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I this review we’re looking at the best DI (direct) boxes of 2023. Whether you play guitar, bass, keyboards or acoustic guitar, the chances are that you will encounter the need for a DI box. In our review we’ll compare active vs. passive DI boxes and the multiple features that they come with. But before we get into our list of top-rated DI boxes, let’s talk a bit more on the function and origins of direct input boxes.
Before we begin: What is a DI box?
So what is the point of a DI box? Well DI boxes became popular in the 1960’s to cope with the studio demands of the day. DI boxes solve a common issue in studio when recording different types of instruments.
They have the ability to convert high-impedance signal to low-impedance signal. This effectively means that the DI box can boost the strength of the signal from instruments with pickups, such as an electric guitar or bass. This is a great convenience for sound engineers as it means they have a healthy audio source to work with and less noise to contend with due to the DI’s ability to deal with ground loops.
DI boxes also come in passive and active versions. Active DI’s naturally need some kind of power source. This could be a battery, power supply or even +48 phantom power. Active DI’s contain a preamplifier which, along with offering more headroom, means that you needn’t worry about signal loss in situations where you’re running long cables to and from your instrument.
Active direct boxes do tend to be a bit more expensive than their passive counterparts. On our list we’ll look at some of the best passive and active DI’s out there.
Here are the best DI boxes 2023:
- Behringer DI100
- Samson MDA1
- Behringer DI20
- Monoprice Sound Block
- LR Baggs Venue DI
- Radial ProDI
- Whirlwind IMP 2
- Behringer DI400P
- Hosa Sidekick DIB-443
- Donner DI Box
1. Behringer DI100
The DI100 by Behringer is a well-built direct box which is perfect for use in live settings. This DI has been ruggedly designed to put up with the rigors of life on the road with touring bands and musicians.
It has strong rubber protectors on each corner of its rectangular design which help to keep the internal components safe while in transit. It’s active too, so it can be powered with a battery or by phantom power +48 V. It has a switchable attenuation pad which means it can cater to levels of up to +50 dB.
|Image credit: Behringer Check Price on Amazon||
The DI100 is a good single-channel DI and is one of the best-selling and most popular direct boxes on the market. It’s under $50 too which is a nice price point. We’ve positioned the Behringer DI100 at the top of our list as it fulfills a lot of the most common requirements in a direct box. If you want a reliable and sturdy DI box then you can do a lot worse than go for this one.
2. Samson MDA1
The Samson MDA1 is a great little DI box at a nice price. It’s around the $50 price range, but is worth every penny. It’s robust and comes with a few nice features that are lacking in other competitors in this price category.
One such feature is the “Thru” output which is great for guitar and bass players on stage or in the studio. This allows you to send two signals from the DI to either an amplifier or a mixing desk.
|Image credit: Samson Check Price on Amazon||
The ground lift on the Samson MDA1 is very effective and noticeably reduces ground loop buzz. There’s a 2-position attenuation switch which is great if you find yourself working around different instruments such as electric guitars or keyboards.
The MDA1 is easy to use and built to last. It’s a great direct box for recording or live situations. There isn’t much between this DI and the previously mentioned Behringer DI100, although this one tends to be slightly more expensive to buy both online and in stores.
3. Behringer DI20
Best value active two-channel DI
For under $30 you can be the proud owner of a Behringer DI20. This is an active multi-channel direct box which is perfect for stage use or in the studio. Two musicians can use this DI at once which is extremely convenient, especially in live situations. Alternatively you can choose to use this DI as one stereo output as opposed to two unbalanced mono outs.
The DI120 is active, so it can be powered with either a 9-volt battery or by using phantom power from a mixing desk. It has a ground lift for reduced hum and hiss and also an attenuation switch. This is a 3-position attenuation switch which can accommodate levels of up to +48 dBu.
|Image credit: Behringer Check Price on Amazon||
The Behringer DI20 is a great value DI for the money. It retails under $30 which is an astonishingly good price for such a versatile and quality product. It comes with TRS connectors as well as gold-plated XLR connectors for low noise audio. If you need a multi-channel direct box, and are on a keen budget, then this is the one for you.
4. Monoprice Sound Block
Best low-budget DI box
If you’re looking for a low-budget direct box then the Monoprice Sound Block might suit. This DI box is one of the cheapest around and can be purchased for around $15. It’s passive and made from heavy duty steel for durability.
It comes with an attenuator switch to control padding too. You can choose between -20 dB or -40 dB attenuation depending on the strength of your input signal. This is a simple and affordable DI box which will suit musicians on a budget.
|Image credit: Monoprice Check Price on Amazon||
Monoprice produce entry-level products for the music market. Their Sound Block DI will not break the bank. The only issue we’ve run into with this DI is that there do seem to be some defective devices which can cause low levels of hum to the signal. This may be down to poor quality control on Monoprice’s behalf. With that said, this is still one of the best value DI boxes for the money, in this price range.
5. LR Baggs Venue DI
Best high-budget DI for guitar
If you’re a guitarist and you like to travel light to gigs, without the inconvenience of a bulky guitar amp, then you may want to look at the LR Baggs Venue DI. This is a one-stop-shop for guitarists, especially acoustic guitarists. This device acts not just as a direct input box, but it also has a host of features such as a tuner and EQ built into it.
|Image credit: LR Baggs Check Price on Amazon||
LR Baggs have created a very useful product with their Venue DI, which is sure to appeal to many acoustic guitar players around the world. Pricewise this will cost a lot more than just your average top-end DI box. It’s currently priced around $300 which is a big chunk of change, but a solid investment all the same.
Effectively this pedal eliminates the need for clunky chains of pedals on your band stand. You can plug directly into the Venue DI from your guitar and then straight out into a venue or studio mixer.
The sound is clean, and this pedal has all the typical features of a standard DI such as ground lift and a signal boost. It may be the most expensive DI on our list, but it’s definitely one for the busking type of player.
6. Radial ProDI
If you’re after a high-quality DI box and you don’t need it to be active, then the Radial ProDI might be what you need. This is a passive direct box with great isolation and low distortion. The isolation of the transformer means that hiss and hum is reduced to a minimum.
This is a good DI for bass players especially as it means that on stage you can use the Thru input to send two signals to an amp and the main desk.
|Image credit: Radial Check Price on Amazon||
This is a highly-rated direct input box and that’s down to the quality involved. The pad feature helps to protect against any signal overloading. It also has a heavy-duty build and seems to be made to last.
7. Whirlwind IMP 2
The Whirlwind IMP 2 is a professional standard DI box with quality in mind. This is an in-line transformer which converts a line or instrument-level unbalanced signal to a low impedance mic-level balanced signal.
It doesn’t have too many extra features, but the sound from this DI is high-quality. It’s built to last and is perfect for guitar, bass or keyboards.
|Image credit: Whirlwind Check Price on Amazon||
If you’re seeking a simple, but effective passive DI for use on stage or in the studio then this is a great option. It’s built to last and most reviews online will testify to that durability. The ground lift can help out in many situations to eliminate buzz or hum. All in all a good high-end DI box.
8. Behringer DI400P
The DI400P is a passive DI made for different instruments on stage or in recording settings. This DI has been designed to typically handle instruments such as electric and acoustic guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and many more.
Behringer have equipped the DI400P with a Thru output which is useful for signal splitting. The Thru lets you send one unbalanced signal to the likes of a guitar amp along with another balanced signal to a mixing desk.
|Image credit: Behringer Check Price on Amazon||
The Behringer DI400P is a good DI for the gigging musician. It doesn’t cost a lot (it’s around $50 online and in stores) and is quite well built. Some reviewers have complained about faulty jack input although we can’t say that that is a true reflection of the quality of this product across the board.
One nice thing about the DI400P is that it gives a very flat frequency response due to Behringer’s OT-2 transformer. Combined with the signal matching technology that Behringer have provided you get a very clean and low-noise audio signal. There’s also a ground lift switch to deal with any unwanted ground loop hum or hiss.
9. Hosa Sidekick DIB-443
Another good cheap DI for keyboards and guitar is the Hosa DIB-443. This passive DI is basic and affordable. It comes with a switch for selecting between an instrument or line input. If you need a simple, but effective DI without any bells and whistles then the Sidekick DIB-443 could be for you.
|Image credit: Hosa Check Price on Amazon||
The Hosa Sidekick DIB-443 doesn’t claim to be the best DI on the market, but it is competitive. The build quality is quite good and, although it lacks any fancy features, it’s perfectly usable in live and studio situations.
10. Donner DI Box
This Donner DI box is aimed at guitar and bass players. It comes with a built-in cabinet simulator which aims to take the raw signal and give it some more of the characteristics that you would associate with a guitar amplifier.
The makers tell us that this simulation is based on a 4×12-inch cabinet, so overall you get a fatter and much punchier sound. This is a nice little feature which is helpful if you plan on traveling light and plugging directly into a PA system. While the build quality of this DI is not of the highest, it does come at a nice price around $30 online.
|Image credit: Donner Check Price on Amazon||
This is a good cheap solution for anyone who needs a guitar DI. It comes with a gain boost of plus or minus 20 dB which is good news if you sometimes find yourself needing an extra lift in volume. There’s also a ground lift to reduce any ground loop hum or hiss.
When it comes to inputs, Donner have equipped this passive DI with two separate ins. There is a balanced XLR input along with an unbalanced 1/4-inch input. Pretty good value at this price we think.
In this review we’ve outlined some of the best DI boxes for all situations from the studio to the stage. DI’s come in all shapes and sizes and each have their own individual features, which you may or may not need.
If you’re looking for something simple to use on stage with a guitar or bass then you’ll be fine with one of the lower budget DI’s. If on the other hand you work with lots of instruments with differing signal strengths then you might want a DI with attenuation or signal boost.
Active vs. passive is another consideration. In most cases passive will work just fine. Do you need a multi-channel DI? If so, take a look at the 2-channel Behringer DI on our list.
Thru outputs are important in some cases, especially with guitarists. Thru’s are a great way to allow the musician monitor themselves with their own amp while taking a direct unprocessed signal from the instrument at the same time.
If you’re a guitarist and need something which can take care of ground lift and at the same time offer you a tuner, then the LR Baggs Venue DI is made for this situation. It is a tad expensive, but the investment will cut down the need for a clutter of cables and pedals on stage.
Whatever your case may be, weigh up the pros and cons of each DI in question and purchase one which fits your own requirements.