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IK Multimedia Z-Tone DI review

A fuss-free DI with great sound, what's not to like?

  • £159
  • €172
  • $149
IK Multimedia Z Tone DI
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

Variable impedance, switchable "pure" vs JFET-buffered circuit, flexible routing... The IK Multimedia Z Tone DI has a lot to recommend it.

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality.
  • Simple design makes it an excellent creative tool.
  • Switchable circuits.

Cons

  • Nothing really. It's boring, yes, but you'll grow to love it.

What is it?

We often think of IK Multimedia as the guitar software company, with its fully-tooled software modelling packages some of the best in the business. But its hardware is excellent, too.

Indeed, IK Multimedia's Axe I/O guitar audio interface is quite possibly the best guitar audio interface on the market today. And Z-Tone DI, which takes some of its features from the Axe I/O offers you a remarkable amount of control over your direct signal.

Now, don't change the channel just yet. We know, we know. DI boxes are boring. But they can make your life so much easier you'll wonder why you haven't used one before. It might not have a transformative effect on your tone as a multi-functional reverb, but its practicality removes barriers between you and your musical ideas.

We know, we know. DI boxes are boring. But they can make your life so much easier you'll wonder why you haven't used one before

While many audio interfaces have instrument level inputs so you may plug in directly, having a DI box like this offers you some flexibility over how you route your signal and can add some secret sauce as it passes on through.

Performance and verdict

The input side of the Z-Tone is clever. To avoid that dullness that you get when plugging into your recording interface, the Z-Tone's input section has an impedance matching feature, whereby you can match your signal and pickup's impedance between 1 MOhm and 2.2 kOhms.

As with the Axe I/O, the Z-Tone can be set for passive or to take an active pickup signal. Also, the preamp section offers you a choice between a purely transparent circuit that won't step on your tone whatsoever and a JFET-buffered circuit.

The latter sprinkles some magic dust on your tone, livening up its harmonic response and adding a soupçon of analogue warmth.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Future)

• Rupert Neve RNDI
The emphasis here is on sound quality and, in all the situations where we used the RNDI, the sound was excellent with plenty of thick bottom-end and a real clarity in the top.

IK Multimedia Axe I/O
A supremely well-tooled audio interface for guitar recording, the Axe I/O has all the Z-Tone's functionality and comes bundled with the Amplitube 4 Deluxe amp/FX modeller.

The routing is clever and practical. Split your signal for recording by sending your mirrored signal via the Link output to your amplifier. 

You can then use the dry DI'd signal for reamping, while mic'ing up your cabinet for to capture that signal to another channel. Ideal if you are recording live and you want to cut out bleed from the drummer.

That can take a lot of pain out of recording, and anything that reduces the headache factor when putting your ideas to tape has got to be recommended.

MusicRadar verdict: Variable impedance, switchable "pure" vs FET-buffered circuit, flexible routing... The IK Multimedia Z Tone DI has a lot to recommend it.

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Hands-on demos

IK Multimedia

Specifications

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • Type: DI Box
  • Key Features: Passive/Active pickup selector, variable impedance control, switchable PURE channel or JFET-buffered preamp, 20dB pad, balanced XLR out with ground lift, unbalanced line out.
  • Origin: Italy
  • Contact: IK Multimedia