Brad Avenson appears to like simplicity. His excellent reputation based on the success of his STO-2 microphones is well deserved, so I was excited about his new active, FET-based direct box. When I first saw it at TapeOpCon2005, I was surprised by its small size-much like a butane lighter-with a 1/4'' input at one end and a male XLR output at the other. A tiny red LED indicates whether the DI is receiving phantom power. Despite the small form-factor, the DI seems extremely rugged. Sonically, the character is about what you'd expect from the manufacturer of the STO-2; it's clear-sounding and seemingly accurate but still flattering to the source. It has plenty of headroom and a high output. I generally don't use DI boxes much and don't really get excited about them, but I found myself using the Small DI for a variety of keyboard and bass sessions where it worked like a charm. The lack of a parallel output is disappointing, as I almost always record an amp along with the direct signal (sure, you can use a Y-cable here, but can you ever find one when you need one?), but for what it is, the Small DI is a great-sounding tool.
($80 MSRP; www.avensonaudio.com)