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Jack

£8 vs £150 DI Box - Recording Comparison

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Hi everybody,

 

Talking about passive DI boxes in this thread, we were wondering if there was any noticeable difference in sound between cheap and expensive passive DI boxes. Obviously, with active boxes there are big differences, especially with those that aim to purposefully colour the sound, but what about passive boxes that are just transformers in boxes? Radial (and everybody else) make big shakes about how Jensen transformers are amazing, and how important it is to have a decent transformer, especially for bass. Now, I like DI boxes, I have a lot. IMG_20190623_165940.thumb.jpg.deb26d70ac57933dc83ed6c2a5ef02f7.jpg

Chiefly for the purposes of this though, I have both a cheap and an expensive passive DI. Specifically I own several Millenium DI-Es, that currently cost the princely sum of £8.19. I also have what may be the only LBP Inc passive DI in the country (at least the maker tells me he's never sold to the UK before), which after taxes, shipping and such will cost around £150. These boxes are made by a one-man company in the states using the finest materials including a Jensen JT-DB-E, so it's basically a hand-made Radial JDI. In other words, you're unlikely to find either a 'worse' or a 'better' passive DI box.

 

Testing methodology was thus: Sprained wrist > Fender USA P-Bass (DiMarzio Will Power pickup, quite dead D'Addario EXL170BT 45-107 strings) > Brightonion Router (providing a buffered output to both DI boxes) > DI boxes > Behringer XR18 > Ardour. I even went to a special effort to keep the cables identical brands and lengths. I used a pick a lot with rounds aiming for a trebley sound thinking that that might show up more differences, but there's some more mellow stuff too. There are 4 sections:

open strings - pick/tone full on
riff - pick/tone full on
riff - fingers/tone 75%
riff - fingers/tone off

 

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I'll apologize for my playing now, I fell over on the ice yesterday (I'd only popped out to get more wine, turns out that whilst I wasn't too drunk to drive I was in fact too drunk to walk) and I've really done a number on my left arm and wrist!

image.thumb.png.356d76d1e0c90783790c5d2c1b071faa.png

 

So, how do they sound? Well, in the thread that started all of this, BigRedX said you'd be unlikely to hear any difference in a band mix and I thought that might be the case, but I assumed there'd be some noticeable differences in a recording. Ermmmm, nope. Not really. Not to my ears at least. I mean, if you open the files in a DAW you can see differences in the spectograph, but I can't really hear anything dramatic. To my ears, there's a little more distortion on some of the Millenium notes and it perhaps sounds a tiny bit darker and bassier overall, but there's less than 1% in it and I wonder how much of even that is psychosomatic. Having said that I'm only listening at home volumes at the moment, I'd be keen to fire up the recordings through a loud PA system.

 

LBP Inc DI.wav

Millenium DI-E.wav

image.png

Edited by Jack
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No matter what I do I  an't delete that last rig photo at the end. Oh well, enjoy the picture twice. :)

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Differences. LBP is blue, Millenium is pink. The LBP has a little more going on in the super lows. Exactly the kind of stuff that you'd normally want to filter out!23242792_Screenshotfrom2019-12-0113-53-08.thumb.png.1dbf74f97a7255f4a7381055c47f4abe.png

Do I feel stupid for spending more than an order of magnitude more on one DI than the other? Yes and no. Obviously this test is very superficial in many ways. It doesn't test build quality, reliability, interference rejection, input before clipping, ability to drive long cable runs, how well the ground lift works, how they sound with just a passive bass and no buffer and other high-impedance sources or plenty of other things that you might actually need.

There may be more noticeable differences working with hotter signals, dodgy electrics or a boatload of stage wireless units and wifi signals. Of course, there may not...

 

The other thing to bear in mind is that this is one cheap and one expensive DI. Would there be more noticeable differences if I had, say a Behringer DI400 and a Telefunken? Lastly, Thomann own-brand products are known for punching well above their price point and being awesome generally, so maybe a different cheap DI would have been more appropriate.

Edited by Jack
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It’s something that seems to be common amongst many comparisons, the cheaper items seem livelier at lower volumes. Now whether that means once you get to loud loud volumes that means they sound harsh I don’t know, but if I think in regards to all my gear, the costlier items all sound much mellower/subdued than their more cost-friendly cousins at home volumes. Btw I’m talking same model, such as US/Mex Precisions, Fender/Squier guitars. 

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Very interesting, thanks for the write-up. I have a Behringer DI and a Noble and can't tell a huge difference at home volumes or into the DAW , but live I get a much cleaner in-ear feed and less FOH interference with the Noble (plus I love the tone).

Whether I love it 40x as much of course is a different question!

Hope the arm is better, looks like mine after my goal stints at  5-a-side!

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On 01/12/2019 at 15:51, Lozz196 said:

It’s something that seems to be common amongst many comparisons, the cheaper items seem livelier at lower volumes. Now whether that means once you get to loud loud volumes that means they sound harsh I don’t know, but if I think in regards to all my gear, the costlier items all sound much mellower/subdued than their more cost-friendly cousins at home volumes. Btw I’m talking same model, such as US/Mex Precisions, Fender/Squier guitars. 

Interesting, I hadn't thought of it like that. Are cheaper things just somewhat harsher and rougher around the edges you think?

7 minutes ago, Kevsy71 said:

Very interesting, thanks for the write-up. I have a Behringer DI and a Noble and can't tell a huge difference at home volumes or into the DAW , but live I get a much cleaner in-ear feed and less FOH interference with the Noble (plus I love the tone).

Whether I love it 40x as much of course is a different question!

Hope the arm is better, looks like mine after my goal stints at  5-a-side!

That's a little different I think, the Noble (and the REDDI, RNDI, etc) make a point of "we will make you sound good", rather than a passive DI which tries to be pretty much a perfect replica of the input signal. Very interesting that you can't hear much difference at home though, I need to listen back properly loud through a good PA. I've got the FR800 that I monitored with, my PJB headphones and my Microlab Solo 9C computer speakers. Both the headphones and the speakers are really nice, but they make no pretensions at being studio-grade monitoring. I wonder if better speakers or using hem live like you suggest might show more differences.

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