Recording Direct: What Hardware DI or Preamp?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by dpaulb, Jan 24, 2017.

  1. I can only record direct.
    Active Deluxe Jazz Bass and A Steinberg UR12 interface into a Silver Mac Pro.
    I'm a seasoned player but need advice on making demos myself. Should I use a good sounding DI, or a preamp of some sort? I play finger style or with plectrum and palm muting.
  2. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    Your bass already has a preamp, I'd say a nice DI will do ya. You should be able to dial in the tone you need with the onboard preamp. once in the digital domain there are amp simulators, even more eq, compressors, etc.
    dpaulb likes this.
  3. I wondered if it had enough eq adjustment built in.
  4. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    Depends on how it sounds and what the song calls for. Eq is something you do if it doesn't sound good already and you want it better/different. Start with the eq flat on the bass and see how it sounds, adjust from there. The amount of boost or cut on the bass' preamp will be plenty. The only thing you might find is you want to cut or boost a frequency that your preamp doesn't have. But again once it's digital you can eq it till the cows come home after it's recorded if you wanna. ;)
    MYLOWFREQ likes this.
  5. Kool. Understood.
    I've found a small adjustment of the mid knob alone makes a big difference.
    And I likes this.
  6. AngelCrusher


    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    What's your budget? I have used $900 Pres with tubes, high quality transformer, and EQ, and $100 ones that just get your signal into the PC. There is quite a difference between two, but it boils down to what you are looking to accomplish.
    dpaulb likes this.
  7. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    I think you're on the right track. Direct into the computer is the way to go. If you have a interface, and recording software, that's really all you need. The outcome of your sound will depend on how you set up your bass for recording, how you play during the recording, and how you mix the final cut.

    With Active basses, I usually set volume to 50%, and leave all the tone controls flat (no boost no cut). This gives me the full bass frequency for the mix. For recording levels, I keep the interface's volume levels just under clipping.

    Also, use the tempo or drum kit in the recording software to keep time for the song. This will help with editing if you decide to cut and paste.

    After the recording is completed, recording software is used to mix. This is where I make EQ adjustments, add compression, etc. This way, you can make small adjustments to finalize the final song. Anyway, hope this helps.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017
    dpaulb likes this.
  8. Not sure about budget yet.
  9. Almost exactly what I've been doing.
    So if not clipping no reason to use outboard compression?
    Would a Radial JDI add anything nice.
  10. If you consider a preamp you shouldn't look (only) at bass-preamps, you should look at mic-preamps. Maybe you have other fields of use for it too. If you're not rich, take a look at the GAP Neve-clones (starting at 300,-) or the Warm Audio Preamps (not clones, but they have a lot in common with those legendary API preamps). They start at 400,-.

    Both are transformer based and work as DI's too and have HZ-inputs. These preamps are similar - not identical - to the famous preamps in legendary consoles like Neve etc. and there is a reason that studios nearly always use mic-preamps when bass is recorded directly.

    I have different DI's, the Basswitch, which is as clean as it gets, and the Neve RNDI. If you want a bit of coloration and saturation while still have a high-end signal to work with, the Neve is very very good, but 300,-.
    You can not only feed it with your bass-signal, you can feed it with the speaker-out of an amp. That's fun, depending on the amp.
    dpaulb likes this.
  11. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017

    Yes, if the bass track was recorded well there's no real need for adding compression on the bass track. But there is a technique called sidechain and parallel compression used on bass guitar or kick drum to either bring the bass forward in the mix, or the kick drum (Their's some examples and explanation online).

    If I'm not mistaken the Radial JDI is used mainly as a line converter and DI to run long cables and transparent signal. No tone suck, and clean output. I'm using a MXR M80 DI with my passive bass, which colors the signal on the output, and I can color the signal with the DI on the XLR out to the interface if needed.
    dpaulb likes this.
  12. I have wondered about the GAPs and Warm Audios.
    Also wondering how a Sansamp RBI would be.
    I wasn't think bass preamp pedal because they seem to be for adding distortion which I don't like.
  13. Good to know about the Radial JDI.
  14. Zoot H Rollo

    Zoot H Rollo Supporting Member

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    a good cabinet simulator is a must when going direct.

    i have one and it has balanced output too.
  15. First question, what is it that you do / do not like about recording direct with your current interface? Recording is mostly about problem solving, so what are the problems you'd like to solve? Best to know where to spend the money first!

    Generally speaking though, a nice DI into a nice preamp will get you a lot of mileage. For DI - the A Designs REDDI, Zod DI, Avalon U5 and JDI all jump out as common, nice studio tools. Neve, API and Hardy all make wonderful preamps that have been studio staples for years. AD conversion is basically at a point now that likely it won't be one of your major concerns for a while.

    Most gear today is competent enough, so biggest thing to remember is that recording is meant to capture a performance. Get that right and you're 98% of the way there.
    Ulf_Hansson, project_c and dpaulb like this.
  16. The preamp pedals from Ampeg, SansAmp, Mesa Boogie etc. aren't just for distortion. But I only know the VT Bass DI (very good for the price imo).
    My recording chain is Bass->Neve DI->Mic input of the Warm Audio TB12 ->Warm Audio WA76 -> Warm Audio Pulteq clone -> SPL crimson line input.
    Since I own this stuff, starting with the WA76 to my ears I sound like the bass on the records I like. I concentrate on playing and the decision between flats and rounds. Don't think about sound anymore or why I don't sound like on my favourite records. But that's just me.

    Some would still call it budget gear. For me it is luxury! If I had to sell some of the units, I would definetely keep the WA76 and the Neve or the VT BASS DI to bring the signal to line level.
    The tranformers of the WA76 and the speed of the compressor is what counts for me and makes the difference. Mic preamps etc. are nice to have but the difference is rather small. Although when it comes to recording I prefer them to every single bass amp and preamp I've tried (Ampeg SVP Pro, Warwick, Ampeg SVP-II, Markbass)

    If you are on a budget maybe have a look at the VT Bass DI. I don't like the EQ, but the amp and speaker simulations are very good and it is a very usefull tool with the inputs and outputs. I use it a lot for gigs.
    I wouldn't spend money on cheap compressor pedals etc. (The Cali76 being the exception, although not exactly cheap).
    I've been there but it makes more sense to own some good stuff instead of an army of cheap pedals.
    dpaulb likes this.
  17. Where to start, hmm?
    Thanks so much.
    My summation: good di and good compressor is what's needed.
  18. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    No need for a DI, it's built into the interface.
    That interface can easily handle the dynamics. You can compress in the software if you need it.
    project_c and ShadowImage like this.
  19. ShadowImage

    ShadowImage Guest

    Jan 12, 2016
    If you're just making demos, there's no need for a DI or additional preamp. Your Steinberg interface is already capable of getting a good tone plugging in direct. The exception may be if you're looking for certain preamp drive etc.

    I use a GAP Neve clone and to be honest, it doesn't make a huge world of difference, at least not enough to warrant spending hundreds of dollars. Now if you're looking to release finished albums etc you may want to start investing more heavily into an expensive set up.

    Assuming you're using Cubase (Steinberg) you should be able to get a good tone with what you already have and VST plugins / EQ.
    dpaulb and BoogieZK like this.
  20. BoogieZK


    Sep 28, 2008
    Toulouse, France
    Exactly, and even if you add a certain DI in the chain, you'll have the "tone" of your interface input preamp.

    DI's and preamp are meant for Analog to Digital converters (ADC) which have no preamp but only the converter on the front. So it needs "power" or line level.
    dpaulb likes this.
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