Eli-Audio: The high priest of DI3 December 2014
Eli-Audio was founded last April by audio engineer Yves Van Moerbeke. Having built for many years DIY audio projects like SSL bus compressors, Universal Audio 1176 compressors and API 500 series modules, Van Moerbeke has decided to bank on the experience he’d gained to start designing his own gear.
Under the banner ‘Iron Projects’, Eli-Audio released several types of hand-assembled modular boxes. “The Iron Projects were conceived out of the need for a simple yet high-grade high-impedance converter and balancing unit,” says Van Moerbeke. “We were asked to develop a platform for direct-injection transformer testing and came up with Iron One, a very basic DI box featuring the footprints of some of the best transformers available.”
The Iron One, a single-channel, high-grade, direct-injection device manufactured with high- grade iron, was Eli-Audio’s first product. “The modular concept refers to the choice of transformers used in the boxes,” Van Moerbeke (pictured right) explains. “Clients can choose between the Lundahl LL1935, our favourite Iron, with a typical frequency response of +0dB/-2dB from 10Hz up to 45kHz; the Jensen JT-DB-EPC, also used by Radial in their JDI; the Cinemag CM-DBXPC, a great pick preferred by many manufacturers; or the installed-in-reverse Pikatron UP3096M microphone input transformer, our most economical choice.”
Out of the Iron One grew the Iron Eight, a high-quality eight-channel direct-injection box in a custom single unit (an anodised, printed 19-inch enclosure) featuring the same circuit as the Iron One and the same choice between the above transformers.
“I’m not married to one brand or another; sound quality is my main priority,” comments Erik Loots, a Belgian live sound engineer and music lecturer at the PXL university in Hasselt. “I did some A/B testing with the Iron Eight and other brands and the difference is clearly audible. Bass sounds so much more compact, with more effective lows than with standard DI boxes and less artificial high frequencies with an acoustic guitar. The Iron Eight stands out when synths, backing vocals or loops are routed alongside instrument inputs, as is often the case today.”
Martijn Herman is a freelance keyboardist and the owner of Sidamosae, a mastering-only studio in Limburg. “Just like in my mastering studio, I’m against compromises onstage,” he comments. “I use two Nord keyboards, and their piano sounds in the mid frequency (1Khz) are perfectly balanced by the two Cinemag CM-DBX transformers. My Moog Sub Phatty keyboard’s two outputs are channelled through a Jensen – bass players will know why: the Radial JDI’s round bass sound.”
“We are currently working on the Iron Two,” says Van Moerbeke, “a stereo half rack-sized device [with] two channels of high-quality impedance matching and signal balancing for small set-ups.” A first prototype will be ready by the end of the year, as will an advanced version of the Iron Eight.