What’s a DI box and why do I care? Well I’m glad you asked, it’s a handy audio tool that has all sorts of applications for a wide variety of events for a rock concert, live musical performance, business presentation or wedding slide shows. They are the standard in the audio visual industry. We are happy to provide one even if you are using your own equipment. DI boxes are super handy pieces of gear for DJ’s, DIY renters and musicians – we use them to ensure the best quality audio for our clients.
OK I don’t really care but I do want the best quality noise free sound, can you just handle it for me?
Sure, we are happy to use our judgement and hookup a DI box for DJ packages or full service rentals. We often use them for no extra charge just to ensure great audio. We don’t expect our clients to be audio engineers!
OK I’m mildy interested, what does this magic box of yours do?
One of the most common usages is connecting up the audio portion of a slide-show for a business presentation or wedding slide-show to our sound system or PA. It’s not unusual for a musician to want to connect to our PA during an event and 1st in Entertainment does provide live sound engineering. Boxes convert a 1/4″ unbalanced connection (like a guitar cable or computer adapter cable) to a balanced XLR cable (the standard for mixers and PA gear). Basically it’s a fancy adapter that allows you to hook up all sorts devices while reducing noise – these boxes create a better connection. In simplistic terms it makes our speakers happy and allows you to connect an audio square peg (1/4″) to a round hole (three pin XLR). When computers are involved a DI box is used with an specific adapter cable (3.5 mm to two 1/4″ connectors). Long cable runs are best with DI boxes.
When should a DI box be used? Why can’t I just use a straight adapter cable from a dollar store or something?
You probably won’t find adapter for professional XLR PA systems at the dollar store. In some cases an adapter will work just fine, however you might be creating allot of static or noise or the quality of the signal may suffer. It’s a good idea to use a DI when connecting an iPhone to a professional PA. Our equipment generally works better with the more consistent signals created by these boxes. We rent DI or direct boxes with our DJ packages or by themselves as a stand-alone rental. We use them to connect our DJ computer or power-point computer to the PA (laptop power supplies almost always create distracting noise on their own). If you want to plug it in a DI might be the solution. Microphones do not require direct boxes.
Technical fancy speak
What’s an active vs. passive DI?
Active DI’s can reduce the gain on an input, an active DI compensates for this problem by making the signal a little bigger – the boxes draw power from battery or phantom power. Active boxes do have a slightly different character however. Some audio engineers choose not to use a DI for certain applications especially if signal noise isn’t a significant factor. DI’s do change the tone of an instrument, but usually in a desirable fashion.
Balanced Vs. Unbalanced cables
XLR connectors have an extra ground pin that protects audio signals from interference and noise. Long cables are particularly suspect without a balanced connection. Unbalanced signals include guitars, component (red, white, yellow) cables, 3.5 mm headphone jacks (on computer and phones), and most keyboards. Microphones are usually always balanced with an XLR cable. Our wireless microphones are best connected with XLR vs. 1/4″ inch. DI boxes act as an adapter and create a new balanced connection for unbalanced devices or cables.