Jumbo Sunshade - Ezine

What's the difference between a preamp and an active DI?

This question usually comes up in reference to Acoustic Guitar equipment because of what players read in manufacturers' sales copy when comparing equipment before a purchase.
Some things are labeled "preamp", others "DI", and then others "preamp/DI".

Well, an integrated amplifier is any unit that houses both a preamp and a poweramp.  The poweramp deals with current amplification, and the preamp deals with voltage amplification.
Therefore, an active DI is by definition also a preamp because voltage amplification is occurring.  That any particular active DI design may or may not also feature buffering and/or equalization makes no difference whatsoever; a preamp is a preamp.

Some devices are specifically designed to boost while others are designed to attenuate.

When dealing with music equipment, there are so many more preamps than just those in your mixer - they're everywhere!


* Onboard active electronics (if there is a 9v battery in your acoustic or electric guitar or bass, it is powering a preamp).
* Guitar/bass amplifier FX Send; POD, V-Amp, GNX, G-System... all pedal FX.
* Output from a keyboard, sequencer or sound module; sampler or MPC; drum machine; or any other powered electronic device that produces sound.

As with all preamps, some are better (sonically) than others and the same holds true for active DI's/preamps.  With regard to how active DI's are typically used with electric and acoustic guitar; there is a point of diminishing returns.
Don't assume that a $400 Radial MK3 is going to have your acoustic guitar sounding any better on stage than it would with a $160 LR Baggs Para DI.


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