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THE TONE STACK 

NEWS, REVIEWS, TIPS & TRICKS FROM THE LAB

MW1 - The Best DI and ReAMP Studio Tool Box for Guitar, Bass (or any other Instrument) on the Planet? Possibly! What do you think?

With the MW1 Studio Tool you don’t need a mic pre… When Michael Wagener asked us to design his dream DI and ReAMP system, I didn’t see any sense in the old way people were doing it with OG DI boxes. 




 

You have to consider, originally DI’s were a "band-aid" that allowed us sound nerds to plug keyboards and other instruments into stage boxes and audio snakes that ran long distances and plugged into mic pres on a PA system.  These old school DI’s knock the instrument's signal down 20 or 30dB to mic level, which puts the signal down into the noise floor.  Then at the other end, using a mic pre, you have to gain it back up (along with the cable's noise floor), and add 50 or 60dB to boost the signal back up to line level. Doing it this way also adds the noise floor and coloration of the mic pre itself to your signal as well…

 

The novel approach we used with Michael's box was to use the simplest, cleanest possible circuit to bump the instrument level signal up a few dB to line level.  This avoids several unnecessary steps, and uses the least amount of electronics that are only absolutely necessary.  Once recorded, ReAMP'ing is just a matter of bringing the signal back down to instrument level without unnecessary extra steps. 

 


So, for your comparison tests, you could just loop the MW1's DI XLR output, right back into its ReAMP XLR input (to take any converter anomalies out of the equation). In session, don't use a mic preamp, simply go directly from the MW1 into your converter, and back out again into the MW1. Add enough boost with the MW1's Balanced Line Out Gain to fill-up all the “Bits” on your converter (for the highest A to D resolution). The amount of gain you added on the DI side would normally (but not necessarily) be subtracted on the ReAMP side to make the overall signal chain unity gain…


The MW1 has a variable input impedance to play with, this is to fool the guitar into thinking it’s still plugged into the amp (or pedalboard)… And, variable output impedance, to help fool the amp into thinking the MW1 is just another guitar... These two impedance controls are meant to be dialed in by ear.  However, most people are actually using the MW1's impedance controls (guitar>MW1>amp) to find new, better tones.  Or, just for fun, to totally mess up the impedances and achieve an effect of some sort (even when they are NOT tracking or ReAMP'ing). The point being, you can seek and find the closest match of any DI/ReAMP set-up, as compared to going straight from guitar to amplifier. You can get the MW1 to almost disappear from the sound if you want. But, don't be afraid to use it creatively to find some new, or better tone fit…

 

If you are working with a very high gain amp… that is a bit of a challenge, I won’t lie… However, the MW1's spec is approaching the theoretical limits of noise floor.  Even if we could make it lower (and we will as technology progresses), your amp could be adding something like 110dB of gain, and that’s going to bring even the lowest of noise floors up to where you are probably going to notice… Even so, it is going to be a LOT better than any OG old school DI and ReAMP set-up… With high gain amps, for a twist, try ReAMP'ing without using the attenuation on the ReAMP side… In other words, leave the signal hot, around line level. That should let you use less of the amp's gain to get the same effect… and, maybe create an even bigger and better sound. 


So, is the MW1 Studio Tool the best DI and ReAMP box for Guitar, Bass (or any other Instrument) on the Planet? What do you think? Let us know how it works for you and post any of your own tips and tricks for others to try…

 

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions…

Alex


Be sure to contact Creation Audio Labs (ph: 615-884-7520, email: info@CreationAudioLabs.com) if you’re interested or have any questions!

 


Alex Welti - VP of Research and Design at Creation Audio Labs
Alex Welti

Alex “Skip” Welti is currently the V.P. of Research at Creation Audio Labs, Inc. a Nashville based pro audio service facility which also designs custom circuits and upgrades for pro audio gear and manufactures a line of products for guitar and bass. Skip is an abbreviation of "Skipper", a nickname Alex earned as National Service Manager for Soundcraft USA where he worked for 10 years before opening Creation Audio Labs. Prior to Soundcraft, he was with Westlake Audio in Los Angeles for eight years. As Technical Supervisor there, Alex helped out on projects such as Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, among many, many others. A true techno-wizard, Skip the mad scientist is ever at work in his laboratory; dreaming about cheap clean energy, zero noise floor and even-order harmonic distortion.


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