April 10, 2008

DI boxes: the magical guitar tone weapon

A little while back I mentioned that you should always use a DI box when recording electric guitar, but why? What does a DI box even do?

I'm so glad you asked! Without getting too technical:
A DI box is simply a device that makes an electrical copy of your signal while leaving the original alone. (Click here for the nerdy nerdy)
Once you have this copy, you can record it directly and run the original to your amp.

Before I move on, I need to mention one more thing about DI's: They match impedance. You don't need to know what that means electrically, but here's what it means in practical terms; if you want to plug in anything with a 1/4" TS plug into your computer and record it (like a guitar/bass/keyboard/etc), you need to run it through a DI first.

If you're not sure if you should use a DI or not... just use it. It usually won't mess anything up if you use one when you don't need to.

So why do we need to use a DI anyway? Well it's a little bit complicated but, in a nutshell, it gives you near infinite flexibility with your guitar tone. Here's how it works:
  1. Plug your guitar directly into the DI box (before any pedals or anything)
  2. Plug the balanced output (TRS or XLR) into one of the inputs on your audio interface
  3. Plug the unbalanced output (TS aka another guitar cable) into your pedal board or amp.
  4. Put a microphone on the amp and make it sound good.

Here's how you'd connect the Preamp/DI I recommend in the B-Rig gear list:

Now just record like normal, but make sure each take has 2 tracks recording. The DI on one track (should sound like clean guitar) and the microphone in front of the amp. You're gonna want to mute the DI track for now.

Once you've recorded all the guitar parts for this song/EP/Album, borrow a few great sounding amps from your friends (your friends all have beautiful gear... right?) and do a technique called reamping.
Reamping is when you re-record the guitar parts through multiple amps in order to achieve a better guitar tone.
You do it like so:
  1. Set up a new, empty track for the reamped tracks
  2. Put a microphone in front of the amp and set the new track to record mode
  3. Hook up the output of your audio interface (aux send/direct out or you can use the Headphone output as a last resort) to the input of said guitar amp.
  4. Solo the DI track
  5. Hit play/record
Of course you need to mess around and get a tone that compliments the orginal guitar tone that you already have.

Note: this trick is also great for removing metronome clicks, people talking, and other noise from your guitar tracks.

Do not delete your DI tracks once you've reamped the guitar. You may need them again - just keep them muted/disabled.

If anything is unclear (or you just want to let me know how much you like my blog) please leave a comment I'm always happy to help!

Happy reamping everyone!

© 2008 Jim Robert