guitar with a built in preamp or any guitar with a peddle board will work very well with a quality pasive DI. There are others, but any passive DI with a Jensen transformer is a quality DI.  I prefer passive because there is less to go wrong on a Sunday morning.

This.

I've spent frantic minutes many many times tracking down issues with Active Di's, but not once have i had a passive one plugged in and thought to myself "this sounds terrible.  If only i had an Active DI".  And that's even with relatively cheap passive DI's.
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2017, 11:15:13 am »

A guitar with a built in preamp or any guitar with a peddle board will work very well with a quality pasive DI. There are others, but any passive DI with a Jensen transformer is a quality DI.  I prefer passive because there is less to go wrong on a Sunday morning.
This is how I see it. The emphasis on quality!
I do keep a couple of active DIs for instruments with piezo pickups.
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Tim Hite

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2017, 11:55:32 am »

. . . not once have i had a passive one plugged in and thought to myself "this sounds terrible.  If only i had an Active DI". . .

That sums up my thinking.

I don't think I own any gear that requires an active DI box.
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Jay Barracato

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2018, 10:09:31 pm »

This is how I see it. The emphasis on quality!
I do keep a couple of active DIs for instruments with piezo pickups.
A good number of upright basses are running around with piezos and no pre-amps. I like a J48 for those.

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Luke Geis

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2018, 04:11:34 am »

The only real reason I have both types in my inventory is because there are certain things that do like the input impedance of passive units. Typically a passive DI has in input impedance of around 50k, this is fine for most things, but it can load down other high impedance devises. Typically you want a 10:1 ratio of input impedance to the source. A guitar pickup with a 10k impedance does not always like running into a 50k load. The typical impedance that most amplifiers have at their input ranges from 1meg. - 3meg. The higher input impedance is typically seen on bass guitar amps. This is likely why the early Countryman 85's were so popular with bassists. It has a very high 10meg impedance and it doesn't load down the basses passive or active components.

I have never heard a bad passive DI. In fact Active DI's are more prone to have electrical issues and a character of sound to them. Passive DI's even with run of the mill transformers sound fine. I have a trio of Rolls DB25 matchboxes that are perfectly flat from 20hz to 20khz at well above line level. The only way they are coloring the sound is if the cable that comes from the instrument is 100' long. These have a 50k input impedance, and I do notice that when an electric guitar is plugged straight in that there is a loss in hi's ( at least what I would imagine there should be ). Active units solve that issue at the expense of noise and a higher potential for issues. Loud pops when disconnecting, hiss and loud noises when the box is moved and the connection is disturbed are just some of the potential aggravations. I had a Radial active unit even take a crap on me mid show once........ Wasn't happy about that. The circuit in some of the active units is just way to complicated. Every single component in there is a potential failure waiting to happen. A passive DI can be simplified into a total number of parts that you can count on one hand.
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2018, 08:59:09 am »

A passive DI can be simplified into a total number of parts that you can count on one hand.

As built   Input jack, Transformer, Resistor, Ground Lift Switch, output jack.
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Jean-Pierre Coetzee

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2018, 11:23:40 am »

No jokes I have had a JDI not work but my KT DN100 working fine on stage running a passive bass guitar. I was still a lacky at that time but I remembered the rule in the OP, if its passive put an active DI on it, if its active put a passive DI on it so when the BE couldn't figure out what was going on I just followed the rule and swapped the DI for the active DN100 and presto it worked.

I'm in the camp of always use a high quality active DI, have been using the same KT DN100s for a few years and haven't had a single issue with them, and this is a church they get abused.
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Luke Geis

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2018, 12:37:09 pm »

The KT DN100 is probably my favorite active di. Mostly because you don't need special connectors to run into it the other way. Not a fan of the rubber purple jacket, but that is splitting hairs. They are a pretty robust circuit and the price is reasonable. I think you can get them for around $100 these days.
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frank kayser

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Re: Passive or Active
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2018, 01:43:51 pm »

This.

I've spent frantic minutes many many times tracking down issues with Active Di's, but not once have i had a passive one plugged in and thought to myself "this sounds terrible.  If only i had an Active DI".  And that's even with relatively cheap passive DI's.


Well... some "pickups" on acoustic guitars sound awful without a preamp or an active direct box, i.e., K&K Pure Mini.  Through the K&K preamp (optional, extra cost) or an active DI like a Countryman Type 85, or an LR Baggs Paracoustic.  The K&K Pure Mini require to be presented with a very high impedance, else all bass response is lost.


So SOME passive DIs do sound terrible on Sunday Morning. ...or any other time  ;)
frank
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