#1
So, I have been discussing on various websites my electric guitar playing/recording through my computer using the Focusrite saffire 2i2 and Reaper, and the fact my guitar tones seemed weak, thin, etc. I got some recommendations, and ultimately saw some comments from Focusrite people on this issue. In case I'm not the only one ignorant, here's the summary:

The older saffire 2i2 had very little headroom, and was prone to clipping out with electric guitar. The Focusrite staff actually recommended in another forum that you NOT use the 2i2 for electric guitar (though the advertising for that interface says nothing of the sort, and that's what I bought it for).

Now, supposedly the other, more expensive models, including the slightly more expensive 2i4, do not share this problem and have more headroom. Also, supposedly the new 2i2 model also was tweaked to give it more headroom and avoid this issue (or reduce it).

For those, like me, who have an older 2i2 and want to use it for electric guitar, and are not happy with the tone you are getting, there are basically two solutions: First, get a better interface. Second, get a DI box (aka direct box or DI or DI unit).

Then you plug the guitar into the DI and the DI into the interface. The DI does something to the signal that allows it to pass through with more of the original tone using less headroom, I'm a noob on these, so don't ask me for more detail.

DI's start at around $25 new for the cheapest and then go up to $200 or more. I read a suggestion to spend as much on a DI as you would on a microphone, because a cheap DI will cause you similar grief to a cheap microphone.

But, since my whole interface was around $120, I did not see any sense paying $100, or even $50, on a DI. At that price point, I'd just sell my 2i2 and buy a new 2i4 or other interface that I could use without any DI. But, to avoid that hassle, and to see just what the hell a DI box actually is/does, I decided to buy one of the cheaper ones. I settled on the Behringer Ultra-DI D100 which has a listing price of $60, retails at a discounted price of $40, and can be found used on Ebay for $25 or so. The Amazon reviews were very favorable given its price. Some of the other cheaper ones had decide reviews, too.

Orchid Electronics, in the UK, kept being mentioned as a maker of a good quality DI for the price, but starts at something north of $50, and I did not find any used, so that did not work for me.

DI boxes come in two types, active and passive. I read -- and am just passing along -- that an active is better if your guitar has passive pick ups and vice versa. I have no idea if that's true, but I decided to get an active DI for that reason.

So, in a few weeks, I should be ready to give some insight into whether this cheap DI has improved my guitar tone through the 2i2.

Also, I guess some pedals can double as DI's. I did not know what a DI was till this morning, so I can't really say more on that, but in searching for DI's, I did find some that served double or triple duty. So maybe you've already got a DI that will serve for this, or it may make sense for you to get something like that if you are shopping for more than JUST a DI.

If anyone has any good breakdown of all types of DIs, when you'd use one versus the other, any corrections to what I've written, or whatever, I'd be curious to learn more. This pretty much exhausts what I have learned or read today on this topic.

Lastly, I should point out I was able to get my electric guitar to work plugged into my 2i2 directly, I just did not like the tone. My soundcloud station below has some garage/grunge guitar stuff, which was all done with Epiphone guitars direct to the 2i2 interface to Reaper DAW, and I basically dumped in a lot of FX, delay, phase, compression, etc., to try to mask or distract from the thin tone...if you want to see what you can get from going directly into the older 2i2 model, you can check it out, maybe it won't sound as bad to you as it does to me. I guess the point is I do think it is possible to get electric guitar direct through older 2i2, and with all the different ways to tweak tone, you might do fine with that set up, it's not an absolute requirement that you get a DI or a new interface. I probably don't know enough about using FX to "fix" the tone very well, and would rather spend my time learning other stuff, so that's why I'm buying the DI and, if it does not give me what I want in tone, my next step will probably be to upgrade my interface.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#2
First off, don't get a di box for that money, they won't help in any way.
Basically, a di box is something with a high input inpedance and line level output, so you can use it to plug your guitar into a PA system or something similar that doesn't have a high impedance input.
They usually come with a lot of other gimmicks like gain reduction and xlr outputs and stuff.
For what you want to do that's useless though because:
- you didn't seem to have problem with the interface's pres or converters clipping
- the interface already has a high impedance output, so the di would only help if you had problems with clipping
- di's of that price range don't sound really bad, though they don't make anything good to your sound indeed

Active di boxes are di boxes that require external power to work, and they differ from passive ones because theycan also amplify the sound, which is the opposite of what you need here.

If you have problems with clipping, sell the interface and get a better one, and if you don't have problems with clipping get a decent amp simulator and start learning how to properly mix songs.

Also, it's not half true that the scarlett's have low headroom - the difference between yours and the ones a step bigger is the pad - an input gain reduction of twenty db, which again, is useful only if you're overloading something in your interface, but the pres and converters in the every scarlett are the same.
Name's Luca.

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#3
Thanks for the response. I'm not sure my problem is not clipping, at least indirectly. I would get clipping if I tried playing the guitar with tone/volume controls turned up, so I have to turn them down to get the guitar to play through interface "instrument" line w/o clipping, which results in very thin tone.

From what I read on DI boxes -- and I'm still not fully understanding the concept, I admit -- if I put that in my signal chain, I can play the guitar with volume/tone turned up and it won't clip the interface. I thought I saw two explanations for this...one was that the DI could go into interface as mic versus instrument, which would not have same clipping issue (?) or, alternatively, somehow the DI box modifies the signal in a way that narrows it without loss of data/tone?

Well, the bottom line is that a number of people recommended DI boxes as the cheapest work-around for this problem with 2i2. And a number said that while more expensive were better, some of these cheaper ones should do the job.

I have read something about the "pad" on an interface, but I don't know what that is. So, really, it seems I need to learn something able electrical engineer just to run my sound set up, which is kind of pissing me off. Why is it that I can't do basic musician crap without becoming a f@ckin' rocket scientist?!

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#4
"I need to learn something able electrical engineer just to run my sound set up"
And again,
"Why is it that I can't do basic musician crap without becoming a f@ckin' rocket scientist?!"

No offense, but the first just isn't true and the second makes deep sense: if you understand how stuff works you can use it better even without knowing about that particular piece of equipment you find yourself with at a particular moment.
This isn't even electronics apart from a couple things, so I'mma try and break it down simply.

1. What in the world are these DI boxes?
DI boxes, or Direct Injection boxes, are devices that turn a high impedance signal into a line level signal, and some of them have a lot of options other than that.
Some DI boxes can reduce the amplitude of the signal, or in other words its intensity, resulting in a lower output, and that's the reason why a DI box would help the clipping issue.

2. What are these impedance and line levels you're talking about?
Impedance is ugly, you may wanna look that up on wikipedia.
In short, it's defined by resistance as a function of frequency, so the lower your signal impedance is, the lower is the resistance your signal will be put through, resulting in a higher output level generally.
Impedance is the "x ohm" thing you see on the back of cabs and heads, and that means that the input or output impedance is "x ohm".
If you run a high impedance signal into a low impedance input, you'll hardly hear anything.
If you run a low impedance signal into a high impedance input, you'll overdrive something.
Line level is a level of signal amplitude and impedance, and though it's not something standard a line level signal will have an impedance of around 10kOhm.
Dunnow about the amplitude of the signal, but you don't care about that since line level equipment has volume controls more than 9 times out of 10.

3. What's an audio interface?
An audio interface, as your scarlett and your integrated sound card, is a device that converts an audio signal from digital to analog or vice versa or both, and has analog signal interfaces like 1/4" jacks, 1/8" jacks, XLRs...

4. Why isn't my interface good for what I want to do?
Well the pres put too much gain on your sound so the sound is so strong it overdrives the converters.
That's the reason why some interfaces have a pad, so you can lower the gain even more, even when you have the gain control turned fully counterclockwise.

5. What's a pad?
In this field, a pad is a gain reduction.
No more no less.
Why is it useful?
Well you're either overdriving your pres or your converters so reducing the gain would greatly help in not overdriving any of it.

And than for the clarifications...
"From what I read on DI boxes -- and I'm still not fully understanding the concept, I admit -- if I put that in my signal chain, I can play the guitar with volume/tone turned up and it won't clip the interface. I thought I saw two explanations for this...one was that the DI could go into interface as mic versus instrument, which would not have same clipping issue (?)"
You can play the guitar at full volume because they are made to bear that kind of signal without clipping somewhere, and they're able to output a much less stronger (other than of a different kind) signal than the one coming from a guitar.

"or, alternatively, somehow the DI box modifies the signal in a way that narrows it without loss of data/tone?"
It just changes it's impedance and amplitude.
While you have convert your signal from analog to digital at some point, DI boxes tend not to come with onboard converters, so you're just feeding your interface with a less strong signal basically.

The reason why cheap DI boxes sound worse than expensive ones is that every processor (DI boxes, pedals, rack units, you name it) you pass your signal through, the signal gets affected.
The technical term is "distorted" but for the sake of clarity now I'll just stick to "affected".
So, expensive DI boxes affects the sound in a good way, maybe it enhances some harmonic content of your signal, whatever.
Cheap DI boxes on the other hand may affect your signal in a bad way, reducing the harmonic content or putting some small peaks here and there due to bad electronics, whatever.
The best DI box would theoretically be transparent and do nothing to your sound other than what's supposed to do to it, but without changing the waveform.

6. Why are DI boxes called DI boxes anyway?
Well the box part you can most likely get without any help.
The direct injection thing is because that way, when mixers and recording machines and audio interface didn't have high impedance inputs (guitar pickups output a really high impedance signal) and pres after them to properly treat the sound coming from a guitar, you needed some kind of adapters to run your guitar into your mixer or audio interface or recording machine without having to put an amp and a mic in the middle.

7. What should I do now?
Get a 2i4 or an onyx blackbird, they both will sound better than your interface + a DI box and the second will sound better than both of the scarlett's.
Name's Luca.

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Quote by Cajundaddy
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Last edited by Spambot_2 at Mar 22, 2014,