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Microphone Month

Radial JDV Mk3 Reviews

5.0 stars based on 2 customer reviews
  • from June 3, 2012

    Radial JDV Mk3

    Wonderful direct box. I'm using with bass and the output is amazing.

  • from Saginaw, MI September 30, 2011Music Background:
    Amateur songwriter and producer.

    Sounds Great, Built Like a Tank, Nice Usability Features

    I bought this to record a variety of guitars and basses in my home studio -- in particular, some regular old electric guitars with single-coil or humbucking pickups, but also some slightly more exotic instruments including Ovation and Adamas acoustic-electrics with piezo pickups, a newer Steinberger fretless bass with a piezo bridge, some older Steinberger basses with both active and passive EMG pickups, a Parker Fly, a couple of ukuleles, and an original Yamaha DX-7.

    It sounds excellent on all these sources. It's a very noticeable improvement on running instruments direct into the high-Z inputs of an Apogee Ensemble or Roland FA-66. I've used passive DI boxes like the Whirlwind to run guitars into mixers. After I got this thing, I sold my passive DI boxes on eBay.

    The high end is vivid and airy, and all those little transients, pick noise and string noises, come to life. The dynamic range it will reproduce for you is _huge_; I had kind of forgotten how dynamic an electric guitar can be.

    This can actually be a bit of a shock to your audio interface, so watch the input levels of your preamp, especially with basses! I ruined one track because I play bass rather timidly. I'd set levels for myself that were fine, but my son is used to playing an upright, and plucks the strings a lot harder; the difference in voltage produced by the active pickups on my Steinberger bass, through this box, translated into enough extra voltage to clip the inputs of my audio interface. Start low when setting preamp input gain levels and think of it more like a microphone than a typical DI!

    The crucial features that make this thing valuable for me are the fixed 4-megohm setting for piezo instruments and the drag control that lets me dial in impedance. The difference the piezo setting makes is dramatic -- the low frequencies especially comes to life and the instruments don't sound reedy and thin. On electric pickups the variable drag control is a little more subtle and so I haven't felt the need to mess with it a great deal, although you can play with it to fine tune the sound for artistic purposes. The separate tuner out is fantastic as I just leave a Peterson strobe tuner plugged in all the time so I can quickly turn it on to touch up the tuning while I'm tracking, without having to put down the guitar and plug or unplug cables.

    There are a lot more features on this thing that are useful for live applications including switchable A and B inputs. There's the output to drive an amp, so you could easily mic up an amp and run the direct and live sound into the same mixer or audio interface. You could switch between two guitars without plugging and unplugging cables, but you might have to adjust controls. In practice this would probably work great if you wanted to switch between an electric and acoustic and just hit the 4 megohm button when going to the acoustic. It has a couple of extra aux outputs I currently have no use for, but it's nice to know they are there, and I'm sure they might be just the thing for some particular live setup. It even has a somewhat exotic 30 dB pad on the input that is designed for connecting an amplifier's output that would normally go directly to the speaker. I have not tried that and it sounds like it could be hazardous to a valuable tube amp if you aren't careful to keep a load on it, but the manual mentions this, and I'm sure someone with more expertise than me could get great results that way under certain circumstances.

    This is getting long-winded, but I just want to make one more point about the design of this box. The features that are designed to be commonly used by the _musician_ are all on one side: the input select, impedance controls, high and low cut filter, and power, signal, and clip LEDs, nicely arranged as green, yellow, and red. The rarely used controls ones are on the opposite side: for example, the 15 dB pad on the output and the polarity control. And the 30 dB input pad, which you'd rarely use except for the case I described above, can't be turned on by accident -- you need to poke a little stick into a hole to access it. This is really excellent user-interface design. It's also interesting to note the controls that it _doesn't_ have. There is no output level control -- it really is a direct box that isn't supposed to add gain per se. There's a nicely-placed clip to help you lock down the TRS cable to the output, which could be a godsend if you trip over a cord. There is no on/off switch.

    Overall this just seems to be one of those pieces of gear that just makes stuff sound better. I highly recommend it, and I'm definitely considering more Radial gear in the future.

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