Review by Mark King and Proworkshop.com
THE RNDI NEXT TO A BOSS TUNER FOR SIZE REFERENCE
When I first heard that Rupert Neve Designs was going to release a direct-box I expected it to be $500 to $750 in price. Count me very pleasantly surprised when upon its official release the sale price was only $269, I ordered one immediately.
DIRECT BOXES EXPLAINED
Over the years I've owned and built a lot of direct boxes. In the 90's I sold over 400 Layered Audio boxes, the majority of these were direct-boxes with custom transformers in them. I built six direct boxes with transformers I ordered from Jensen and I own eight White-Knight direct-boxes, a product made by Crimson Audio Transformers, these are populated with high quality handmade transformers in mu-metal cans for maximum shielding. Last but not least I've owned three of the Countryman type 85 fet direct-boxes. I've also had a lot of experience with the Radial direct boxes, both active and passive.
A passive direct box is nothing more than an enclosure with connectors on it and a transformer inside. The quality of the transformer is what totally defines how a passive direct box will perform sonically. A passive direct box may degrade the sound quality of whatever is feeding it signal. A passive instrument like a Fender P-Bass will probably be degraded by a passive direct box, how much the signal will suffer depends on the tone the player is using on his local amplifier and where the tone control on the instrument is set.
Audio degradation in a passive direct box is caused by the transformer input loading down the output of the circuit feeding it. Things get more complicated because the input impedance of what the direct box is feeding also plays a big role in determining the impedance the source musical instrument see's on its output.
An active direct box may have a transformer inside or it may be completely transformer-less. The purpose for active electronics in a direct box is to buffer or isolate the input stage so that it won't change the tone of whatever you plug into it. Active direct boxes are good choices for passive electric instruments.
WHY THE RNDI IS DIFFERENT
The RNDI contains two transformers along with active circuitry which is powered by 48 volt DC phantom power from the mixer connected to the output of the RNDI. A blue light on the RNDI indicates it is receiving power.
RNDI INPUT SIDE
The RNDI has a built in attenuator circuit so that in addition to handling signal levels from any musical instrument, active or passive, it can also be switched to handle inputs directly from amplifier outputs. Impulse responses are very popular in DAWs these days, the RNDI can be patched in between your guitar amp and speaker, the speaker signal can be recorded directly into the DAW and then processed with an impulse response to give an acoustic nature.
Without the attenuator engaged the RNDI can handle up to +21.5 dBu signal levels. With the attenuator switched in the RNDI can handle up to 2500 watts of signal. You must provide a speaker load to your amplifier, the RNDI only samples the signal and passes it through, it is not a speaker load.
The class A amplifier circuit in the RNDI creates a very high impedance input (2-Meg ohm) which does not load-down, color or alter the sound of anything plugged into it. In use, these design specifications prove themselves, the RNDI output is transparent, authoritative and sweet sounding. It's instantly become my favorite D.I. box because of the way it handles audio input.
In our recording studio we have a Martin D-35E Retro acoustic guitar with the Fishman Aura electronics. The built-in pickup system definitely benefits from being connected to the RNDI when compared to a passive direct box. With the RNDI the notes are more defined, bass is punchier, highs have more sparkle.
We love reamping and regularly use the RNDI patched inline with electric guitars and basses to record a very pure direct sound. The direct recording is then played back through a Radial Reamp box into a tube amp which is then recorded. The RNDI does a spectacular job of capturing the direct signal. Stratocasters sound chimey and toneful, bass guitars sound full and deep and Les Pauls are captured in vivid clarity with the RNDI.
The RNDI is housed in a steel enclosure, the connectors and switches have a very high quality feel. The input and output panels are recessed to protect the switches. Overall the unit feels great in your hand and it is small enough to easily sit on top of most guitar and bass amplifiers.
$270 might seem like a high price for a direct box and compared to many on the market it certainly is a high price, but this is a genuine input circuit by the man himself and it's got his signature sonic magic in the sound quality it produces. This is one of the lowest priced Rupert Neve Designs products ever made and in my opinion it's the best Direct box you'll find anywhere.
We bought ours at Sweetwater, you can read more reviews and technical specifications at Sweetwater.com.
Good music to all!