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Author Topic: Choosing a DI Box  (Read 1083 times)

jackmoore

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Choosing a DI Box
« on: October 15, 2018, 11:18:48 am »

Hi,

So I want to be able to get the church musicians going through the PA system and seem to remember this requires a DI box. How do I choose which one I need?

Is this a good one?

https://www.gear4music.com/PA-DJ-and-Lighting/Behringer-DI100-Ultra-DI-Box/2BI

Thanks,

Jack
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Lance Rectanus

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2018, 11:37:26 am »


Is this a good one?

https://www.gear4music.com/PA-DJ-and-Lighting/Behringer-DI100-Ultra-DI-Box/2BI


I can't recommend that one. I bought a very similar Behringer active DI for $20 (I'm US-based) and it worked for 6 months and then suddenly stopped. The one I had was powered by phantom power (48V) not a separate 9V power supply.

Do you need an active DI? I've been taught that if the instrument's pick-up is powered (usually by a battery) you should use a passive DI. If the pick-up is non-powered, then you need an active DI.

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jackmoore

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2018, 11:48:42 am »

I can't recommend that one. I bought a very similar Behringer active DI for $20 (I'm US-based) and it worked for 6 months and then suddenly stopped. The one I had was powered by phantom power (48V) not a separate 9V power supply.

Do you need an active DI? I've been taught that if the instrument's pick-up is powered (usually by a battery) you should use a passive DI. If the pick-up is non-powered, then you need an active DI.

I'm not sure what the difference is? We just want to be able to plug in things like an acoustic guitar, bass or digital piano.
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Lance Rectanus

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2018, 11:57:47 am »

I'm not sure what the difference is? We just want to be able to plug in things like an acoustic guitar, bass or digital piano.

If the guitar has a built-in pickup that uses a battery to power it, then a passive DI would be appropriate.

If the guitar uses an add-on type of pickup (something like a Seymour Duncan Woody (Google it) ) then an acitve DI would be appropriate.

If you are going to connect to the digital piano via a 1/4" headphone output jack, use a passive DI.

If the bass is plugged into an amp check if the amp has a built-in DI output, or a 1/4" output that would feed into a passive DI. If the bassist is using a number of the controls on the amp to get the tone he likes, it might be better to mike the amp.
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jackmoore

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2018, 12:08:52 pm »

If the guitar has a built-in pickup that uses a battery to power it, then a passive DI would be appropriate.

If the guitar uses an add-on type of pickup (something like a Seymour Duncan Woody (Google it) ) then an acitve DI would be appropriate.

If you are going to connect to the digital piano via a 1/4" headphone output jack, use a passive DI.

If the bass is plugged into an amp check if the amp has a built-in DI output, or a 1/4" output that would feed into a passive DI. If the bassist is using a number of the controls on the amp to get the tone he likes, it might be better to mike the amp.

Ok thanks! Is it possible to get something that works whatever? I'm just thinking long term the musicians may change instrument.
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Ray Aberle

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2018, 12:16:11 pm »

For DI boxes, you're going to find most suggestions centering on Countryman Type 85, or most anything from the Radial line. These are the "standards" for high quality DI boxes. Especially since this is a church- you want to be good stewards of your church's money and "Buy Once, Cry Once."

The Type 85 is a couple hundred dollars.

Entry Level Radial can be the Pro1 & ProD2 - $99.99 and $149.99 respectively. Both are passive, first one is mono and the second is stereo. Next step from there are the J48s or the JDIs. Those will start at $199.99 for the mono versions and go up to $299.99 for the stereo versions.

-Ray

Disclaimer: Kelcema Audio is an authorised reseller of Radial and Countrymen (through Shure) products, and stocks most of these products.
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Luke Geis

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2018, 03:54:20 pm »

I am one who believes DI boxes are the industries little snake oil machine. I own $25 units that sound and perform just as good as ones that cost 4-5 times as much. I will say that in general, the dollar you spend does indicate the quality you will receive though, it's just that there is a break even point for what you get vs what you spend. To me, that break-even point is right around the $80 mark. Once you spend above that point you are paying for snake oil or some other black magic that isn't important.

Considering your level of experience and your query into DI boxes, I would suggest sticking to passive options. They are less likely to have a failure and are simpler to use ( no need for batteries or phantom power ). While it is nice to think a $150 passive DI box will work better than a $50 one, you would be surprised to find that just about any $50+ unit will honestly work just the same. Less expensive units are prone to failure if abused and used very often, but I have seen just as many expensive units fail as I have seen cheap ones fail. So I would stick to DI's that are under $100 and go with a passive one. That will do everything you need it for happily.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2018, 06:15:04 pm »

I'm with Luke on this one.  As long as you don't go with bottom of the barrel DI's, the differences are going to be pretty minimal.  Yes, there may be some subtle sound differences that you can pinpoint in the studio, but of all the things in the audio chain, the differences you can detect between a moderately priced DI and a top of the line one are going to be hard to tell.

One thing is that DIs will color the sound to some degree. One would expect that on the higher end units, there will be more consistency from unit to unit.  On cheaper ones, you may need to do more EQ work if you swap out DIs.  Additionally, cheaper units tend to use cheaper build techniques so they don't handle abuse as well.

Passive DIs are pretty much a connector with a transformer inline, with maybe some pad resistors and a ground lift switch.  Not much to go wrong.  Cheap units may not mount the transformer well, so a drop could shake it loose.

Active DIs on the other hand can be any number of designs, and the sound quality will vary quite a bit more between models.  Since they contain active electronics, the potential failure rate can be higher as well.  Cheap units may have more noise than higher end models.

For the most part, we use passive DIs for just about everything.  Yes, some instruments might sound a little better with an active DI, but the passive can work just fine in a live scenario.  I personally haven't run across an instrument that didn't work through a passive DI and pass acceptable quality audio for live work.  That doesn't mean every instrument will. Some may be drastically different loaded with a transformer. I just haven't run into one yet.
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2018, 03:09:47 am »

Do you need an active DI? I've been taught that if the instrument's pick-up is powered (usually by a battery) you should use a passive DI. If the pick-up is non-powered, then you need an active DI.

More useful to get active as it can be used for anything.

I am one who believes DI boxes are the industries little snake oil machine.

I agree to a point.  They are not really being asked to do much.  I make my own.




Steve.
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Ken Webster

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2018, 06:51:55 am »

I am one who believes DI boxes are the industries little snake oil machine.

Depends, there are basically 3 things you want a DI to do.
1. Convert unbalanced signal to balanced signal.
2. Impedance match the input and output devices.
3. Isolate ground.

1. If you directly connect and unbalanced device to a balanced line, the whole line becomes unbalanced and is therefore susceptible to induced noise.  The whole purpose of balanced cabling is to cancel induced noise through phase inversion and you lose that entirely if you don't use some kind of converter be it DI or transformer.

2.  Some sources like electric guitar have a very high impedance (Z) output and directly connecting them to a low Z input of some other device like an analogue a mixer ADC will lose a lot of the rich tonality of the instrument. A DIs input impedance should be at least 100 or even 1000 times greater than the connected instrument and its output impedance should be lower than the connected devices input by a similar factor.   Some mixers have a high Z inputs for connecting high Z sources directly.  This should not be an issue for say a keyboard but is for pickups.

3.  There are sometimes ground or signal reference potential mismatches between equipment and this can cause the reference to oscillate between devices (hum).  Isolating the ground/shield eliminates this.
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2018, 10:42:39 am »

You don't need to fully isolate the ground to stop ground loops though.  Many DIs use a parallel connected 10 ohm resistor and 0.1uF capacitor to connect pin 1 to ground.  The capacitor makes it look like ground to an audio signal and the resistor provides a bit of resistance for the 50/60 Hz hum.

This is required to power an active DI with phantom power, otherwise there is no return path.

Apart from a few clever designs like the BSS 133 which has a fully isolatd DC to DC converter.  How they have managed that with phantom power's 7mA (approx.) current limit is beyond me!


Steve.
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Luke Geis

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2018, 01:15:26 pm »

By snake oil machine I am implying that some DI boxes are grossly overpriced. Heck the DI market is starting to even bite into the recording world. They now have DI's that they make specifically for Re-Amping. If you're not familiar with Re-Amping, it is the technique where you record the guitar splitting it through a DI into the DAW and into your guitar amp modeler of choice. When you record you listen to the processed sound of the modeler while the second recording stream is capturing the direct guitar DI sound. You can then go back with the DI track and run it through a guitar amp modeler within the DAW or externally even and have the same exact performance every time allowing you to tweak the amp sounds too perfection.

A DI in its simplest form has about as many parts as you can count on 1 hand!!!!! Some of the active DI's offered by Radial have more parts in it than are on a Raspberry Pi and all its peripheral project modules!!!! Once you break the $100 mark, you are paying for fluff. Some fluff is better than others, but an active or passive DI can be purchased for under $100 and they will perform perfectly fine. When there are DI's asking for a $300= price tag to be paid, you have to wonder how much better that product is vs. another that works just as well and only has $20 worth of parts including the project box.

Di boxes are simple and not exactly rocket science. They work teh same be it for Re-Amping or trying to get your computer into a PA.
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Choosing a DI Box
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2018, 03:56:24 am »

A DI in its simplest form has about as many parts as you can count on 1 hand!!!!!

Di boxes are simple and not exactly rocket science.

Agreed.  The simplest DI I make has one transistor, seven resistors and five capacitors.




Steve.
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