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direct box or Shure line matching transformer

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Chris Harwood:
I have a variety of mid level DI boxes and a bunch of these Shure line matching transfomers (A95UF).  I honestly don't hear much of a difference.  Is this because they are all cheap, or my hearing aint up to snuff?
I just bought a Rapco DBR400 direct box (4 channel - very inexpensive used, but $275 retail), which I haven't used yet.  Will it be more of the same?

I guess I am asking what is best for hooking keys, guitar stompers, etc...directly into the PA from the stage, where I need to convert them to a lo-z input?

Also, not looking to spend $400/direct box, as I need 6 channels for my live rig. Continue using what I've got, or will the extra $$$ make a huge difference with my Roland synths and Line6 floor stuff?

Thanks.

Tom Young:
It depends on two things:

1) the level you feed into the DI or in-line (aka:barrel) transformer. Cheaper (smaller) transformers will distort when fed a "hefty" line level sigal as can be provided by a electronic keyboard or electric guitar or bass with active electronics. This distortion is more likely to occur at lower frequencies and during peaks in amplitude, as well.

2) the acoustics and system. In a very live space the subtle benefits of better designed DI's and transformers may not be evident. Likewise, if your system is not well designed and optimized and it introduces distortons of its own (combfiltering and other phase anomalies, distortion, etc) this will mask the improved sound from a better quality DI or transformer.

Actually, there are other factors that go into finding and using the "right" interface and/or the effects of the wrong devices. Impedance is one.

Chris Harwood:
Thanks Tom.
This will be in "non"-optimal situations... untreated churches and the best would probably be outside events.
So as I understand, watching the levels on my synths and floor stompers (going in direct) is the main issue.  I can deal with small "subtle" deficiancies, as in the "mix" it isn't going to matter much....or at least compensate at the source.
Use the little Shure barrel transformers and/or the $75 DI boxes and save the good stuff for the studio??

Dick Rees:
The quality of the input devices in the signal chain is arguably the most important part of the overall sound system.  Compensating downstream  for poor input quality is never easy or completely effective.  If you've spent good money for quality gear on which to play, then it just makes good sense to get what it takes to give as good a quality input into the sound board.  

Good mics and DI's are indispensable.

Chris Harwood:
Dick Rees wrote on Mon, 14 February 2011 02:35
The quality of the input devices in the signal chain is arguably the most important part of the overall sound system.  Compensating downstream  for poor input quality is never easy or completely effective.  If you've spent good money for quality gear on which to play, then it just makes good sense to get what it takes to give as good a quality input into the sound board.  

Good mics and DI's are indispensable.


I'm thinking I might have been mistaken with my "compensating" word. I meant to compensate AT the source.  IOW, if the synth sounded lacking in bass because of an inexpensive line transformer, I'd add bass with the synth patch, AT the source.

Additionally, I didn't want to spend 6 x $400 ($2400) for
Countryman quality direct boxes if I was only losing 2% (as a guess).  Since I already have DI and line transformers that do work, my $2400 might be better spent somewhere else.  But I do understand the "weak link" theory.  Thanks for the reply.

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