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Direct-to-board: Do I NEED a DI/balanced signal?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by bigcardinal, Dec 10, 2006.

  1. I will be playing with a new group in a few days. The band leader has a full P.A. setup at the jam space (1000w system, methinks) and told me not to bother lugging my heavy amp out there, that I should just bring the bass and go straight to the board/system.

    I am quite ignorant about this whole balanced/unbalanced/DI stuff and have to admit that most of my searches on this site leave me more confused than when I started.

    1) Do I NEED a balanced signal going to the board or can I just plug straight in with my 1/4" cable from the bass?
    2) Should I consider purchasing a balanced DI preamp for this situation?

  2. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    In that situation, you should be able to plug right into the board. The balanced DI is key when you have to run long cable lengths (25 feet +). Running a standard cable that long will result in a loss of treble response, and a loss of general signal strength.

    That being said, many like to 'warm up' their bass tone a little with some sort of pre or with a DI with some tone controls like the Sadowsky, the Sans Amp, etc. If you know you will be playing directly into the PA regularly, one of these types of units would probably be good... you would have more control over your tone, and you would not have to worry about standing close to the board (i.e., you could purchase a mic cable to run between the DI and the board).
  3. mimaz


    Mar 1, 2005
    Wheeling WV
    Endorsing Artist: Crook Custom Guitars
    For the sake of rehearsal, you can probably "get away with" plugging straight into the board, assuming there are 1/4" inputs on the channels. However, in a "live" situation, this will probably not be possible, as the board will be far enough away (in most cases) that plugging in with the 1/4" would not be practical, not to mention I'm sure you would want to use your amp onstage anyway. That being said, you will likely want at least a simple DI, to split your signal to 1/4" for your amp, and XLR for the long cable or snake run to the PA.

    EDIT: sorry for some of the duplication with KJung, looks like we were typing at the same time.
  4. ZolkoW


    May 8, 2006
    Hungary, EU

    well, it will work with that simple 1/4" cable, but couldn't say that it will sound good.
    is your bass active or passive?
    in this situation, active is better.

    a DI box will help for a passive bass, but for a good BASS SOUND go through a BASS PREAMP (no matter, that it is built in a bass head, combo, or it's a stand-alone preamp)
  5. Sorry, forgot to mention it is a passive bass: MIM Precision
  6. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    That shouldn't really make much of a difference, as long as the board has 1/4" inputs. However, you will probably want some sort of DI with tone controls like the Sadowsky or SansAmp so that you have some control over your tone.
  7. ZolkoW


    May 8, 2006
    Hungary, EU
    soundboards have low-impedance inputs (either mic and line), which is bad for passive instruments.
    DI boxes help this, but a bass-preamp is better.
    as I said, it will work with your instrument & 1/4" cable, maybe the sound won't be VERY bad, but not perfect..
  8. Thanks everyone...

    OK, on to my next question: which preamp would be good? I would not want a rack-mount one, but a small one I could put in my gig bag that runs off of batteries. Of course, the Sansamp has legions of followers, but it isn't cheap. The MXR is half the price, but I got worried when I went to the website and saw that ALL the "suggested settings" were from heavy metal guys. I may play a bit of metal here and there, but I am definitely more of a rock, blues guy. Any suggestions?
  9. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Man, get the sansamp. You can pick them up used for around $100 on ebay. Even at full price they are worth every penny.
  10. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Understood. Good gear frequently isn't cheap. But is it worth the price? A very different matter...

    And that should definitely tell you something. From the research I've done, the tones emitted by the MXR tend toward extreme shred. Definitely favored by metalheads. Not indicated if you want something more subtle and uh...tasteful.

    I agree: Get the SansAmp...

  11. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147

    You might also consider the Sansamp ParaDI. It is a pedal, has drive (tube emulation/compression, blend (of drive), and a parametric Mid control that is really great. It is the size of a DI box, and has a DI Balanced out, parallel for a tuner/amp, etc. It is very good with passive and piezo pickups. I love mine! :cool:
  12. The ParaDI? How is it different from the SBDI in terms of tone? Thats the more general preamp DI (not bass-specific), isn't it...so I could also use it with my acoustic guitar too?
  13. I see many good responses above, so I'll just add my 0.02 and agree:

    - You have to find out if the PA has 1/4" inputs, and if they are hi Z or not. Many PA systems do have 1/4" jacks and have switches to go from lo Z (mic style) to hi Z (instrument).

    - If the answer to either of these is No, then you should get yourself a DI. Cheapest is just a straight DI box which never goes astray in a gig kit, but the SansAmps are lovely.

    - If you have an amp head and cab, you could also just bring the head and go out of the preamp into the PA. This will give you some of the tone you may be used to.

    - If you use effects then going out of effects pedals is also an option to get a line level input into the PA. I often go from my POD to the PA direct.
  14. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA
    I have a Sansamp Bass Driver DI and I love it. I highly recomend it.

    I have played gigs with PA systems and just used the Sansamp. At times, though, it can be hard to hear myself in the monitor. For that reason I often lug my Hartke Kickback 12 along to use as my personal monitor. Of course, it's all going to depend on your particular playing situation.

    Anyway, don't bother with a cheap DI, you'll never be happy with it. Also, you might as well have one that permits you to fiddle with the EQ and tone options without having to go back and forth to the board.

    I'd be interested in hearing more feedback about the Sansamp Para DI, too. Especially the parametric mid control feature. You can never have too many goodies in your gig bag, maybe I "need" one of these, too. ;)

    Oh, yeah, I've heard great things about the Phil Jones Bass Buddy, which is a nice little preamp/DI. You might look into that, too, although it's another 110 clams or so.
  15. Thanks all. I have the info, now I just need to do some more research. Hope one of the stores around here has some bass DI's I can check out, because I'm through with buying gear over the 'net without trying first....
  16. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    A good DI is good to have anyway. I used one mixer where only one 1/4 jack was a true instrument in, the rest where all balanced inputs. Luckily I had been planning on doing an A/B test on a couple of DIs so we had enough for the three guitar players. I used my amp ;)
  17. mimaz


    Mar 1, 2005
    Wheeling WV
    Endorsing Artist: Crook Custom Guitars
    I just picked up a Phil Jones Bass Buddy a couple of days ago, I've been playing it all weekend. It can run on batteries, has a built in compressor and 5 band EQ, has line in to mix with your iPod or something similar for rehearsal, and a balanced XLR out to feed the PA. I haven't had a chance to use this on a gig as a preamp yet, but if is half as good as the sound it is producing as a headphone amp, this one's a keeper!
  18. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    It is similar, but can also handle very high-impedence piezo pickups without the sick midrange sound. The drive "knob" gives warmth, then dirt, then outright distortion. However, it also does a nice bit of compression. I have also used it a lot with a passive Jazz bass on gigs, a recording, and a broadcast. On gigs with my upright (Jazz casuals and a driving acoustic bluegrass band), I use it as a pre amp into my power amp. No more crappy midrange sound. Rich and flexible.

    Basic summary: The ParaDI is good for electric basses and piezo pick-ups, including guitar and upright. You might overdrive it with a very hot active bass (just turn down a bit).

    The SBDI can't do all that quite as well, IMHO. Visit Tech21's webpages for more tech details. I like it for electric bass, but just got a Sadowsky and am now checking out an ART tube channel pre-amp I got used here on TB (it's VERY nice). You can hear one of those on Basstasters.com, who also have clips of a lot pre amps. :ninja:

    Edit: Oh yeah, If you are buying just a DI, I recommend a Countryman type 85 DI. I love mine. JDI's are good, too.

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