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A-Designs Audio REDDI Tube DI
Reviewed by Dan Richards

A-Designs Audio, based in West Hills, CA, has been rolling out the REDDI to the market. The REDDI is a vacuum-tube design direct injection (DI) box, housed in a fire engine red metal casing. The REDDI runs a 6N1P tube with 16dB of gain and a custom-wound output transformer. The front panel is minimalist with a Neutrik Combo XLR 1/4" input, XLR output, level knob [ which is actually an attenuator ], ON and OFF switch, and a serious blue light. The rear panel is simple with an IEC AC power cord input and a ground lift switch.

I've used three REDDI's at various times. An early beta version in a session in the Fall of '03 on a jazz project. I honestly wasn't that impressed with it, and I don't even know if it was functioning correctly. I was also busy engineering a project and didn't have time to fool with anything that wasn't immediately giving me what I wanted in terms of sonics and performance. My initial reports back to A-Designs owner Peter Montessi were unenthusiastic.

A final-production REDDI came in for review last fall. With some of the DI gear we have around here [ API, Sebatron, Great River, A-Designs MP, Millennia TD-1, Sansamp RBI, Bass Pod, Countryman Type 85... ], and from manufacturers for The Listening Sessions, and for review — the last thing I thought I needed was another DI. The REDDI sat around for awhile before I got a chance to use it. I didn't expect much difference, and certainly not any real improvement over the A-Designs MP-2 DI, which took top honors in a bass DI shoot-out for The Listening Sessions. [ Read the MP-2 review here. ]

I finally fired up the REDDI a few months ago. I initially used my Lakland Bob Glaub P&J bass with flatwounds. What I got was different than expected — and much better than expected. The sound is right out of the late 60's and early 70's — during the golden age of recording when a lot of the classic tones were crystalized. Tone, tone, tone. Did I mention tone. The overall image put out by the REDDI is not as full and broad as with the MP-2 DI. The REDDI's tone is tighter and very well-defined and right in the pocket. A bit like a fuller version of what you might get out of an API DI with even-order harmonics added in.

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I ran some Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, B3 and other classic sounds out of some of my keyboards and the REDDI was a perfect fit. Whereas the neutral tube MP series does a great job of thickening sounds, the REDDI excels in giving classic sounds a classic presentation — with the most obvious match made in heaven being Fender Precision and Jazz basses.

The REDDI I had for review had to go back to A-Designs. I've had well over 200 products here for review in the last couple of years. I'd already bought an A-Designs MP-2, so I didn't think another offering from them [ and certainly not a DI ] was going to increase my sonic pallet. I was wrong. The REDDI is only the second product I've had in for review [ the other was a pair of Gefell M295 mics] that I sent back and then realized how much I missed it when it was gone. I ponied up and pulled my own greenbacks out of my wallet and ordered a new REDDI that came in a few weeks ago.

Although I've been enjoying the use of my new REDDI, as I type this I've boxed it up to ship to a studio on the other side of the state to turn the owner on to what I'm getting out of this thing. I've become an evangelist. Maybe I need to order another one. The blue ON light is somewhere between blinding and hypnotic, [ strong SPF factor and UV sunglasses optional but recommended ] and if set at the right angle the studio is bathed in an orb of bluish indigo light. And I'd swear it's sending out some sort of kundalini magic from groovy California.

I still feel I'm just on the first leg of exploring what the REDDI has to offer. I've also heard a few reports about it being used with dynamic mics. I talked with producer Ted Perlman and he said he's used the REDDI with a Shure Green Bullet mic for harmonica.

As I was preparing this review the REDDI had a retail price of $850 and was selling on the street for around $800, and worth it, in my opinion. The only downside I could see was that at a price not too shy of a grand the REDDI would be inaccessible to some, and less desirable due to the price. But all that's changed. Brad Lunde of TransAudio Group, the US distributor for A-Designs, let us know he was working on price structure. He recently announced that the REDDI would be carried direct through his company at Las Vegas Pro Audio as well as authorized A-Designs dealers. The bottom line is that the REDDI is now going to be even more accessible at a price of $575.


Comments and another opinion by Dusty Webster:

I suppose the best way I could sum up the REDDI is... I wasn't in the market for a DI, but that changed when I heard the REDDI.

I have a REDDI and really love it. The REDDI rules... I've been using it like crazy. At first I thought it was a 1 trick pony, but then I tried different gain staging techniques with different pre's. What can't this thing do?

Crank the bass, crank the REDDI so it overdrives the input of the preamp, crank my 1073 clone all the way and bring down the output gain sounds like a full on rock tone coming out of a real amp.

Backing off the bass' output a bit, putting the REDDI's output attenuator at about half and plugging it in to a Focusrite 428 pre and getting most of my gain there sounds fairly modern/clean while still sitting back in the mix.

I generally pick somewhere between those extremes for a great "vintage" tone.

It definitely sounds great on bass. That much isn't even open to dispute.

I think the price is definitely well worth it if you like big, full, warm bass. I also think the REDDI is the only usable electric guitar DI I've ever heard (for my applications) because the tone seems to sit further back in the speakers than most DI's that sound like they are on top of the speakers...

I think anyone that hears a REDDI will think the price is worth it.

I haven't had the time to try it with stomp boxes and dyanmic mics yet... FUN!

I did track some vocals like this though:

ADK CE (LDC Tube mic) - 1073 (clone) - Reamp - REDDI - 1073 - converter

... With everything cranked except the output on the last 1073

YEEEEEAHHH BOOIIIIIII! I probably don't even have to tell you how outrageously big that sounded, do I?

For more info on the REDDI and other A-Designs products visit www.adesignsaudio.com




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