- How a DI box can improve your recordings
- Should I get a passive or an active DI box?
- We cover 5 of the very best DI boxes for those on a budget
- Also, check out our guide to DI boxes vs Reamp boxes
DI box, short for direct box, is used to convert an unbalanced, high impedance signal from instruments like acoustic guitar, bass guitar, or keyboard into a balanced, low impedance mic-level signal.
To record the cleanest possible signal from your guitar, bass, or keyboard, and if you play live a lot, having a DI box can be very helpful.
There are two types of DI boxes that you can buy, an active DI box and a passive DI box.
Similar to how microphones work, you can pick the type of DI box depending on whether the incoming signal is active or passive.
If you’re recording something like dynamic microphones, keyboards, or an active bass guitar, a passive DI box will be perfect for you.
But if you’re recording something that needs that extra phantom power like a condenser microphone, acoustic guitar, or an old passive bass guitar, you will need an active DI box.
What Are The Best Budget DI Boxes?
Buying a DI Box can be very confusing, and we’re here to help. There are a lot of different types of DI Boxes from active to passive, or even instrument to microphone.
In this article, we’ll talk about the best DI boxes on the market that will easily fit your budget, and showcase a total of 2 active DI boxes and 3 passive DI boxes.
Behring Ultra-DI DI100 Battery/Phantom Powered DI-Box is our best overall pick. It’s a powerful active DI Box that is durable, easy to use, and offered at an incredibly affordable price.
Behring Ultra-DI DI400P is our best value pick because it’s a well-built, compact DI box that is also one of the cheapest DI boxes on the market.
Lastly, we have the Radial ProDI 1-channel Passive DI as our premium option. This is an industry-standard professional DI box that is super reliable for both live performances and recording.
Here are our top 5 picks for the best budget DI boxes available in 2022:
- Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 1-channel Active DI (our top pick)
- Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P 1-channel Passive DI (best value)
- Radial ProDI 1-channel Passive Instrument DI (premium choice)
- Mackie MDB-2P Stereo Passive DI
- Samson MDA1 1-channel Active Instrument DI
1. Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 1-channel Active Direct Box
Onstage and in the studio, the DI100 handles the all-important task of converting your unbalanced guitar, bass, and keyboard sources into the noise-free balanced signals your console wants to see.
- Incredibly affordable price
- Noise-free conversion
- Ultra-flat frequency response
Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 is a rock-solid active DI that will be your friend for a long period. It’s a compact 1- channel active DI that’s appropriate for both touring and recording musicians alike.
Behringer is a well-known brand that is well-known for giving ridiculous value for money.
Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 has been one of the most popular budget DI boxes for many years, and it’s been tested and proven to be a reliable device that will last for a good long time.
Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 is a versatile all-arounder that will work for electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, and keyboard.
It features a ground lift switch, sturdy aluminum case with rubber corners, and an internal battery that switches off when phantom power is enabled. Everything you need for a reliable DI box!
Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 has both an XLR/mic input and a 1/4-inch instrument input. It also has an XLR output, as well as an option to connect to the output of your guitar amp.
The device offers impedance and signal matching for a smooth connection from instruments straight to mixers and amps, with the Behringer OT-1 transformer providing an ultra-flat frequency response.
Behringer Ultra-DI also has a simple ground lift switch option to get rid of the ground loop issues.
The input attenuation can allow input level levels up to +50dbB.
It’s also phantom power-friendly.
The extremely solid aluminum construction with high-quality components will make sure the direct box stays up and running for a very long time.
For how cheaply this is priced, it’s almost impossible to find flaws in this direct box. The important thing is that the Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 has been battle-tested by so many professionals and is well trusted by professional musicians.
2. Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P 1-channel Passive Instrument Direct Box
Ruggedly made and road-ready, the compact DI400P is a high-performance DI for getting your sound to the mixer.
- Very affordable
- Ground lift switch
- Solid metal case with gold-plated XLR output
Next up we have another Behringer direct box. This time it’s both simpler and cheaper than the aforementioned Ultra-DI DI100.
The Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P is a 1-channel passive direct box and is another compact device made to serve instruments like guitar, bass, and keyboards.
Behringer Ulta-DI DI400P Direct Box is a 1-channel passive direct box and is a great companion for live gigs and recording.
This is one of the cheapest direct boxes you’ll find around, and it’s produced by a trustworthy company. With so many professionals using this device, you can be reassured that the Behringer DI400P will last you for a long time.
Behringer DI400P is a no-frills instrument direct box with a simple black and white design and the first thing we noticed was its parallel ¼’’ in and out design.
The dual ¼’’ TS jacks are wired in parallel to let you plug your instrument into one side and out from the other to the mixer or an external amp.
The gold-plated XLR output is a super-flat balanced output that provides a very clean signal from the source to the output.
Whether you’re using electric guitars, electric basses, keyboards, or synthesizers, the Behringer DI400P has impedance and signal matching from instruments and mixers. That, paired with the ground lift switch option will provide a hum-free clean signal for a satisfactory live performance and studio session.
Our best value pick, the Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P is an extremely affordable passive instrument DI box that is simple and effective for both studio and live performance settings.
3. Radial ProDI 1-Channel Passive Instrument Direct Box
The Radial ProDI is a high-quality, passive mono direct box that's perfect for use with acoustic guitars, bass guitars, electric pianos, and synthesizers.
- Proven industry-standard direct box
- Built like a tank
- Radial custom isolation transformer
Radial ProDI is our premium pick for this list. This is a true industry-standard DI box built like a tank and perfect for bass guitar, keyboards, synths, and more.
Radial ProDI 1-channel passive instrument direct box is a tested and proven studio essential that has been an industry-standard DI box for many years.
While active DI boxes require additional power like batteries or 48V phantom power, the Radial ProDI is a passive direct box that works standalone with a ProDI custom transformer for low phase distortion in mid and bass frequencies.
Radial ProDI’s custom-made audio transformer is what makes this direct box stand out from the rest. It provides clean signal handling without saturation. The 100% isolation aspect of this direct box makes the Radial ProDI a perfect recording instrument direct box.
The full-surface ground plane is there to reduce the possibility of RF noise.
Even though the Radial ProDI is more pricey than the rest of the 1-channel DI boxes on this list, the military-spec PC board, extremely solid construction, and attention to detail make this direct box a better choice for professional recording purposes.
For distortion, there is a -15dB pad to immediately deal with that issue and a ground lift switch for eliminating the noise.
In terms of inputs and outputs, the Radial ProDI has one ¼’’ input and an XLR output on the opposite side.
Radial ProDI 1-channel passive instrument DI is well worth the price, and it’s a military-grade direct box that provides an extremely clean signal that preserves the original tone of the source.
For musicians looking for the highest quality 1-channel passive direct box, the Radial ProDI will be perfect for you.
4. Mackie MDB-2P Stereo Passive Direct Box
Affordable Mackie MDB direct boxes are acoustically transparent and ruggedly built to ensure that your instruments and audio sources arrive at your listeners clean, uncolored, and as expected.
- Ability to work for stereo or dual-mono uses
- Extremely well-built in a metal casing
- Premium passive analog circuitry
Mackie MDB-2P Stereo Passive DI is the only stereo direct box on this list and is another well-built passive direct box that you can rely on.
With premium passive analog circuitry and the ability to work with a wide range of sources, the price point for this trustworthy stereo direct box is amazing.
Mackie MDB-2P Stereo is a 2-channel passive direct box that can work in both mono and stereo.
Compared to other DI boxes on this list, the Mackie MDB-2P is slightly bigger and bulkier in size, and it can work up to 2 different instruments at once.
Mackie MDB-2P comes with Mackie’s passive analog circuitry, which provides a clean, and musical signal from the source out to your mixer or amp.
And as for inputs, Mackie MDB-2P comes with two separate left/right inputs and two thru inputs for the unfiltered option.
Dual independent channels provide many more possibilities for tone changes, and two separate XLR outputs also allow mixing and matching different instruments and outputs.
The Mackie MDB-2P also has two separate -15dB pads to protect the signal from high-level sound sources like active pickups or laptops, and there is also a handy Ground Lift switch for eliminating ground loops and various hums.
Mackie MDB-2P Stereo Passive Direct Box is a more versatile budget DI box that can be used for two instruments at once, perfect for both studio and live uses.
5. Samson MDA1 1-channel Active Instrument Direct Box
Whether you need a faithful guitar signal to re-amp in the studio, or a discreet way to send your bass guitar or synth to front of house, the Samson MDA1 does a commendable job for the price.
- Steel chassis construction
- Custom STL transformer
- 15dB attenuator
Last on our list, we have a very affordable and compact active DI that functions well both in the studio and on stage.
The Samson MDA1 is a popular choice amongst professionals and offers incredible value for money, often being sold for below $50.
Samson MDA1 is powered by a 9-volt battery or phantom power. It’s a small device that can work as a direct box, guitar-modeling or re-amping device, or simply be used as an extension without the additional noise or hums.
It comes with a single ¼’’ instrument input, a thru input, and an XLR output. The Thru input and output is a useful tool for guitar players which can work as an extension between your guitar and your amp.
The Samson Custom STL Transformer provides the full spectrum from 18Hz-35kHz, and there is even an additional 15 dB input attenuator for preventing signal overload.
The ground lift switch is also there to help reduce unnecessary hum in various recording and performing environments.
The Samson MDA1 1-channel Active Direct Box is a simple and cheap direct box that can work to connect instruments like guitar, bass, synth, or keyboards.