ARX USB-DI PRODUCT: ARX USB-DI REVIEWER: REZA NASSERI The exponential growth of the use of computers in live broadcast (music, conferences, etc.) has made it essential to transmit clean, balanced signals between the computer and mixing console. Inferior sound cards, dodgy cabling and unearthed signals inevitably result in poor signal quality, and these defective “scum” frequencies are then further amplified through a P.A. system, resulting in a bad time for all parties involved.
The traditional method of plugging a computer into a mixing desk often involves plugging a flimsy mini-jack into the soundcard, which is then split into two mono 1/4” jacks, which are then fed into two mono DI boxes. And as you may have guessed this equals a pain in the bum. If the computer is located close to the desk you can get away with using a mini-jack to RCA cable, but either way the strength of the connection is poor, noisy and just waiting to cause problems.
That is ... until ... (cue drum roll) the invention of the USB DI The ARX USB-DI is a sturdy blue unit that’s part of the company’s critically acclaimed “Audiobox” series, aimed at combating a multitude of audio related dilemmas and conundrums facing the humble sound guy.
The USB-DI has really stepped up to the plate in this regard, as it offers a practical solution to a common problem. It’s an extremely user friendly “plug in and play” device that is built like a tank to withstand the rigours of the road for many years to come. The front panel has a simple small gold plated USB Type B input, a green Status LED which indicates signal and a Ground Lift button which removes any earthing loops if they so exist.
There are also two transformer balanced analogue XLR connectors on the back which send the respective left and right outputs into either a stage box or directly into the mixing desk. There’s also a handy little Kensington security lock on the side of the unit and an optional bracket mount which can be used to secure the D.I. underneath a conference table or into a rack.
I tested the device on both my powerful home PC, and not so powerful “Lappie” at my regular weekly gig. The instruction manual suggested turning the volume all the way up on the computer, as doing so results in a nominal output of -10dBV. Both computers instantly recognised the connection present and automatically established a connection (just like plugging in a memory stick).
It should also be mentioned that the unit is bus-powered and therefore requires no phantom power to make it operational, which is essential if the mixing console has no phantom available, as with the occasional old “behemoth” desks. If the signal coming into the desk is too hot, and for some reason the computer operator refuses to turn the volume down, the guys at ARX also have the USB-DI VC, which has a volume control attached.
“Gee is there anything these guys haven’t thought of?” (spoken in cheesy American tourist accent). When comparing the USB-DI to a standard mini-jack connection, I immediately noticed an increase in gain and a reduction of high frequency interference. This translates into crystal clear audio that was strong and balanced, with no bottom end loss due to phasing issues, and no buzz in the top end.
I’ve personally had my fair share of bad experiences having to deal with mini-jack cables yanked out of soundcard, cables being folded and short circuited (some brand new that were faulty) and the ungodly “buzz of doom” which although rare, is worse than the sound of feedback and immediately increases the tension in the room. The whole idea of such a device is prevent these problems from occurring in the first place, and by reducing the number of things that could go wrong during a gig.
I can instantly predict that the ARX USB-DI will prove to be a popular tool for DJ’s, electronic musicians, live broadcast engineers and a whole heap more. It’s also evident that this is just the tip of the iceberg, with more computer based products to emerge in the near future.
Special thanks to Australian Musician for letting us reproduce this article.
Australian Musician is Australia's only A4 glossy publication designed for all musicians. It is published by the Australian Music Association quarterly in March, June, September, and December each year. 15,000 copies are available from the Australian Music Association's network of member retail stores. These stores are located all over Australia.
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