The good news about direct boxes is that there's not a whole lot going on.
These things take an input and convert it into a mic level signal that can better be processed by the mic preamps on your audio interface or mixing console.
Although you don't have to spend $150 for one (like I did) just like anything in the world, you do pay for quality.
The question is do you really need the additional quality, especially if you're on a budget.
My opinion is no... although I do really love my expensive radial stereo box, but the truth is it really was a splurge.
Overall I'd definitely recommend a direct box of some type to use in your home recording studio.
I personally own all these and paid for them myself. Paul Stanley bobble head sold separately.
I get nothing if you buy them except a warmness in my soul when I'm feeling down... knowing I helped a fellow musician becomes masters of their own destinies!
But seriously check these out - many places have very sweet return policies so if you get one and hate it, send it back and know that you fought the good fight.
Even if you don't choose one I've listed, and use in my own studio, I hope you at least take the plunge and experiment with one so you can hear it for yourself.
This is a great unit to start with for a beginner.
It retails for ~$40 and has the essential feature set.
This includes a THRU port for sending your signal to a real amp, and a ground lift switch for reducing noise and isolating potential ground loops.
Probably won't blow any of your friends' hair back with it's sex appeal, but this is the workin man's direct box.
He brings his lunch in a pail, puts in a full days work, and drives a pickup truck.
He probably hangs out with Chuck Norris - or maybe they even record together.
You should too! Record with a direct box that is.
This one is definitely more of a "luxury item" that a "studio essential" - but I personally love it.
I'm able to have both left and right outputs from my digital keyboard at the same time on this bad boy.
It also has the THRU bypass which sends part of the signal on to a regular amp, while also sending the mic level adjusted signal out the main output.
This is great for those who want to hear themselves live but also record the raw, direct signal.
It's super sturdy and heavy... and basically kicks all kinds of ass.
If you can afford it I would absolutely recommend this (~$150).
However, for about 95% of the folks who come to my site I'd say it's probably not for you.
It certainly won't make you a better musician - but it's a cool toy for those with a little more cash to spend on this wonderful and eclectic hobby.
As the name implies this one is for all you bass players out there.
The difference between this one and the first 2 are that this one is powered.
"Not another power converter! My power strip is completely full already!", you may be thinking.
Have no fear!
This one actually uses phantom power as it supply, or in other words, it sneaks it's power from your audio interface without a dedicated power supply.
It gets it through the cable you connect to the mic preamp.
Isn't that just like phantom power... sneaking up on your again.
This little demon can pump up your wimpy sound bass and turn it into a sonic monster.
Playing with all the dials seems daunting, but they include a cheat sheet that shows where to set them to mimic popular bass models and styles.
Very cool - a little expensive (~$200) ... but can make your $100 bass sound like a champ.
Ask for one on your birthday... c'mon it's your BIRTHDAY! Live it up!