Back to top

Two (Ultra-Cheap) DI Boxes From China

One good, one terrible

Recently, I bought a couple of very cheap guitar pedals from China (through AliExpress). I’m working on making some pedalboards for some young family members, and I want to see how cheap I can get it without it being terrible.

My cousin plays the bass (like myself), so I would like to incorporate a DI box in his setup — so I ordered two different ones.

This Rowin DI (€20),
and this Dolamo DI (£16).

And the difference was huge!

Noble knobs were otherwise engaged when the photo was taken.

I got them today — and to test them, I did the following:

I recorded my 1961 P-bass into my Volt 2 interface. In logic, on a completely flat track (without EQ or effects). I did five recordings:

  1. Jack straight from the bass to the interface.
  2. Through my great DI (Noble Preamp)
  3. Through the Rowin DI
  4. Through the Rowin DI with its Cab Simulator on.
  5. Through the Dolamo DI

Listen for yourself!

The recordings are in the order above. All of them through the XLR, and I did a bit of gain to try to make them about the same level. I kind of wish I had a more basic DI to test with as well — but I guess the jack recording should cover that OK.

Let’s ignore the Noble (which was far and away the best — even more pronounced than the clip above gives the impression of). What I found most astounding, was that while the Rowin was perfectly fine, and not something I would be afraid to put in a pedal board, the Dolamo simply massacred the signal. I don’t even think it can be salvaged by EQ.

It also has two jack outputs, I don’t really know the specifics of: One labelled Line Out, and another Parallet (sic) Out, The first one also destroyed the signal, while the last only did it a bit. On the Rowin, the jack signal was fine. When you add that, it also has

  • ground lift,
  • pad (-20dB, 0, +20dB),
  • cab simulator (of sorts),
  • and a smaller footprint,

this was a knock-out. The Dolamo I’d stay away from at all cost — while the Rowin is a little gem in my opinion!

Now, guess which one I bought one of, and which one I, gambled a bit more, and bought three of…

This is inside the Dolamo. Very few components — but I don't know which are responsible for making the sound terrible.
The ground lift button made it difficult to really see inside this one — but there are at least way more components! Not the "more" has to be better, but getting it into this package might speak of a more thoughtful design.
My crummy old bass, in my messy shop. If you want to hear it in a nicer context, you can check out my band's song Feet in the Water.
And my pedalboard — which I didn't use for the recordings. See if you can spot the Noble (and get why the knobs were off on the other image ☺️).