DI Box Vs Audio Interface – Differences And Recording

Among the most famous recording devices, the DI box and audio interface are really renowned.

Both of these have their own benefits and purpose of use.

An audio interface works like a sound card but in a much better way. A DI box serves the purpose of a recorder. Both these devices work by capturing an instrument signal and then convert it to a digital signal.

An audio interface is used for sound manipulation as well. It also enhances the quality of the music. Before selecting an audio interface, it is necessary to check the ports of your computer.

On the other hand, a DI box brings the signal to the mixing desk, where it can be used for live performance or studio recording.

Are you looking for a high-quality recording device for your studio but not sure which one to choose?

You landed in the right place.

This article is going to be a complete guide where I will focus upon DI box Vs. Audio interface, their working, and other features.

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What is a DI Box?

Video: “What is a DI (Direct Box)? — The Production Academy”

DI stands for “Direct Input”. The DI box is extremely versatile. The DI box’s primary purpose is that it helps in solving impedance discrepancy between the source of the signal and different electronic devices.

It basically takes a high impedance output signal from an electronic instrument to transform it into a low impedance input signal in mixing board and other such devices.

Other reasons for which a DI box is used are:

  • It can be used for recording guitar signals directly that will be used in mixing.
  • A DI box can be used for isolating an instrument from the others.
  • It can also be used to re-amp the signal of the guitar.

Using a DI box, a guitarist or a bassist can record an isolated copy of their instrument. It is an extremely beneficial thing for professional musicians.

Not only does a DI box capture isolated copies of an instrument, but it also can send a duplicate copy of the same signal to an amplifier.

A DI box can be used as a backup plan, particularly in concerts and live performances. When tracking guitars, modern time engineers record a direct signal.

This can be used during a mix or used as a backup plan when the amp mic becomes unusable. In case of any mishap, you would always have a DI to rely on.

How Does It Work?

There may be different types of DI boxes, most of which are built very similarly. DI boxes work almost similar to a transformer from the inside.

One end of which features unbalanced ¼” of input and balanced XLR output is featured by the other end.

These transformers’ primary function is to convert the high impedance signals from instruments to low impedance signals, which can be further amplified using a preamp.

If you don’t know what Impedance is, it is a kind of resistance found in analog circuits.

Balanced Signals

Conductors used by balanced signals are of three types. These include negative/cold, positive/hot, and ground.

These are usually used in professional studios. The conductors are ¼” TRS and 3-pin XLRs.

Unbalanced Signals

Unbalanced signals use only two conductors. These include positive/hot and ground.

They use different speakers and musical instruments. These include ¼’ TS cables.

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What is an Audio Interface?

Video: “What Is An Audio Interface And What Do We Do With It?”

An audio interface is hardware that acts as the front end for your computer’s recording system. They improve the sonic ability of your computer.

You can make high-quality recordings in your home studio with the help of an audio interface. The audio interface has made it easier to record high-quality audio because of its greater size and accessibility.

You can connect multiple inputs to the unit at a time. Guitar inputs, microphones, headphones, and almost all musical instruments can be connected to it. Many audio interfaces offer MIDI, which can be connected to a keyboard.

An audio interface is used for professional purposes usually. If you need to route several musical instruments into or out of the computer, you need an audio interface.

How does it work?

Having a dedicated audio interface is of great advantage. The audio interface aims at converting analog signals into digital audios.

This way, the computer will process the information as the audio signals have become readable. This can be further processed by sending digital audio to the computer via USB to Firewire or PCI.

The audio interface has the ability to perform the same operation in reverse as well by receiving digital information and converting it to analog signals. The recording can be heard using headphones or speakers.

Although your computer already contains a sound card, it is not optimized for professional performances. Especially when you need to use multiple musical instruments. There are a variety of audio interfaces available. You should choose according to your needs.

Before purchasing an audio interface, don’t forget to have a look at your computer’s connection ports. Different computers come with different ports, and you need to choose an audio interface according to that.

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DI Box Vs Audio Interface – The Differences

Who should use it?

A DI box is great if you want to connect your instruments to a mixing console. This can be done both for live performances and recordings.

DI boxes are suitable for those who already have experience of playing musical instruments and live performances. It is excellent hardware if you need to have an isolated recording of your instrument.

On the other hand, if you are new to recordings and audio stuff, an audio interface is an excellent choice for you as it is easy to set up and starts recording quickly.

If you want to do audio editing of your instruments on a DAW, an audio interface is great for this purpose. It is great for beginner to professional level users.


DI boxes are usually cheaper when compared to audio interfaces. They can cost as little as $20, and the rate goes as high as $200.

The price of an audio interface can start from $100, and it can be $500+. The difference in the price is due to the quality and number of inputs.

If you are a beginner, you can get an entry-level audio interface for very cheap rates. The prices increase for better professional audio interfaces.


An audio interface has a connectivity option for your desktop as well as inputs for different musical instruments. They also offer input for headphones for direct silent recording.

It has a signal indicator that warns about input level and a gain knob that manipulates signal input level. Monitor control and a button for lowering the gain sensitivity ideal for high output guitar pickups are also available.

A DI box is used for home recording usually. They are used for converting unbalanced signals to more balanced signals. A DI box is used to plug a recording amp directly into a mixing board.

They are a perfect option for recording live performances without noise bleed. It is excellent for splitting signals and reamping the guitars.

Do I need a DI Box to Record Guitar with an Audio Interface?

Video: “Recording Electric Guitar with a DI Box”

Nowadays, most audio interfaces offer an instrument input that can deal with the output of an electric guitar.

Guitarists usually use digital amp modeling units within DAWs. They use digital replicas and do not rely on rigs.

The DI boxes become almost useless in this case. However, if you want to use rigs and pedalboards, you need to have a DI box in addition to an audio interface.

While using rigs and pedals, the input signal becomes too hot for the audio interface so that it starts clipping.

Using microphones for recording guitar amps reduces the use of DI boxes. Otherwise, using an active DI box with an audio interface is a perfect option.

Keeping all that in mind, using a DI box along with an audio interface is essential due to the following reasons.

  1. While recording a guitar or bass, if you do not use a microphone, always use a DI box to send in the correct line level.
  2. Some low-quality audio interfaces will not withstand too much gain, which will cause distortion of the input signal.
  3. If you are choosing guitars with different pickups, having a DI box is of great significance. It will give you consistent signals in this case.
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Now that you have reached this part of the article, you would have gained enough knowledge of which device to choose for recording purposes.

For amp modeling and effects, if you are using a desktop or a tablet, you don’t necessarily have to plug in a DI box. You also don’t need to bother having a DI box for home recordings, demos, and personal recordings.

Get a DI box for some important professional cases like live performances and release public YouTube videos. A DI box will prove beneficial in such cases as it reduces unnecessary noises and clipping.

At the end of the day, the need and choice is yours.

Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

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