Improving the quality of an “unbalanced” signal is the easiest way to augment the quality of your productions. By using the best active direct box, we can drastically improve our signal-to-noise ratio. The Radial Pro48 makes recording straight into your audio interface a possibility. It doesn’t even matter if your instrument uses “active/passive” circuitry. The Pro48 was designed to handle BOTH.
By matching impedance, you’ll finally be capable of harnessing the full potential of your amp modelling software. And that’s not all, using a high-performance direct box such as this one will unleash your instrument’s full capacity. It’ll benefit from the extended frequency-response and additional headroom. “Clipping” will no longer be an issue, so your instrument’s full dynamic-range will cut right through. In all honesty, you may only need ONE of these if you’re running a home recording studio.
- What can you plug into an active direct box?
- The advantage of owning an active direct box
- The best direct boxes have a “throughput”
- Is the Radial Pro48 right for you?
- Can an active direct box replace a passive direct box?
What can you plug into an active direct box?
Generally speaking, you’d definitely want to use an “active” direct box if you were using an instrument with “passive” circuitry. “Passive” direct boxes are usually best suited for instruments using “active” electronics.
However, instruments with an “active” circuit can also be paired with certain “active” direct boxes.
The Radial Pro48 is actually designed to handle both “passive” and “active” instruments.
You’ll be covered whether you’ve got…
- Electric guitars
- Bass guitars
- Acoustic guitars
In other words, you’ll only need ONE direct box for ALL your instruments.
Even signals that would typically “overload” other direct boxes can be attenuated using the Pro48’s “pad switch” (-15 dB).
You’ll also notice an extended dynamic range for instruments that would normally “distort” very easily.
This is due to the increase of headroom that you’ll benefit from using Radials Pro48. Your instruments will finally sound their best.
The advantage of owning an active direct box
As I mentioned earlier, owning an “active” direct box is essential if you use instruments with “passive” circuitry. However, using an instrument with an “active” circuit gives a choice…
So, if you had to decide, would there be any advantage to choosing an “active” direct box?
The main argument for “active” direct boxes is that they possess transparency. “Passive” direct boxes can potentially “colour” your signal (although this could be desirable).
Radial actually compares “active” direct boxes to condenser microphones and “passive” direct boxes to dynamic microphones.
It’s not a bad analogy because like a condenser microphone, the Radial Pro48 does have an extended frequency response.
And just like dynamic microphones, “passive” direct boxes are LESS sensitive which is why they require more signal.
But what you’ll NEVER need to worry about with an “active” direct box are transformers.
Now don’t get me wrong, transformers actually handle “clipping” a lot better, but here’s the problem…
Transformers can either be REALLY bad, or they can be REALLY good.
If you stick to a manufacturer like Radial though, it’ll never be a problem, but it’s worth mentioning.
I simply have a preference for “active” direct boxes because they are MORE versatile.
The best direct boxes have a “throughput”
You may be wondering why the Radial Pro48 has a “throughput” (maybe you’ve never even heard of a throughput). Basically, it allows you to make a “copy” of your original signal in parallel.
Why would we want to do that?
It’s simple… Let’s say we were tracking a bass guitar directly into the audio interface using the Radial Pro48.
But we also want to track the same performance using a cabinet, so how can we get both?
We use the Pro48’s “throughput” to send a “copy” of our original signal to our bass amplifier.
While this is happening, we are also sending a “balanced” version of our signal to our audio interface.
This is an effective technique as it will allow you to blend both versions of your performance in the mixing stage.
“Throughputs” are also useful for “live” performances since they allow a performer to send a “balanced “ signal to the mixing board, BUT…
The performer can also monitor their own performance by sending a “copy” of their signal to their on-stage amplifier.
So trust me, you’ll want your direct box to feature a “throughput”.
Is the Radial Pro48 right for you?
There are certainly “better” direct boxes on the market, but my criteria always emphasize value. The Radial Pro48 is the best active direct box in THIS price range.
It’s perfect for beginners and professionals alike because it has EVERYTHING you need…
- Extended frequency-response (20 – 20,000+ Hz)
- Flat frequency-response (transparent)
- Extended dynamic-range (99 dB)
- Features a “pad switch” (-15 dB)
- Features a “throughput”
- Features a “ground lift”
- “Virtually” noiseless
- Made in Canada
- 3-year warranty
- No battery compartment
Can an active direct box replace a passive direct box?
I firmly believe that the Radial Pro48 can be your ONLY direct box, especially if you’re starting out. Radial’s equivalent “passive” model is the same price, but an “active” direct box will be MORE versatile.
Think about it… “Passive” direct boxes aren’t necessarily going to pair well with “passive” electronics.
Although it is true that “active” electronics can “clip” an “active” direct box, it won’t be an issue with the Pro48.
It was designed to handle BOTH “passive” and “active” instruments and with the -15 dB “pad switch” you can’t go wrong.
You may still want to consider a “passive” direct box down the line since their transformers can provide a “vintage” sound.
When you “clip” a transformer, it doesn’t “distort” the same… it SATURATES.
Although you won’t be capable of achieving that kind of “colour” with an “active direct box, you’ll most certainly appreciate the transparency.
So regardless of the instruments you use, the Radial Pro48 has you covered. It’s the perfect entry-level direct box at such an affordable price.
I guarantee that you will significantly augment the quality of your productions with one of these!
What do you think the best active direct box is? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to share this product review with your musician friends!