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A Review: DW Fearn PDB vs. Radial JDI vs. DW Fearn VT-3 Direct Injection Boxes
Old 12th March 2011
  #1
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A Review: DW Fearn PDB vs. Radial JDI vs. DW Fearn VT-3

I recently tested 3 direct boxes:

-DW Fearn PDB (passive)
-Radial JDI Duplex (Passive)
-DW Fearn VT-3 (active/tube)

The preamp used in this test was an NPNG DMP-2NW with 35 dB of gain.

To maintain the "lowest common denominator" in my setup, I tested these units with my Nord Lead 3, which, with some types of sounds, exhibits an exasperating dithering noise from the analog outputs. (It has to do with the unit's D/A converters.)

Thankfully, the passive direct boxes (PDB and JDI Duplex) eliminated 98% of this unwelcome dithering noise AND maintained the intended sound perfectly. While both units sounded extremely clean and clear and "hi-fi," after many days of listening and testing with gain-matched midi sequences, I preferred the DW Fearn PDBs. They are the same as the JDI, but slightly punchier in terms of bass response. Although I already own a JDI Duplex, I spent $600 and bought two PDBs.

The DW Fearn VT-3 is another beast entirely. First off, it has a slightly louder output than the aforementioned passive direct boxes. Second, it is, as to be expected with tubes, a bit noisier. The VT-3 has a HUGE, round sound, but it must be coupled with an extremely high-quality instrument output, because it is extremely revealing. For example, I personally found it unusable with my Nord Lead 3 because it exacerbated the dithering noise. Since my Nord Lead 3 is a mainstay in my current setup, (and one of my favorite synths to program), I found the VT-3 unsuitable. However, if I were only using instruments with clean outputs, I would seriously consider the VT-3, especially if coupled with the VT-2 dual channel tube preamp. However, I might still prefer the quietness of the PDB.
Old 12th March 2011
  #2
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elamberth's Avatar
I have a Fearn PDB and absolutely love it. Stellar sound, clean but not sterile at all. Direct boxes are not really all that sexy, but this thing really delivers. I also use it to record outputs from drum machine/ backing boxes and it really makes them sound much more hi-fi. I also like the little labs red eye 3D, but I like the Fearn better. I have not tried the VT-3, but really do like his VT-1 preamp.
Old 12th March 2011
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Agreed. The PDB wins!
Old 6th January 2018
  #4
Bumping this old thread.

Wondering why the DW Fearn PDB is so much more expensive than the JDI? Do they use the same transformer? I assume no since the different tone (need more info) and different price?
Old 6th January 2018
  #5
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deuc647's Avatar
 

Try the NPNG diehlio
Old 7th January 2018
  #6
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to this day my favorite DI is the tube based one on the Millennia Media STT-1
Old 7th January 2018
  #7
While I appreciate your inputs guys, I would like to keep this thread to the DW Fearn PDB vs the Radial JDI only. Thanks.
Old 7th January 2018
  #8
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The Fearn stuff is built with extremely high quality everything - from the metal you could drive a car over to the heavy duty switches, etc. He builds the equipment to the highest standard he can. And that costs. Weather or not it's worth it is going to be up to you.
Old 12th February 2018
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by elamberth View Post
The Fearn stuff is built with extremely high quality everything - from the metal you could drive a car over to the heavy duty switches, etc. He builds the equipment to the highest standard he can. And that costs. Weather or not it's worth it is going to be up to you.
I noticed that, thanks for your comment.

But the question is about the Jensen transfo. Why does the OP states that the DW Fearn sounds tighter in the bass, if it used the same Jensen xformer than the JDI? Is there some passive circuit (even so simple) that justify the difference? Or is the Fearn xformer custom made by Jensen, etc?

Otherwise, I don't believe the RED painted box makes a real difference in tone! (despite I LOVE its look!) ...
Old 12th February 2018
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidChampoux View Post
I noticed that, thanks for your comment.

But the question is about the Jensen transfo. Why does the OP states that the DW Fearn sounds tighter in the bass, if it used the same Jensen xformer than the JDI? Is there some passive circuit (even so simple) that justify the difference? Or is the Fearn xformer custom made by Jensen, etc?

Otherwise, I don't believe the RED painted box makes a real difference in tone! (despite I LOVE its look!) ...
While they both use Jensen, Fearn gear uses custom Jensen xformers.
Old 12th February 2018
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Will The Weirdo View Post
While they both use Jensen, Fearn gear uses custom Jensen xformers.
That's what I wanted to know! Thks.
Old 12th February 2018
  #12
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
I tested these units with my Nord Lead 3, which, with some types of sounds, exhibits an exasperating dithering noise from the analog outputs. (It has to do with the unit's D/A converters.)

Thankfully, the passive direct boxes (PDB and JDI Duplex) eliminated 98% of this unwelcome dithering noise AND maintained the intended sound perfectly.

Let me see if I'm understanding you correctly: You're saying this dithering noise, while (understandably) undesirable, actually is present at the analog outputs of the instrument

...and that two of the DIs you tested managed to eliminate part of the audio signal that was present at those analog outputs.

Did I get that right? I'm not putting any words in your mouth, am I?

[edit: Just noticed this is a 7-year-old zombie thread. Darn, this woulda been fun! ]
Old 12th February 2018
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
Let me see if I'm understanding you correctly: You're saying this dithering noise, while (understandably) undesirable, actually is present at the analog outputs of the instrument

...and that two of the DIs you tested managed to eliminate part of the audio signal that was present at those analog outputs.

Did I get that right? I'm not putting any words in your mouth, am I?

[edit: Just noticed this is a 7-year-old zombie thread. Darn, this woulda been fun! ]
Oh boy, old thread...

The synth sounds like it was meant to sound. However, yes, those DIs did seem to mitigate some of the unwanted dithering noise. Nowadays, I record through the line inputs of Daking mic pres for my synths.
Old 13th February 2018
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
Oh boy, old thread...

The synth sounds like it was meant to sound. However, yes, those DIs did seem to mitigate some of the unwanted dithering noise. Nowadays, I record through the line inputs of Daking mic pres for my synths.
But the question that I have interest in is: do you still have (and like) the DW Fearn PDB?
Old 13th February 2018
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidChampoux View Post
But the question that I have interest in is: do you still have (and like) the DW Fearn PDB?
No. I sold them. They are great if you are looking for that sound, though. These days I am looking for more transient information, so I don't use a passive DI. I just go straight into the line inputs of my preamp
Old 13th February 2018
  #16
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
The synth sounds like it was meant to sound. However, yes, those DIs did seem to mitigate some of the unwanted dithering noise.
You do realize those two statements are at odds with one another, right?

Because if the dithering noise is actually part of the audio signal present at the synthesizer's analog output, then (regardless of whether it's "meant" to be there or not) having the DI mitigate that noise and still be considered a quality audio component would require that the DI know that it's not what you as the listener want to hear.
Old 13th February 2018
  #17
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
You do realize those two statements are at odds with one another, right?

Because if the dithering noise is actually part of the audio signal present at the synthesizer's analog output, then (regardless of whether it's "meant" to be there or not) having the DI mitigate that noise and still be considered a quality audio component would require that the DI know that it's not what you as the listener want to hear.
Yes, I do realize that. The point is that the DIs kept the signal pretty pure, but still "softened" some of the effects of that D/A converter.
Old 13th February 2018
  #18
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I still use the PDB. No intent of switching.
I prefer it to the radial DI.
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