From the moment you receive your Little Labs Multi-Z DI, you'll realize it's obvious designer Jonathan Little has spent his share of time in recording studios as it is easily the most versatile and thoughtful box I have ever tried. Impedance is the first and usually single most important factor in tone. The Multi-Z addresses the impedance issue by offering Hi-Z, Mid-Z and Low-Z options. Though most of the instruments I tested responded well to the Hi-Z setting, the Mid and Low-Z settings can be helpful when using an instrument with an onboard or powered pre-amp or a keyboard. This is also the first unit I have tested that took the time to design with keyboards in mind and provide info for keyboardists in the manual regarding use. The Multi-Z offers two choices for 1/4" input, front and back. The XLR output and 1/4" unbalanced out are affected by the gain (pad) stage of the amp. There is also a Low-Z buffered output, which would work for running a long guitar cable without the high frequency roll off associated with long guitar cable runs. The 21-step pad/gain option allows you to "burn to tape" the exact level you wish without an additional preamp. This unit even has a speaker input selection for capturing an amp's speaker output and harmonic overtones, thus capturing settings, feedback and sustain to a separate track during a performance. I also took the manual's suggestion and plugged into the Multi-Z first before interfacing to my POD and ART amp simulators. In both cases doing this truly did improve the overall sound. With the Multi-Z my P-Bass was full and punchy and my Washburn acoustic/electric was genuinely warm. In a track I used absolutely no EQ and yet they cut through fine and had measurable presence. I was really impressed with how the Multi-Z handled a variety of acoustic instruments and pickups. My banjo, which employs a Pick-Up-the-World, adhesive, mic-like contact pickup, sounded like it was amplified by an external microphone. Equally, 12-string acoustic, octave mandolin and especially my acoustic six-string guitar with a Fishman Rare Earth magnetic soundhole pickup/mic combo, sounded stellar though each employs a different pickup system. The response was crisp, not brittle and far superior to many tube directs I have tested. This box is an audiophile's dream. Only first-rate, top-notch parts are used in the construction and the science and application are solid. If you really think you can hear the difference, then this is your unit. For around $450 it's also a great deal which you will never regret. (

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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