December 16, 2020
I often find myself jealous of bassists. So many of them seem to be able to walk into almost ANY gig with just their instrument and a DI Box. Sadly, we guitarists can’t get away with this and because of it many don’t see the value in owning a DI Box. But we believe there is a TON of value in having a DI box in your gear toolbox. In this article we’ll show you some of the ways that you, as a guitarist, can get the most out of one. But first, let’s review what a DI box is:
JUST A BOX?
At its core, the DI Box (short for “direct injection” or “direct box”) is a simple device that was designed to covert the high impedance signal produced by guitar pickups to a lower impedance. The result is that you’re able to take your guitar (or bass) and use it with the large variety of outboard gear and recording consoles you find in recording studios. Without the DI box you may find yourself hearing unwanted distortion at best and causing serious damage to your equipment at worst!
So why is it that guitarists don’t embrace such a useful piece of equipment? Well, we have to admit that we often use gear that has produced iconic guitar sounds and we just don’t have a large amount of examples of “great” direct-recorded guitar sounds. But if we change the way we think about the DI box, we’ll see the benefits more clearly.
LAYING IT DOWN
The easiest way to show how useful a DI box can be is in the recording studio. After all, it’s where the DI box was invented. And if it works in large recording studios it can work in the home or project studio!
Over the last few years, we’ve become big fans of the new generation of guitar amp sim plugins and software. When it comes to getting the most out of these pieces of software a DI box is a necessity! It also gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to gain-staging. You’ll have a lot more control over the input gain, EQ and output level. All of this means a greater potential for getting the PERFECT guitar sound.
Another great thing a DI box allows for is to record a direct signal alongside a mic’d up guitar sound. Sometimes, later on down the production process, the tone recorded with your microphone just doesn’t fit in the context of your mix. If this happens you can take your direct guitar sound and RE-AMP. This lets you take a raw signal and feed it into a guitar amp to find a sound that better fits your mix.
Lastly, whether we like it or not, modern music is quantized...or edited to sound perfectly in rhythm. One of the ways this can be accomplished is by using a DI track to accurately represent the waveforms of a recorded instrument. This is especially handy for distorted guitars. If you place the audio waveform of a microphone alongside that of a direct tone there’s a ton of difference. The distorted sound is large and often hard to tell where one strum ends and another begins. The DI track acts as a guide, cutting through the excess to find the initial attack of a note or chord. If your musical genre of choice needs that treatment, get yourself a direct box.
ON THE GIG
If you’re a guitarist who gigs out often and plays a lot of shows, it’s a good idea to own several DI boxes. If you play out THAT often, you know you cannot rely on any music venue to have a working, high quality DI box! And that’s whether you play electric or acoustic guitar.
Plenty of direct box options are out there to suit your needs for live playing. Although many options exist, in our opinion you can’t go wrong with a good Passive DI Box. Our FDR60 is one such example of a passive DI box!
Passive DI boxes don’t need any external power to operate. Some options are simple, and others offer a variety of simple but useful features. The FDR60 not only has your typical dual 1/4” jack and XLR output but also a stepped Signal Pad (which comes in very handy for properly gain staging you signal) and a Ground Lift, which eliminates unwanted hum from your system.
If you desire more features and tonal color from your DI box you can of course look through the litany of Active DI Boxes. But in our opinion, less is more and transparency is best for your signal and tone.
DIRECT TO THE POINTHopefully, with these examples, you guitarists will see the immense value in owning one, or several, DI boxes. Many of the passive options available are very affordable and can prove useful in many ways. It’s fair to say that DI boxes aren’t “sexy” pieces of gear but sometimes the least attractive pieces of equipment make the biggest differences!
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