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Will I need a DI box for recording?

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Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby samuk » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:40 pm

I am going to track electric guitars using stereo miking into an interface (Apogee Duet 2) and a Neve 1073 style clone (WA273-EQ), and also using DI.

I will be using an LDC and an SM57.

My questions are:

1. Both of these units - the Apogee + the WA273 have DI inputs - but will the sound quality be improved by using a DI box before going into them?

2. I am also going to be stereo miking the amp. Will the sound be better (or at least, no worse with noise) and avoid problems with interference if I use a DI box before going into the amp? I will sometimes be using guitar pedals before the amp also.

3. I am also going to record synths using DI and maybe through the amp - will a DI box be needed here to avoid interference and maintain signal quality?

4. Would you recommend a passive or an active DI for my purposes? From what I’ve read I think an active DI would give the better sound quality (such as a Radial J48) but I’m still learning.

Thanks in advance
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:49 pm

samuk wrote:Both of these units - the Apogee + the WA273 have DI inputs - but will the sound quality be improved by using a DI box before going into them?

Short answer is no. (Much) Longer answer is that it depends... ;-)

Electric guitars are sensitive to the load impedance they work into -- it changes the tonality of the pickups. Ideally, the DI input impedance should be very high -- something well above 250k Ohms, and typically 1Meg-Ohms if you want the guitar tone and sustain to be as intended.

The Apogee DI input is over 2M Ohms, so that's fine but I can't find a figure for the Warm Audio box at the moment... Assuming that is similarly high, the other consideration is the musical character of the DI circuitry -- the amount and kind of distortion introduced by the circuitry (whether op-amp, BJT transistor, FET or whatever).

So the bottom line is that different DIs sound different because of their design. But different could be subjectively better or worse depending on personal preferences and requirements. Answering your question directly, a separate DI box may sound different to the integrated DI in the Apogee or WA... And different to another brand of DI box... But only you can decide if it's 'better'.

Consequently, I'd recommend trying the DI options in your two preamps and only consider a DI box if you don't like the sound you get from those.

Will the sound be better (or at least, no worse with noise) and avoid problems with interference if I use a DI box before going into the amp?

It will make no difference to the amp sound or any interference picked up by the guitar. The amp output from most DI boxes is connected directly to the guitar input.

I am also going to record synths using DI and maybe through the amp - will a DI box be needed here to avoid interference and maintain signal quality?

Most synths are quite happy feeding the line inputs of your preamp, but you can use a DI box feeding the mic inputs if you prefer. It's unusual to suffer interference problems with synths, but ground-loops are common, and a DI box can be useful to avoid ground-loop hums.

Would you recommend a passive or an active DI for my purposes? From what I’ve read I think an active DI would give the better sound quality (such as a Radial J48)

An active DI is usually necessary for electric guitars and will be fine with synths too. Synth's will also be happy with passive DIs though, which are often cheaper.

The Radial J48 is an excellent DI box, but if you are in the UK and this is for a home studio setup, I'd strongly recommend one of the Orchid active boxes which sound fabulous and are very well priced. They have a lot of fans here...

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/orchid-electronics-di-boxes

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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Wonks » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:59 pm

Errrr, Hugh,... if you are DIing the guitar signal at the same time that you are playing through an amp and recording that, then yes, you will most certainly need a DI box, and that will need to be an active one.

You'd normally record the DI signal before any guitar effects, just so that you can then re-amp it using a different amp or set of effects or process the signal using amp and FX simulators in the computer. But if you are using an old fuzz-face style fuzz clone that really needs to see the guitar directly to sound like it should, then you might be better putting the DI after that, or even at the end of the FX chain (though you'd really be better off forgetting about a DI as the signal will be terribly fizzy with the fuzz on). DI-ing after the FX chain would allow you to re-amp or use a software amp emulator, but not change the FX.
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby samuk » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:34 pm

Thank you very much Hugh and Wonks for the replies! Extremely helpful.

I’m glad it’s not essential and for the moment I will do as you suggest Hugh and try the DI’s on the Apogee and WA-276EQ for now, and then probably get an Orchid DI later (especially at the price!) to try what you suggested Wonks.

Many thanks again - my brain is buzzing trying to decide what to get for my new project studio and this really helps :D :D
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Wonks » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:40 pm

I'm confused.

Without a DI box you can either directly record into an interface, or you can play into an amp and mic that up, but you cant do both at the same time.

Your item 2. seemed to indicate that's exactly what you wanted to do.
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:48 pm

Wonks wrote:Errrr, Hugh,... if you are DIing the guitar signal at the same time that you are playing through an amp and recording that, then yes, you will most certainly need a DI box, and that will need to be an active one.

Hmmm... Yes, I take the point! For some inexplicable reason I assumed the OP would be recording the amps on some occasions and DI-ing the guitar on others, rather than both simultaneously. :oops: :headbang:

For the latter, it will obviously be necessary to split the guitar signal between the amps and preamps, and while an active DI box presents a convenient means of achieving that, the availability of DI inputs on the preamps means a custom Y-chord (or parallel split) would also work....

Anyone know where I left my coat?

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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:44 pm

Wonks wrote:I'm confused.

Without a DI box you can either directly record into an interface, or you can play into an amp and mic that up, but you cant do both at the same time.

Your item 2. seemed to indicate that's exactly what you wanted to do.
Unless the amp has a DI / line out as well?
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Wonks » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:22 pm

It's not going to be anything like a normal DI signal that you'd record for a session. And any standard amp DI is going to sound far worse than the miked-up amp. There are very few that have a decent DI output with good speaker emulation. Maybe some of the H&K amps with a red box based DI.

You'd normally take a clean DI so you can capture a great performance but re-amp or emulate if the recorded amp sound doesn't quite work in the mix.

But, yes, it does depend on what the OP intended, so a DI from the amp as well wouldn't need another DI box, but it's not really the way most people would work.
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:07 am

We have not been told the make/model of OP's guitar amp?

There ARE amplifiers that have decent "DI" outs. A large range of my (cough!) aquaintance have both a "dry" FX out at two levels and an emulated output, switchable on some models for 1x12 and 4x12 cab emulation.

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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby JohnButtigieg » Wed Jan 16, 2019 3:49 am

I'm a little confused to reading this!

Is this guy saying he wants to record through a DI Box... into his Audio Interface which already has a Di Box / Hi Z Setting?

So he is practically double Di-ing?


What would be the result of this...?


Thanks guys :)
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jan 16, 2019 9:49 am

JohnButtigieg wrote:I'm a little confused to reading this!

Is this guy saying he wants to record through a DI Box... into his Audio Interface which already has a Di Box / Hi Z Setting?

So he is practically double Di-ing?


What would be the result of this...?


Thanks guys :)

No John, he would not be "double DI-ing" because DI boxes turn guitar signals into microphone like signals. Low level and balanced therefore the signal will go into the XLR mic input bypassing the high Z circuitry.

There will almost certainly be a difference in the sound from the three options..

AI's high Z input,
Passive DI into XLR,
Active DI into XLR.

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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:08 am

JohnButtigieg wrote:I'm a little confused to reading this!

I think we're all a little confused! But the OP hasn't come back to clarify his intentions, sadly.

Is this guy saying he wants to record through a DI Box... into his Audio Interface which already has a Di Box / Hi Z Setting?


Possibly. I think he might be asking if the sound would be better via a DI-box plugged into the interface's mic input, compared to using the interface's built-in instrument (DI or Hi-Z) input.

So he is practically double Di-ing?

No, because the output of a DI-box is a balanced mic level signal which cannot be connected to an unbalanced hi-Z instrument input. So no 'double Di-ing'

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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Wonks » Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:27 am

I'm also now wondering how the OP will manage to 'stereo' mic the amp (I assume that they just meant using two different mics at the same time) and also record a DI signal when their AI, an Apogee Duet 2, only has two inputs!
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Wonks » Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:32 am

So I'm now thinking that the OP meant that should the mic signals be DI'd? Which really means that the OP has got nearly £2k of two channel hardware and really doesn't know how to use them at all!

Homework question?
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Re: Will I need a DI box for recording?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:37 am

Wonks wrote:I'm also now wondering how the OP will manage to 'stereo' mic the amp (I assume that they just meant using two different mics at the same time) and also record a DI signal when their AI, an Apogee Duet 2, only has two inputs!

Yes, he did mention using an LDC and an SM57 for the 'stereo miking' bit... but as to what was to be recorded when and via which routes, and whether simultaneously or in separate passes I still have no real idea.

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