Finding the Best DI Boxes for Bass is not a case of looking for a box of tricks for the Pro. A good DI box will be a benefit to every bass player regardless of the player’s level or circumstances.
What does DI mean?
There are three commonly used terms for the initials DI, Direct Input, Direct Interface, and Direct Injection. Direct Input is not correct because it implies going straight into a desk. Interface is also a misnomer as you are not really linking two things together.
Direct Injection is the best description as you are actually inserting or injecting something to change the signal.
It became a necessity, especially in studios in the 60s, when it was needed to resolve the issues regarding impedance differences between guitar pickups and studio electrics.
However, it is a more sophisticated animal these days, but the primary function is still the same. To convert a high-impedance signal that is unbalanced, And turn it into a low-impedance signal that is balanced.
In simple terms, it gets rid of any line noise while making the tone of the bass easier to control.
Are they all the same?
Are all effects pedals the same? Of course not. Some DI’s create a sound that you like; others may not. Some have special features to achieve that.
And if you are using it for home recording, it is easier and certainly a lot cheaper than traditional bass recording methods. You won’t have to find a dedicated room or area that is correctly soundproofed and need one or two great mics. Plus, if your bass amp isn’t the best, it won’t make a difference.
The DI? Just plug into it.
Are you looking to enter the world of the DI, to record in a studio, at home, or use it live on stage? If so, let’s look at the very best currently available and find the perfect one for you…
Top 8 Best DI Boxes For Bass For Your Consideration In 2021 Reviews
1 Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P Professional High-Performance Passive DI-Box – Best Budget DI Box for Bass
To start, let’s take a look at a DI from our old friend from Germany, Behringer. They are known to make good equipment right across their product range and all at great prices. And if you are looking for a great price, then you’ve landed on the right page here.
Nice and compact…
You are unlikely to find many smaller DIs than this one. It measures just 1.38 by 4.72 by 2.6 inches and weighs only seven ounces. If you are going to use it on stage, then it won’t take too much pedalboard room. If you are taking it to a studio to record, it will fit in your pocket.
Built to last…
Behringer has taken some stick over the years about a few of their pedals, which are made of plastic. Unjustified, really, because if you want a metal casing, go and get your checkbook out. However, this DI has a metal casing and is ready to go to work. It is rugged and hard-wearing and built with quality components. Therefore, this DI is going to last you a while.
Signal quality is vital. Behringer has provided an XLR with gold plating to ensure connections are both good and durable. And it is all well laid out and easy to use.
The OT-2 transformer…
The Behringer OT-2 transformer is possibly the most important element in the DI’s make up. This transformer is tuned to a frequency that is very flat, which allows it to give you quality signal fidelity.
The isolation of the signal is very effective, and there is a ground lift switch. That ensures the signal is clear and does not suffer from hum. It can handle up to 3000 watts of power. It can, of course, work with other instruments to connect to amplifiers or mixers.
For a DI that is so competitively priced, this has a high-performance level. It is extremely quiet and matches impedances very well.
There is a through/out jack socket that allows you to forward an unbalanced signal to an amp. The balanced signal is sent to a preamp, an interface, or a mixer.
Value for money
We use some Behringer equipment ourselves, and it has never let us down. That is one reason this DI must be considered as one of the Best DI Boxes for Bass for anyone on a budget. If you want another, just check out the price point.
Quality German design and engineering at a great price.
- Rugged build with easy to use controls at a great price point.
- The OT-2 transformer built-on provides excellent impedance matching.
2 Radial J48 MK2 48V Phantom Power Active Direct Box – Best Compact DI Box for Bass
If you know a bunch of other musicians, it is quite likely you will have seen a product or two from Radial. They are a Canadian company founded in 1992 and have acquired some illustrious user names. These include Rush, Springsteen, Joel, and McCartney, to name but a few.
There are some products, though, that they are widely known and respected for. One of those is the Radial J48 DI.
This DI operates using Phantom power, which it gets via the XLR cable run from either a recording console or an interface. This has some advantages in that it doesn’t need to be powered by its own supply, which can reduce potential unwanted sound problems.
It has a welded t-beam construction design that makes it a tough little unit. Quite ready to go out on the road where it might take a few knocks.
The basic controls are located on the front edge of the box, not on top, which provides some protection from damage. They are well-labeled and easy to use.
It has a Ground Lift and a high-pass filter along with a -15dB pad switch. Also, left and right merge controls and a polarity control.
You will also not get any of the harsh clipping that some DI boxes can give you because it has a high-headroom.
As with most things, there are, and if you have weak pickups, the Phantom power might not be enough to drive the signal effectively, but this is an issue with your bass more than this unit. Also, looking at the price point, it isn’t the cheapest of options we will look at, but quality rarely comes cheap.
It is a good rugged unit with a big reputation that does its job incredibly well.
- Good build with easy to use controls.
- Some nice built-in sound control features.
- Some might find it expensive.
3 Whirlwind IMP 2 Standard Direct Box – Best Basic DI Box for Bass
Sometimes, but not always, of course, the most simple designs are the most favored. There are times when we do seem to want to over-complicate things. This DI box cannot get much simpler.
Keeping it simple…
It is a very basic design that is quite compact and very easy to use. This is an in-line transformer that will take an unbalanced signal and converts it to make it a balanced low-impedance signal.
If your instrument has active electronics, this will do the job. If you are looking for a decent performance level but at a budget cost, then this is worth a look.
It has a rugged construction and is built to take a few knocks. Inside, the transformer is fixed to the chassis using rivets and not a vulnerable fixative. There are two jack sockets on the input side of the box. You can use these either as input and an unbalanced output that goes to your amp. Or they can be used as stereo inputs.
On the other side of the unit is a balanced XLR. Between them a ground lift switch.
For those on a budget a good but very basic option.
- Simple design and durable at a cost-effective price.
- Ground lift switch built-in
- It may not work effectively with low power passive pickups.
4 Countryman DT85 Type 85 Direct Box
This is another DI box that is a favorite amongst a large number of musicians. One of the reasons for that is that it has a particularly rugged build. In fact, the manufacturer’s website shows a picture of a truck running over it.
It measures 2 by 6 by 9 inches and weighs 1.2 pounds, so it is not the most compact of units.
This is a DI box that is known for its sound. They have designed the circuitry to subtly replicate the sound created by a vintage tube amp. In the opinion of a number of musicians, including pro bassists, this actually improves the direct tone.
Therefore, if you happen to like the sound or are actively looking for a DI with it, then this is the one for you.
Active, not Passive
This is an active DI. Some active DI’s can have a rather sharp tone, but that is not the case with the Countryman DT85; this creates a warm, smooth sound. It is equally at home working with either active or passive pickups. It operates using phantom power and has a ground lift switch.
This is a DI box that is going to suit some bassists. An active DI won’t be good for everyone, and it is also rather expensive, but it does have a unique sonic flavor, which you won’t get from any other DI box.
- Rugged build.
- Creates a very rich warm tube amp sound.
5 MXR M80 Bass D.I. – Most Versatile DI Box for Bass
MXR has quite an illustrious history. Founded in 1972, their first commercially available pedal was the MXR Phase 90. That was quite a successful pedal and was used on the first two Van Halen albums.
MXR is one of the popular brands for effects pedals, and it is not unusual for them to include a few sound surprises. This unit is no different.
As is the case with MXR pedals, this unit is made to last. Despite its rugged appearance, it is still reasonably compact at 5.75 by 4.5 by 2.75 inches. It weighs 1.5 pounds.
One glance at it, though, will tell you this is more than just another DI pedal for bass. The controls are extensive. But they have been placed conveniently, so they are still easy to use.
Well, actually quite a lot. This box is not going to be for the bass guitarist who likes to keep a straight, low-frequency sound. If you like your sound with very few frills and extras, this box probably is not for you.
So having established this is more than just a DI box, what else have MXR included?
A three-band EQ is built-in along with a distortion channel with blending. There is also a noise gate to allow you to keep the signal clean. The distortion has its own gain, and volume controls to add to the blend. To make routing flexible, it has parallel output. The Clean channel also has its own volume control.
So whether you want your sound to be clean and crisp or have a dirty edge, this box will do it all.
There is a Color control that only operates with the Clean channel. Driving a sharp and crisp sound, this feature is useful for bass guitarists who enjoy a bit of slap. As the Color button only works with the Clean channel, so the Noise gate only works with the distortion channel. The Trigger control is there to adjust the sensitivity of the noise gate.
The Blend control we have already briefly mentioned adjusts the signal between dirty and clean. This works in conjunction with the gain control, which adjusts the amount of drive used.
An extra useful feature is the variety of power options. You can, of course, use Phantom Power but also available are battery and DC options.
As we said, if you want a bit more in your DI box, this provides it, but you do have to pay for the pleasure.
- Choices for powering.
- Plenty of extra sound features built-in.
6 L.R. Baggs Venue DI Acoustic Guitar Preamp – Best DI Box and Preamp for Bass or Acoustic Guitar
Time now to move up a level with another DI box that carries a lot of extra features. Strictly speaking, this has not been designed with the bass guitar in mind, as it is really for an acoustic guitar. However, it will, of course, work with the bass.
More than a DI box…
To call this a DI box is not to do this unit justice. There are other DIs with some extra features. But this one goes quite a way further.
This box offers complete control in the sound creation, and you can adjust every built-in parameter. This means that the signal you finally send to the console or wherever it is going is exactly what you want it to be.
The extra features
With the L.R. Baggs Venue, you get a five-band EQ. Inside the EQ, there are controls to allow you to tweak the High-mid and the Low-mid bands. There is also a Gain control for the preamp.
There is an interesting control called the Notch. This will allow you to control any feedback that may be generated. There are also footswitches for Boost and to Mute and use the built-in tuner. Engaging the Mute button automatically brings up the tuner. There is the usual Ground Lift switch and also controls for the effects loop.
Of course, not finished yet. There is a phase inversion control and a gauge for checking the battery.
This unit can run from an adapter or a nine-volt battery. When in battery mode, the gauge will let you know the battery status. When not in use, this gauge is a meter to check for clipping.
It has a great design and is well-made with the controls placed below the level of the footswitches. This is to avoid altering them accidentally when using the switches.
Quality and features come at a price…
I think it is safe to say that this is not an ordinary DI. But then neither is the price.
- Five band EQ and an effects loop.
- The design ensures the settings are not compromised when in use.
- Only that it is quite expensive.
7 Rupert Neve Designs Active DI Box – Best Sounding DI Box for Bass
Yes, before we start, it is THE Rupert Neve, the legendary designer of some of the best sounding and most sought after recording consoles of all time. Immediately then, you will know this is going to be a quality product. This performs at a high if rather a basic level. However, it must be considered as one of the Best DI Boxes for Bass in terms of sound quality currently on the market.
Emulations or the Real thing…
It is possible that it might draw some attention to get a DI box from the man who designed all those consoles. He does know a little bit about sound. In this box is some of that know-how.
With this DI box, you don’t need to try and emulate the Neve sound. Here it is.
Well, it’s quite pleasing and not ostentatious. It measures 10 by 8 by 3 inches and weighs 2 pounds, so it is not as compact as some. It is laid out quite simply with just jack sockets for In and Thru on the front.
The ‘In’ is an unbalanced input and the ‘Thru’ sends the signal to an amp. Also, there is a switch to select between speaker and instrument level, on the rear, just an XLR output and the Ground Lift switch.
Preserves the sound…
This is a DI box that doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles that some units have. That may put some off, but what it does do is focus on the sound you naturally create. And you can use this unit either before your amp or after. That option is controlled via the Speaker and Instrument switch.
The real plus point with this box is the richness of sound it creates by preserving the 2nd order harmonics. The sound does not diminish or get lost regardless of the environment.
Clean and lively…
It is an active DI and therefore will need Phantom power. This is a CLass A design that produces a very clean and lively sound. For the purists, it is going to be something to look closely at. Though it has to be said, it isn’t the cheapest option.
- Preserves the harmonic content.
- Simple and easy to use.
- Quite expensive for a very basic box that has few extra features.
8 Behringer Ultra-G GI100 Professional Battery/Phantom Powered DI-Box – Best Value for the Money DI Box for Bass
Back to Germany for our final DI box from Behringer. Behringer is well-known for making cost-effective products. This DI box, though, is a step up the ladder.
This DI is aimed more at the professional user. It has better routing options and a lot more features than other Behringer boxes.
A variety of uses…
This DI is designed for use either in the studio or on stage. To be able to accommodate that, it is well-built with a sturdy chassis that measures 5.91 by 5.12 by 2.36 inches. It weighs one and a half pounds.
It will give you impedance and signal matching that will allow you to connect your instrument directly to a mixer or audio interface.
It is made from aluminum and has strong rubber corners. This allows the box to be stacked if necessary. Quality components in a sturdy build mean that this box will be around for a while.
The XLR connectors are gold-plated to ensure a good contact and reduce any corrosion possibilities.
Some good features
Behringer has included their OT-2 transformer, which is well-known for its flat frequency response. And it has a ground lift switch to eliminate any problems with ground loops. It has controls for the attenuation of decibel levels. This will give you up to +50dB input level boost. Plus, there is a built-in simulation of a 4 x 12 cabinet if needed.
This can be used with either a nine-volt battery or with Phantom power. If you use phantom power, the battery is automatically shut down.
Excellent features at an attractive price…
At the price point, this represents a very good option. And places it in the category of one of the Best Value DI Boxes for Bass that you can buy.
- A sturdy build with good components makes it durable.
- A built-in amp simulation and attenuator at a very cost-effective price.
Best DI Boxes for Bass Buyers Guide – What do you need to buy?
There are essentially two types of DI box, Passive and Active. But which one do you need?
The Passive Box
This will do the job with no need for power. They are easy to use and don’t cause problems with your rig. Plug them in and send the signal to the amp, and that’s it.
Plus, they don’t suffer from ground hum or other interference, which is prevented by adequate shielding of the transformer.
They are often not very effective with low-output pickups. Now you might not think that is important, but that means just about every single-coil pickup on any bass guitar. And what do the vast majority of Fender basses and Fender-type basses use? Single coil pickups.
The result is lower output to your amp, which can cause a reduction in the quality of the sound.
The Active Box
These use either a 9-volt battery or Phantom power from an interface or a mixing console. Active DI’s don’t load pickups and actually drive more signal acting as a preamp.
Most have a Ground Lift switch that provides its own path to ground. Important if the instrument you are using is lacking in that area, as so many basses are. This feature will usually eradicate all hum instantly.
Firstly they need to be powered. And when you drive them hard, the sound may not be as good as a passive box. But for low output pickups, especially single coils, they are usually the best option.
Which you choose will depend on your bass and your own circumstances.
Looking for more high-quality products to improve your Bass playing?
And if you’re thinking of getting a new bass, you might enjoy our reviews of the Best Bass Guitars, the Best Left Handed Bass Guitar, the Best 5 String Bass Guitars, the Best Short Scale Bass Guitars, the Best Acoustic Bass Guitars, the Best Beginner Bass Guitar, and the Best Bass Guitars for Kids you can buy in 2021.
But, what are Best DI Boxes for Bass?
We would go for the…
A great, well-respected transformer with some nice features. And all at a great price point makes it our choice as the Best DI Box for Bass for anyone looking for the best value for the money.
In terms of sound, if you want to preserve the original sound of your bass, then you can go wrong with the…
There is a good reason why so many name professional bassists use this as part of their studio and live rigs. And if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.
But if you want to color your bass sound, then the best option is the…
It’s basic and lacks features, but the sound it delivers is stunning.
Enjoy your bass and enjoy your playing!
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