“DI”, which most players know as “Direct Injection” (meaning not Direct Input and I’ll explain why in a moment), is a very standard thing to use when playing the bass guitar, be it for recording or live.
The answer depends on whether you’re using it for studio or stage application. But before I get into that, a quick question answered:
What does DI mean?
DI is typically defined as Direct Input, Direct Interface or Direct Injection. And yes, they all count.
Personally, I think the best definition of the three is Direct Injection because you are literally injecting something into the signal in order to change it.
“Direct Input” could mean simply plugging a bass direct-to-board without DI, and “Direct Interface” literally translates to “something that connects two things” and doesn’t really cover the tone changes that DI does; that’s why I prefer to use “Direct Injection” when referring to the technology.
What does a DI box actually do?
A DI box, such as the SansAMP Bass Driver DI or the SansAMP Character Series VT Bass DI (both noted above), provides electrical ground isolation between input and output, and matches impedance of the source to the load.
In plain English: Gets rid of line noise, and makes the bass tone much easier to control when plugged into a console mixer.
What’s the advantage of using DI for home recording?
A DI box is much cheaper and easier compared to the traditional way of recording.
Traditional way: Build a proper sound-controlled room (that will cost a few grand), buy 2 to 3 quality microphones with appropriate stands (at least another grand), place one mic in front of the speaker off-axis to the cone, one in the rear to “recover” bass frequencies not heard from the front mic, spend at least 30 minutes mixing all that crapola, then bang your head on the desk because there’s something in the signal causing a buzzing noise and you can’t figure out what it is or where it’s coming from.
DI way: Plug in box to console, tweak a few knobs, record.
What’s the advantage of using DI for stage?
For the player: If you gig regularly, there are “good rooms” and “bad rooms”. When you encounter one of the bad ones (and you will), a DI can be a life saver to tweak your tone in such a way that accommodates the crappy room better – with little to no noise even with the “dirtiest” of power.
For the sound guy: Sound guys love DI boxes because they’re much easier to mix at the console as DI works very nicely with mixing consoles.
Are all DI boxes the same?
No. You can consider a DI box the same as you would your favorite stomp-box pedal effect. You use certain effects because they have a certain sound that your ears like. The same can be said for DI boxes.
Some DI boxes modify the sound in a way that will achieve “that perfect vintage-60s tone”, while others will be punchy-extreme no matter what settings you use.
Several DIs lean towards “sounding vintage”, and Tech 21’s VT Bass DI is one such example. This isn’t to say that’s all it can do as it can be used to simulate many different amp environments. But the “lean”, so to speak, is towards a more vintage sound.
Should all bass players own a DI?
Yes. DIs aren’t just for pros anymore.
For the home recording enthusiast that just wants to post some of his or her songs out to YouTube or SoundCloud and actually have it sound good (or “good enough”), the DI is the easiest way to go about it: