You are here

Little Labs Multi Z PIP

Instrument Preamp / DI / Re-amp
By Paul White

Little Labs Multi Z PIP

Aimed at professionals, the Multi Z PIP combines premium DI box, mixer, and re-amping device in a single small unit.

This new DI box is built to audiophile standards using extremely high-quality components and metal case work. It has an external power supply with locking connector, and all the knobs and switches are on the front panel, along with the instrument input jack. The outputs and additional inputs are on the rear panel, where the main output is on a balanced XLR and the rest are on quarter-inch jacks. The Instrument Thru socket can send the instrument input on to another device, such as a guitar amplifier, and can double as a main output, a rear-panel main instrument input (overridden by the front-panel jack), or a summing amp input, combining another signal with that of the main instrument input. There is also a dedicated summing-amplifier input jack. The Balanced Only Expansion Output socket can act as a balanced insert send fed from before the instrument transformer.

A re-amp input is included to allow recorded parts to be fed via the unit to a guitar amplifier or pedal at a suitable source impedance. A multi-turn trim pot accessible from the rear panel adjusts the gain of the re-amping signal path. The main and re-amped outputs are transformer coupled. Three ground-lift switches affect the instrument input, output XLR, and re-amp output.

Little Labs Multi Z PIP

One of this unit's main claims to fame is its switchable input impedance — the user can select from high-, medium-, low-, or speaker-level input via a rotary switch. A larger rotary control adjusts the output level. The high-impedance setting is optimised for guitars and basses with passive pickups, while the medium and low impedances work with active guitars/basses and electronic instruments. There's no power soak or speaker simulator here, though, so if you're feeding it with a tube amplifier you need first to split the signal and hang a dummy load on the amplifier output to prevent the damage that might be caused by running it into an open circuit. It is also important not to try to use the unit as a speaker thru connection when working with speaker-level sources, as the high currents involved could toast the circuit board.

The balanced line-level output is transformerless, but there is a transformer-isolated output as well, and you can even buy an optional mic-level output transformer. Internal jumpers allow a degree of user customisation, such as using the insert point to connect a volume pedal. As supplied, the buffered output jack comes before the level control, and can provide 6dB of gain for the medium- and high-impedance settings. Changing internal jumpers can also move the buffered output to a point after the level control, or can turn the buffered output jack into an input, allowing a further signal to be summed with the main input prior to the level control.

Verdict

There's no doubt that this is a beautifully engineered unit capable of getting the best possible DI'd tone out of an electric guitar or bass. It is also very good at converting a recorded guitar track into a signal optimised to feed a guitar amplifier. I found that some switching noise was occasionally evident even after the unit had warmed up properly, but other than that it behaved perfectly. While professional studios will appreciate the benefits of such a good-sounding piece of kit, I feel that many UK project studio owners will deem the Multi Z PIP out of their price range. Nevertheless, if you want the best possible DI box for instruments, I can't think of one that sounds better. 

Pros

  • Exemplary audio quality.
  • Flexible connection options.
  • Effective re-amping option.

Cons

  • No speaker thru connection.

Summary

Just as good mic preamps cost a lot of money, so do good instrument preamps, and there is no denying that this is one of the best. Whether its high cost can be justified in the smaller studio is another question, however.

information

£458.25 including VAT.

Unity Audio +44 (0)1440 785843.

+44 (0)1440 785845.

sales@unityaudio.co.uk

www.unityaudio.co.uk

www.littlelabs.com

Published December 2005