I am currently searching if I should use a DI box to record active electric guitars for re-amping. I currently have a M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB interface. I am planning to record guitars at home and send them to a music studio to re-amp, mix and master.

Is it OK if I don't use balanced cable or in other words would it be ok if I record guitars with 3 meter unbalanced cable directly connected to the USB interface? Or should I consider buying a DI Box?

  • oooh @Todd, you edited me! Do we prefer the twisted English on this site then?
    – n00dles
    Dec 23, 2015 at 16:07
  • @n00dles I can't think of a reason why we would change Kaan's spelling of "meter" to "metre", since both are legitimate but only one is the way the original asker chose to spell it. Dec 23, 2015 at 17:38
  • @ToddWilcox You're right. I sometimes forget we British are meant to accept these altered spellings as American variants.
    – n00dles
    Dec 27, 2015 at 23:26
  • 1
    @n00dles Rest assured if some Texan tries to change the spelling of "colour" in a question by any non-American, I'll shut that down the same way. :-) Dec 28, 2015 at 2:06

2 Answers 2


You should really ask the studio how they want it done. I am doing similar jobs for clients and here is my advice on how you should do it.

As long as your audio interface has a Hi-Z or Instrument input you're good.

Radial, one of the reamping pioneers, does recommend using a DI for tracking though:

Start by recording with the industry standard Radial J48 direct box. This active DI is ideal for Reamping as it will not load down the pickups and will deliver the true sound of the instrument without distortion or artifact.

But this is really just a general advice - using a DI will work regardless of wether your audio interface has a Hi-Z / Instrument input or not - a device with a Hi-Z input doesn't "load down" the pickups.

Regarding Noise

Recording straight into the interface will not introduce additional noise - on the contrary you make the signal path shorter (and the introduction of a balanced additional path span will definitely not remove noise from the initial unbalanced part from guitar to DI). What is extremely important is these points

  1. Make sure your guitar is turned all the way up
  2. Use a high quality cable and don't place it on noisy things like power supplies
  3. Record in 24 bit, >= 44.1 Khz
  4. VERY IMPORTANT: test the best location for the guitar - there are many electric noise sources (CRT screens, laptops, lights, cell phones, power supplies etc) that will get picked up by the guitar. Put on a heavy distortion plugin temporarily and move around listening for the best location and angle and mark that spot.


Additional info if you are reamping yourself

Reamping using a real reamp box

However if you are reamping out through real amps you will need a reamp box ("reverse DI") and possibly also a volume pedal if your reamp box does not have an attenuation pot. I can recommend the Radial devices, e.g. this one:

Radial X-Amp

Alternative Reamping using a passive DI in reverse

If you find the Radial devices too pricey there is a cheap alternative - get a passive Behringer DI (e.g. DI400P) or a Millenium DI-E and use it in reverse (i.e. Audio Interface -> DI Out, DI In -> Amp). The DI box is very simple - it only contains a transformer, a switch and the connectors - these components doesn't care at all about the "direction" of the signal:

DI400P Inside

You will need to attenuate the signal after the DI though, since it is too loud to go directly to the amp, and turning down the output digitally will introduce alot of noise. Here is a pic of the Behringer DI400P box and the Millenium DI-E: Behringer DI400P Millenium DI-E

  • You can attenuate the signal before the reverse DI when re-amping. Just feed the reverse passive DI a lower signal. You can run the computer output through a mixer and use an aux send for the re-amping and the aux send level control for attenuation, or you can come straight out of the interface and just lower the interface output (right on the front panel of the Fast Track Pro). Whirlwind makes a great passive DI (the IMP-2) also with a nice transformer which I've used for re-amping. Dec 8, 2015 at 14:09
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    You can attenuate the signal anywhere - the question is how much noise you want. If you attenuate as close to the amp as possible (short well-shielded cable from pedal to amp) you'll get the optimal noise floor reduction. Dec 8, 2015 at 14:19
  • Very good point. If you've got a way to attenuate closer to the amp, that's the best place. Perhaps a guitar effect pedal like a clean boost or compressor that can handle a high input level and has a usable output level control is a quick and dirty way to do that. Dec 8, 2015 at 14:25
  • One tend to forget that the signal already passed through an unbalanced cable on its way in ;-) I am not sure though if the drop in resistance caused by the attenuation pot will affect tone in other senses than drop in gain. If so, a build in pot in the reverse DI working on the input side is probably the best.. Dec 8, 2015 at 14:30

I have the Fast Track Pro and you can definitely plug right into one of the combo inputs with your unbalanced guitar cable. For the input that you choose, make sure the "Line/Inst" switch is set to "Inst" and then use the gain knob while playing your loudest to bring up the level but don't let it clip. The manual (which is available online also) discusses the level setting process.

You may likely get better sound quality by using a DI if it's a quality DI, but if you are really using an active guitar then that's less important. Actually, with an active guitar you might find setting the "Line/Inst" switch to "Line" works better. I would try it both ways.

  • But will the signal that I capture be good enough to use for reamping? I won't use the signal for plug-ins like Amplitube or Guitar Rig. I am asking this because in some discussions some people indicated that recordings without DI Boxes cause extra noises while reamping.
    – Kaan
    Dec 7, 2015 at 22:32
  • I don't know what you mean by "good enough". Making the signal appropriate for re-amping in a technical way is more of a challenge when you're doing the re-amping, not when you're recording the direct track. All you need to do in the recording phase is get a clean recording of a good take with good levels. You can do that the way I described. Dec 7, 2015 at 22:56

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