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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The In's And Outs Of Direct Boxes

I built my first direct box when I was a kid way back in the 70's. DI's (which stands for "direct injection") were a pretty new thing back then, and I was lucky enough to see an article in Recording Engineer/Producer magazine (boy, what a great mag that was!) that had a direct box schematic, so I built a couple. I heard somewhere that you could use a little cheap transformer from Radio Shack as the heart of the unit, so I used that. The boxes sounded pretty bad (the transformer was crap), but you couldn't buy one anywhere since they weren't commercially available, so my homebuilt ones were like gold.

Before you knew it, every band and solo singer/guitarist in a two state area wanted one and I was inundated with orders. At the time I was gigging almost every night, and these boxes were pretty labor intensive (mostly because of hand drilling the metal boxes), so after making about 20 units or so, I decided that I didn't want to be in the manufacturing business and killed what could have been a promising side business.

I bring this up because Radial Engineering built essentially that same box, but used the excellent Dean Jensen JT-DB-EPC transformer to make one of the best passive (it doesn't need power) DI's on the market today.

I can tell you from experience from using them and making my own that all DI's are not made equally. The passive boxes that are built around a transformer really depend on that transformer for the sound. Buy an inexpensive DI like a Behringer and it will work fine, but won't have the big bottom end that you need for a great bass guitar sound. Buy a Radial JDI or one from another brand that's built around that great Dean Jensen transformer, and you'll really hear what a bass should sound like.

If you can handle some tech talk, Radial's Peter Janus provides a great overview of the JDI and direct boxes in general.


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1 comment:

Gian Nicola said...

Thank you Bobby, very interesting!:-)


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