If you use amp sims, then you know how frustrating it can be searching for the perfect guitar tone. Amp sims alone can’t do it. Sure, double and quad tracking definitely help. But even that never seems to get that real “tube-saturated” tone. This guide will explain the benefits of having a DI box and how you can get crushing guitar tones in your home studio.
- Capture the best possible signal for use in situations you may want to reamp
- Capture a mic-level raw DI recording so you can choose a different amp sim later
- Improves overall tone by adding tightness
What Does A DI Box Do?
A Direct Box (DI) is a tool that musicians use for both live and studio environments. Its main functionality is to take the Hi-Z unbalanced instrument-level signal and convert it into a balanced mic-level signal. This gives your signal a “tightness” sound thus making your guitar tone tighter.
Active Vs Passive
There will be two options out there when searching for a DI box: Active and Passive. What type of box you need will depend on your instruments.
- Requires power source from batteries or phantom power
- Has preamp to improve weak signals from low-level impedance
- Highly transparent
- Does not require power source
- Impedance matching
- Does not improve weak signals
- Zero noise added by active circuits
So which should you get? Well, that depends on your gear. Many audio professionals say to use an active DI box for a passive pickup guitar, and to use a passive DI box on an active pickup guitar. This is because when you pair active/active and passive/passive, you lose some top end and mid range out of your tone. This can be fixed later with a simple EQ trick, but in most cases it is best practice to capture the right tone at the source.
Radial J48 Active DI
This box is the best one I’ve tried. Once I recorded my first track with it, I found that no other Active DI compared. It is a little pricey, but it will level up your mixes in a big way.
Radial JDI Passive DI
I have personally found that this particular DI works especially well for pianos, but can be a great pair for an active guitar with a set EMG’s. With the EMG putting out such a strong signal, the passive does a better job of handling the hot input level.