For guitarists out there, DI boxes are practically essential. They are the go-to item for recording engineers, session players and gigging guitarists everywhere and it would be a real struggle to record without them. Confused about which DI box to pick? There’s so many options out there, it can be a bit overwhelming. It’s understandable if you’re having a hard time trying to figure out the best one for your setup and budget.
In this review, we’re checking out the top DI boxes for 2023. If you play guitar, bass, keyboards or an acoustic guitar, chances are you’ll need to use a DI box at some point. We’re going to compare active and passive DI boxes and what they have to offer. But before we get into the details let’s take a closer look at why these boxes are so important and how they came to be.
What is a DI/Direct Box
What does a DI box do? They came about in the sixties to help studios keep up with the demand of different types of instrument recordings. Basically, DI boxes solve a lot of problems that usually arise in recording studios.
DI boxes can help to boost the strength of signals coming from pickups on instruments like electric guitars or basses. They do this by converting high-impedance signals into low-impedance ones, which can be really helpful. Sound engineers must be delighted with the convenience of it all. By using DI (direct injection), they have access to a higher quality audio source and less noise due to its ability to handle ground loops.
DI boxes come in two variations – passive and active. Active boxes require some sort of power to work properly, like a battery, power supply, or +48 phantom power. Active DI boxes have built-in preamps that allow you to use longer cables without worrying about signal degradation. Plus, they provide extra headroom.
If you’re looking for a DI box, you might want to consider active ones since they tend to be more expensive. We’ll look at some of the leading passive and active DI’s available on the market.
Top DI/Direct Boxes Review
It’s always important to keep in mind what these articles strive for, which is to inform and provide people with a great choice when it comes to their next purchase. We know that the more expensive, pro-grade equipment usually outperforms the cheaper hobbyist-level stuff, but most people can’t bring themselves to splurge that much.
Even the best Reddi Tube direct box won’t do you any good if you can’t afford it– so don’t forget money is a factor. You may have a different budget from your neighbor, and what’s best for them might not be the same for you.
1. Countryman Type 85 Direct Box
Way back in the day, Carl Countryman founded Countryman and it quickly became a favourite among gigging musicians and audio engineers. In the early days, they specialised in creating customised equipment for rock bands touring across the world. They’ve grown significantly since they started and even though you may not have heard of them, they’re a top choice among professional musicians and engineers. Their pedals and recording gear have stayed on many studios’ rigs over the years.
Even cooler, the whole company makes its products right at their office in Menlo Park, California – design, manufacture and testing all there! It’s no secret that US-made products come with a certain level of assurance, even though that doesn’t mean other countries can’t produce good stuff too. The high wages and educated workers in the US are usually signs of quality for products.
Countryman is a popular choice among pro musicians, and it definitely has quality written all over it. As with any other product, you’d want to read up on the specs before making a purchase decision. That way you can make sure it’s right for your needs.
DI boxes are quite similar in terms of functionality, but you might want to invest in a better one because they’re usually made with higher-quality materials. This can help minimize distortion and background noise, which is great for achieving top-notch sound quality.
Besides that, the most awesome thing about this device is that it works with phantom power – so you’ll never have to stress about dead batteries cutting your performance short. Pretty cool, right? This DI box has a great extra feature of allowing you to choose between a pickup and microphone setting. It’s super helpful as it gives you better control over the effect your device has on your signal.
This device is definitely top-notch – you can tell from how it looks and works. And, you’re paying a bit extra but know that you’ll get reliable performance out of it. This company puts in a ton of effort and attention towards designing and checking their products, so even though there might be similar options for less money, this product isn’t overpriced at all given the amount of time and detail that goes into its creation. If you’re an audio engineer or musician, this would be a great choice for you since it won’t disappoint you. It’s dependable and will make sure to provide quality results.
Countryman’s warranty period is five years, but they won’t cover anything that happens due to your own misuse or modifications. So, be careful when using their DI boxes and don’t make any changes to the product if you want your warranty to stay valid. You can breathe easy when it comes to Countryman products – there are no reports of any being faulty. So, you can be sure that if you get this DI box, it’ll work just as expected. No need to worry; you’re safe!
The Countryman DT85 DI Box is a go-to industry standard for folks looking for some high-quality pro gear. You should definitely think about getting one if you’re in the market for a new Direct Box. Unless you’re a professional guitarist, it might be better to put your money elsewhere. Not saying the product is too expensive – but you’re paying extra for something that’ll definitely last with frequent use.
2. Radial Engineering Pro DI
Radial Engineering Ltd was founded by Peter Janis in 1991. He’s been a musician for a while and well-known in the music industry. He worked with Fender Canada before the company decided to move its top models production to California, but he ultimately quit because he didn’t want to leave his home country.
The company wanted to make life easier for musicians by providing them with cost-efficient options. Initially, they focused on creating technology that would make the most out of cables. In 1996, they released their first DI box – which went on to be one of their most popular products. It was a hit with the critics and it’s still going strong today.
It’s no shocker that the Radial Pro DI Passive Direct Box is a top-notch product, especially since it’s made by a former musician. Head below to learn more about the product specs. You’ll get all the info you need to make a proper purchase decision and find out how this DI box stacks up against its competitors.
What makes this DI box so special is its MuMETAL shielding, which helps to avoid distracting static. It’s a one-of-a-kind design, and it works wonders for eliminating that electrical interference. This feature is awesome ’cause it gives the device a good level of isolation without having to spend big bucks on expensive DI boxes. For the price, you really can’t go wrong with this type of device.
The 14-gauge steel I-beam structure of the DI box also makes it pretty tough. Most boxes are sturdy and withstand bumps, but some aren’t as resistant to getting bent if they are crammed in a bag or knocked around. If dropped onto a hard surface, it’s able to take the impact! This steel frame is great for providing the device with more strength than other models at the same price point. The design of the chassis also means that it’s reinforced on either side for added durability. These switches and inputs last longer, perfect for people who shuttle their unit to different venues for music gigs or practice.
Lastly, the Radial Pro DI Passive Direct Box offers a -15dB switch which is super helpful when it comes to active basses or acoustic guitars with high output pickups (like the L.R. Baggs M80). The ground lift switch is another great feature of this equipment. It can be really helpful in reducing noise and interference from the environment.
Folks seem to agree that this DI box gives you a really clear sound without any odd distortions. Plus, no one’s reported it breaking down during use, which is great news if you’re a gigging musician who needs reliable equipment.
Radial products have a 1-year warranty which basically ensures that if you get an issue with your device that’s the manufacturer’s fault, they’ll replace it without costing you anything extra. Radial products usually come with a transferrable warranty, so even if you purchase the unit second-hand or resell it, you can still get a replacement DI box in case of any issue. All you need is a copy of the original receipt.
The Radial Pro DI Passive Direct Box gives outstanding isolation for its price, making it an ideal choice if you’re looking to get rid of signal interference during performances or recordings. It’s definitely a must-have! This product offers an amazing range of features and is built with quality materials, all while coming at a budget-friendly price. Pretty much any working musician should be able to buy it without breaking the bank.
- Low distortion.
- Zero phase distortion.
- Has -15 dB pad, ground lift and Thru input.
3. Tech 21 Para Driver V2
Tech 21 was founded with a specific purpose – to fulfill the needs of its founders – rather than to make money, unlike other musical instrument companies. Before creating Tech 21, B. Andrew Barta was a musician who also made a living repairing and tinkering with amplifiers and other audio equipment for his peers. He was unhappy with the DI boxes he used during his shows, so he drew on his own experience and knowledge to make a better one. He tried to sell his technology to several manufacturers prior to starting his own business, but they all rejected the offer. Little did they know what a huge mistake that was!
This product is a real hit in the industry and it comes loaded with advantages. But, before you make a purchase, you should go through the specifications to make sure it’ll fit your needs. Yeah, the SansAmp isn’t just a normal DI box, it’s also a mini-amp emulation tool. So you can get all kinds of cool sounds out of it. The unit comes with a 3-band active EQ to tailor the tone and you can also add in distortion. You can boost or cut three main frequency ranges with this, giving you flexibility and control over your sound. No need to lug around batteries – this unit has phantom power, so all you’ll need is a mixer that runs on the same and you’re good to go.
Not only does the faux-amp control provide great features, you can also use it as a DI. It’s well shielded and has a -20dB switch that works perfectly with mics that have high-outputs or active pickups (like on an active bass).
A handy feature of this pedal is the “Rumble filter” which reduces low frequencies and ambient noise from your signal. This can be super helpful during gigs where high volumes are common and unwanted frequencies can be a real issue. Definitely worth checking out! Acoustic instruments are more prone to ‘noise’ from handling, so you’ll definitely feel the advantages of this more. These instruments tend to be a lot more resonant, which is why noise can be an issue.
There is one downside to this device – it affects your tone. It’s known for enriching a guitar’s sound, which might not be ideal if you’re using a darker sounding guitar as the end result can be quite muddy. Keep in mind that the EQ might not be enough to cover this, but at least you know about it.
Tech21 offers a return policy and a 1-year warranty that covers any manufacturing errors. If you experience an issue outside of the warranty, you can send it in to get it fixed by the company. The Tech21 SansAmp Para Driver V2 DI is an excellent pick for any musician who wants to improve their sound. It’s important to point out it doesn’t have a warranty as good as other products in its price range, though. Having this kind of impact on the overall tone is usually seen as a good thing, but it can make the signal stronger than what you get from most other devices.
4. Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P
Uli Behringer set up Behringer in 1989 and since then, they have been well known for their budget-friendly audio gear. This company is a major player in the field of musical and audio equipment, ranking 14th in the world. Their international presence is strong, with sales active in over 10 countries and extending to every corner of the globe.
Most people don’t know the origin story of Behringer – it was actually born out of necessity, not as a business plan. Uli Behringer attended Robert Schumann Conservatory and noticed that there were hardly any resources at their disposal. It was a huge problem as it limited what students could do and how far they could go with their music production. To make up for his disability, he built and designed tools for himself. This sparked an idea and he ended up building stuff for other students too.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t cope with demand for his stuff, so he invested in a factory and employed some people. This is how the Behringer we see today started to build up over time as his business grew. It’s no shocker that Behringer has made the Ultra-DI DI400P so affordable. The real question is; is it just a cheap imitation of other models or a surprisingly cost effective gem in disguise?
It’s totally understandable to be wary of the Ultra-DI DI400P because it’s super affordable. The saying holds true – if something is too cheap compared to its equivalent, there must be a catch. Musicians often get really frustrated due to either low-quality components or inadequate quality control with their instrument, which is a real bummer.
This piece of equipment is packed with features. It functions just as well as any other DI box, and overall it does an impressive job. You can connect long cables without losing treble, and hum is also minimized. The design of the device is great, except for one drawback – it has a ground-lift switch, but isn’t as well shielded as a more expensive DI box. This feature works well for performances and onstage applications; however, there may be some who find it a bit too loud for recording purposes.
Behringer doesn’t always put out reliable products, but they do seem to have improved some in the recent years. It’s lucky that DI-boxes have been around for a while so you can find similarly built ones that are typically cheaper than those by Behringer. Be aware that DI boxes on the cheaper side will give you more background noise than costlier models.
Don’t forget that Behringer’s customer support isn’t great – so bear that in mind when choosing them. It’s common knowledge that if something goes wrong with the device you buy, it can be quite difficult to get a replacement or initiate a return. That’s why it pays to be extra cautious when buying from unfamiliar retailers. Thankfully, even if you have a bad experience with customer service, it won’t cost you much money. That being said, there’s really no excuse for poor customer service.
The Behringer DI-400P is a very cost-effective DI box. It might not be suitable for recording purposes, but its performance in live events is quite impressive considering the price point.
5. Whirlwind IMP 2
DIs (Direct Inputs) can be tricky to understand and use, but they’re critical for achieving the best sound in the studio. There are lots of different brands and models out there so it can be overwhelming trying to select one that’s right for you.
Figuring out which DI box to go with can be tough for musicians, since everyone has different budgets and different needs. Whether you’re a hobbyist or someone just wanting to learn to make professional recordings, it can be difficult to sort through all the specs and marketing talk of each device – they all say that theirs is the best!
Whirlwind USA’s IMP 2 box is an ideal solution for the budget-minded audio engineer. It’s well crafted and a great choice if you’re looking to record your own music without spending too much.
This DI box’ standout feature is its ability to reduce hum and other unwanted noise. That’s great because once this noise gets recorded, it can be very tough to get rid of and take a lot of time. If you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to know exactly how to reduce background noise in recordings. The ground lift switch is a great way to make this process easier.
This DI box does a great job of reducing the strength of a signal to something lower. It works just like it’s supposed to. This unit packs a punch in terms of its impedance ratio (133:1 input to output) given the price. Plus, it comes with ¼” parallel wired input/output jacks too!
Another awesome trait of the device is that its outer shell is extremely durable. No doubt, this is a huge benefit if you’re looking to use the device for any sort of live sound purposes. The robust design makes it strong enough to last through regular use without breaking down or becoming unusable. We’ll take a deeper look into the device’s quality in the section below.
Another great thing about this design is that it’s reasonably slender and small. This comes in handy if you have a limited workspace, which is the case with most beginners in recording. You won’t have to make much space for the device. Like I said before, this device is really durable. What’s cool about it is that all its parts are held together with rivets instead of glue. That’s really helpful in the long run since rivets are much more secure than glue and won’t come undone as easily.
Musicians on a budget should definitely check out the Whirlwind IMP 2 DI box. It’s solid and does a great job at blocking any electric interference in your recording. The only drawback is that it doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility, so if you need to have more control over the way a DI box affects your recording, you should look into getting one with more controls.
- Clean sound.
- Has ground lift button.
- Robust build.
- No padding.
- Only one channel.
6. Behringer DI100 (Best all-rounder)
Behringer’s DI100 is an awesome direct box that can stand up to tough live use. It’s built to be rugged and reliable, so perfect for touring artists and bands who need it to last on the road.
The rectangular design of the device has some strong rubber corners that help to keep the inner bits protected while it’s on the move. This mic can be run off a battery or externally powered with +48 V. It’s got a switchable pad that lets it handle sound up to +50 dB, so you’re covered no matter what.
The DI100 is an awesome single-channel DI, and it’s been a hit with music lovers. It’s also incredibly affordable at under fifty bucks – definitely worth it! The Behringer DI100 is our top pick for a direct box. It covers all the standard needs for DI boxes and it’s dependable and tough. If you’re on the lookout for an excellent DI box, this one’s definitely worth considering!
- Low noise.
- Good value.
- Poor instructions supplied.
7. Samson MDA1(Runner-up)
If you’re looking for a good quality DI Box without breaking your bank, the Samson MDA1 is probably the best choice. It’s incredibly affordable (less than $50) and is really sturdy. Plus, it has a few features which you’d only expect to find in pricier alternatives.
If you’re a guitarist or bassist, the “Thru” output feature is perfect for you. It’ll let you send two signals from the DI to either an amp or desk at the same time – invaluable during live shows or when recording in a studio.
The Samson MDA1’s ground lift option does a great job of reducing irritating ground loop hum. Plus, it comes with a 2-position attenuation switch which makes it handy for connecting different sources like guitars and keyboards.
The MDA1 is convenient and very durable. It’s perfect for both studio and live performances. Comparing it to the Behringer DI100, this one is higher-priced but doesn’t differ that much in terms of features.
- Has a Thru output.
- 2-position attenuation switch.
8. Behringer DI20 (Best value active two-channel DI)
With just under $30, you can get yourself a Behringer DI20. It’s an active multi-channel direct box that comes in handy for both stage performances and studio recordings. And if you’re playing with another musician, this DI got you covered as two people can use it at the same time which is really handy during live shows. You can also pick to use this DI as one stereo output rather than two separate mono outputs.
The DI120 is active, so you can either power it using a 9-volt battery or get phantom power from your mixing desk. It features a ground lift for less hum/hiss and has a 3-position attenuation switch for levels up to +48 dBu.
Behringer DI20 is quite a steal for it’s price tag of less than $30. It offers amazing value and versatility, coupled with great sound quality. This direct box comes with both TRS connectors and gold-plated XLR connectors, so your audio won’t be noisy. If you’re on a tight budget and need something with multiple channels, then this should be your go-to!
- Has 2 ins and 2 outs.
- Has attenuation at -20 dB and -40 dB.
- Not the most robust build we’ve encountered.
9. Monoprice Sound Block (Best low-budget DI box)
If you’re on a tight budget, the Monoprice Sound Block DI box is worth checking out. You can get it for only $15, and it’s passive & made from sturdy steel which makes it really durable. It’s got a switch to control the padding, so you can pick between -20dB or -40dD of attenuation depending on your input signal. This DI box is easy and cheap, so it’ll work great for musicians on a budget.
Monoprice creates affordable musical instruments. Their budget-friendly Sound Block DI is great, except it sometimes has defective units that can cause hum in your signal. Monoprice’s quality control might not be the best but you still get great value for money with this DI box. It’s one of the best options in its price range.
- 2 pad options.
- Nice price.
- Inconsistent quality control.
10. LR Baggs Venue DI (Best high-budget DI for guitar)
If you’re a guitarist who likes to travel light for gigs, check out the LR Baggs Venue DI – it’s perfect for avoiding the inconvenience of lugging around a large amp. This is a great tool for any guitarist, but especially acoustic guitarists. Not only does it serve as a direct input box, it also comes with features like a tuner and EQ – basically all the bells and whistles.
LR Baggs have created something really awesome with their Venue DI. It’s sure to be a hit amongst acoustic guitarists everywhere, but it comes at a premium price compared to normal top-end DI boxes. The cost of this is a bit steep, being around $300, but it’s definitely worth the investment.
This pedal takes care of the need for a big chain of pedals on the stage. You can simply plug your guitar into it and output to a venue or studio mixer – easy-peasy! This particular DI offers all the basics like a ground lift & signal boost, and its sound is super clear. Even though it’s the priciest one in our list, it could be great for buskers.
- Built in tuner.
- Built in EQ.
- Has effects loop.
- Comes with a carry case.
- You’ll pay for the privilege.
11. Donner DI Box
This Donner DI box is perfect for guitar and bass players. It has a cabinet simulator to add an amp-like feel to the raw signal and make it sound like you’re playing through a real amp. The creators of this simulation say it is based on a 4×12-inch cabinet, which gives you a meatier and far more powerful sound. If you don’t want to carry a lot of stuff when you’re on the move, this feature is great! Even though the DI doesn’t have the best build quality, it’s still got a pretty nice price tag at about $30.
This is an affordable choice for anyone who wants a guitar DI box. It comes with a gain control of +/-20 dB, which can be a lifesaver when you need the volume to go up. It also has an extra ground lift switch to eliminate any hum or hiss caused by grounding problems. The Donner passive DI comes with two separate input options – a balanced XLR, and an unbalanced 1/4-inch. Considering the price range, this is a pretty good deal.
- Inexpensive DI box.
- Good guitar DI.
- Cabinet simulator built-in.
- XLR balanced or 1/4-inch unbalanced inputs.
- Sensitive to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
12. Behringer DI400P
The DI400P is a great tool for musicians to use on stage or in the studio. It can be used with electric and acoustic guitars, basses, keyboards and more, plus it’s a passive DI so it won’t cause any additional noise. The DI400P from Behringer has a really handy Thru output. It works great for splitting up signals and sending one unbalanced signal to something like a guitar amp, plus a balanced signal to your mixer.
Behringer DI400P is a great pick for gigging musicians – it’s super affordable (only about 50 bucks) and is really durable. A few people have had things to say about the headphone jack not working correctly but you can’t assume that means the quality of this product is bad overall.
A big plus of the DI400P is that it offers a very balanced sound due to its OT-2 transformer. Thanks to the signal matching technology added by Behringer, you get clean and noise-free audio too. Additionally, you can also switch to ground lift if there’s any unwanted noise from ground loop hum or hiss.
- Ultra-flat frequency response.
- Provides impedance and signal matching.
- Comes with Thru/Out.
- 1/4-inch TRS and gold-plated XLR connectors.
- Not active.
13. Hosa Sidekick DIB-443
The Hosa DIB-443 is a great, cost-effective DI for guitars and keyboards. It’s a straightforward, budget-friendly option which has a switch to select either instrument or line input. If you’re looking for a no frills yet effective DI then the Sidekick DIB-443 might be the one for you!
The Hosa Sidekick DIB-443 might not be the top DI out there, but it does a pretty good job. It’s made of decent quality materials and, even though it doesn’t have any extra bells and whistles, it can be used in both studio & live scenarios.
- Electric guitars, basses, and keyboards.
- Pedal effects and effects processors.
- Any electronic musical instrument with a mono phone output.
- No Thru output.
- No signal boost.
What Should I Look for in a DI/ Direct Box
Before anything else, a DI box should be tough. It’ll be used often, and will probably get moved around a lot – so it has to handle all that wear and tear. It needs to be more resilient than most other gear.
It’s essential to use good quality parts when making a DI box – you can’t skimp on this. Cheap components might be okay for other pedals, but a DI box needs to be capable of handling electrical current successfully. A guitar pedal just makes subtle modifications to the signal, whereas a DI box can transform it totally.
Lastly, figure out your needs before deciding whether you should go for a passive or active DI box. Active DI boxes work like a preamp, so keep that in mind. Bottom line is that active DI boxes are the way to go for low output instruments and passive ones are good for dealing with high output instrument hums. Before you decide what type of direct box to get, think about how you’ll use it in your setup. Then, pick a manufacturer or model that works best for you.
We looked at different types of DI boxes that suit all uses, from the studio to the stage. Each type has various features and it’s important to choose one that works for you. If you’re just playing guitar or bass on stage, then you can go with a cheaper DI. However, if you work with lots of instruments that have different signal strengths, then it’s better to get a DI that has attenuation or signal boost features.
When thinking about active vs. passive, most of the time passive is good enough. If you’re looking for a multiple-channel DI though, check out the 2-channel Behringer DI we have listed here. In certain situations, especially for guitarists, it’s important to have thru outputs. Thru’s enable the musician to keep an eye on themselves with their own amp while simultaneously capturing a direct, unaltered signal from their instrument.
Guitarists, if you’re looking to reduce the amount of cables and pedals on stage and also need a reliable tuner then check out the LR Baggs Venue DI. Sure, it’s a bit pricey but it’ll be worth every penny. Look into the benefits and drawbacks of each DI you’re considering and purchase one that will meet your specific needs.
FAQ for Best DI/Direct Boxes