I’m not a guitar player, nor do I play one on TV. So when companies want me to evaluate new guitar pedals or other guitar do-dads, I normally decline. I was just about ready to decline this one as well, but I took a closer look at it and decided that it may be worth a look. As a TD, I was always trying to find ways to make my stage cleaner and more efficient. I was also trying to improve the sound whenever possible. So when a box that can accomplish the work of 2 or 3 other boxes shows up—and claims to sound really good to boot—I had to give it a look.
It’s a Tuner!
Almost anyone who plays a guitar on stage will use a tuner (and if you don’t, do us all a favor and get one). Tuners are not fancy or glamorous, but they should tell you when the instrument is in tune and when it’s not. The TDI does that. In addition to a note readout, it also has a 5 LED scale to tell you if you’re on the note or a bit sharp or flat. So far, so good. There’s not much more to say about the tuner; I don’t have a good way to tell if it’s super-accurate or not, but the players that I tested it with it to had no complaints. They were able to get in tune quickly, so that’s good.
It’s a DI!
Most times when you’re using an acoustic guitar, you’re going to use a DI. That means the player will have a tuner in front of him (which usually needs a 9V power supply because their battery is dead), then you’ll come out of that into a DI. The DI may be active or passive, but either way it requires a second cord.
The TDI is also a DI. From a stage set up standpoint, this is cool. A single 1/4” cable goes from the guitar to the TDI, and you plug a mic cable into the snake from the TDI. That’s it. Did I mention that the whole thing is phantom powered so it needs no power supply? Yeah, that’s nice, too.
It’s a Mute!
I feel a little bit like Ron Popeil here; it’s a tuner, it’s a DI, it’s a mute! But wait, there’s more! Actually, that’s it. It mutes the guitar when tuning. The mute switch is a big, beefy model that is chrome plated. I suspect it will last a long time. The only downside is that it’s a bit loud. We used it in a very traditional chapel with marble floors and the click was pretty audible each time. It would probably not be a big problem in many settings, and it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker; just know it’s not a silent switch.
The Bottom Line
So the question is, how does the DI portion sound? It’s sort of hard to tell on this one. I wasn’t able to evaluate it in any of my normal listening environments where I’m really familiar with the rest of the system. I used it for one gig at my daughter’s college, and when I listened to the guitar soloed in my UE Reference Monitors, it sounded very clean, detailed and rich.
The DI portion is a passive Jensen JT-DB transformer, so it will work with or without phantom. Jensen transformers are used by many of the big names, including Radial, and I’ve never had a beef with them. So unless you are looking for a particular sound from your DI, I would propose this sounds just fine. They also included a 1/4” output on the unit, so if you want to drive an amp, a powered monitor, or wireless transmitter, you can.
The manufacturer says they spent a year and a half on the design, working through many components and details to make this the best it can be. It does indeed feel well made. It’s in a steel case, with heavy rubber feet and bumpers protecting the switches. All the jacks are panel not PCB mounted, which means they will last far longer. I opened it up, and the inside components are very clean and well thought out. This is a quality product.
The cost of the unit is $300. At first, that might seem high; at least it did to me. Then I did some math and realized that by the time you buy a regular tuner and power supply, plus a good DI, you’re in the high $200 range. And who among us hasn’t seen a Boss TU-2 give up the ghost during a service? The benefits of phantom power, a clean stage, one fewer cable to manage and a high quality DI, all in a single package justify the price for me.
You can learn more about the product at the Sonic Nuance website.