Good choices for a basic DI?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by mjcarp79, Jan 13, 2022 at 9:14 PM.

  1. mjcarp79


    May 3, 2017
    I am in the process of putting together my first pedal board. It is pretty basic: tuner, compressor, HPF+LPF, and overdrive, so far.

    However, I am wishing to acquire the ability to go amp-less. I have been surfing the web for DI boxes, pre-amp DI units, etc. Thus far, I an overwhelmed by all of the choices.

    For one thing, what are the benefits of a pricey pre-amp/DI unit over just a cheap, passive DI box?

    I don't need anything fancy, just the minimum to have the option of going amp-less (when the situation allows.)

    If a basic, passive DI box would be all that I would need, what are some good options? Are they all about the same? Or are the some to avoid?

    Sorry for the very ignorant noob questions, but I would appreciate any insight. Thanks!
  2. Jev1


    Feb 10, 2019
    Kelowna, BC (Canada)
    Before I had my own options, a lot of the venues I played in used Radial DIs. I think they're decent. That being said if you're buying your own it's nice to have one that gives you a little ability to colour your tone a bit. You can probably pick up a used MXR M80 or Sansamp (the classics) for less than a new dedicated DI. Then you'll have DI out, some EQ, and even a little drive if you want it. Then you can shape your sound to the room a bit when needed. I used the M80 DI+ for years and it was GREAT. Recently went to Darkglass for a number of reasons, but still love that little M80.
  3. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    For about a hundred bucks you can get a Radial ProDI. maybe the Pro 48 (active, needs phantom power, great with passive basses) Pro is passive and great with active basses.

    You can go cheaper but the Radial stuff you can throw at a stone wall and drive over it with your pickup.. It will be just fine.

    I'm really excited to have a SushiBox Finally DI in bound. That one is about double but... It has a a very nice 12ax7 based preamp on the space heater design. I have a space heater. It rocks. It should be amazing.
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  4. There’s 100 DI’s that’ll do a similar job. Rugged but not too heavy is my suggestion. A ground lift, and maybe a pad switch/volume control are the main features. If buying an active DI then an option to run on phantom power is super handy.

    For preamps - pick your flavour of sound by trying out as many as you can as soon as you can. Go to stores or a friend place to test drive them. Again tone is very subjective & the more you read the more confused you get so go out and play them ASAP.

    I’d recommend a bypass switch for more heavily coloured pre’s. Just in case it doesn’t suit a certain song/venue/bass, plus ground lift. It’ll already have volume controls. Some Preamps have speaker simulation defeat which is also really handy as some pedals don’t play well with other pedals. (Your HPF/LPF will do a better job).

    Do you practice with headphones often? Some Preamps/DI pedals have AUX in & headphone out for home practice. Yes one device can do all three, but is pricier. Overkill for most but worth considering now.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2022 at 10:48 PM
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  5. ShadowGroover


    Aug 16, 2020
    Warm Active DI. Good transformer. Phantom power or battery. Nice FET coloration, great for bass. Solid construction. Has switchable passive mode. $150-$200, which is an excellent price for the feature set
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  6. Polfuste


    Sep 10, 2010
    South France
    One more MXR M80 here.. built like a tank, good tone.
  7. Aloe


    Apr 10, 2016
    I absolutely love the TI Box, prior to settling on it tried following DIs:

    passive: Radial JDI, Telefunken TDP-2
    active: SpectraDrive, MXR M81

    DIs in some of my amps are close second, namely ones in EBS and Phil Jones ones.

    'just' a passive/active DI is good for recording or for live audio if you trust the audio engineer enough. if you absolutely need to have some EQ (or other preamp coloration) to have in signal before you send it to the FOH mixer, get a preamp with a good enough EQ section.

    over the time, I don't really prefer active DIs over passive or vice versa, what matters is how they sound. they could be passive or active, active require power, but provide a hotter signal. in most cases you'll be fine with a nice sounding DI no matter whether it's active or passive.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022 at 7:52 AM
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  8. For stage use, I used to have a Countryman Type 85 (active) and a Radial JDI (passive). Recently, I decided to have a DI box in my gig bag again and I bought a Telefunken TDA-1 (active). I was not sure about which one to pick, active or passive. Since I have both active and passive basses, I wanted to use the DI with both. I ended up buying an active DI. TDA-1 has a 15dB pad, so it is fine to use with my active basses as well.

    I am not sure if you are willing to spend $200+ on a DI box or not, but I am loving the Telefunken. It has an embedded vintage sound to it (IME, different than the Countryman or the Radial) which I like, but I also find it quite alive and dynamic. In comparison to the above two, it is more articulate and detailed and it simply sounds better. Maybe, it is not at the level of REDDI or other DIs at that price level (and size), but to have in your gig bag or on your pedal board it is a great unit. Highly recommended.

    If you do not want to break the bank, at $110 each, Radial ProDI (passive) or Radial Pro48 (active) are great boxes as well.


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  9. manchego_eggo

    manchego_eggo Supporting Member

    Jun 28, 2019
    Brooklyn, NY
    EHS microbass 3 could end your search. It has onboard tuner, compressor and hi/low gain overdrive. i've used mine for live shows as a DI and recording and it is also a tank. You can often find them used for 250-300.
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  10. NickFromNY

    NickFromNY Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2010
    Long Island, NY
    in your current set up you have no eq control over your signal, which could be good or bad, depending on what you are looking for. If you are going to go in ears, I would think you would want some control over your tone. If you want to go preamp/DI, I have always liked the Tonehammer pedal. The MXR is nice too. The Sansamp Q Strip is really versatile too.

    If you want straight DI, with an uncolored signal... basically what your bass gives is what you get... I love the Countryman Type 85. Built like a tank and sounds great. I also have a few Radials (ProDI and stagebug) which I also like.
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  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    For a DI: Radial Pro DI. I have two, they sound great and are built to take a beating. I prefer a passive DI, one less power supply or battery to worry about.

    For one box ampless: Sansamp
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  12. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I have 2 pedalboards - all my gigs at this point are ampless, and I've been gigging that way for years. There are a bunch of different DI's that work, but the 2 I have settled on are A Radial Pro DI for a smaller, more basic board, and an MXR M81 for a bigger board with more stuff on it.

    Radial's stuff is all made like tanks, and there are more expensive DI's that they make (and that I own); the specs on those give you a small advantage over the Pro DI if you're feeding your instrument directly into them. If it's a pedal (low impedance) driving it, the Pro DI works as well, and it's a bit lighter and smaller than the JDI. It's relatively cheap, but a very solid pro level unit.

    The MXR is nice, in that it brings more functionality into the same space - EQ and gain if you want it. If you have that functionality elsewhere, then the Radial or another straightforward DI would be appropriate.
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  13. On the other end of the fancy DI spectrum here: For years I have used an Art DualZDirect(passive) and it seems to do just fine for me and I've never had any complaints. I bought that one because
    a.) I'm kinda cheap
    b.) I'm not a touring or recording pro and don't need a fancy DI and probably couldn't tell the difference anyway
    c.) because I can run it speaker level out of the back of my tube amp.

    Although last I gigged with FOH support, I've took my little Ampeg MicroVR rig and took the DI right out of the SCR-DI pedal. Actually got compliments from sound guys on that one.

    This doesn't mean that great DIs aren't great and needed, and there is a reason people spend money on them. But there can be other options in different circumstances. YMMV
  14. neddyrow

    neddyrow @TeddyPlaysBass - Instagram Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    +1 for Countryman DI - had one for many years. I now use the Orchid Mute DI which has the same guts but an additional mute switch to keep tp one pedal if needed.

    Never liked the Radial stuff as it adds "color" to the sound of my instruments - but that is mostly for their preamps. I'd guess you'd get a nice clean tone out of their DIs as many pro use them exclusively.
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  15. I like the Ampeg SCR-DI.
    Its pretty clean as a DI but also a pretty darn good pre amp and EQ.... the “fuzz” or scrambler in my opinion is lame but the rest of the pedal is versatile.
  16. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009 has a "shootout" of bass DI boxes on their website that compare features and sound quality. Since I play an active bass, the best DI for me is the inexpensive Behringer, @ $25, which has the most transparent sound of all of them. I gig with this box into our band's Behringer digital board, no separate amplifier:
    Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P 1-channel Passive Instrument Direct Box
  17. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    There’s a general rule of thumb in some circles that says: passive DIs work better for active basses and active DIs are a better choice for passive basses. I haven’t found that to necessarily be true although some basses do seem to prefer one or the other.

    My goto affordable DI is the Countryman Type 85. It’s an active DI. It has a tiny bit of color. But it’s a nice bit of color. Adds a little warmth to your sound. Which works well when it’s preceded by some digital effects because it adds a hint of analog back to the signal. You can pick up a used one for small money. New they average around $179 most places. But I’ve also seen them go for as low as $150 so it’s well worth shopping around a little before pulling the trigger.

    If you want something more transparent in an active DI, the Neve Designs RNDI-1 (“Randy”) is probably the least expensive but still excellent choice. Rupert Neve needs no introduction in the audio and recording world. His gear is legendary. The price for a new RNDI has shot up recently. They’re averaging $299 new, or about $60 more than they were selling for pre-pandemic. But such is the price you pay to get one of the the best. I can’t suggest what current average used prices are for one since you don’t often see them on the used market. Last one I saw was back in 2019 and they were asking $170 for it.

    Since I’ve got both I have the luxury of preferring the Countryman for live, and the Neve for recording. But that said, either one works equally well for both.

    For passive DIs my experience is limited to products from Radial. But my experiences with their gear has been very positive.

    For someone who just wants a rock solid and super clean sounding passive DI that gets the job done, I can recommend Their PRO DI-1. Runs about $100 new. Built like a tank and easy to use. No battery! Highly recommended. At that price I wouldn’t bother with used and just get a new one with a warranty.

    If you want more than that there’s the Radial JDI. Another really nice passive box. Much like their PRO except it packs a studio quality Jensen audio transformer. But that premium transformer also commands a premium price. So expect to pay around $175-$220new for the JDI. Used, figure $175 on average for one in decent cosmetic condition. (DI boxes, being floor type units, tend to get scuffed up a lot.)

    I personally think the less expensive PRO is all you’d ever need. But if you want a famous name transformer (and your ears are better than mine so you can hear a difference significant enough to justify the extra money) it’s nice to know the JDI is also available. For a hundred bucks and change more, of course. ;)

    Happy DI hunting. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022 at 4:23 PM
  18. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016

    Yes, yes.
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  19. @mjcarp79 a good question. DI boxes are a good tool for every bass player anything from the basic passive DI that @iiipopes suggested to something more expensive or featured if you desire or need for recording. I have a collection of DI boxes from all my years in the bizness and appreciate them all.

    To cut through all the hype and voodoo this is a fair & well written article on the subject covering a broad range of DI boxes, my one gripe is they did not include the industry standard Countryman Type 85 for comparison or to set a baseline. I do own several of the DIs featured and have played through them all one time or another and agree with the results. The Great Direct Box Comparison with Audio Samples | Sweetwater
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  20. If your only need is to go ampless and connect directly the mixer, then this will do the job just fine. I used a similar one for a long time. Until one day I used the DI on my Ampeg head and I liked the sound much better, something about the Ampeg sound. So if you like a particular manufacturer's sound you can get one of their preamps to get that sound. If you're an Ampeg fan like me, then you can get the SCR-DI which has the Ampeg distortion too. Just depends if you want to add to your tone, or just pass your existing tone through to the board.
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