Active/Passive DI Box confusion

Jan 25, 2008
Los Angeles, CA
Basically, I have active pickups in my guitar, but I want to be able to record somebody with passive pickups if they happen to have them. Should I get an active or passive DI box ? What's a good box at a decent price that will handle both active and passive pickups nicely ? Do cheap boxes like the behringer produce noticably worse DI's than a more expensive box ? :loco:
Active DI suits for both passive and active pickups, while passive DI suits fine for active pickups. But in some cases, depending on the DI's input impedance (lower = worse), passive pickups can sound a bit muffled because they lose high frequencies. But a high quality passive DI will often sound better than most active DIs. Another thing to remember is how long distances you need to pass. If you need long distances (live shows mostly), then you should use an active DI so as to not lose fidelity. And also, passive DIs are a better choice for keyboards and such.

So, to sum it up:

Active DI
+ Long distances
+ Better "compatibility" in general for both active and passive pickups

Passive DI
+ High quality ones sound better than active
+ Better for keyboards and such electronic devices
- Those with low input impedance will lose high frequencies with passive pickup guitars/bass
Tornio, I think your last sentence in your first paragraph should be "passive DI's are a better choice for keyboards and such." not "passive pickups are a better choice for keyboards and such". Also would you class the Littlelabs Redeye as a high quality passive DI?
I've found that cheap passive DI's can be very noisy, i.e. the ones from Behringer. I purchased a passive Whirlwind DI, and it is very quiet and very good, so if you're on a budget, I would reccomend passive DI. If not, buy a Countryman active DI or something from Radial.
I'll +1 Tornio's whole post, but one thing to clarify, the reason he says passives are better for keyboards and other powered instruments is because those instruments can put out pretty hot signals, and passive DI's have almost infinite headroom, unlike actives. Also, however, I would always take a high-quality active DI over a high-quality passive DI for passive pickups, but not for active pickups (because active DI's preserve more tone, but the difference really isn't noticeable when recording with active pickups, so I'd rather use a passive DI and not have to deal with any extra noise being introduced into the signal). AND...

Heavy Hitter DI shootout!