I've been a big fan of Radial Engineering ever since Pete Weiss reviewed the JD7 DI and amplifier interface in Tape Op #38. Radial makes great problem-solvers for both the stage and studio, and their products are bulletproof and easy to use. I recently purchased two new products in their line. The X-Amp is kind of a like a junior version of the line-level-to- amplifier interface that's one-half of the JD7's design. The X-Amp has two transformer-isolated outputs to drive two instrument amplifiers-instead of seven in the JD7's case- from any line-level source... like your tape machine, DAW, or mixer. And unlike the JD7, the X-Amp does not include an instrument DI to get your instrument into your recorder. Use your favorite DI instead. (Check out Radial's website for a full line of active and passive DI's.) I have enough DI choices in my studio, but after living with the JD7, I wanted another amp interface using the same technology. That's why I picked up an X-Amp. The X-Amp has a ground lift on its balanced- XLR line input and another ground lift on the output for the second amp-the first amp provides the audio grounding for the X-Amp-and these two ground lifts prevented hum in every situation I encountered it. A polarity switch allows you to match "phase" when using two amplifiers. A wall-wart supplies power. And a pot provides output-level control for the 100% Class-A electronics inside. There's nothing protruding from the box that can break off. I'm absolutely positive that you could drive a large truck over the unit without affecting its ability to do what it does so swell- drive instrument amplifiers with the utmost fidelity.
The JPC is a direct box designed for-you guessed it- PC's. Actually, it works perfectly with any unbalanced line- level source. Don't use it on instruments (because its input impedance is too low for most pickups), but do use it with your laptop, PC, CD player, MiniDisc recorder, iPod, DJ mixer, stereo sampler, keyboard, consumer audio gear, and just about anything that puts out two channels of line- level signal. You can even connect headphone outs to it when you engage its input pad. Input is handled by a number of connectors, all wired together in parallel: an 1/8'' stereo, a 1/4'' stereo (TRS), and two sets of RCA phono plugs. Why two sets of the latter? Because you can use one set as a "foldback" output (to a DJ or line mixer, for example) while you use the other set as an input. The DI's output is handled by a pair of transformer-isolated XLR connectors. A 1:1 input transformer prevents hum while phantom-powered electronics amplify and balance the signal. This hybrid design allows for superb isolation with low distortion (low-ratio transformers exhibit less distortion than high-gain transformers) and long cable runs (balanced outputs). Two LED's, one for each output, confirm the presence of phantom power. Like the X-Amp, the JPC is solidly built and sounds fantastic. Have you ever seen The Aluminum Group perform live? The two brothers put on a wonderful show by singing live over prerecorded music played off a handheld iPod. Next time I see them, I'm going to recommend that they add a JPC to their live "rig" for improved sound and extreme reliability. Anyone who uses a computer or any other stereo line-level device on stage would benefit from the JPC. And any studio that needs a balancing solution for line-level devices being played or controlled from the live room or iso-booth would also find the JPC indispensable, as I have. (X-Amp $200 MSRP; JPC $200; www.radialeng.com)