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CT2039N Project Preparation Module Report DI Box Design Report

Group Number: 9

Names: Thiago Gullo, Vikram, Geovani GarciaDr Richard Walters

ID Numbers: 07046346

Date: Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Supervisor: Dr Richard Walters

DI Box Design Report.

The aim of this project is to design an active DI box. The technology is investigated and an outline of the design is given, being suitable for different markets. DI boxes are generally small and light, and they spend much of their time on the floor being kicked around and trodden on by musicians and sound engineers.

DI Box Design Report.

Table of Contents

DI Box Design Report.

1 Introduction
A frequent requirement is the need to interface equipment that has basically nonstandard unbalanced outputs with the standard balanced inputs of mixers, either at line level or microphone level. An electric guitar, for example, has an unbalanced output of fairly high impedance around 10k or so. The standard output socket is the mono quarter-inch jack, and output voltage levels of around a volt or so can be expected. Plugging the guitar directly into the mic or line level input of a mixer is unsatisfactory for several reasons: the input impedance of the mixer will be too low for the guitar, which likes to drive impedance of 500k or more; the guitar output is unbalanced so the interference-rejecting properties of the mixers balanced input will be lost; the high output impedance of the guitar renders it incapable of driving long studio tie-lines; and the guitarist will frequently wish to plug the instrument into an amplifier as well as the mixer, and simply using the same guitar output to feed both via a splitter lead electrically connects the amplifier to the studio equipment which causes severe interference and low-frequency hum problems. Similar problems are encountered with other instruments such as synthesisers, electric pianos, and pickup systems for acoustic instruments.

DI Box Design Report.

1.1 Understanding Direct Injection (DI) Box

In order to connect such an instrument with the mixer, a special interfacing unit know as a DI box is therefore employed. This unit will convert the instruments output to a low-impedance balanced signal, and also reduce its output level to the millivolt range suitable for feeding a microphone input. In addition to the input jack socket, it will also have an output jack socket so that the instruments unprocessed signal can be passed to an amplifier as well. The low impedance balanced output appears on a standard three-pin XLR panel-mounted plug which can now be looked upon as the output of a microphone. An earth-lift switch is also provided which isolates the earth of the input and output jack socket from the XLR output, to trap earth loop problems. [1]

1.1.1 Passive DI boxes

The simplest DI boxes contain just a transformer, and are termed passive because they require no power supply. Figure 1 shows the circuit. The transformer in this case has a 20:1 step-down ratio, converting the fairly high output of the instrument to a lower output suitable for feeding microphone lines. Impedance is converted according to the square of the turns ratio(400:1), so a typical guitar output impedance of 15k will be stepped down to about 40 which is comfortably low enough to drive long microphone lines. But the guitar itself likes to look into a high impedance. If the mixers microphone input impedance is 2k the transformer will step this up to , 800kwhich is adequately high for the guitar. The link output jack socket is used to connect the guitar to an amplifier if required. Note the configuration of the input jack socket: the make-and-break contact normally short-circuits the input which gives the box immunity from interference, and also very low noise when an instrument is not

DI Box Design Report.

plugged in. Insertion of the jack plug opens this contact, removing the short-circuit. The transformer isolates the instrument from phantom power on the microphone line. This type of DI box design has the advantages of being cheap, simple, and requiring no power source there are no internal batteries to forget to change. On the other hand, its input and output impedances are entirely dependent on the reflected impedances each side of the transformer. Unusually low microphone input impedances will give insufficiently high impedances for many guitars. Also, instruments with passive volume controls can exhibit output impedances as high as 200k with the control turned down a few numbers from maximum, and this will cause too high an impedance at the output of the DI box driving long lines. The fixed turns ratio of the transformer is not equally suited to the wide variety of instruments the DI box will encounter, although several units have additional switches which alter the transformer tapping giving different degrees of attenuation.

Figure 1 A simple passive DI box

1.1.2 Active DI boxes 6

DI Box Design Report.

The active DI box replaces the transformer with an electronic circuit which presents a constant very high impedance to the instrument and provides a constant low impedance output. Additionally, the presence of electronics provides scope for including other features such as several switched attenuation values ( say -20dB, -40dB, - 60dB), high and low filters and the like. The box is powered either by internal batteries, or preferably by the phantom power on the microphone line. If batteries are used, the box should include an indication of battery status; a test switch is often included which lights an LED when the battery is good. Alternatively, an LED comes on as warning when the voltage of the battery status drops below a certain level. The make-and-break contacts of the input jack socket are often configured so that insertion of the jack plug automatically switches the unit on. One should be mindful of this because if the jack plug is left plugged into the unit overnight, for instance, this will waste battery power. Usually the current consumption of the DI box is just a few milliamps , so the battery will last for perhaps a hundred hours. Some guitars and keyboard amplifiers offers a separate balanced output on an XLR socket labelled DI or studio which is intended to replace the DI box, and it is often convenient to use this instead. Active DI boxes with Preamp

A new type of Direct Box may have a built in preamp that works off the Phantom power of a mixer. They are supposed to boost a signal level up to 10dB. [2]

1.1.3 Speaker Director Box

The less common DI box is called the Speaker Director Box. A speaker director is 7

DI Box Design Report.

used when the only signal output available is from an amplifier. Many older 16mm film projectors use a 10 watt tube amplifier for driving a 10 watt speaker. A tube amplifier should always have a nominal load of 4 ohms or higher on the output or the amplifier will burn itself out. A good speaker director will present to the amplifier a proper load and convert the signal to mic levels to either a 150 or 600 ohms.

DI Box Design Report.

2. Project Concerning

We have spent most of our time, thinking about the best solution to implement a DI box, which could be either a passive or active one. The criteria used was based on: a good output signal response; causing less distorsion, size and its applicability, cost and stability of the signal (DC/AC).

Thinking about practicality, the solution of building a passive design box would be more suitable. Simply, because it doesnt require a power source and its very easy to build, requiring few components. On the other hand, transformers arent very cheap and it doesnt achieve higher impedances, it is necessary to use an active DI box.

That is why we have chosen to design an active DI boxes, which gives the design more flexibility in accommodating different types of input signal, so it's not uncommon to find models capable of accepting line, high-impedance instrument and loudspeaker inputs, most often via different sockets.

DI Box Design Report.

3. Designing the Circuit

3.1 KiCad Software

To design the circuit, in this case an active direct injection box, we have used KiCad[3], a software for the creation of electronic schematic diagrams and printed circuit board artwork and it is basically a set of four softwares: Eeschema: Schematic entry. Pcbnew: Board editor. Gerbview: GERBER viewer (photoplotter documents). Cvpcb: footprint selector for components used in the circuit design. With the schematic entry, you can: Create simple or hierarchical sheets. Test it with the Electrical Rules Check tool (ERC), Create netlists for Pcbnew, or for Spice. Eeschema manages a fast and direct access to component documentation.

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The board editor Pcbnew works with 1 to 16 copper layers plus 12 technical layers and creates all the necessary files for building printed boards.


DI Box Design Report.

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3.1.1 DI Box PCB

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(DI BOX upper view)

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(DI BOX underneath view)


DI Box Design Report.

Below you can have a look at the netlist, showing the components we currently have used:

4. Results and Analysis

4.1 Frequency Response

The frequency response indicates how linear it is. Ideally, it should respond equally well to all frequencies, producing a smooth flat output response to an input signal sweeping from the lowest to the highest frequency at a constant amplitude.


DI Box Design Report.

For the experiment we have produced, an output frequency response shows as follows:

4.2 Specifications

Max. input level: +21dBu / 20Hz (Source 200 / load 2k) Frequency response: Source 200, Load 2k: - 0.2dB / - 0.2dB 10Hz to 100kHz Source 6.8k, Load 2k: - 0.4dB / - 0.4dB 10Hz to 40kHz Source 47k, Load 2k: - 1.6dB / - 1.6dB 10Hz to 20kHz Phase response: +1 deg / 10Hz -4 deg / 20kHz Input impedance: > 80k / 1kHz Dimensions (LxWxH): 52 x 33 x 15 mm Weight: 0.08 kg


DI Box Design Report.

5. Conclusion

In this report, a design for an active DI BOX has been presented. The key features of they are... It was found that...

6. References

[1] Rumsey, F. and McCormick T., 2002. Sound and Recording: An Introduction. 4th ed. UK: Focal Press









< >[Acessed 05 May 2011]

[3] KiCad, 2011. [online] Available at: < >[Acessed 05 May 2011]