Sweetwater just did a huge bass DI shootout

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by honeyiscool, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    The Great Direct Box Comparison with Audio Samples - inSync | Sweetwater

    I found this fascinating and this is well-timed because I was looking at maybe getting another general purpose DI. I currently have a Pro D2 that I picked up for keyboards a long time ago. Here are my observations:
    1. P w/ flats makes everything sound the same. Really, I can barely tell any of these tracks apart soloed, never mind in a mix. No wonder engineers love this setup.
    2. The Pro DI sounds great for bass. I almost always found myself enjoying it over the JDI. It suits my taste for bass tone. The JDI has more accuracy and definition, sure, and it's actually very audibly different, but I like how the Pro DI tracks sit in the mix, as in the Pro DI has a nice sweetness that really works for bass. On a general note, there were many cases where cheap DIs sound rather nice, and some cases where an expensive DI doesn't necessarily sound better than the cheap one.
    3. So much for this notion of passive DI for active bass and active DI for passive bass. Maybe that's true for stage where there are long cable runs and you don't always get to check your levels, or maybe that was true in the old days, but for modern day recording, I think we can throw that out the window. There were many cases where I preferred a passive DI for passive bass, or active DI for active bass. I couldn't hear a lack of definition in the passive DI for passive bass, and I couldn't hear a lack of headroom for the active DI for active bass, either. In fact, the JDI sounded more detailed than a lot of active DIs. If that's your only DI, you don't need another one just to record with, just for the sake of having an active DI. It'll definitely work just fine.
    4. We obsess over recording chain, but did any of these tracks actually sound bad to anyone? Not to me. It's clear that the most important thing is what goes into the recording chain. You need a good instrument with good pickups and a good player, and you need a good take. The quality of DI is not as important as that. Even the Behringers do not embarrass.
    5. Would love to have seen the J48 and Countryman included. I feel like that's the most common question: JDI, J48, or Type 85?
    On a personal note, I am GASing even harder for RNDI after hearing all these tracks. Maybe it's confirmation bias because I want one, but it sounds very detailed and would work nicely into my workflow because it's clearly a different flavor than the Pro DI, which sounds quite nice and fat. Also, as much as I personally thought that the Pro DI was making better bass tracks, I felt like the JDI sounded noticeably more detailed and would therefore be better as your only DI if you needed to record other instruments, too. Would love to hear this repeated on a guitar, and there, I have a feeling that the JDI would slay the Pro DI. And if you wanted a track you could re-amp, the JDI sounds more like it would stay together better because it bakes less of its own flavor into the tone.

    But it's telling that even if I get a more accurate sounding DI, that I feel like I might break out the Pro DI pretty often for bass. Probably not for me because I naturally have a very bassy tone (light touch, flatwounds, 5-string) and I often end up trying to EQ out the fatness, but I often record a player who just naturally has a much thinner tone, even through the same basses with flatwounds, and I end up using shelf EQ and things like that. The Pro DI would probably work very nicely for that kind of player.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  2. Ulf_Hansson


    Apr 15, 2014
    +1 on both points. A good player and a great take trumps anything. And J48 is such an obvious and common choice.
  3. +1 on the performance trumping all. A general purpose takeaway is to get the most articulate DI you can afford first, then aim for flavors later. EQ, compression and dirt can close up a lot of those differences pretty quickly when starting with a clean palette.

    Failing that, the answer is always a REDDI.
    Or a U5...
    Or a Countryman...
    Or a Radial...
    ImprecisionBass likes this.
  4. db9091


    Mar 8, 2017
    It sounds to me like the Avalon and BAE give you more top end to work with if you like to preserve any "growl". Most others cut that out, so you have less to work with in a mix.
  5. Iofflight

    Iofflight Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2018
    BAE makes great stuff but it is the most expensive of the bunch. I preferred the REDDI and RNDI (Neve just put out a stereo version of this DI which is great because I also use these on synths.
  6. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again??

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    Wow! Nice shootout! I have 4 of those tested.

    Radial ProDI
    Radial JDI
    Neve RNDI

    @honeyiscool I also prefer the ProDI over the JDI for bass. Also get yourself an RNDI. My wife got me one for Christmas a couple of years ago and my REDDI has stayed in its case since then!

    Zbysek and Iofflight like this.
  7. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    I was just about to get a REDDI, but then ended up buying a Little Labs Redeye 3D. I kind of figured that I wanted another DI that was transparent and active, but also another one that was transparent and passive. The Redeye pretty much gives me two DIs (and a reamping box) for less than the price of two DIs. I'll probably buy the stereo version of the RNDI at some point.
    mark beem likes this.
  8. Iofflight

    Iofflight Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2018
    what do you like about the RNDI over the REDDI?
  9. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again??

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    1. The RNDI is a lot easier to transport/carry and doesn't take up near as much real estate.
    2. I like that the RNDI runs off 48v phantom power. Frees up a plug on my power strip.
    3. To my ear there's just a little more harmonic sweetness in the upper mids. Not sure if it's the unit's proprietary amps and transformer or what, but there's some voodoo in it that sprinkles "magic dust" on the tone.
    Iofflight likes this.
  10. Iofflight

    Iofflight Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2018
    Yeah I get the ease of transport for sure, phantom power too. They sounded close in quality to me definitely the RNDI is a lot less expensive. Seems like a good case for both.
    mark beem likes this.
  11. Newbilong


    Aug 14, 2018
    Oh man that Avalon U5 in the shoot out is heads and shoulders sonically better than the others - but at that price and bulk it's not the sort of DI mediocre players like me need to fantasise about.
    Zbysek and imabuddha like this.
  12. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member

    I listened to the Stingray sounds since that is my main bass now. The big surprise to me was the Behringer DI400P. It sounded like the transformer was really saturated giving it this nice growl and compression. A very 'in your face" sound that was also musical. I recently tried the RNDI. It's going back to Sweetwater. Great mids, as you would expect to hear from Neve, but weak in highs and lows. The deal breaker for me was the soft attack. It's the right DI if you are looking for a softer sound that sits nicely in the mix. I think the BAE 1073DMP could have sounded a little better if they pushed it a little more. (At least that is what I am hoping. :) ) I like the PRO48 too. Punchy, deep tight bass, nice crisp highs. I have a J48 that sounds very similar. The JDI and PRODI were a little too subdued in the highs. They were rather non-descript. IMP2, D100, and Telefunken were the big loosers for me. REDDI was a little too dark for me. The A5 was a bit brighter, but a little too scooped in the mids. (Bedroom tone)
  13. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Surprise, AZ
    The Avalon U5 has the tone selector switch, did they ever indicate which position they used for the recordings?

    - John
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
  14. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member

    No, they did not. But shootouts are like that, just someone's opinion.

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