DB2-A These Proel direct boxes, from manufacturing-rich northern Italy, are three high-quality models with a wide range of features, sonics and a few surprises. The DB1-P ($89), DB1-A ($108), and DB2-A ($89) share a similar chassis of steel and aluminum at a large 8.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches deep in size. Oversized rubber endcaps/feet keep the boxes still on slick surfaces or stacked; these endcaps are removable so that two units can be rackmounted in one standard 19-inch space.
All three models have quarter-inch inputs, ground lifts and quarter-inch unbalanced link jacks, parallel to the input. The two active models both have 9V battery compartments on the back panel, as well as 9V DC inputs and outputs for daisy-chaining power (they also run on phantom power). From there, each model differs wildly in its feature set.
DB1-P The passive DB1-P conveniently offers a RCA phono jack input, a -20 dB pad, a -40 dB pad (yes, that’s -60 dB total reduction with both in, enough for taking a speaker level output out the back of an amp), and a filter for smoothing the high-end of such an output. The DB1-P employs a mu metal core transformer. The active DB1-A has a female XLR instead of the RCA jack. Pad-wise, the DB1- A has -10 and -20 selections, for -30 dB of total attenuation. Additionally, there’s a signal-present LED, a clip LED, a power switch, a handy polarity reverse and also features a mu metal core transformer. The transformerless active/stereo DB2-A has RCA inputs, -20 and -30 dB pads, dual ground lifts, and a power switch.
First used on keyboards, I found the DB2-A to be super-convenient with a no-fuss battery compartment and dual RCA inputs (ideal as we were coming out of a Macbook’s eighth-inch mini-plug headphone jack). The sound was smooth and balanced.
Next was nearly a month of bass guitar overdubs where I used a singlechannel Proel on every one of them. Long story short, the passive one was kind of dark up top (slightly veiled) with a very extended bottom-end that captured low notes (like those below a four-string bass) with incredible power.
DB1-A The active one had a much hotter output (which is typical for active vs. passive models) and much more topend, more punch, but not the massive bottom of the DB1-P. I found myself using active DI on my passive basses, where they benefited from a little extra zing, punch and clarity, yet my brighter active basses seemed to like the taming and musicality of the DB1-A. Both boxes were an absolute pleasure to use.
I ran all three Proel DIs and my personal favorite DI—a Countryman Type 10 active—through the paces with my Taylor acoustic, passive bass, active bass and a synth (mono only). The active DB1-A was on par with my Type 10; both were superclean and punchy, with the Type 10 perhaps slightly crisper, whereas the DB1-A was a little warmer and smoother. The DB1-P was darker than all of my passive DIs, but it had the cure for anemic bottom, filling up the body of weak synth patches or thin basses (although this thick tonality wasn’t right at all for acoustic guitar). The DB2-A was noticeably noisier than the other DIs with a smaller soundstage, less dynamics and punch, although its frequency balance proved to be right in between the chunky DB1-P and the crisp DB1-A.
I wish at least one each model included all the great features of the line: all the pads, the filter, LED metering, the RCAs and the polarity reverse (put all these features in my sonic favorite, the DB1-A, and I’m sold). That said, these virtually unknown DI dark horses should give the major players a serious run for their money; these Proel DIs are unique products in the competitive world of DI boxes.