Direct inject boxes are invaluable tools for recording studios, live venues and home studios/jam spaces. They are perfect for clean recordings in quiet apartments and loud stages alike.
Though the brand is far from the most critical factor in any given DI box, it's relevant to know the top players regarding direct inject boxes. In this article, I've assembled what I believe to be the top 11.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Variety of DI box options
- Performance of the DI boxes
- Accessibility of the DI boxes (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let’s list out the brands.
The top 11 best direct inject audio box brands are:
- Radial Engineering
- Pro Co
- Tech 21
- Warm Audio
- A Designs
- Rupert Neve Designs
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best DI brands. I’ll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of an active and passive DI, and a link to their official website.
Back in 1976, in Montreal, Canada, a young Peter Janis started his musical career, opening his first store. Soon after, he went on to work for TMI (Fender’s biggest stakeholder at the time). After ten years, his skills and knowledge had grown so much he started his own marketing company.
By 1996, intending to go global and make the most out of his talents, he founded Radial Engineering. The company grew meteorically and became a synonym with road-worthy, state-of-the-art equipment, especially DI Boxes.
Nowadays, it is easy to spot Radial DIs in the stages of legendary artists such as U2, AC/DC, Paul McCartney, and countless others. If you want zero compromises to your tone and build quality that can take the hardships of the road, you can never go wrong with Radial. They are a must-check before buying.
Notable DI Box: JDI Stereo (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
It doesn’t get much better than this in the DI Boxes realm. Indeed, the sole fact of being equipped with real Jensen transformers makes this passive box a unique wonder. But it doesn’t end there; this unit is built like a tank.
Adding to that, the virtually non-existent phase and harmonic distortion, ground-loop hum and buzz elimination, and over-the-top signal handling and noise rejection make this stereo box one of the best options in the market today.
Radial Engineering was founded in 1996 by Peter Janis and was acquired by Regimen Equity Partners and CEO Mike Belitz of Ultimate Support Systems in 2018. The company headquarters is located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Official website: radialeng.com
Radial Engineering is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment
With offices based in both Niagara Falls, New York, USA and Pickering, Ontario, Canada, ART manufactures the best-sounding, most cutting-edge technology applied to sound. Thus, the name is actually an acronym “Applied Research and Technology”.
They have stayed true to that initial motto for almost four decades, and every piece of gear stamped with their logo is an attempt to create a new way of connecting sounds and instruments.
From their world-famous tube-driven preamps to their dependable, trustworthy DIs and studio-grade gear, you can always trust top-notch craftsmanship and performance whenever you see the “ART” logo stamped.
Notable DI Box: CLEANBoxPro (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This small box is a do-it-all unit that can deliver audiophile quality while fitting snuggly in your pocket at the same time. Moreover, it also features XLR balanced inputs and outputs, RCA phono jacks, and stereo 1/8” mini-phone jacks. Also, the stereo level balanced output controls will allow you to fine-tune the resulting audio per channel.
Finally, it is housed inside an ultra-rugged aluminum case that can withstand any and all adversities at home or on the road.
Applied Research And Technology was founded in 1984 as a brand of Canadian-based audio manufacturer Yorkville Sound. The company is headquartered in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.
Official website: artproaudio.com
ART is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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This decades-old brand is still one of the most cutting-edge companies in this niche with an ever-expanding catalogue. Indeed, its founder, Michael Laiacona, was also involved in the foundation of MXR in the early 70s but settled with Whirlwind USA in 1975.
Since that year, Whirlwind became an audio interfacing company selling industrial-grade and custom-made solutions for every player in the audio/video industry.
Today, their Ethernet solutions and computer-dedicated interfaces still trace the path for the industry to follow. Michael’s dream is not only intact; it is more vigorous than ever. Check the DI experts before you buy any other brand.
Notable DI Box: pcDI (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This is a two-in-one DI capable of transforming either unbalanced RCA, stereo unbalanced 1/8” or dual mono 1/4” signals into balanced XLR lines. Also, this unit features a Ground Lift switch to eliminate buzz and hum, a 20dB pad for extra hot signals, and a pair of Whirlwind’s TRHL metal-shielded transformers that work silently and efficiently.
If you need to convert unbalanced signals from MP3 players, turntables, computer audio interfaces, or any other source in that vein, this might be your best choice in the market today.
Whirlwind USA was founded in 1975 by Michael Laiacona and is headquartered in Rochester, New York, USA.
Official website: whirlwindusa.com
Pro Co is the creation of Charlie Wicks, a tone guru that remains one of the go-to consultants for audio in the highest-demanding scenarios in the world. It all started because he couldn’t find any good-quality, reliable audio accessories that wouldn’t cost a fortune. Hence, he decided to fill that gap with his own creations.
Pro Co builds one of the most famous guitar pedals of all time, the RAT, famous for sounding amazing and being virtually indestructible. The company matches the entire catalogue to that high standard. It provides the world with everything from the simplest cables to the most complex Dante-compatible digital systems, excelling in each area.
If you need a DI box built like a tank with an impeccable tone, you have to give Pro Co a chance.
Notable DI Box: DB2 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This is another two-in-one design that will grant you two separate channels with dual 1/4” inputs and a dedicated XLR output for each. Also, each channel features its own 20dB pad, and the unit houses an overall ground lift to get rid of unwanted noises, hum, and buzz. Plus, all switches and connectors are flush-mounted to resist damage better when on the road.
This is the dependable, rugged, road-ready DI box you would expect from a brand like Pro Co.
Pro Co was founded in 1974 by Charlie Wicks. The company headquarters is located in Jackson, Missouri, USA.
Official website: procosound.com
Parent Company: Act
Pro Co is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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Andrew Barta founded Tech21NYC in the heart of the Big Apple in 1989. Its first product was its best-seller and likely the reason why most people know about the company; the product is the famed Sansamp. That same innovational approach that allowed the company to be on the world map continued to drive these 32 years of non-stop work, passion for innovation, and worldwide success.
Just like the rest of the line of products, Tech21’s DI boxes sound amazing; they're dependable and are utterly cost-effective. You can never go wrong with a Tech21 product, especially a DI Box.
Notable DI Box: Para Driver DI (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
To call this complex device a DI box is almost disrespectful. Although it can indeed be used as a great-performing DI box, it is also a state-of-the-art preamp with unique equalization capabilities, gain, phantom power, and many tweaking options.
It was designed to work for bass players going to the gig with no amp, but it can be used in other instruments for studio work and to add colour to vocals as well. Unless you need an RCA input for your turntable, this little device can easily suffice all your DI needs.
Tech 21 was founded in 1989 by Andrew Barta and is headquartered in New York City, New York, USA.
Official website: tech21nyc.com
Warm Audio was born with one aim: to manufacture and sell top-notch audio equipment at prices most musicians could afford. With this in mind, Bryce Young shaped a business model based upon manufacturing a large volume and relying on quantity rather than markup to make a difference.
This was 2011, and for the past decade, Warm Audio has amassed a large fan base around the world. This set the company on the course of paradigm change when it comes to pro audio.
Everything is designed in-house in Texas and then sold around the world. If you want an affordable, great-quality solution, you have to check this brand out.
Notable DI Box: WA-DI-A (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This direct box by Warm Audio checks all the boxes you need in an active DI box, such as phantom power and ground lift, and adds some novelties like a phase switch and a variable pad that goes from -30dB to -3dB and is great for fine-tuning volume attenuation. Finally, all these great features are housed inside a rugged, metal enclosure that will last for a lifetime.
It doesn’t get better than this at this price range.
Warm Audio was founded in 2011 by Bryce Young in his garage in Austin, Texas, USA. The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas, USA.
Official website: warmaudio.com
Warm Audio is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of
Peter Montessi created A-Designs in the late 90s after working as a VP for CM Automation and learning the secrets of the trade first-hand from the best. From day one, the company’s commitment to quality craftsmanship and ongoing innovation drove them to manufacture all of their products proudly in the USA.
Because A-Designs started manufacturing tube preamps for the most demanding studios globally, they can outdo most companies in terms of audio quality and reliability. If A-Designs products are good enough to shape the tone of multimillion-dollar vocal recordings, they can surely enhance the sound of your rig too.
Notable DI Box: REDDI 1-Channel Tube (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This DI is a very serious unit not suitable for the faint of heart or for small places since it is a large, bulky unit you need to place on a tabletop. That being said, this is a tube-driven DI which means an actual 6N1P valve adds warmth to the sound of whatever you plug into it. Furthermore, you can even plug in a microphone and use this unit as a preamp, thanks to its universal input.
Finally, the custom-wound oversized output transformer and the toroidal power transformer round up a fine piece of equipment that can enhance any rig.
A Designs was founded in 1998 by Peter Montessi and was acquired by the TransAudio Group in 2005. The company headquarters is located in West Hills, California, USA.
Official website: adesignsaudio.com
A Designs is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment
Rupert Neve Designs
To name the number of records made with a Neve console would require an entire blog post of its own. Nevertheless, it is important to say that, being the favourite of George Martin and The Beatles, Rupert Neve changed the way we think music should sound.
Despite having started in the 40s and funding Neve consoles in 1961 in Texas, this company was also his creation, in 2005, as a way to leave the world a modernized version of his inventions and help shape the sound of generations to come. It is Rupert’s legacy and first-hand learning process that engineers running the company utilize to set every unit apart from the rest of the offers in the market.
Nowadays, every piece of Rupert Neve Designs gear is a statement from a music guru to every new generation of musicians to set the standard as high as possible. Every product is proudly manufactured in the USA.
Notable DI Box: RNDI-S (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This DI is all about enhancing the instrument's natural tone and, as they say, bring it to life. This DI box achieves this through a series of unique features like, for example, the class-A biased, discrete FET amplifiers and exclusively designed Rupert Neve’s transformers.
This magical combination of elements makes each RNDI-S an active, stereo DI capable of adding life to any instrument and performance. Plus, it features an active ground lift and phantom power capabilities per channel. This no-frills approach is all about tone; give it a try before settling for another brand.
Rupert Neve Designs was founded in 2005 by Rupert Neve in Wimberley, Texas, United States, where it is still headquartered today.
Official Website: rupertneve.com
Rupert Neve Designs is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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• Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment
Now a part of the Adam Hall family of brands, the history of Palmer starts in Germany in 1980. Since day one, the company embraced its own motto, “be true to your sound,” manufacturing some of the cleanest-sounding equipment in the industry. Moreover, the brand became very well-known for delivering reliable, rugged, pristine-clean solutions for every stage.
Adam Hall Group, Palmer’s parent company, is one of the top 25 manufacturers of professional events technology in the world. To achieve that status, they had to manufacture some of the best DI boxes money can buy. Give them a try before you buy.
Notable DI Box: PAN 02 PRO (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video)
Built like a tank and ready to last for a lifetime, this Palmer DI houses enough features to help you on your sonic journey, regardless of the destination.
To begin with, the unbalanced XLR and TRS outputs are just as handy as the three-level attenuation and the +12dB switchable gain. Also, the possibility of feeding only phantom power or using it with a 9-volt battery increases its flexibility drastically.
Finally, the three levels of ground lift and superb German engineering and design round up an incredible unit.
Palmer was founded in 1980 by David John Kirby as part of the Adam Hall Group in Oberlauken, Germany. Today, the company headquarters is located in Neu Anspach, Germany.
Official website: palmer-germany.com
Parent company: Adam Hall Group
Behringer is another German audio company with a heavy presence around the world. It was founded by Uli Behringer in 1989 in Willich, Germany. Uli Behringer is also the founder and chairman of Music Tribe, a worldwide holding that owns Behringer, among many other brands.
With a strong emphasis on innovation and cutting costs, this company has managed to grow a reputation for being the best affordable option in many categories such as mixers, DI boxes, and more.
If you are looking for a great DI Box on a budget, you must check the Behringer line before buying.
This rack-mounted four-in-one DI box is one of the best solutions for scenarios where you need to convert more than one signal. The unit features four unbalanced inputs with four balanced outputs. Also, there’s a 1/4” link output for monitors and amps and up to 40dB of signal attenuation available. Finally, the OT-1 Behringer transformers keep the signal powerful (up to +20dB of gain switching) and clean.
Behringer was founded in 1989 by Uli Behringer in Willich, Germany. The company is owned by Music Tribe (also founded and chaired by Uli Behringer), which is based in the British Virgin Islands.
Official Website: behringer.com
Parent Company: Music Tribe
Behringer is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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For most musicians and audio professionals, Neutrik and Switchcraft are the names of the best connections possible. Indeed, if you strip a cable to find this legend written on the 1/4” connector, you can consider your audio is in the best hands.
Much of this worldwide trust comes from the fact that they have been feeding the most demanding professionals in the industry with the best jacks, plugs, DI boxes, and more since 1946. Nowadays, the company manufactures most of its products in their 185,000 square foot facility in Chicago and is a part of the HEICO Corporation since 2011.
Notable DI Box: SC800A (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This is the quintessential DI box for connecting the unbalanced signal of passive musical instruments such as acoustic guitars or basses as a balanced, mic-level line to a mixer. It is housed inside a thick, rugged metal box and features a -20dB PAD as well as phantom power and a ground lift switch.
If you want no-compromise sound, reliability, and ease of use, this might be the perfect DI for you.
Switchcraft was founded in 1946, and its head office is located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. In 2011, Switchcraft was acquired by HEICO Corporation, which holds its headquarters in Hollywood, Florida, USA.
Official website: switchcraft.com
Parent company: HEICO Corporation