Lots of companies are offering newfangled direct boxes these days. The old days of a passive direct box that gave you a clean signal have been replaced with direct boxes that offer many options of EQ and filter. The REDDI is not one of these. The REDDI is a solid piece of vacuum tube goodness.

When we first got the box, we noticed immediately that it was solidly constructed. Weighing in at 10 lbs and over 14'' long, with its bright, fire-engine red paint job, the box looks like a metal brick. It has balanced XLR I/O, ground switch, attenuating pot, and a standard IEC socket for AC on the back. Our first reaction was, "Where is the Thru Jack?" Followed by, "Why would they leave that off?" Nevertheless, we figured we would not let that bother us, and we put it to use.

Of course, the first obvious application was for bass guitar. We hooked Chris Gimbelucca and his Fender P-Bass into the unit and went straight out to an LA-610 and then to the tape. From the first note he played, we all looked at each other and smiled. To say the REDDI handled bass well is an understatement. A combination of the direct box and preamplifier made it sound like the bass was running through a very good bass amp and speaker cab. You don't need a thru jack for bass recording-unless you like to create multiple inputs to sift through later at mix. If you're like me, and you like to get sounds efficiently and accurately and not waste your session time searching for that perfect sound, you'll love the REDDI as a bass DI box.

The manual states that there are many other applications the REDDI will handle well... so we tried it as a guitar direct box as well. While the results were pleasant, I found it worked much better when I put some more tone-shaping in front of it (like an EQ pedal). I never have been a big fan of direct guitar recording, so that may be my bias. I also tried it with a harmonica and a Bullet mic, and while it did sound more "ampish" than a standard direct box with no tubes, it did not render the overdriven insanity I'm used to with a small amp and my Bullet. This has more to do with the way the speaker reacts to the microphone than the tube circuitry of the REDDI. With that in mind, I ended up using it on a gig with my harmonica, where I did not take an amplifier, and I was able to get the monitor mixer to fold my signal back into the monitor and get some reaction to my mic, which would not have been possible without the REDDI giving me that tube injection on the front end.

The REDDI's simplicity of construction and sonic signature is very special for studio and live applications. Every bass player who has recorded here at Wavelab since we got the unit has been very happy with the sound of their bass recordings. Its extended low end and tube "compression" really help shape the tone of the instrument, and you get a great bass sound with minimal hassle. At a street price of $675, this is a great investment for any studio.

($799 MSRP; www.adesignsaudio.com)

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

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