Guitar: any big difference between Fireface and Radial DI?

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bejeeber
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Guitar: any big difference between Fireface and Radial DI?

Post by bejeeber » Fri May 30, 2008 10:16 pm

I've been seeing the intriguing ads about the Radial guitar DI, and the heavyweights who say they swear by it.

And I heard a Radial DI recorded guitar in a band setting that was pretty impressive considering no amp sim or anything was used on it.

So I'm sitting here recording guitar with the DI on my Fireface 400, wondering if I'd be getting noticeably better sounding results using one of those Radial contraptions into a line in on the Fireface.

Anyone here ever side by side compare the Radial to a Fireface or close equivalent? Results?

I suppose I could order a Radial, do my own A/B comparison, and if it doesn't live up to the hype, return it. That's a hassle though, I'd rather get some initial impressions straight from you horse mouths. :lol:

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Post by aitikin » Fri May 30, 2008 10:47 pm

Very interesting question. I was thinking about picking up a DI this summer, but if someone can say that the fireface's is as good or even close, I might pass. Although, at this rate, I have no way to make any real money, so who knows.
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Post by i am monster face » Sat May 31, 2008 12:34 am

aitikin wrote: Although, at this rate, I have no way to make any real money, so who knows.
Don't let that stop you! Never stopped me!

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Post by ashcat_lt » Sat May 31, 2008 9:54 pm

I've never tried either one, but I'll throw a little bit of "math" at you, FWIW.

It kind of depends on what DI you're talking about. Looking at the specs on their website, I'm seeing that their active DI has an input-Z of 220K. The passive says 100K, but I'm not happy with that answer. A transformer doesn't have its own impedance, but rather reflects the impedance of the mic pre into which it's plugged. Most won't get much higher than 200K even with extremely hi-Z mic pres.

The Fireface, on the other hand, presents 470K on input 3-4 when switched to "instrument".

Now, we can argue all day about what the ideal input impedance is for a guitar, but there's no denying that most modern effects and many amplifiers have "settled for" a nominal 1M standard input-Z. That is, if you were plugging your guitar into an amp, it would likely see something like 1M, about twice what the Fireface presents, and 5+ times what the Radials will give.

The self-capacitance of the pickup in conjunction with the inductance therein as well as the capacitance of the cable through which it is connected to it's load all add up to a pretty severe low-pass filter which cuts off at a surprisingly low frequency. Right around that cut-off frequency is what we hear in a guitar as sparkle, or sometimes spank, maybe even clarity. It's the part of the signal that we are missing when we complain about "tone suck".

Now, I put the word math in quotes because I'm not going to throw any formulas out. I don't understand them well enough to explain them, and imaginary numbers tend to freak people out. But I have seen a graph (can't link there right now because the GuitarNutz forum is down ) that showed the frequency response of a "typical" guitar circuit and how it changed as the input-Z to which it is connected changed. At 1M there was a very significant resonant peak right at the cutoff frequency. As the value decreases, this peak also decreases. At 500K (close enough to your FireFace) it's still pretty high up there, and you might not even be able to hear a difference. At 200K it is almost halfway down (from where it was at 1M) to flat.

That said, nobody really wants to hear that much of a resonance peak at that frequency range on a guitar. This tends to sound really strident and harsh, much like that horrid sound you get from a piezo-equipped electric/acoustic. The reason it "works" in an amplifier is that the amplifier and (especially) the speaker fail to reproduce those high frequencies. So you get something like a pre-emphasis/de-emphasis thing.

Based on all that, I'm thinking the Radials likely sound better when the guitar is to be heard without much in the way of further processing. The decreased high-frequency response* will act something like a speaker sim and mellow out the otherwise nasty sound of your guitar.

On the other hand - if I had to choose between these two boxes and nothing else - I think I'd choose the FireFace for anything where I intended to "re-amp". Whether ITB or O, I'd like for the amp/sim to receive a signal as much like the guitar connected directly to it as possible. Rather, perhaps, I?d like the guitar to act as much as possible as though it was connected to the amp. Or maybe I should say that the amp/sim is going to roll off that high end anyway, so I?d like to preserver it as long as possible.

Of course, the whole issue of impedance is rendered moot if there is a pedal between the guitar and the interface. In that case, the guitar "sees" the pedal and could give a fuck whether it hits a transformer or an opamp or whatever else on the other side. Most modern pedals have plenty low enough out-Z to interface fine with either one. A Boss or similar pedal will even help out in bypass mode.

Now, I haven't touched on any of the other aspects of the two options you've presented because they are something you'd have to hear, and I haven't. Which one is overall quieter? Which has more headroom? Which sounds better when it runs out of headroom?



* I think I saw that the Radial passive claims a 20-20K response. This means it will pass frequencies frequencies within this range. If it never actually sees these frequencies, though...

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Post by bejeeber » Sat May 31, 2008 10:53 pm

Whoa Ashcat, that is an incredibly informative and well written reply on this DI subject. Thanx!

To expound a bit further on what the heck I'm doing with this recording project, it's a bit of a straight ahead jazz thing, with some trad hollowbody guitar sound, and also some semi hollow body guitar tracks with lighter gauge strings, lots of string bending.

It's all gonna be "clean tone", no blatant overdrive, and all using amp sims.

Actually, so far I'm getting the best trad Hollow body tone using the Neve pre module from the Line 6 gearbox plug-in with plenty of hi-boost and no speaker sim or anything. This is not that often erroneously assumed "standard" jazz tone, that is rolled off and muddy - I'm going for more of a George bensony thang, plenty o' crispness in there.

For the bendy guitars (using a 60's ES-125, P-90 neck pickup), amp sims seem more in order, and for all guitars I'm slathering on plenty of PSP mix saturator (tape 3 setting) and compression plugs in series, trying to keep from obviously messing with the attack sound of the guitars, while also de-sterilizing them and imparting some vibe and color.

So for this stuff, I believe that the less impedance induced roll of I'm getting from the DI, the better!

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Post by Jay Reynolds » Sun Jun 01, 2008 7:04 am

ashcat_lt wrote:
Of course, the whole issue of impedance is rendered moot if there is a pedal between the guitar and the interface. In that case, the guitar "sees" the pedal and could give a fuck whether it hits a transformer or an opamp or whatever else on the other side. Most modern pedals have plenty low enough out-Z to interface fine with either one. A Boss or similar pedal will even help out in bypass mode.
Great post!
I just wanted to add that you could run the DI ahead of the pedals in your chain and use the "through" on the DI to get signal to the stomp boxes. You could then run the output of your effects chain into an instrument input and get the best of both worlds.
Prog out with your cog out.

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Post by ashcat_lt » Sun Jun 01, 2008 10:56 am

Of course, that lowers the overall impedance. 1M in parallel with 200K ends up presenting 166K to your pickups.

G'Nutz is still down. I think it's terrorism!

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Post by newfuturevintage » Mon Jun 02, 2008 1:34 pm

I have a fireface 800 and a radial J48.

I use the J48.

I do not use the fireface DI input.

If the 400 and the 800 share the same DI circuit, the radial will probably be a step up, and not subtle. The Fireface DI to me sounds very dull and anemic on guitar or bass (even active bass). It's actually the only feature about the FF I don't like.

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Post by bejeeber » Mon Jun 02, 2008 1:43 pm

Whoa. That's the exact comparison I was looking for.

Thanks a ton, although I'm very disappointed in your answer because it means I've been recording crap so far, and that more $pending is necessary. Now preparing to bash the credit card for a J48.

:x

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Post by ashcat_lt » Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:13 pm

Just for completeness, here's the graph I was talking about earlier.
Image

And here's the thread where we were discussing it, in case anybody's interested.

I think this goes to show that theory and reality are often quite different. Or, i guess, there's much more to it than just the Z.

Of course, if you were happy with the sounds you were getting before...

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Post by jaguarsg » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:29 pm

the radial has a transformer, the Fireface does not.

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Post by newfuturevintage » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:36 pm

bejeeber wrote: Thanks a ton, although I'm very disappointed in your answer because it means I've been recording crap so far, and that more $pending is necessary. Now preparing to bash the credit card for a J48.
:x
I don't mean to imply that at all. If what you've been recording so far works for you, then there's really no reason to open the wallet. I would also try doing the stompbox-in-line route if you have any clean ones floating around. A compressor or EQ would be nice for what you're talking about. Try running that into the line or instrument inputs and see if there's an improvement or not.

If there's not, then, a DI might be the ticket.

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Post by bejeeber » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:38 pm

ashcat_lt wrote:
Of course, if you were happy with the sounds you were getting before...
Yeah, I really will have to do an A/B with my guitars before deciding the Radial's a keeper, but since I was having to brighten the Jazz box up after capture, and I've just heard this first hand report of the Fireface Di being dull in comparison, sounds like the Radial could potentially make me happier....

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Post by dsw » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:57 pm

the radial has a transformer, the Fireface does not.
And to put a finer point on it, the J48 uses a Jensen transformer which most consider to be a very good transformer.

+1 J48. They sound very good and they are built as if for NASA.
Love the build quality. Everything should feel so good in your hand.

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Post by newfuturevintage » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:59 pm

dsw wrote:
the radial has a transformer, the Fireface does not.
And to put a finer point on it, the J48 uses a Jensen transformer which most consider to be a very good transformer.

+1 J48. They sound very good and they are built as if for NASA.
Love the build quality. Everything should feel so good in your hand.
actually, the j48 doesn't have a transformer; it's an active design. the JDI box is the one with the Jensen. That said, totally agree about the build quality. Feels like a brick, maybe heavier.

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