We were approached by Ted Burmas of Sonic Nuance and asked if we would be interested in reviewing one of his products: the TDI direct box. Ted is the owner and sole proprietor of Sonic Nuance Electronics. He started the company in 2012 to fulfill a dream of making equipment for discerning musical performers, sound engineers and worship teams. We haven't done many reviews in the past, but after researching the product we decided to give it a go.
Steve Carr, the publisher of BluegrassGuitar.com, routinely uses a DI box in his role as a worship team guitarist and in other band settings. (If you're not familiar with what A DI box is please read the sidebar article).
Steve normally uses a passive DI box provided by the church with a Martin D-18E Retro. The Martin has a preamp built in to the guitar. He connects the guitar's output with a 1/4" cable to DI box, which is connected to the mixer with XLR cable. He has used many other DI boxes in the past, including the Baggs Paracoustic DI.
About the Sonic Nuance TDI
The TDI is an active DI box that combines the functions of the direct box and a tuner. It needs a power source such as a 9V pedal power supply to work. The power can come from via the XLR connection for mixers that have phantom power, or from a separate 9v power supply (not included with the TDI).
The TDI has a foot switch to switch between tuning mode and playing mode. The switch uses an electro-mechanical relay. This makes the switching totally quiet and avoids noise from being sent to the amp or mixer. When in the tuning mode, the TDI's output is muted.
The tuner is a real plus. There's no need to disconnect cables to tune your instrument. Just use the foots-witch to the tuning mode. This also mutes the output. The accuracy of the tuner is spot on. When compared against a strobe tuner, no difference could be seen.
How it performed
Steve tested the TDI using two guitars: one with an built-in preamp (the Martin D-18E Retro) and one with a passive pickup (K&K Pure Western on a Collings dreadnought). Tests were made with a Fishman Loudbox amp both using 1/4" cables and XLR cables. The D-18E Retro was also tested in a church setting where it was connected to a mixer with an XLR cable from the output of the TDI.
The TDI is light weight, rugged and simple to use. Just plug in your cables and go. The real payoff is in the sound. The quality of the sound delivered by the TDI is amazing. There is no coloring of the sound, no distortion, and no noise. The fidelity of the sound delivered compared to the acoustic sound is amazing. Quite simply, this is the best DI box Steve has ever used.
The Sonic Nuance TDI is the best DI box we've seen. The quality of the sound delivered is noticeably better than other DI boxes, and the inclusion of the tuner makes this DI box a real winner.
High quality components
Simple, rugged design
Pristine sound - no coloring, distortion or noise
What is a DI Box?
A DI box is also known as a direct box. The "DI" stands for "direct inject." These boxes are commonly used to connect instruments with pickups (guitars, basses, etc.) to sound systems (mixers).
The output cables on instrument with pickups are typically ¼" unbalanced cables.They use two conductors: positive signal, and ground. The preferred input cables for mixers are XLR cables. These have three conductors: positive signal, negative signal, and ground.
A ¼" cable is good for 15 feet before signal deterioration (loss) and noise begin to set in. An XLR cable can be run hundreds of feet without signal degradation.
In addition, there is an "impedance" mismatch between guitar outputs and mixer inputs. The outputs from the pickup are typically high impedance (resistance), while the XLR inputs on the mixer are low impedance. It's important to match the two impedances as much as possible for optimum performance, so a basic function of the DI box is to take an unbalanced, high-impedance signal and convert it to a balanced, low-impedance signal.
DI boxes can be active or passive. A passive box is not powered. An active box uses a power source. Some boxes can use 48v phantom power from the mixer if available. Active boxes offer a host of options not available on passive boxes, such as volume, tone and equalization controls.