I purchased a slightly modified DI-EQ direct from Dave Hall Amps UK last month. I emailed Dave directly with what I was looking for. He responded promptly and had the completed unit shipped to me across the Atlantic in a little over a week. Impressive!
I have owned and enjoyed a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with a Tech21 SansAmp BDDI for about 15 years. I was never really happy with the BDDI, but its’ form factor, flexibility and design were just so darned handy! The small, pedal-size box w/eq, di and a parallel out was really useful to me, but I honestly didn’t require the “tube amp emulation” from it. I use a real tube amp live- I just wanted a clean, great sounding active di with eq to send to the front of house. Plus, I never really thought that the BDDI sounded anything like a tube amp! YMMV, of course, but obviously having an actual tube amp mic’ed up on stage along with a “tube emulator” di was sort of redundant. I had some other issues with the SansAmp, but I won’t go into length here about them…
I tried the other contender in this range (the MXR M-80), but I didn’t love the overall sound & the distortion portion of the pedal was useless to me. This left me on a hunt for an active, high-output di w/ eq and an unaffected parallel out. Thanks to TB, I came across the DHA DI-EQ. It seemed to be just what I was looking for!
I’ve been eager to post a review, but have waited for a healthy amount of gigs and a few sessions to try and get a real-world perspective on the unit. I don’t really plan to use the DHA as a studio DI, but I did want to see how it sounded in my home project studio and on a ‘real’ session.
I did have Dave add a volume control to the xlr output. This way, I can actually adjust the hot output to satisfy the engineers’ needs on whatever equipment is being used that day- and I can mute the DI for diagnostic reasons during soundcheck. I like to balance what I’m hearing from the pa with the overall tone I set up on my stage rig. Alternately muting the DI and my amp helps me accomplish this. Features:
-9v battery or standard boss-style 9v adapter (also accepts any center-negative adapter up to 12 volts)
-parallel ¼” output (to send unity gain unaffected signal to amp)
-balanced xlr output
-independent level control for both the xlr & ¼” effected outputs (level controls effectively mute when turned fully down)
-3 position xlr ground switch (grounded pin 1, floated/lifted ground, and “ploat”- a resistor is placed across the ground which maintains the ground, but significantly cuts 60 cycle hum)
-3 band boost/cut eq with mid frequency sweep
-bright blue LED indicator (unit is ‘on’ as long as cable is inserted in input jack) Construction:
The DHA DI-EQ is housed in a very sturdy metal enclosure slightly larger than the BDDI. The jacks, switch and knobs are all secured with high quality metal hardware- no plastic collars or nuts (except the internal nut on the ac jack, which is standard practice).
The paint job is thick. Very thick. Aesthetically, I didn’t love it at first, but the custom Jackson Pollack-esque scheme has grown on me. The overall aesthetic is decidedly home-made, which has it’s own charm.
Oddly, there is one redundant screw on the top (face) of the DI-EQ that only attaches to an unused platic post on the inside. I wonder why it’s there? There is also a small ¼” hole drilled in the top of the DI so that you can see if a battery is installed or not. (Dave informed me that the hole was meant to enable pushing a 'stuck' battery out. Also, the aforementioned mystery screw/post is meant to be a battery retainer.)
The control pots are very firm feeling. You have to deliberately turn a knob- which I like. It’s unlikely that you will accidentally nudge one knob out of position while turning another. I wish all pots were this tight! The controls are hand labeled in black marker. On a very dark stage, they are a little difficult to read.
One minor construction issue on my unit: the ac adapter input has a metal collar ring/washer that looks like it split during assembly. (see pic) The jack still feels sturdily mounted, but this is the only flaw I could identify. (According to Dave, the ring is supposed to split. It looks strange to me, but again- the jack is still firmly seated.)
I also want to point out the logistical jack layout. There is essentially a knob, jack or switch sticking out of every side of the DI (except the bottom, of course). I do wish that the internal components could be reconfigured slightly to place the jacks differently. With my typical set-up, there is a mic cable attached to the top (face) of the DI, two ¼” cables inserted into the front edge and an ac adapter lead plugged into the rear. Add in the XLR level control on the left edge & I have a little bit of an octopus developing! Fortunately, this arrangement works for me as I generally place the DI either on top of my amp, or on the floor. Still, it would be perfect if the i/o jacks and switches could be located on 2 sides, rather than 5. I’m no engineer, but with a little effort I think there is just enough room in the enclosure to allow for this. Sound:
As mentioned earlier, the noise floor of the DI-EQ is very good. I’m shocked at how much boost and treble can be applied to the signal without appreciable noise! The mid-q control is very handy for either cutting troublesome frequencies or adding a little clean ‘grunt’ or ‘snap’. The low & high bands are voiced well for bass, adding depth or bite as needed. In a particularly ‘boomy’ sounding room, I was able to quickly cut some bass & boost the upper mids to find a more suitable room tone.
To my ears, the DHA DI-EQ does color your tone somewhat, even at flat settings. There is a small amount of ‘darkening’. In comparison to my $600 Aguilar tube di, the DHA is less open and has more enhanced bottom. Not really what I want in the studio, but it is exactly what I want live!
The amount of level on hand is really wide. I’ve had some issues with both my old BDDI & the Aguilar DI in clubs without great preamps. It’s great to know I can always send the front-of-house a little more juice if needed. Value:
Without shipping, the customized DI_EQ only cost me a little over $100. In my world, that’s pretty much giving it away! Seriously, you get incredible bang-for-your-buck here.
I don’t know of any other feature-rich active DI that can compete for less than $120!
The long & short? I’m totally happy with the DI-EQ! It’s just what I was looking for.
The noise floor is very low, lower than the BDDI. I can actually boost the treble without appreciable hiss/noise up until the last 10% of the knobs range. And, maxing the level on both the xlr output and ¼” affected output adds zero noise! The eq is flexible, responsive and musical. The output is HOT! There’s more than enough signal to drive sub-standard desks at clubs & the ¼” out can effectively drive the power amp-in on my Fender 300pro. My SansAmp is already sold & the DHA DI-EQ has already achieved “don’t leave home without it” status! CLIPS ADDED- post #16 and #17 of this thread...