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Hi-Z input vs a DI input
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OolalavSuperfukk
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27th February 2013
Old 27th February 2013
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Hi-Z input vs a DI input

Just wondering if Hi-Z and DI input are the same thing or not. I'm considering purchasing a UA 6176 and I noticed it has a Hi-Z. I've always just been running my guitar straight through a DI input on my audio interface, but if the Hi-Z input works the same way, i'd love to take advantage of running my guitar directly through the UA 6176. anyways, hopefully someone can explain whether they're the same or their differences etc.
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27th February 2013
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to my understanding the DI box converts the high z level and steps it up to a line level signal. so the intput to the di would be high z whereas the input to interface from di would be line level. on a side note most interfaces these days can take a high z input without use of a di box.
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OolalavSuperfukk
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27th February 2013
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Originally Posted by skillz335 View Post
to my understanding the DI box converts the high z level and steps it up to a line level signal. so the intput to the di would be high z whereas the input to interface from di would be line level. on a side note most interfaces these days can take a high z input without use of a di box.
ok, so that probably means it would work just fine running a guitar through the Hi-Z o the UA 6176 ?
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27th February 2013
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Originally Posted by OolalavSuperfukk View Post
Just wondering if Hi-Z and DI input are the same thing or not. I'm considering purchasing a UA 6176 and I noticed it has a Hi-Z. I've always just been running my guitar straight through a DI input on my audio interface, but if the Hi-Z input works the same way, i'd love to take advantage of running my guitar directly through the UA 6176. anyways, hopefully someone can explain whether they're the same or their differences etc.
The UA 6176 has a "switchable" high-Z input that can be used as a amplified "line" input to take advantage of the UA processor Or can be used as a direct input for a magnetic guitar or bass pick-up. For "line" use (for instance to use the UA compressor function with a different mic pre), the high-Z input is set to a 47 K ohm input impedance. For use as a direct pick-up input the UA High-Z should be set for its 2.2 meg ohm input impedance. The UA 2.2 meg ohm input should be excellent for a guitar with a direct output pick-up (no internal amp).

Running a guitar pick-up into a 2.2 meg input will "unload" it and will usually provide the most interesting, wide-range tone.

To compare the 2.2 meg UA high-Z to a direct box, you first have to define what kind of direct box you're considering. There are several different "flavors" of direct boxes and all don't perform the same.

A couple of good examples are the Radial Pro DI and the Radial J48.

The Pro Di is a traditional transformer-based direct box. Like virtually all direct boxes it converts the unbalanced high-Z output of a magnetic pick-up to a lower impedance, and lower voltage signal to drive a conventional balanced mic input. The Pro DI uses a high-ratio transformer to do the impedance conversion. It has a 140K ohm input impedance, which is a good match for most guitar pick-ups but certainly does "load" the pick-up more than the 2.2 meg ohm UA input. The sound will be different and the difference will depend on the type of pick up and to some degree to the capacitance of the guitar cable. The use of a transformer in the DI box also will add it's own "character" to the guitar sound.

The Radial J48 is another "flavor" of DI box. Instead of a high-ratio transformer, it uses active electronics (powered by the following mic input's +48 volt phantom power). It provides the impedance transformation electronically, so does not use a transformer. The J48 has an input impedance of 220K ohms, so "loads" the guitar pick-up less then the Pro DI, but still more than the UA "high-Z" input, resulting in yet another change in the guitar sound.The active electronics has less harmonic distortion, especially at low frequencies, so it's a "cleaner" sound than a transformer-based DI like the Pro DI.

Other direct boxes exist with other input impedances. Some pick-ups are more sensitive to loading. A guitar with a built-in active pick-up amplifier (usually battery powered) will be insensitive to the "loading" of the following input circuit, so will show little change with any of the above devices.
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27th February 2013
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Originally Posted by Lotus 7 View Post
The UA 6176 has a "switchable" high-Z input that can be used as a amplified "line" input to take advantage of the UA processor Or can be used as a direct input for a magnetic guitar or bass pick-up. For "line" use (for instance to use the UA compressor function with a different mic pre), the high-Z input is set to a 47 K ohm input impedance. For use as a direct pick-up input the UA High-Z should be set for its 2.2 meg ohm input impedance. The UA 2.2 meg ohm input should be excellent for a guitar with a direct output pick-up (no internal amp).

Running a guitar pick-up into a 2.2 meg input will "unload" it and will usually provide the most interesting, wide-range tone.

To compare the 2.2 meg UA high-Z to a direct box, you first have to define what kind of direct box you're considering. There are several different "flavors" of direct boxes and all don't perform the same.

A couple of good examples are the Radial Pro DI and the Radial J48.

The Pro Di is a traditional transformer-based direct box. Like virtually all direct boxes it converts the unbalanced high-Z output of a magnetic pick-up to a lower impedance, and lower voltage signal to drive a conventional balanced mic input. The Pro DI uses a high-ratio transformer to do the impedance conversion. It has a 140K ohm input impedance, which is a good match for most guitar pick-ups but certainly does "load" the pick-up more than the 2.2 meg ohm UA input. The sound will be different and the difference will depend on the type of pick up and to some degree to the capacitance of the guitar cable. The use of a transformer in the DI box also will add it's own "character" to the guitar sound.

The Radial J48 is another "flavor" of DI box. Instead of a high-ratio transformer, it uses active electronics (powered by the following mic input's +48 volt phantom power). It provides the impedance transformation electronically, so does not use a transformer. The J48 has an input impedance of 220K ohms, so "loads" the guitar pick-up less then the Pro DI, but still more than the UA "high-Z" input, resulting in yet another change in the guitar sound.The active electronics has less harmonic distortion, especially at low frequencies, so it's a "cleaner" sound than a transformer-based DI like the Pro DI.

Other direct boxes exist with other input impedances. Some pick-ups are more sensitive to loading. A guitar with a built-in active pick-up amplifier (usually battery powered) will be insensitive to the "loading" of the following input circuit, so will show little change with any of the above devices.
wow, thank you very much for the detailed info!
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27th February 2013
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Yes, Thank you Lotus...
Im probably way off...but its the input impedance transformer overloading that then determines where the over drive will cause the harmonic distortion then? Where as in adding harmonic distortion ITB this is an emulated variable feature on the plugins right?
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28th February 2013
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Originally Posted by skillz335 View Post
Yes, Thank you Lotus...
Im probably way off...but its the input impedance transformer overloading that then determines where the over drive will cause the harmonic distortion then?
Not really. Since a guitar pickup is a very reactive signal source (it's output impedance can vary a lot at different frequencies) it can sound different due to frequency response changes caused by different load impedances. Loading can also affect the core saturation of a pick up at high levels which will change the harmonic content of the waveform. It's technically not "harmonic distortion" because it's the original waveshape from the pickup.

Regarding the difference between a transformer-based DI box and one with active electronics, it's not a matter of overdriving the transformer or the active components (since the signal levels are rather low), but more an issue of just converting the signal to a magnetic flux in the transformer core and than back to an electrical current as opposed to keeping it as an all-electronic signal going through an op-amp or two. It's a distortion level of often less than 0.1% THD and is frequency dependent (higher as the frequency lowers).

Typical guitar amp output stage distortion created by over-driving a power amp can reach 5 or 10% and is much more audible. The difference between a transformer DI and an active circuit DI is much more subtle.

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Originally Posted by skillz335 View Post
Where as in adding harmonic distortion ITB this is an emulated variable feature on the plugins right?

You are correct that ITB distortion plug-ins are emulations or active models of different types of physical distortion sources. Some are more accurate than others.

It all comes down to personal preference of what kind of effect and the degree you're trying to achieve.

There are soooo many choices!!
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28th February 2013
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Edit: original post was off subject.

Last edited by skillz335; 5th March 2013 at 12:50 AM.. Reason: edit of the edit: meant concept
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lotus 7 View Post
Not really. Since a guitar pickup is a very reactive signal source (it's output impedance can vary a lot at different frequencies) it can sound different due to frequency response changes caused by different load impedances. Loading can also affect the core saturation of a pick up at high levels which will change the harmonic content of the waveform. It's technically not "harmonic distortion" because it's the original waveshape from the pickup.

Regarding the difference between a transformer-based DI box and one with active electronics, it's not a matter of overdriving the transformer or the active components (since the signal levels are rather low), but more an issue of just converting the signal to a magnetic flux in the transformer core and than back to an electrical current as opposed to keeping it as an all-electronic signal going through an op-amp or two. It's a distortion level of often less than 0.1% THD and is frequency dependent (higher as the frequency lowers).

Typical guitar amp output stage distortion created by over-driving a power amp can reach 5 or 10% and is much more audible. The difference between a transformer DI and an active circuit DI is much more subtle.




You are correct that ITB distortion plug-ins are emulations or active models of different types of physical distortion sources. Some are more accurate than others.

It all comes down to personal preference of what kind of effect and the degree you're trying to achieve.

There are soooo many choices!!

^Thanks for the time. I had a bit of reading to do.

then in regard to tonality and dynamic effect, how does a transformer based DI differ from a tape head then? since from what Ive been reading if I understand correctly the tape head is basically a transformer itself. If so, is it because that the tape head deals with higher level or is "bigger"(sorry I dont have the terminology to correctly state what it is I mean(more capacity maby?)) it allows the signal to saturate more at its respected levels?
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4th March 2013
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Originally Posted by skillz335 View Post
^Thanks for the time. I had a bit of reading to do.

then in regard to tonality and dynamic effect, how does a transformer based DI differ from a tape head then? since from what Ive been reading if I understand correctly the tape head is basically a transformer itself. If so, is it because that the tape head deals with higher level or is "bigger"(sorry I dont have the terminology to correctly state what it is I mean(more capacity maby?)) it allows the signal to saturate more at its respected levels?

This thread is "drifting" away from the initial comparison of a direct, electronic high-Z input vs. a DI box, but so be it.

The tape-head analogy is interesting (and original) so without getting into excruciating details, I'll take a shot:

A tape head is similar to a transformer (actually more like a simple inductor or "choke") in that it has wire windings and a permiable (susceptibility to carrying a magnetic field) core, but there is also the addition of the magnetic properties of the magnetic coating on the tape which has quite different magnetic characteristics.

The non-linear response of the tape storage layer along with it's intrinsic hysteresis is one of the the main contributors to analog tape "sound". It includes mild low level compression that increases as the tape nears saturation plus a full spectrum of harmonics generated at increasing amplitudes as the recorded signal increases, not to mention the "dither" effect of the random noise modulation as tiny magnetic domains pass under the play head.

In most audio transformers, particularly mic input transformers and DI box impedance matching transformers, the transformer designer will really try to minimize the magnetic effects mentioned above. A good transformer will have a very linear closed core,with as low hysteresis as possible, low shunt capacitance, good magnetic shielding and and tight coupling for high efficiency. Quality audio transformers are usually designed to be as "transparent" as possible.

The net result is that a good DI impedance matching transformer or a good microphone output transformer or a mic pre input transformer will have much lower harmonic distortion than a tape transfer. Also a good transformer will be operated at a signal level that is far below that which will approach core saturation at all but the very lowest frequencies, so it won't have the slightly non-linear transfer character of analog tape, nor the addition of harmonic structure due to residual magnetism in the tape heads and any distortion present in the head bias waveform.

A poorly designed transformer with a (too small) core that can't handle the required magnetic flux will saturate somewhat like an over-driven tape recorder, but will also probably have artifacts like uneven frequency response and both even and odd order distortion which are not attractive sounding. A "good" transformer that has had it's core magnetized (by running excessive direct current through a winding) can also generate high distortion due to the core hysteresis effects.

So the simple answer is that although a transformer resembles a tape head, the whole tape system (record head, bias signal, tape media and playback head) has many more variables and is more complex in it's analysis.

Sorry to go on and on, but that's the "short" answer!
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4th March 2013
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Nice inputs, thanks Lotus 7!
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Nice inputs, thanks Lotus 7!
A.
Thanks. I love responding to intelligent and interesting questions which show the person asking has given some thought to the subject. It's so much better than the typical "Which mic should I buy? (I've got $75 and am recording in an untreated bedroom, but I'd like it to sound better than a Telefunken 251 at Skywalker Sound)"
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5th March 2013
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Thanks for the clarifications!, and for explaining things in a manner easier on me to understand and to further find information. As well as the insights to yet even more directions of research. Im still going to have to do quite a bit of research to understand you fully. but from what Ive gathered from my modest understanding, youve more then answered my question, plus clarified my lack of ability to articulate fully..I truly appreciate that. So, lol. heres hoping that my head doesn't explode anytime soon.
Regards,
Aaron
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Originally Posted by Lotus 7 View Post
It's so much better than the typical "Which mic should I buy? (I've got $75 and am recording in an untreated bedroom, but I'd like it to sound better than a Telefunken 251 at Skywalker Sound)"

Don't forget the always great "What's the best [put the name of some gear you don't have a clue how it works here]?" threads!
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9th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lotus 7 View Post
A tape head is similar to a transformer (actually more like a simple inductor or "choke") in that it has wire windings and a permiable (susceptibility to carrying a magnetic field) core, but there is also the addition of the magnetic properties of the magnetic coating on the tape which has quite different magnetic characteristics.

The non-linear response of the tape storage layer along with it's intrinsic hysteresis is one of the the main contributors to analog tape "sound". It includes mild low level compression that increases as the tape nears saturation plus a full spectrum of harmonics generated at increasing amplitudes as the recorded signal increases, not to mention the "dither" effect of the random noise modulation as tiny magnetic domains pass under the play head.

In most audio transformers, particularly mic input transformers and DI box impedance matching transformers, the transformer designer will really try to minimize the magnetic effects mentioned above. A good transformer will have a very linear closed core,with as low hysteresis as possible, low shunt capacitance, good magnetic shielding and and tight coupling for high efficiency. Quality audio transformers are usually designed to be as "transparent" as possible.

The net result is that a good DI impedance matching transformer or a good microphone output transformer or a mic pre input transformer will have much lower harmonic distortion than a tape transfer. Also a good transformer will be operated at a signal level that is far below that which will approach core saturation at all but the very lowest frequencies, so it won't have the slightly non-linear transfer character of analog tape, nor the addition of harmonic structure due to residual magnetism in the tape heads and any distortion present in the head bias waveform.

A poorly designed transformer with a (too small) core that can't handle the required magnetic flux will saturate somewhat like an over-driven tape recorder, but will also probably have artifacts like uneven frequency response and both even and odd order distortion which are not attractive sounding. A "good" transformer that has had it's core magnetized (by running excessive direct current through a winding) can also generate high distortion due to the core hysteresis effects.

So the simple answer is that although a transformer resembles a tape head, the whole tape system (record head, bias signal, tape media and playback head) has many more variables and is more complex in it's analysis.

Sorry to go on and on, but that's the "short" answer!
as my research has routed me() you have grossly underestimated "short" thank you for opening doors.

Also Im sorry for continuing on with questions outside of a dedicated thread, is there a way to start a new thread without losing any of this information?

Im just dog paddling and not sure weather or not I have a few of the concepts correct. But from what Im able to gather based off of the purity of the solid metal core vrs sheet laminations the transformer at there respected level of magnetized state determines how much and how phase will interact with the signal(stepin up and/or steping down) ? this also determines how much and if any saturation will transfer over when when the process happens? earlier you said(again I may be misunderstanding) its the frequencys fed that determines how the flux itself interacts with the signal. What then determines the cutoff point for how much?

then, (still if im understanding correct) the tape machines get a double dose of this, first from the tape heads as well as the iorn oxide of the tape itself. in addition, as the signal plays it begins to linger on the tape heads after playback starts saturating into the next in linear piece of the signal? this phase along with flux interactions the cause of saturation?

Also thank you for so much information. The concepts of Hysteresis(very confusing by the way) alone has lead me to believe I need to go to school for at least an associates in electrical engineering to further understand signal flow as well as my gear and what it is truly capable of.
Regards,
Aaron
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10th March 2013
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I don't mind that you guys continue on this thread. it's quite interesting to me as well
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+1 and a tip of the hat kind sir.
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Originally Posted by skillz335 View Post
...Im just dog paddling and not sure weather or not I have a few of the concepts correct. But from what Im able to gather based off of the purity of the solid metal core vrs sheet laminations the transformer at there respected level of magnetized state determines how much and how phase will interact with the signal(stepin up and/or steping down) ? this also determines how much and if any saturation will transfer over when when the process happens? earlier you said(again I may be misunderstanding) its the frequencys fed that determines how the flux itself interacts with the signal. What then determines the cutoff point for how much?

then, (still if im understanding correct) the tape machines get a double dose of this, first from the tape heads as well as the iorn oxide of the tape itself. in addition, as the signal plays it begins to linger on the tape heads after playback starts saturating into the next in linear piece of the signal? this phase along with flux interactions the cause of saturation?

Also thank you for so much information. The concepts of Hysteresis(very confusing by the way) alone has lead me to believe I need to go to school for at least an associates in electrical engineering to further understand signal flow as well as my gear and what it is truly capable of.
Regards,
Aaron
As you are beginning to comprehend, the effects of introducing a transformer in an audio circuit can be complex. Transformers can have complex ways of interacting with an audio signal, or they can be virtually "transparent". A transformer designer has a large number of variables to balance in any design (magnetic core alloy, core shape, lamination thickness and number of laminations, wire gauge, wire cross-section shape, wire material, wire insulation material and thickness, and a multitude of different winding geometries, to name a few), and all of the physical design specifications also carry related cost considerations. There are 1:1 ratio audio interstage transformers that retail for less than a dollar or two, and others that can cost $150.

The performance of any transformer depends on all of the above physical factors and more. The interaction of the physical design factors will affect every transformer's performance in areas such as frequency response, harmonic distortion at various frequencies, phase shift, efficiency, sensitivity to DC current, signal symmetry (for multi-winding, balanced designs, etc., etc. There are "off the self" general designs that are widely used by many microphone, mic pre, mixer, and processor equipment makers, and there are electronic equipment makers who have their own very specific transformer requirements requiring them to make their own proprietary designs.

Although analog audio tape is a magnetic medium and does exhibit some modification of an audio waveform with similarities to what happens when a transformer is introduced into a signal chain, It's really a "different animal". A thin film of aligned magnetic domains moving under a tape head has no direct analog in a "passive" nickel-iron core copper wound transformer.

A well designed, quality transformer that is intended for use in pro-grade audio equipment will often have very little or even NO audible effect on signals passing through it. It will simply fulfill it's intended function of impedance transformation, possibly unbalanced:balanced signal change, and DC isolation. Running audio through most tape machines will almost always have an audible effect because the compression and harmonic distortion is one or two orders of magnitude higher than a top-quality transformer.

To understand the function and the effect of transformers on an audio signal, it is not necessary to understand the way all the design factors interact. Leave that up to the few still living transformer designers who have mastered both the science and the "black-art" part of transformer design.

If you really want to delve into the "nitty-gritty" try and find an early copy of the RCA "Radiotron Designers Handbook". My 1952 edition has more about detailed transformer design than anyone in their right mind ever would want to know. For a more general overview, William Whitlock's audio transformer chapter in the Glen Ballou "Handbook for Sound Engineers" is a nice basic reference. See the chart on attached PDF page 28 for info on some harmonic distortion vs. frequency vs. signal level curves (for one particular transformer model only).

Apparently the chapter is too big to add as an attachment. (I tried and it won't stick.)
Here's a link to an on-line copy instead.
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10th March 2013
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Thank you Lotus, I realize I have a lot to learn and this will help me significantly as an aspiring engineer. After I garnish a bit of understanding this will also most defiantly allow me pick my future gear wiser. Also I didnt mean to stay stuck on or imply my original view the tape heads and transformer are similar, its the flux and nano webbers thats confusing me, which keeps leaning to a conclusion that since they are there they have to operate in a similar manner. I once I grasp a bit of this material it should clear the air, then Ill try and dive deeper into magnetic flux.
Thanks again,
Aaron
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Thanks for the informative thread guys!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OolalavSuperfukk View Post
Just wondering if Hi-Z and DI input are the same thing or not. I'm considering purchasing a UA 6176 and I noticed it has a Hi-Z. I've always just been running my guitar straight through a DI input on my audio interface, but if the Hi-Z input works the same way, i'd love to take advantage of running my guitar directly through the UA 6176. anyways, hopefully someone can explain whether they're the same or their differences etc.
Yes they are the same because you say that your interface has a DI input. But, a DI box and a DI input are not the same thing. A DI box contains a transformer which accomplishes the following four things:

1. presents a hi Z to the instrument.

2. drops the level from instrument to mic level (not line level!)

3. provides galvanic isolation between instrument ground and mixer ground.

4. provides a balanced output signal from a single ended input signal.

So, there wouldn't be any real differences between a DI input and a hi Z input unless the DI input contained a transformer - which it probably doesn't.
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