Whether DI stands for “direct input,” “direct injection,” or “direct interface,” it’s an essential tool for bass players. DI pedals allow you to forego a traditional amplifier altogether, plugging directly into a PA, mixing board, or even a computer for home recording. Practically, this eliminates the hassle of trying to mic amps in a live setting, cutting down on interfering noise, allowing your signal to travel through longer cables, and preserving your tone just as it is.
The pedals here operate both as DI units and preamps, giving you a bit of gain and final tone tweekage before sending your untarnished signal off to do its magic with the rest of the mix. Snag one of these units and you’ll never be able to blame the acoustics of a venue for your bad sound again.
1. Ampeg SCR-DI
Ampeg is throwing down the gauntlet with their SCR-DI, declaring that it is “the most bass-friendly DI ever created.” As a tone-shaping preamp, Ampeg aficionados will love the EQ, which includes button-operated “ultra-hi” and “ultra-lo” settings. If you want some distortion, the SCR also has thrown in Ampeg’s much-loved Scrambler overdrive with its own bypass switch.
For DI capabilities, you’ve got a lot of options. There are extra thru and adjustable aux inputs, and outputs that include XLR and headphone jacks in addition to a standard ¼” line out jack. It’s even possible to send your signal to your bass amp as well as a signal straight to the board. This is a great unit from a revered name in bass amplification.
2. Behringer BD121 V-Tone Bass Driver DI
Behringer’s BD121 V-Tone has combined active DI technology with different tube amp modellers. You can dial in different levels of tone, harmonics, drive and definition, and then fine tune how prevalent they are with presence and wet/dry mix controls.
These features alone make the BD121 a value at its crazy low price, but it also works as a DI when all the amp modelling has been switched off. Plus, the DI even features a ground/lift switch for dealing with annoying ground hums.
This is more of an entry-level unit, and its sounds may not stand up to more expensive pedals—let alone real tube amps. But for home-recording musicians who need a quick and easy way to lay down bass tracks, the BD121 will not disappoint.
3. Gallien-Krueger PLEX Preamp
Gallien-Krueger’s PLEX is an end-all tone creator, and it’s jam-packed with more bells and whistles than any other pedal on this list. In addition to overdrive and a 4-band EQ, the PLEX features a compressor, boost with variable clipping, effects loop, and even an on-board tuner.
For preserving your fine-tuned sound as it goes DI to the board, there’s a ground/lift switch, XLR out, and a USB port for MIDI or plugging directly into your computer’s DAW. If you need to play with headphones, there’s an aux in and phones out jack. If you’re looking for a high-end DI preamp with top-shelf components that will give your sound a professional finish, this is it.
4. MXR Bass DI+
When you need a no-frills DI preamp pedal in an apparently indestructible chassis, check out MXR’s Bass DI+. With a 3-band EQ and separate clean and distortion channels, you’ll be able to find the exact sound you’re looking for. A phantom-powered XLR jack sends your signal straight out, and a parallel output lets you incorporate your own amp or power amp, too. For noise reduction, an adjustable gate provides sustain and cuts out quiet hums.
For both live gigs and recording, this thing excels at sending out exactly the tone you want. It’s also an excellent value at under $150.
5. Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI v2
SansAmp preamp pedals have long been favorites of bassists, and the most recent version of their Bass Driver DI gives you unprecedented tonal control. Need to adjust your mid-range so it matches your pickup? Need to add some overdrive? It can do that. In addition to standard 3-knob EQ, the SansAmp gives you the option of centering your control at 80Hz or 40Hz. This is particularly useful for 5-string or 6-string players who may need more low-end maintenance for their tone.
For the DI, you can run one signal to the PA board, and one to your amplifier’s power amp. The XLR output even accepts phantom power, eliminating the need for other external power supplies. There’s a reason that this tone monster is the gold standard in DI preamp pedals.
Bass DI units are indispensable for any player who has moved beyond a small practice amp in their bedroom, and fortunately there is a model for about any price range.
- Beginning players or bassists on a budget should check out the Behringer.
- Depending on what exact tone you’re going for, either the MXR or Ampeg are solid choices.
- High-end DI boxes guarantee your bass sound will cut through even the worst mixes in the worst venues. SansAmp is a tried-and-true classic, and the Gallien-Krueger may be the last effects unit you ever buy.