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DI boxes for unbalanced outputs (synths and drum machines)
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear  
Author DI boxes for unbalanced outputs (synths and drum machines)
Corrupt
Just got a new (old) mixer which is incredible quality-wise but a bit inflexible in the I/O department. All inputs are balanced female XLRs, which is rendering a fair amount of my gear unusable without unbalanced->balanced conversion. There is a mono/unbalanced insert flow also, which is helpful as a workaround, but I need to find out more about DI boxes and signal conversion.

Is anyone out there using multiple budget DI boxes in a situation like this? Not sure what the possible alternatives are. Hesitant to stick a bunch of cheap components in the signal path, having just made a massive upgrade in terms of the actual mixer, but the budget might dictate it... almost all my gear has unbalanced outs.

Any help appreciated!
forestcaver
How long is the cable run? If short, can you not just wire the cables unbalanced? (For DI boxes, I like Orchid - cheap and good)
Eichburger
Worth keeping an eye on ebay for old broadcast stuff. Can go for a song.

I got an EMO systems rack with 8 transformer DI's for £100. Really high quality and built like a tank.

+1 for Orchid Electronics as a budget option.
fluxmonkey
https://www.diyrecordingequipment.com/products/ferrite-di

DIY, but doesn't get any easier than this
johny_gtr
It's interesting to know the primary goal of using DI's for synths - matching levels/resistance or add some colours to the sound. If colours - it can be interesting. Some old rack devices have standby mode which is not true bypass and they have transformers in the chain. Not cheap but can add some warmth.
Corrupt
forestcaver wrote:
How long is the cable run? If short, can you not just wire the cables unbalanced? (For DI boxes, I like Orchid - cheap and good)


No long runs involved, just signal compatibility. How would I go about wiring the cables for this?
Corrupt
Thanks for all the replies - most helpful. The DIY box looks great, I have to say.
tony d
Corrupt wrote:
forestcaver wrote:
How long is the cable run? If short, can you not just wire the cables unbalanced? (For DI boxes, I like Orchid - cheap and good)


No long runs involved, just signal compatibility. How would I go about wiring the cables for this?


http://www.rane.com/note110.html
Elephantbud
I use tl audio quad mic pre's for that, Ivory 2
They have 4 DI's with separate knobs for tube distortion and volume
So that gives me a DI with color...
Can be found cheap second hand.
Corrupt
tony d wrote:
Corrupt wrote:
forestcaver wrote:
How long is the cable run? If short, can you not just wire the cables unbalanced? (For DI boxes, I like Orchid - cheap and good)


No long runs involved, just signal compatibility. How would I go about wiring the cables for this?


http://www.rane.com/note110.html


That is an incredible resource. Thanks so much! Will wire up a couple of tests and see how I get on.
forestcaver
Tony d - that is a great resource ! Cheers.
Michael O.
DIY is the way to go- a quality transformer (utc, Triad, etc.), a few inches of quality wiring, and a bud box + connectors are cheaper than a budget DI and incomparable in terms of quality. All of my synths and most unbalanced outboard go through the DI’s before they hit the console mic or lines ins.
nathanscribe
Another option is the pseudo-balanced cable: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/solving-computer-audio-problem s#para6

I've used these cables, DI boxes (both active and passive, cheap and not-so-cheap), and dedicated pre-amps. In my experience there's a noticeable sonic difference between the budget transformer DIs (eg, ART) and the pricier models (eg Radial JDI), but even the JDI gave distortion (as in signal deformation, not simple clipping) with stuff like a Moog bass. Of the cheaper active units, the Orchid ones are surprisingly good, and their passive Isolator boxes are also good for the money, though you're always going to get colouration (which you may or may not like) in a passive transformer-based box like that.

Making up a few cables is the cheapest way to do the job, but it's also nice to have some iron around for something a bit different sometimes.
Catmandeux
I’m throwing this into the ring.

It’s not cheap as DIY. It’s not obscenely expensive. And it seems to solve many oddball issues I run into with interfacing gear.

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/eventide-mixing-link
cwhiley
I use these.


witchbutter
So if you want to run your outputs into a DJ mixer that expects unbalanced RCA inputs, is it better to connect a VCA output to a DI box to balance the signal before connecting to that type of mixer? Shouldn't that improve the clarity?
goldplate
Nothing special.. just more gain in the amp. Or if you are really picky you could make pseudo balanced cables/connections or other. Just try with nothong special and check if it sounds good.
milkshake
Corrupt wrote:
Just got a new (old) mixer which is incredible quality-wise but a bit inflexible in the I/O department. All inputs are balanced female XLRs, which is rendering a fair amount of my gear unusable without unbalanced->balanced conversion. There is a mono/unbalanced insert flow also, which is helpful as a workaround, but I need to find out more about DI boxes and signal conversion.

Is anyone out there using multiple budget DI boxes in a situation like this? Not sure what the possible alternatives are. Hesitant to stick a bunch of cheap components in the signal path, having just made a massive upgrade in terms of the actual mixer, but the budget might dictate it... almost all my gear has unbalanced outs.

Any help appreciated!


You ONLY need DI boxes if you get a really loud buzz when connecting unbalanced connections to balanced connections.

But only Aes48 guarantees humfree operation. If you want this, shield connected to chassis earth, you can't connect your unbalanced cables to your balanced inputs/outputs without hearing that very loud buzz. Then you need DI's.
calaveras
the problem with using DI for synths is that most DI are designed for low level passive instruments like bass, guitar and transducer pickups in guitars, violins and other such instruments.
The synth output is a lot louder.
Also, many DI boxes rely on your mixer's mic preamps to bring up the gain, after the passive DI knocks down the gain.

It's probably better to wire some balanced 1/4" plugs to balanced XLR plugs.
For synths that aren't balanced the extra 'ring' conductor just goes unused and should still pass signal.
You may still end up needing a DI or isolation transformer if one of your synths is a noisy critter.
I had such a situation a few years back where two of my robots were fighting over ground. Either one by itself was fine. But plug them in to the same mixer or interface and gnarly ground noise magically appears!
justin3am
I use Ebtech Line Level Shifters. I have 3 of the 8 channel TRS model:
http://www.ebtechaudio.com/llsdes.html

You can find them used for $150 sometimes. There are also 2 channel versions and an XLR version of the 8 channel model. It's bi-directional so you can go from unbalanced output to balanced input or balanced output to unbalanced input.

These are great for connecting balanced I/O to pedals and for connecting synths with unbalanced outputs to balanced line level inputst. My audio interface is supposed to detect whether a balanced or unbalanced cable is connected but that doesn't seem to work when I'm using a balanced patch bay.
plainofjars
Very new, very expensive, and I haven't used or heard it, but I have used his preamps which are really good. Just FYI

https://avedisaudio.com/product/keypre-kp6-audio-line-amplifier/
Futuresound
I just bought a Phoenix N-8 DI. I expect to get some color from it, in addition to balancing my synths. I have intermittent hum problems with a few of them, but I also have outboard that expects to see balanced signals, so why not give them balanced signals?
calaveras
One thing I have been meaning to do for a couple years is to pick up one of the CIOKS or similar pedal power supplies. A lot of my synth boxes run off of 9v or 12v. I feel that cleaning up the power supply will do a lot more for ameliorating background noise and ground buzz than a DI, ground lift or whatever will do.

What has held me back so far is that I've not found the particular unit that will supply all my power needs; 12v and 9v DC and AC.
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