Best DI Quality from Affordable Interface

Masoo2 Regular
Feb 5, 2014
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After seeing this video I realized how truly garbage my DI quality is:

For reference, this is my Stingray 5HH going through my Focusrite Scarlett 2i4:

The problem is amplified greatly when playing guitar rather than bass, but I sadly don't have any raw guitar DIs in my Google Drive as reference. New or old strings don't seem to make a difference.

This doesn't even begin to show how noisy the DI signal is either, it's horrible when using distorted guitars. It's so bad that half the time I can't even properly gate the tone.

Here's an example of some poorly played guitars from two years+ ago:

You can hear the piercing noise during certain parts when the initial transient begins to fade out on the cleans or when I mute the guitar during the distorted part. I had to cut off that much high end because the DI noise was just ruining the tone.

A refurbished Apogee Element 24 seems like a good option, but I feel as if USB 3.0 would be the better choice as I have both a Windows desktop rig and MacBook that I'm working with (if I end up just switching to MacBook 100% I'd go Thunderbolt).

Any other recommendations? Max of around $500 but lower is always better.

I do need a single XLR input with phantom power.

Would something like a used Helix fall within budget and be an upgrade? I've been used to using plugins (with bad results due to the DI quality) but having a pedalboard option would be nice.
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Flappydoodle Regular
Feb 26, 2018
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The Apogee element is an extremely high quality piece of gear. The software that comes with it is great. A friend of mine has one, and I almost regret getting my Apogee Duet. Everything about the Element is super sweet. The headphone out is amazing, super powerful.

You could always consider a dedicated DI box. It can step down the hot signal to something your interface can handle. It can also do a ground lift which should help with the noise you're experiencing (though if the interface itself produces noise, it won't help with that).

Sogradde Regular
Jul 23, 2010
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Try moving away from your PC when recording. Sometimes the fans inside the case spinning at high velocities can cause a high frequency noise which your pickups will.. pick up (hue hue). A DI box helped improve my sound as it made the DIs more clean and gives my guitars a little more twang. I bought this one and don't regret it at all (rule of thumb: Active DI box for passive instruments, passive DI box for active instruments).
The Helix produces some great quality DI tracks as far as I can tell but the Stomp and LT don't have any phantom power XLR so you will need to spend some more money on the more expensive models.

I'd say save some cash on the Helix and spend the money on a DI box and some nice amp sims (I like TH3 Overloud a lot and I still use it, despite the Helix). If you're interested, I can make a comparison between DI tracks through my Scarlett with/without DI box and helix tomorrow.

Paul McAleer

newborn baby
Sep 25, 2012
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Mesa, Arizona
That's a strange issue you have.

I'm still using the 1st Gen 2i4, haven't had any issues with it sounding weird.

I have the Axe-fx ultra plugged into it via XLR with the PADs enabled and things have been working out fine.

Maybe a grounding issue?