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Best DI boxes 2022: a studio and stage staple for acoustic guitar, bass and keyboards

Radial J48 DI box next to guitar pedals
(Image credit: Future)

The humble DI box is arguably one of the most overlooked pieces of musical equipment on the stage or in the studio - many players don't even know they need one. Designed to resolve the pesky problem of mismatched impedance, the direct input box is used to transform your unbalanced, high-impedance signal into a balanced, low-impedance signal - simple. For us, the best DI boxes are straightforward to use, come with problem-solving features, and are built to withstand the harsh conditions of gigging. 

A DI box is a must-have device for anyone planning on plugging in an acoustic guitar, bass, or keyboard directly into the PA. This unassuming little box will ensure your instrument sounds as good as it should, eliminating hum, buzz, and other noise as well as guaranteeing a healthy signal - you know, so everyone at the back of the room can hear your hot new take on Mustang Sally, exactly the way you intended. 

In this comprehensive guide, we've made sure to include both passive and active DI boxes, together with feature-laden options, especially for bass players and even units explicitly designed for acoustic guitarists. We have DI boxes from the biggest names in pro-audio, with products from Rupert Neve, Tech 21, Radial and LR Baggs. So, no matter if you're looking for a multifaceted box with more features and controls than the Millennium Falcon or a cheap and cheerful DI to get you through a gig, you'll find what you are looking for here.

Best DI boxes: Our top picks

When it comes to recommending a DI box, it's not as easy as you might think. It all depends on the intended application. If you are a bass player looking to seriously improve your current live or studio tone, then without a shadow of a doubt, our recommendation is the Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI (opens in new tab). This stellar DI is used by the biggest names in bass for a reason - it is faultless. 

As good as the SansAmp is, it isn't what acoustic guitar players are looking for. For that situation, we highly recommend the Fishman Platinum Pro DI Preamp (opens in new tab). This epic product houses everything you need for killer acoustic tones in one place and all at a very reasonable price. 

For those seeking a simple DI box, to just be a DI box, then you can't go wrong with the Rupert Neve Designs RNDI (opens in new tab) or Radial J48. Both of these DI boxes offer superb headroom for crystal clear audio and are built to last. 

Best DI boxes: Product guide

Best DI boxes: Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI

(Image credit: Tech 21)

1. Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI

The only DI a bass player needs

Specifications

Launch Price: $249/£269/€269
Active or Passive: Active
Features: Drive, EQ and Blend controls
Ins/Outs: Effected XLR, Effected 1/4″, and a parallel, unaffected 1/4" output

Reasons to buy

+
The ultimate DI for bass players 
+
Sounds fantastic 

Reasons to avoid

-
It may have too many features for some

This robust black box has been seen on pedalboards around the world, and for good reason - in our eyes, it's the only DI box a bass player needs. First, it has to be said that the SansAmp is more than a sturdy and reliable DI box, it's also a powerful tone shaping device. 

The SansAmp offers a massive range of tones, from standard DI bass tones, to warm and tube-like grit and even full-on distortion. And better yet, the Tube Amplifier Emulation circuitry hidden inside means the SansAmp can be used as your primary source of tone. The handy Blend control allows you to mix in as much of this emulation as you need. 

Tech 21 has also packed plenty of output options into the Bass Driver, with an XLR and 1/4″ jack, as well as a parallel, unaffected 1/4″ output perfect for sending the bass signal to your on stage amplifier. Next, the onboard footswitch activates the Tube Amplifier Emulation circuitry.

Best DI boxes: Rupert Neve Designs RNDI

(Image credit: Rupert Neve Designs)

2. Rupert Neve Designs RNDI

A quality DI from the biggest name in pro audio

Specifications

Launch Price: $299/£245/€299
Active or Passive: Active
Features: Speaker/Instrument input switch, Ground Lift
Ins/Outs: 1/4″ Input, 1/4” Thru outp

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely well-made
+
Custom transformers provide added harmonics

Reasons to avoid

-
Note as many features compared to others 

Rupert Neve is one of the biggest names in the world of pro audio. His iconic mixing consoles have been used on countless records, with many people trying to replicate the sound produced by these classic desks. So it makes sense then that he'd make one of the best DI boxes as well. 

The RNDI may not be as fully loaded with features as others on the list, but for what it does do, it does it incredibly well. The custom Rupert Neve-designed transformers and class-A biased, discrete FET amplifiers used inside were developed to produce an extremely high headroom, harmonically rich sound, perfect for capturing basses, guitars, pianos, and so much more. 

The convenient speaker mode can handle up to 1000 watts of solid-state power and is perfect for those players who want to DI the sound of their bass amp. So, if you are looking for a simple to use, excellent sounding DI from a name you can trust, the Rupert Neve Designs RNDI is the one for you.  

Best DI boxes: LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI/Preamp

(Image credit: LR Baggs)

3. LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI/Preamp

One for the acoustic guitarists

Specifications

Launch Price: $249/£209/€249
Active or Passive: Active
Features: Five-band EQ, Phase inversion,FX loop
Ins/Outs: Balanced XLR and unbalanced ¼” outputs, 1/4 input, FX loop

Reasons to buy

+
Five-band EQ 
+
Phase inversion control
+
Works with 9V battery or 48V phantom power

Reasons to avoid

-
The controls are very small 

If you play acoustic guitar in a live setting, you'll know the importance of a high-quality DI box, and for us, the LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI may be the best out there. Now, it's fair to say that a straight DI acoustic isn't the most inspiring sound in the world. They can lack depth, sounding thin, and often way too bright. Well, luckily, LR Baggs has a solution that will ensure you have the best possible acoustic guitar experience. 

With a powerful five-band EQ, this DI box allows you to effortlessly dial in any vital frequencies you may be missing. The included phase inversion button is a valuable addition, giving you extra control and can even help with feedback issues. 

So if you are a gigging musician that relies on the sound of an acoustic guitar, this is a must-have DI box and is well worth investing in. 

Best DI boxes: Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P

(Image credit: Behringer )

4. Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P

A simple, no thrills DI box

Specifications

Launch Price: $25/£19/€24
Active or Passive: Passive
Features: Parallel inputs
Ins/Outs: XLR output, parallel 1/4" input/output

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable 
+
Simple to use 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as many features as some 

Behringer is well known for bringing affordable music gear to the masses. Whether it's inexpensive guitar pedals, cheap mixing desks or reasonably priced synths, Behringer will have a product for you. 

For many of us, we don't need an all-singing-all-dancing DI box, we simply need a basic DI that does the job, and the Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P certainly does that. This petite passive DI is perfect for guitar, bass or keyboard and includes a handy ground lift switch to get rid of unwanted noise. 

Now, it may be small, but the Behringer still manages to pack in parallel 1/4" input and output jacks, allowing you to send the exact same signal to your on stage amplifier, while the XLR output sends a balanced signal to your mixer. 

Best DI boxes: Fishman Platinum Pro DI Preamp

(Image credit: Fishman )

5. Fishman Platinum Pro DI Preamp

Way more than a DI box

Specifications

Launch Price: $299/£249/€269
Active or Passive: Active
Features: Chromatic tuner, EQ, Compressor and pre-amp
Ins/Outs: 1/4″ instrument input, 1/4″ amp output, XLR Balanced D.I. output with Ground Lift switch, 1/4″ effect send and 1/4″ effect return

Reasons to buy

+
An all in one solution for bass and guitar players 
+
Robust build 

Reasons to avoid

-
Too complicated for some 

Looking to streamline your current setup? Well, the Fishman Platinum Pro DI Preamp is precisely what you are looking for. Not only is the Platinum Pro a very robust and practical DI box, but it's also a powerful preamp with comprehensive EQ controls, an integrated chromatic tuner, and even a compressor! It really is the only device you need to ensure you have a killer DI tone. 

At the heart of this all-analog DI box is a five-band EQ control, which includes a sweepable mid-range and low-cut filter for precise tonal adjustments. The instrument switch allows you to pick between guitar and bass modes, while the one-knob compressor allows you to simply apply compression with the turn of a dial. 

There are very few products on the market that offer this level of control over your tone, let alone a DI box. For us, the Fishman Platinum Pro DI Preamp offers fantastic value for money and could be all you need to achieve the DI tone of your dreams.

Best DI boxes: Radial J48 MK2 Active Direct Box

(Image credit: Radial )

6. Radial J48 MK2 Active Direct Box

A reliable feature-heavy DI from the audio specialist

Specifications

Launch Price: $229/£199/€249
Active or Passive: Active
Features: Input pad, Mono Sum, 180° polarity reverse, Ground lift, HPF
Ins/Outs: Balanced XLR, 1/4" Thru, 1/4" input

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of Headroom
+
Merge switch sums stereo instruments to mono

Reasons to avoid

-
May be overkill for some players 

Radial knows a thing or two about pro audio kit. Form splitters to reamp boxes, studio effects to isolators, Radial have the stage and studio covered. It's only natural then, that we'd feature their incredibly popular J48 MKII in this guide of the best DI boxes. 

This Canadian-made DI has a plethora of features, all designed to ensure you have the cleanest signal possible. According to the folks over at Radial, the J48 makes use of a switching power supply that expands the internal rail voltage, which means this DI can handle 9 volts, resulting in "improved signal handling and greater headroom". 

As you'd expect, the J48 runs off 48V phantom power, meaning there's no need for batteries. And for those with stereo instruments or sound sources, the Radial offers a merge function, which transforms the Thru output into a second input, and in turn, converts the signal to mono before sending it to the XLR output. 

Best DI boxes: Palmer PAN 04

(Image credit: Palmer )

7. Palmer PAN 04

The two-channel option

Specifications

Launch Price: $99/£69/€89
Active or Passive: Passive
Features: attenuation, ground lift
Ins/Outs: 2 x Balanced XLR, 1/4" Thru, 2 x 1/4" input

Reasons to buy

+
Two-channels 
+
Affordable 
+
Well-made 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not everyone needs two channels 

This stereo DI box is ideal for instruments such as keyboards, synths and drum machines with multiple outputs and obviously comes loaded with noise eradicating features such as ground lift switches, just like others on this list. 

For its relatively low price tag, the Palmer is incredibly well made, with its sheet steel construction effortlessly holding up to the brutal conditions of the stage - or indeed the studio. 

If you are looking for an affordable stereo option, then you really can't go wrong with the Palmer. 

Best DI boxes: Mooer Micro DI

(Image credit: Mooer )

8. Mooer Micro DI

A DI option from the mini pedal pioneers

Specifications

Launch Price: $78/£52/€69
Active or Passive: Active
Features: gain switch, cabinet simulator and a ground lift function
Ins/Outs: 1/4" input, 1/4" unbalanced output, XLR balanced output

Reasons to buy

+
DI boxes don't come much smaller than this 
+
Includes cabinet emulation

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for the professional musician 

Chances are, if you're a guitarist, you'll have heard of Mooer. The Shenzhen-based company is recognized for its pint-sized guitar pedals and other guitar accessories - it's pretty incredible just what Mooer can pack in such a small format. 

With all the pedal areas covered, such as delay, chorus, reverb, overdrive, and pretty much another effect you can think of, the next logical step is a teeny-tiny DI - with cabinet emulation, obviously. 

It's hard to believe just what you are getting for the price with the Mooer Micro DI. All the features you've come to expect - and more - are still present, despite its small size. A balanced and unbalanced output, gain switch, cabinet simulator and ground lift function are all included in a device that is smaller than your favourite overdrive pedal!  

Best DI boxes: Buying advice

Rupert Neve RNDI in a studio

(Image credit: Rupert Neve)

What is a DI box?

DI boxes are often misunderstood, with many musicians not knowing if they even need one. So, what is a DI box? Well, DI stands for direct input or direct injection, and they are used to resolve the issue of mismatched impedance. You'll see DI boxes in both studio and live situations, and they are used to convert a high-output impedance, line-level signal into a low-impedance, microphone-level signal. 

Now, in real-world terms, DI boxes are used to connect instruments such as bass or acoustic guitars into a mixing console. You may want to do this for several reasons. Maybe you want to play your bass or electro-acoustic through a portable PA system, without micing it up, or perhaps you want to capture a clean guitar tone along with your distorted one while recording. Either way, you need a DI box to do it.  

DI box extra features 

As well as allowing you to plug your line-level instruments into your mic channel on your mixer, modern DI boxes also come loaded with extra features, all with the view of ensuring you have the best sounding signal possible. 

One feature you'll see on most DI boxes is a ground-lift switch. This handy little button is there to eliminate noise caused by ground loops. For us, this is a must-have feature as it can get you out of a sticky situation when all your gear starts to buzz and hum. It's also common to see pads on a DI as well. A pad is used to tame loud signals and bring them down to a more manageable level. 

Another feature that is an absolute must is a thru output. The purpose of a thru is to allow you to send a copy of the signal - before conversion - somewhere else. This is commonly used by guitarists or bassists to split the signal between the DI and their amplifier. It can also be used in a recording setting to ensure you always have an unaffected clean signal, that you can reamp later. 

Lastly, it's becoming more and more common to see cabinet emulation built directly into the DI box. As the name suggests, this makes your DI signal sound like it's coming from an amp and speaker cab. Obviously, this adds an extra level of depth to your tone and even means you can ditch the amp completely. 

I'm a Junior Deals Writer at MusicRadar, and I'm responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site - but that's not all I do. As part of my role, I also scour the internet for the best deals I can find on gear and get hands-on with the products for reviews. I have a massive passion for anything that makes a sound, in particular guitars, pianos and recording equipment. In a previous life, I worked in music retail, giving advice on all aspects of music creation, selling everything from digital pianos to electric guitars, entire PA systems, to ukuleles. I'm also a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland.