Lampifier’s DaVinci Device DI/Router/Preamp aims to “connect anything to anything.” Even though it doesn’t excel at everything it may aspire to, it does a remarkably good job at many unexpected applications, too.
The DaVinci Device’s steel chassis is about the size of a typical DI box and houses all those typical features—a pair of quarter-inch inputs in parallel, an XLR transformer-balanced output, signal attenuation, polarity and ground lift. However, a number of those features are “jacked up” with extra utility; the quarter-inch inputs can be a single input (instrument or line level) or a stereo pair summed to mono, the input pad will attenuate -15 or -30 dB—enough to accept a speaker level signal and the unit can accept 48V phantom, 9 VDC battery or DC-adaptor (12 V, 300 mA). See Lampifier’s website for full specs: http://www.lampifier.com.
While its features are nice, its the additional bonus features that make things really interesting. First of all, there’s an input level control, allowing more flexibility. There’s an XLR input that will accept dynamic mics, condensers (the unit provides selectable phantom power) and even piezo pickups (with an extra 15 dB of switchable gain). There’s an EQ section with five bands and two of them are sweepable. There’s a speaker simulation section, complete with two settings (combo and stack) and a level control. There’s a USB connection for interfacing a CPU. Finally, there’s a signal processing section called the Lampify Process (complete with threshold and output controls) that sounds to my ears like a compressor and high-pass filter.
Indeed a bit complicated, the unit uses graphic arrows showing the possible signal routing combinations, but new users will certainly need the routing diagrams provided in the user manual. I believe I tried every single function, so allow me to only highlight the surprises and unusual apps.
Having a level control proved to be quite useful as I auditioned passive basses, active basses and -10 level drum machines and synths. The input pads are useful, but you can’t trust the signal strength LED as there is noticeable clipping prior to LED indication (somewhat likable at least). The EQ actually sounds pretty darn good! The sweepable mids are so very helpful and the low-mid band is labeled using musical notes; with an acoustic guitar track it allowed easy identification as I boosted needed body in the key of “D” very quickly.
The speaker sims are okay and there is indeed an audible difference between the two settings, but it’s the piezo performance that rocked my world. My Taylor acoustic guitar’s aftermarket bridge pickup sounds mediocre at best, even with “piezo” settings and impedance adjustments on other devices. Yet this piezo input sounded pretty damn good and almost as good as a typical condenser mic. Some of this great tone was provided by the Lampify Process, which sounds surprisingly sweet for a “two-knob” processor. The HPF is indeed set in a very musical spot, the preset ratio works well with the threshold control (the Lampify control) and the net result is some very usable compression, dynamic control, density and general clarifying.
The unit is not perfect, however. The USB output is indeed driverless and immediately recognized by your computer, but the function is too noisy for serious work. The XLR input will indeed accept condensers, but to power them you’ll need more juice than the 9V battery or 48 V from your mic preamp; this app requires power from the DC input (unfortunately the wall wart adaptor is not provided, but at least it’s generic in its requirements) or via USB. And this deserves mention, too: despite all these “preamp” features the DaVinci still needs to be followed by a mic amp, as the -10 dB output will almost drive your pro rig, but not quite.
I cut a little 0:30 bumper with colleague Grey Revell using Neat Microphones (read my upcoming Neat review in the December 2015 issue of Pro Sound News) on acoustic guitar and the DaVinci Device on bass guitar and one of the guitar tracks. Check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/pro-audio-review-magazine/neat-lampifier-webclip.
Indeed, all of DaVinci’s applications are achievable with rack-mounted gear in the studio, but for live work this much convenience and flexibility could be a lifesaver. Speaker sims, flexible pads, stereo summing and facilities for a wide array of input sources are all very useful and notable. Its the bonus features like five bands of EQ, excellent piezo performance and that sweet little Lampify process that make this device worthy of purchase. At $349, it’s a mid-priced DI, but its uniqueness makes it a high priority assuming you have some connection problems to solve.
Lampifier | http://www.lampifier.com
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Charlotte’s Catalyst Recording and has been a long-time Studio Contributor to Pro Audio Review, now in Pro Sound News.http://www.twitter.com/robtavaglione