1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

What is a direct box?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Kenny_Jo, Mar 7, 2008.

  1. Kenny_Jo


    Feb 2, 2008
    Can anyone tell me what is a direct box? I want to practice quietly at home so I use a headphone to practice instead of an amp. But the sound was too low and I can't hear what I am playing. My friend told me that a direct box should be able to solve my problem. But I don't really know what it is.

    BTW, I don't know which Sub-Forum should I post it to and that's why I post it here.
  2. A direct box basically allows you to run your signal to the front of house (PA).

    If you want to play, using only headphones. A number of amps have a headphone out socket. You can also get specific Headphone amps.
  3. steve21

    steve21 Banned

    A box that gets right to the point.
  4. jwbassman

    jwbassman Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    ...directly to the point ;)
  5. jwbassman

    jwbassman Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    In all seriousness, a direct box sends a "Balanced Signal". If you have a passive bass or even an active bass and just plug headphones in directly, you will get, as whats happening to you, a very low signal or volume. As someone said above, you should really invest in a small practice amp with a headphone jack. A direct box may work, typically the will have a ±DB pad that will boost or cut a signal, but traditionally they are made for use with a PA system or for recording.
  6. It acts as an interface for an unbalanced instrument to connect to a balanced mic input. Used commonly in studio and live situations where there isn't an amp mic'd before hitting the board.
  7. I use my MXR M-80 as a headphone amp whenever I need to. It is a pedal with a normal channel, a distortion channel, a 3eq preamp, works as a DI, etc... many functions and is a great little pedal.

    Maybe you should look into it.
  8. Kenny_Jo


    Feb 2, 2008
    So is it mean that I better use an amp instead of a direct box?
    How about a headphone amp?
    But actually what is the different between amp and direct box?
  9. Bryan316

    Bryan316 Banned

    Dec 20, 2006
    Okay, most instruments do not send a signal strong enough by itself, to be heard from a speaker. Whether that be a big speaker cab, or a headphone's speaker. It needs a preamp to boost the signal to a usable level.

    A mixing board has built-in preamps that amplify the incoming signal. Some even provide juice (called phantom power) to generate the signal in a passive instrument or microphone.

    All mixers use a balanced signal. Two signal wires, one grounded shielding wire. Your bass does not send two signals, only one. The reasoning behind two signal wires is a complex story itself.

    So for a mixer to hear your bass, it needs its signal converted from unbalanced, to balanced. The D.I. box (D.I. stands for direct-input) does this for you, and converts the Z of the signal so the mixer can hear the instrument loudly.

    There are boxes out there that have multiple purposes. 1/4" inputs, XLR mic inputs, acting as its own preamp, acting as a D.I., acting as a ground lift, acting as a headphone amp, all kinds of bells and whistles. How many brand names of basses can you think of? That's how many D.I. boxes there are out there for you to test out.

    Peruse Musician's Friend to get a feel of what all these boxes offer. Do some mild research first, then come back with specific questions when you find stuff that boggles you.
  10. Hate to be a stickler, but lots and lots of mixers have unbalanced inputs... never mind things like line mixers.
  11. Bryan316

    Bryan316 Banned

    Dec 20, 2006
    EEEEEEEEEeeeek okay I'll rephrase that, all QUALITY mixers have balanced inputs....

    ...totally walking on egg shells there... LOL I've been burned by that myself, how silly of me....

  12. jwbassman

    jwbassman Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
  13. Bryan316

    Bryan316 Banned

    Dec 20, 2006
    Pocket Rocket?

    Are you sure that didn't come from Priscilla's?

  14. jwbassman

    jwbassman Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    LMAO!! :D
  15. Pretty much all quality mixers have unbalanced inputs also.

    A direct box is a high impedance to low impedance converter, which provides outputs which are balanced, unbalanced, or both.

    Balancing isn't its important function, impedance conversion is.
  16. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    If you are looking for something so that you can hear your bass through headphones, you probably want to look into a headphone amp. Cafe Walter makes a great one that's sold by BassNW for around $170. You can get cheaper ones for less, but if you get a decent set of headphones and the Cafe Walter, you'll get incredible sound (better than many rigs!!) for still pretty cheap.
  17. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    +1. Just to cut through some of the confusion here, a direct box is usually not a headphone amp. A bass amp is also often not a headphone amp.

    You want a headphone amp. You can either buy a headphone amp, or you can buy a device that includes a headphone amp. Some fancy DI's and some bass amps happen to include a headphone jack. Check the product description or the manual or even just look at a picture of any device you're thinking about, and see if it includes a headphone jack.

    Your buddy who said a direct box would solve the problem doesn't have any idea what he's talking about. :)
  18. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    You want a Cafe Walter or a Raven Labs PHA-1 or some other headphone amp. The PHA-1 rules because it has an input for your CD player or iPod and your bass, and has 3-band EQ. It has two headphone outputs. It circuitry is superb. The bad news is that they aren't made any more, but they pop up here and on eBay every now and the.
  19. Kenny_Jo


    Feb 2, 2008
    How about the Korg AX5B or Zoom B2?
    Are they good? Can they be used as a headphone amp? If yes, which one is better?
    Also, there is another model of Zoom called B2.1U
    What is the different between it and B2? Do the pedal make any different?
  20. The B2.1u incorporates the treadle (for controlling effects like wah) a DI output (there's your "direct box") and a USB audio interface (for computer recording). Otherwise, it's the same as the B2.

    They work brilliantly as headphone amps.

    Your friend who recommended a DI box and the answer to your problems didn't understand the issue!

    I have to take issue with this:
    I totally disagree. The balanced XLR output is provided for many good and practical reasons which are just as important, if not more so than the impedance conversion. In fact, if DI boxes DIDN'T balanced the signal, there would BE NO REASON for converting the impedance! The two go hand in hand and both are equally important.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.