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Thread: Passive or Active DI?

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    elenore19's Avatar
    elenore19 is offline Slowing becoming un-noob.
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    Passive or Active DI?

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    What is the difference? Which one should I go with? The passive seems to be cheaper. So that's a plus.

    Any suggestions?


    -Elliot

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    Fusioninspace is offline Dedicated Member
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    My personal experience has been that the active DI's are generally much nicer to deal with. For acoustic instruments (e.g. guitars), it's hands down in favor of the active DI. Something like a keyboard/drum might be not as dramatic.

    My experience has been with both recording and live sound.

    Even a $75 active Behringer will be better than a $100 passive whatever.

    My guess is that the active electronics allow the DI to do things that a simple passive transformer can't do on it's own. The "things" I refer to would be give you better sound quality across all frequencies, volumes, etc.

    The one thing I hate about a lot of DI's is that they are sort of black boxes - many only have inputs/outputs and no knobs to play with... and that sucks in my book If you spend extra money on something, it should have more knobs and shit on it.

    Lights are cool also.

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    boingoman is offline Three Thousand and Counting
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    krizzlemcstizzl is offline Registered User
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    di

    it depends what kind of instrument... say you're using an active instrument (a bass or a guitar with active electronics-the kind you need a 9v battery for) then you'd use a passive DI, and if you're using an instrument w/ active electronics then you need a passive DI. GB - kRiS

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    Big Kenny is offline Been Here, Posted That
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fusioninspace View Post
    My personal experience has been that the active DI's are generally much nicer to deal with. For acoustic instruments (e.g. guitars), it's hands down in favor of the active DI. Something like a keyboard/drum might be not as dramatic.

    My experience has been with both recording and live sound.

    Even a $75 active Behringer will be better than a $100 passive whatever.

    My guess is that the active electronics allow the DI to do things that a simple passive transformer can't do on it's own. The "things" I refer to would be give you better sound quality across all frequencies, volumes, etc.

    The one thing I hate about a lot of DI's is that they are sort of black boxes - many only have inputs/outputs and no knobs to play with... and that sucks in my book If you spend extra money on something, it should have more knobs and shit on it.

    Lights are cool also.
    What?
    makes no sense... Active DI's have an amplifier (transistors or vacuum tubes & power supply (which can be batteries)) for buffering output & input impedance of the devises to be connected so it's possible to have no signal level loss when connecting a devise with a low input impedance to a devise with a higher output impedance. Basically the input impedance to the active DI is very high so it can't load down the signal that's input to it & the DI's output impedance is very low so the input impedance of the devise it drives can't load down it's signal output. They can come with various degrees of options for interconnect such as balanced or unbalanced outs, convert unbalanced in to balanced out or -10/-20 dB pad out etc..

    Passive DI's have no amplifier (aka. active components like transistors or vacuum tubes & power supply) & can only match high impedance devises to low impedance devises via a transformer which will also shift the amplitude level of the signal down proportionately when going out from a high impedance into a low impedance (and visa versa). It can also convert unbalanced to balanced via transformer.

    Active DI's are more versatile because of their ability to interconnect devises of all impedance levels & even output one devise to several inputs without signal loading (signal level loss), but sometimes a passive DI is all that's needed if for instance a level shift is desirable as in going from a line level unbalanced out to a low mic level balanced input.

    Course, I could be wrong, but I'm not
    http://www.wikirecording.org/DI_box
    In His Name
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    boingoman is offline Three Thousand and Counting
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    Quote Originally Posted by krizzlemcstizzl View Post
    it depends what kind of instrument... say you're using an active instrument (a bass or a guitar with active electronics-the kind you need a 9v battery for) then you'd use a passive DI, and if you're using an instrument w/ active electronics then you need a passive DI. GB - kRiS
    This was the standard mantra for a long time, because with active instruments and things like keyboards it was really easy to clip older active DIs, which sounds like shit. Passive DIs would just saturate. But passive DIs can load down passive pickups, affecting tone, and have around 20db signal loss. Today's active DIs can handle much hotter signals, but still require power from the wall, batteries, or phantom power.

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    mshilarious's Avatar
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    I used to do active but I switched to passive and I prefer it overwhelmingly. I set the transformer ratio very high to keep the pickups unloaded, and it sounds great, good response with that extra trafo mojo.

    You really can't beat passive headroom easily or cheaply; a passive box should be able to do +22dBu (or more) without trouble, whereas a phantom-powered or battery-powered box would struggle at that level, unless it padded the input which is generally not what you want to do. The Behri is spec'ed at +10dBu input without the pad. With the -20dB pad, it would have -90dBu noise, compared with a passive -20dB transformer feeding a -125dBu mic preamp, that's -105dBu equivalent noise, or 15dB better headroom (ignoring added noise in the trafo, which should be small).

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    Fusioninspace is offline Dedicated Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by mshilarious View Post
    I used to do active but I switched to passive and I prefer it overwhelmingly. I set the transformer ratio very high to keep the pickups unloaded, and it sounds great, good response with that extra trafo mojo.

    You really can't beat passive headroom easily or cheaply; a passive box should be able to do +22dBu (or more) without trouble, whereas a phantom-powered or battery-powered box would struggle at that level, unless it padded the input which is generally not what you want to do. The Behri is spec'ed at +10dBu input without the pad. With the -20dB pad, it would have -90dBu noise, compared with a passive -20dB transformer feeding a -125dBu mic preamp, that's -105dBu equivalent noise, or 15dB better headroom (ignoring added noise in the trafo, which should be small).
    Elliot,

    The technical stuff is probably what you wanted to avoid in the first place. Cost wise, you're talking $30 vs $50 (passive vs. active). If you can swing it, you should probably get the active just to give you more flexibility.

    But it won't sound like shit or be the end of the world if you go passive.

    See if you can borrow one of each from a music store and then do an a/b with your own equipment. That'll tell you the real answer for your situation.

    Not to diss anyone. But we get soooo hung up on specs/numbers/settings around here that we forget that we're here to make music.

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    mshilarious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fusioninspace View Post
    Not to diss anyone. But we get soooo hung up on specs/numbers/settings around here that we forget that we're here to make music.
    Uh, you were the one who said you wanted "knobs and shit". What does that have to do with making music? And if you aren't worried about specs, then just plug your guitar straight into a converter. What, the impedance is mismatched? Sorry, that's a spec, can't help you.

    An active DI should be cheaper than a passive DI, because the parts in an active are much cheaper than a good transformer. But the Behri, for example, has an active front end and an output transformer. That's not a bad idea, but if it sells for $75, what does that say for its likely quality vs. a strictly passive DI at $100? I'd rather pay the money for a better transformer and skip the $0.20 opamp.

    Seriously, I can build an active DI for about $6 in parts. $5 of that is the connectors . . . it won't have knobs or shit, but then it doesn't really need them to make music, does it?

  10. #10
    Big Kenny is offline Been Here, Posted That
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    And you can't make music with an unmatched impedance. Whirlwind director is nice and for a little more any Radial DI is very nice http://www.sweetwater.com/cs--Radial--DI_Units
    (ps- not pushing to get them here, just a nice selection)

    I think the specs and shit are pretty important BTW
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