So first of all, what’s DI? Imagine some overly polite guitar player walking in the studio with his beloved instrument, and quietly plugging his guitar into his amp. He plays a few chords, then adjusts some knobs on his dear workhorse, the amplifier. Plays a few chords and lines again, then comes some tweaking of the knobs again. Suddenly he yells out “Fuck this, let’s go direct into the board!”. That’s DI for you, man. It’s Direct Input or Direct Injection, just like when the bull directly injects his… well, let’s not go there. Anyway, people usually use some kind of unit that converts the impedance of the guitar to the impedance of the preamp/mixing console. Note that some active on board guitar systems (like for example EMG pickups) don’t require a DI box. Even though their sound can be pleasantly altered with one. Also, sometimes people go for the impedance mismatched sound, just for kicks, because it happens to be a sunny day.
When EVH went direct
Do you remember this used-to-be-boyish looking rebel of a guy, Eddie Van Halen? He could come up with fun sounding riffs that literally carried whole Van Halen songs, from beginning to end. This next one is pretty much like that too, except he’s given up on his signature overdriven “brown sound” (don’t ask, hint: it’s got nothing to do with beans and bowels) and went DI. That’s how “Finish What Ya Started” was born. Sounds like country, doesn’t it.
EVH – “Finish What Ya Started”
If you have ever seen an airship made out of light-emitting diodes, you know the band Led Zeppelin.
Led Zep without amps
On a day when they ran out of light-emission, they forced poor Jimmy Page to plug straight into a microphone preamp being turned up all the way. Leaving that unit, the not anymore anemic signal went into a Urei 1176 compressor. And what’s better than an 1176? You’ve guessed right, two 1176s. So yes, the output of the first Urei fed another 1176 compressor. The rhythm guitars on the song “Black Dog” emerged out of that rage.
Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog”
Hovering over our dear planet earth like an everlasting thundercloud, the DI craze has reached one of the most reckless guitar magicians of our age, Steve Vai.
Vai’s eccentric magic
Whatever rained on him that day made him play this wonderful piece called “Ballerina 12/24”. With plugging his Ibanez JEM direct into some precious studio gear – among them there was an Eventide H3000 harmonizer – he created the tune below. You can blame all the pitch shifting stuff on that previously mentioned unit.
Steve Vai – “Ballerina 12/24”
If you’re not a newborn alien who just landed in the desert with a half-wrecked spacecraft, you know that there are two kinds of people. Those who like the Beatles and those who fucking love them. Let’s just politely forget about the haters for now. They are the minority anyway.
Direct fuzz by the Fab Four
These guys liked to wander into undiscovered area, at least audio wise. So it was inevitable that they too have discovered DI guitars, which they used happily on “Revolution”. They were driving two console preamplifiers connected in series into fuzz distortion.
The Beatles – “Revolution”