Show 181 – Ferrite passive DI box DIY kit review and more!

This week we review the new Ferrite passive DI box kit from DIY Recording Equipment, compare it to the Countryman 85 active DI and talk about the new Colour project in the works.
Our guest this week is Peterson Goodwyn.

Download Show #181

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23 thoughts on “Show 181 – Ferrite passive DI box DIY kit review and more!

  1. GSAS guys,

    just some thoughts for those who don’t do DIY. As with everyhting there is good and bad things about DIY. In total the good things by far outweigh the bad things. Let me just summarize some things that those who enter the bottomless pit of DIY are up to.

    Knowledge
    There is an infinite amount of knowledge to be discovered. Almost everyone starts soldering your own cables. Then you might order a guitar pedal kit, let’s say a treble booster. It’s way too bright. All of a sudden you learn about RC-filters and how changing the capacitors will change the frequency cut-off point. You go for it. There… you made it your own. You also learn that the tonestack of an amp is basically just a couple of those RC-filters arranged in a clever way. You find a tonestack calculator and squeeze a tonestack into your small “just volume knob” tube amp. In total: there is a lot to learn and there is a ton available on the net. No excuse there.

    Safety
    While you’re modding that amp, you find another mod that let’s you put in another 12AX7. You try it. You touch one of those you thumbsized capacitors. aaaand you get shocked really, really bad. You survived. Lucky you. Consequently, you read up on safety standards. In total: If it has a power plug, large transformers or supersized capacitors, you should know what you are doing. Seriously.

    Quality, saving money and component GAS
    Someone tells you about recapping tube amps. You order cheap parts and invest a couple of hours. It sounds terrible. You publicly complain on a forum. Someone asks what capactitors you used.. aaaaand you enter the world of component quality. Your electronics store clerk complains: “Oh my god, another one of those golden ear people”. They just don’t understand. You begin to realize that quality is reflected by price… but not in all cases. so much confusion. You order a full E12 series of vintage carbon resistors for multiple ranges. just in case. Years later, you almost always use metal film resistors. you also recap that tone stack. It turns from terrible to wonderful.

    Sourcing parts and substitution.
    You start spending a gazillion hours on Mouser to find some obscure discontinued transistor. Nothing… You find a place like small bear or a fellow DIYer who stocks NOS Fairchild transistors. You start buying a couple more than you need… again: just in case. Years later, you will find out that you could have used a waaaaaay cheaper substitute.

    Tool GAS or “buying gear to build gear”
    Maybe, you start with a soldering gun. Then you buy a cheap soldering iron, followed by a cheap soldering station. Before you know it you pull out your credit card to buy that awesome smurfcolored soldering station from Germany. You experience short bursts of happiness followed by unbearable episodes of GAS. You are absolutely sure , you need an osciloscope and a better multimeter and a bias kit for power tubes and… Maybe I should start etching my own PCBs… oh look… a milling machine on ebay. Spend your money well, but: “Buy cheap, buy twice.”

    People
    Almost all DIY people are nice people, if you forget about some forum trolls. The difference between buying corporate and DIY? Let’s assume you preorder something from a fellow DIYer. A couple of weeks later you receive a mail basically saying: “Hey, we crossed the bulk order threshold. We will save $10 on the transformer. Here is your $10 refund.” Nice, isn’t it? Also chances are good that hanging around radio-shack likes stores and forums will get you in touch with people who know a D112-ton more than you do. Yet, if you believe half the things you are being told you might end up with some reliable knowledge. The tricky part is to find out which half is true.

    Overall, DIY can be a serious timesink (aka hobby). but hey, If you already do homerecording you are used to that anyway. If done properly DIY can compete or even excel in some areas compared to off the shelf stuff. If you use expensive (good?) parts you might not save money, but you are the unchallenged king of your stuff. It breaks down? you couldn’t care less because you can just fix it. The trick is to start making informed decisions to “make-or-buy”.

    Maybe, you should start soldering your own cables. That is an area where you can really save money and not have to buy into the phoney “gold-plated-connector” hype.
    And while you are at it, what about building a fuzz pedal. You know you wanted one forever….

    Can’t ride the chicken,
    Stephan

    PS: 10 USD coming your way besides the monthly tribute. Call it a rickroll fee.

  2. aaaaand as usual I forgot one thing. To those who want to go down the DIY road. Download the “NASA Training Program Student Workbook for Hand Soldering” and the NASA manual on “Crimping, interconnecting cables, harnesses and wiring”. You learn a lot and… “I wire to NASA specs”… I mean: How cool is that?!

    Also, watch some youtube videos on soldering. There is nothing more annoying than bad solder joints. If something you built doesn’t work, check bad solder joints first, then check for grounding and THEN move to checking parts.

    stephan

  3. GSPU (good show per usual) guys.
    I just about fell out of my chair when Peterson mentioned loading up on Roxul from Lowes. I just picked up a few bales the other week. They’re SUCH a bargain. I got 4″ batts for the walls, so I can space them 2″ out from the wall. And I chose 6″ batts for a cloud.

    I’m going to use the extra 6″ batts to make gobos which I’ll use as a pseudo vocal-booth. Did I mention? They’re SUCH a bargain.

    Tip of the hat to Slau for consulting on panel dimensions. Can’t wait for a free weekend to start building the panels.

    Cheers,

    -James

    • I was also psyched to hear Roxul mentioned- I discovered it on a trip to Lowe’s awhile back and I’ve been using it for months now and getting great results. It’s incredibly cheap, and specifically designed for sound absorption- you do have to make wood frames for it though, cause it’s very floppy.

  4. Hey guys, me again. Can you see if Peterson has a DIY version of the FEThead or Cloudlifter? I know FETheads aren’t too expensive at $99; but I’m looking to pick up 4+ units to deploy on multiple dynamic mics at the same time. If I could find a DIY version at half price, that would awesome.

    Any suggestions? Anyone?

    Cheers,

    -James

    • Hey James, I’ve seen some discussion of a DIY version of this, but no kit so far. IMHO, $99 is a steal for something as over-engineered and clever as the Cloudlifter.

    • I’ve checked for both cloudlifter and fethead. Jon has one but afaik the fetheat is not that easy (read impossible) to disassemble. If someone has a fethead and would be so kind to open it and make a gutshot someone might be able to built something “inspired by”. the CL has four FETs. that would require matched fets if you want to do it properly. I think there is a thread at groupdiy that has some schematics.

  5. Hey guys,
    I was at work, at my day job that has nothing to do with audio (insert sad face here) and i had a thought. in the past i have used a compressor in a side chain to help reduce the volume of music when someone is talking, but it seems kind of barbaric, a bit overkill. what if instead, you create an aux track with the polarity inverted, insert a band pass so only the frequency range that you want to reduce is prominent, and insert a gate to be opened by the side chain. I used this idea on a podcast i edit and it seems to work pretty well to reduce the frequencies not affected by the band pass and allow the voices to poke through better without reducing the actual volume of the music. how does that make you guys feel?

    Great Podcast by the way, you guys are awesome.. Team Ron FTW
    PS, i need the diploma, i’m all caught up!!

  6. Ok where do I start…

    Thanks very much for reading out and answering my comments on show 181.
    The rane page is awesome, thanks a million for the heads up and the very specific instructions on how to find it.
    I ordered that Reaper Power book thru Amazon – 3 weeks to deliver – wtf – are they hand printing it for me or something – what dicks.
    How can I download all of the previous episodes of the show– I tried to do so thru a certain website – all 6 gig of them but it didn’t work, it downloaded but they wouldn’t play; is there a more legitimate way to get them in a big zip file as mp3s?
    Last show was amazing cuz u were answering my questions thru my speakers and I was nodding my head in my bedroom as though I was a minion before a roman council listening to words of wisdom from the elder statesmen but there’s more…
    you know when you’ve met someone on a number of occasions but you can’t for the life of you remember their name but enough occasions have passed that you should know their name and you can’t ask them again…it’s like that with the home recording show; these embarrassing questions that I should know the answers to you guys can answer but because I’m in a different country it’s not embarrassing like if I asked them face to face in a gear store.

    Embarrassing question 1 – The mic is going into the mic pre-amp on channel strip on the mixer– it leaves the console and the mixer’s outputs go into the mic pre amp on the soundcard / recording interface– jon said make sure you send things to the right input i.e line level outputs to line level inputs but isn’t the above example doubling up on gain / preamp stages, how does this still work and not clip thru the roof?

    Embarrassing question 2 – The guy before me asked about levels – I record all my instruments independently but I always keep my levels below clipping on the master fader channel indicator on my outboard mixer. How is it that when you record all these levels very hot but independently of each other and then when you play them back simultaneously on your DAW they don’t go thru the roof? Is that about summing – never understood that, is that something to do with logarithmic principals?

    Embarrassing question 3 – The pop filter is an amazing invention – is there a sibilance filter?

    Regarding cables – the main thing that’s weird in my set up relates to the mbox mini which has several horrendous deficiencies the biggest being it has a terrible ground loop – everyone knows it but avid will never admit it. Going into my mbox mini from my mixer I have these big transformer jacks, (they look like medieval sex tools) on the end of my trs cables which eliminate the noise – do you think that could compromise the sound quality though?

    Unrelated question – I have this spectrum analyzer going into my mixer – the main reason I bought it was to ascertain the frequencies of kick drums so I could tune them to the key of my tracks – the analyzer does a fine job of displaying the exact frequency of instruments – you press the note A on the keyboard and it peaks at 440hz and bumps up @ 220hz and 880hz etc but when I put a kick drum thru, after raising it an octave in a sampler to make the tone more pronounced, it seems to get a bit confused as to where the centre frequency lies – it will display several peaks and tends to vary on each repetition of the sound, sometimes by only 20 or 30 hz but it defeats the purpose of using it as an exact science tool – do you have any ideas on a filter setting you could use to make low frequency representation on a spectrum analyzer more precise?

    OK now the big one: “Peterson for President’ wow what an awesome concept and it ties in with exactly some problems I’m having. I’ll sign up for one of those boxes any day – such a strange co-incidence cuz I’ve been thinking about that stuff heaps lately.

    So you run an electric guitar with passive pickups straight into the desk and it sounds rubbish – so you put it thru a di and its much louder but still a little flat – kind of sounds like an amplified harp. This may be in fact be the true sound of an electric guitar but we have come to associate the sound of an electric guitar coupled with the sound of an amplifier as well. I guess it’s like the sound of a desk as demonstrated with the VCC show.

    Are you supposed to have active pickups on your guitar if you’re running into a desk via a passive di box without either mic’ing up an amp or using the outputs on the head of an amp as a conduit? And if you use an active di box with passive pick ups is that effectively activating your pickups like a pre-amp?

    I used to run into the head of nasty little practice amp but the noise floor was too pronounced particularly in context as I use vst drum machines and synths which have no noise. So I bought this little Chinese box called a Meon Buffalo which I think is an active DI, as it requires power, and has an eq /amp emulator, (for lack of a better word) but I think all it really does is introduce fabricated noise – I don’t think it marries the guitar sound with the noise I think it just emits a white noise signal which can be modulated to suit.

    As I mentioned in the last episode I have a few FX boxes running as sends from my mixer – if you run a guitar into the channel strip on the mixer and then send the signal 100% wet to the FX unit are you effectively turning it into a line level signal and should that defeat the need for a DI box other than to balance the incoming signal? And those MXR DI boxes. Will they turn a guitar with passive pick ups into a gnarly sounding axe if going straight into the desk.

    Sorry this is so long – I should buy some of your stuff – what do u suggest, I use reaper.

    Sometimes in Australia and England men refer to women as birds – similar to chicks I guess; it can be seen as either condescending or endearing depending on the recipient. Bollocks generally means testicles:

    “Birds shall play, meander and frolic while riding upon the chicken’s bullock. “

    • speculative answer to question 3. rumors say, that putting a pen centered in front of the mic helps reduce sibilance. I don’t know if this is really true or why it should work. there… me diffusing speculative knowledge.

      stephan

    • “So you run an electric guitar with passive pickups straight into the desk and it sounds rubbish – so you put it thru a di and its much louder but still a little flat – kind of sounds like an amplified harp.”

      –Yep, it doesn’t sound “right,” but some like it that way. Just ask Lindsey Buckingham.

      “Are you supposed to have active pickups on your guitar if you’re running into a desk via a passive di box without either mic’ing up an amp or using the outputs on the head of an amp as a conduit? And if you use an active di box with passive pick ups is that effectively activating your pickups like a pre-amp?”

      –Neither is quite true. When using a passive DI, active pickups are more “electronically correct,” but of course we know how little that means to our ears. Using an active DI with passive pickups isn’t quite “activating” your pickups. The process used to transduce the vibration of your guitar strings into a voltage is still passive–it’s merely that the active DI balances and changes the impedance of the signal in an active way.

      “As I mentioned in the last episode I have a few FX boxes running as sends from my mixer – if you run a guitar into the channel strip on the mixer and then send the signal 100% wet to the FX unit are you effectively turning it into a line level signal and should that defeat the need for a DI box other than to balance the incoming signal?”

      –Are these line-level FX boxes or stomp boxes?

      “And those MXR DI boxes. Will they turn a guitar with passive pick ups into a gnarly sounding axe if going straight into the desk.”

      -Can’t speak from experience with the MXR boxes, but unless your are Prince, George Harrison on “Revolution,” or the aformentioned finger-picking, vocal-layering Fleetwood Mac hunk, you are apt to be disappointed by the gnarliness of any DI guitar sound.

      “Peterson for president.”
      –Oh lord, no. Afraid I couldn’t plea, “I didn’t inhale.”

    • If you have the person say something like “sally sells sea shells by the seashore, etc., several times as you walk from one side of their face to the other, every singer will have a side of their mouth that is more sibilant. Aim the mic slightly off axis and up or down a little on the least sibilant side of heir mouth. It does wonders. I will sometimes make either very serious/intent or downright goofy faces sometimes while performing this little test because it freaks some singers out, especially if they have never had anyone check for their prominent sibilant side. What the heck, have them say that several times! Seriously though, it is a medical fact that we are all somewhat asymmetrical and there will be a side of the mouth that has more sibilance than the other.

  7. GSAA.

    Glad to hear that Lowes is carrying Roxul batts at a good price. For those not near a store, check out atsacoustics.com. They also sell wood frames, fabric, etc. to support musicians who are not carpenters but don’t mind a little DIY.

    Also, I know you guys love odd mics. I wonder if you’ve ever played with a Lampifier mic? http://www.lampifier.com/

    Seems like an interesting idea – maybe more for a live gig or a podcast scenario than the studio. But then again, a mic with a light bulb inside might be just the thing on a half-stack in the bathroom 🙂

  8. Just a couple of comments from last weeks show:
    OHM Stdio is a pretty simple and intuitive DAW Jon. It doesn’t require a whole relearning but the real thing about it that is cool it is the first one that has figured out the latency issues and DOES allow for real time jamming. It is worth trying the free version just to see how it works.It could change the way people rehearse and even perform if hardware/bandwidth keeps pace.

    About the comments on the EV ND468 and neodymium mics/magnets. You all did state clearly that it is an instrument mic, however, you still gave it a bad review as a vocal mic. The primary complaint seemed to be it was bottom heavy and muddy. Also, a comment was made regarding how neodymium mics “sound”.

    First, I would suggest the “sound” of the ND468 you described had far less to do with the type of magnet than it did the mic is like all EV neodymium mics, they are pre-eq’d to a certain extent to optimize the magnet for the source type for any specific mic. In that regard a neodymium mic can affect the sound somewhat. I am not sure why it sounded muddy unless it was the filtering on the mic as i will explain later.

    Basically neo magnets are the strongest permanent rare earth magnets there are (that means non-electro magnet….). They have to use special alloys to lengthen their relatively short magnetic life but the reason they are used is because not only are they incredibly powerful (which means they can be substantially smaller and lighter weight) they are very electromagnetically efficient which gives them response characteristics more akin to a condenser mic. In other words, they have a great power to weight ratio and while having great damping properties giving them very high SPL’s without the normal distortion caused by over extension of the diaphragm, they also are very fast and articulate giving them a smoother but higher top end. The muddy sound you mention seems counter to how neo mics work as well as what i know of the EV ND series.

    I have an ND868 kick mic and believe me, this is THE ONE kick mic (and bass, floor tom) mic for me. It has the most versatility and widest capable range of sound and tone, yet sounds almost perfect right out of the box with no EQ. But if you start tweaking the EQ, you find you can dial in all the fast D6 batter click you want. Or you can place it back a little and get a big, open, airy, natural jazz bass sound. Or stick it on a pillow in a kick with the front head off and just leave it that way with maybe minimal EQ for personal taste and it sounds great. And it has excellent low end extension and can be EQ’d to sound like a huge marching bass drum with skin heads. As a few reviews I read said, it has a very natural sound.

    I did also want to mention that magnet material has a far greater effect on the “sound” of a speaker because of the vastly greater moving masses involved and how the electromechanical characteristics change how the cone is damped as well as frequency response. In mics neo magnets generally make them more accurate, more articulate, and faster which a higher potential upper frequency and especially lower frequency response.

  9. GSAA

    this show made me think about making transformers as a diy project, but at the speed I’m going that won’t happen any time soon.
    hurry up and post the next show I can download it before this hurricane knocks me back to the time before the internet… a dark and scary place devoid of free porn and pirated music. looks like a great time to get my back ups up to snuff.

  10. Thank you for answering my questions in the show! I am still working my way up through the back catalog whilest keeping current on the new ones. I had one comment.

    In answering my question, it was suggested that I try out a bunch of different mics and see which one works best. My first thought was “And how do I do that?” But I can think of two ways – see if there’s a music rental company near me that I can rent the mics from, or book an hour in a local recording studio and try their mics. I’m thinking an hour in a local studio might be cheaper.

    And finally, another comment – I am a HUGE Alan Parsons fan and I know that he loves the AT 4030, but I’ve never thought that the vocals on APP records were particularly great sounding. Sacrilege, I know. However, I’ve never sung in one, so hopefully the local studio I book will have one.

    Regarding Stephan’s comments above, REALLY good advice! Does anyone else remember the Craig Anderton book on building your own stomp pedals that came with the plastic record inside?

    • Huh. Thought it was 4030. All I see is 4033 now? Damn numbers.

      Oh, one more thing. Thanks for confirming my opinion of the NT1-A. To my ears, it has a lot of detail but it is a tad bright and harsh and has no warmth whatsoever. It’s better than nothing but I want more…

  11. Did anyone catch the name of the website that was mentioned 1/4 of the way in? Would you mind posting it? The search results I’ve put in for what I thought you said are frightening me. Thanks much!

  12. … and I was wrong. The “smurf-colored soldering station” I referred to is the Weller WS81. Invented in the US. Those sold in Germany are actually made in Germany. sorry for spreading wrong info.

  13. Howdy fellas! New listener here. I’ve listened to most shows #175-current and I’m about to start going backwards from there. Anyway, I had a thought/question about tranny’s (<-have at it Ryan). I figured I'd post it here under this not-so-recent episode on passive DI's…

    Lots of people seem to like what transformers (i.e. passive DI's) do to audio signals. I was wondering if chaining multiple passive DI's would be an easy way to multiply the "transformer effect" on an audio signal… or are there reasons (due to physics, etc.) that this might just be a bad idea?

    I'm guessing you'd need at least 3 DI's to try this. For instance, if I had 3 Ferrite DI's and ran my passive bass into the first one, then out to a 2nd in reverse, and finally to a 3rd to convert back to low impedance and into a pre… would the effect be 3x's as great? Or would the signal just get fucked up? Would it require a buffer if I'm using a passive bass? This might be a good way to really hear what a transformer does to an audio signal even if the resulting sound is not ideal. I have 2 passive DI's and will try this when I get my hands on a 3rd, but for now I'd love to hear some thoughts on this. Not sure if that Peterson fella is still around/available to pipe in or what. I like ducks better than chickens.

    Your pal,
    derv

    P.S. – I'm developing quite the man-crush on you guys (does that make it a MEN-crush?). But, for the time being, you're safe as you both still rank behind Anthony Bourdain… for now!

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