My seemingly endless search for the perfect tube DI has led me to Uncle Albert's doorstep. Here I found a no-frills, basic but excellent vacuum tube direct box for under $500. All the essentials are here - 1/4" in, line level unbalanced 1/4" and balanced XLR outputs. Only the XLR comes out of the transformer, which is custom-designed for this unit. There is a step attenuation switch on the rear of the unit which also acts as a pad/lift. It measures a neat, compact 8" x 5" x 3" and fits as a half-rack space unit on a shelf or in a live rig or pedal board. Most importantly, the sound is clear, open and terrific in all frequencies. The unit imparts just the right amount of warmth without being intrusive, and I could easily see using two units for use in mixdown from live stereo mixes or for pre-mastering. I have been using it in my live rig with 5 or 6 different acoustic instruments and it remains consistent throughout. I can even use it at home in my studio to record guitar tracks direct or to feed a cab for that classic tube amp sound (not surprising since Kevin, the designer, also builds and repairs tube amplifiers). Simple genius... now I want two! (800-416-2444, paradox941/UncleAlberts.htm)

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

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