If you didn't know, musician-wise I'm primarily a bass player. As a bass player, I have always been somewhat unhappy with the sound of my bass when recorded. I've accumulated a stack of moderately expensive DI boxes that do a good job, but I've never heard the basic feel of a DI approach what I hear in my head. That said, the Valvotronics DI is simply the best DI box that I have heard yet on bass. At first I was hesitant, as there was no line- level output, just a mic level one, no power switch (kinda weird for a "carry around" piece of gear), and the first time I plugged it in it didn't work due to a bad tube (which I soon replaced with the supplied spare). But soon I was using it on sessions and noticed a slight improvement with my bass tracks, but wasn't sure if it was the bassists or their gear as I didn't A/B with other DI boxes. I used it on some DI synth tracks and found it to work quite well too. So tonight I went down to the studio after dinner and practiced bass over the monitors for a while. After comparing the Valvotronics to several other active DI boxes, I'm convinced this is the closest to the recorded bass tone I carry around in my head. It felt natural to play on, not as dry or stiff as some DIs will, with more of an "amp" tone than other boxes. The controls and features are simple: A pin-1 ground lift, input, thru, tuner out and mic level out jacks; a switched knob that can be engaged for an up to +6 dB boost; a bass tilt switch that rolls off most everything above 1 kHz (ideal for dub bass!); and a switched filter knob that engages a variable-level low-pass filter at 5 kHz. My only suggestions (not really complaints) would be for a power switch and a line level output (it's already a hot output to send to a mic pre input but not enough to hit tape with) but these are minor compared to the great sound it makes. If the Valvotronics DI wasn't designed mostly with bass guitar in mind I'd be surprised. I'll be using it on many recordings from now on. ($400 direct, www.valvotronics.com)

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

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