We’ve all had that moment. You are interested in a new (or new to you) bass head or preamp, and you are digging what it has to offer. Looks like a real winner, and you are about to break out the wallet, but there’s one last question to ask. “Does it have a Jensen?” For many of us, the answer to that particular question might be a deal breaker. We may not know exactly why it’s the best, but we know that a Jensen DI is the best. Or, at least we know that when we tell the sound guy that our DI has a Jensen transformer, then he quits forcing this suspect looking box on us, give us a vaguely approving grunt, and moves on (oh, and then the bass sounds great through the PA!).

Well, the days of deals falling through for want of a Jensen transformer equipped DI may finally be behind us. You see, Ted Burmas – and his company, Sonic Nuance Electronics – has crammed a Jensen transformer equipped DI into a convenient pedal form. So now, you can use whatever bass head or preamp you want, and still have that legendary Jensen performance feeding the front of house. Oh, and did I mention that he threw a fast-tracking, highly accurate tuner into the deal? Not sure what to call this Tuner + DI pedal, though…

The Company Line

Ted has a background as an analog mixed-signal circuit designer in the telecommunications, disk drive storage, aerospace and power industries. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science, and he plays bass (electric and upright) as well as classical and acoustic guitar. Ted formed Sonic Nuance Electronics in 2012, and the product lineup is limited to cables (from short patch cables, to a headphone extension cable, effects loop “snake” and more) and DI pedals. The DI pedal lineup include the Tuner + DI (TDI) pedal, both Mk1 and Mk2 iterations, and a version of the Jensen DI pedal that is mutable, but does not have the tuner – the Mutable DI (MDI). Across the board, these products are designed for the highest sonic fidelity, to allow every nuance to shine through. See what I did, there?

Sonic Nuance currently only sells direct through their website, which Ted likes, because it “keeps him close to the customer,” and helps keep the costs down. Speaking of which, he will be offering a lower-cost option fairly soon, based upon customer feedback. It will employ a custom-made (not Jensen) transformer, though the TDI Mk2 (with the Jensen) will remain in the lineup.

A Closer Look

The pedal itself has a professional, no-nonsense aesthetic, with (unbalanced) ¼” In and ¼” Out on the right side, along with the balanced XLR DI out. The top edge of the case features the DC adapter power input, which was a relatively recent addition. Prior to this, the TDI was powered exclusively via 48V phantom power, supplied via the XLR connection. However, based upon user feedback, Ted modified the circuit to allow for the use of an external DC adapter. In this regard, it is very flexible as far as what adapter may be used, and will accept voltage outputs from 9V to 24V DC. Sonic Nuance does call for a 100mA minimum, which most power supplies should easily accommodate. What happens if you have the DC adapter plugged in, and then the unit is connected to phantom power? Well, Ted thought of that, and if 48V is present at the XLR jack, then the DC supply is automatically bypassed.

On the face of the pedal, we have the prominent footswitch for the mute function. This is a completely analog function, allowing the user to mute the signal (to both outputs), even if phantom or DC power is not available. Above this are the primary display and tuning level LEDs.

In the top portion of the face plate, we find two small, but sturdy, push button switches for on/off and for lifting the ground on the XLR output. What looks like three additional buttons are actually small, fixed posts which aim to prevent inadvertent switching of the two push-button switches. Even though the TDI features a digital tuner and display, the signal path through the pedal (to both outputs) remains entirely in the analog domain.

Directed Verdict

Seriously, though. How cool is it that someone finally put a Jensen transformer-based DI into a pedal? In this case, we are talking about the Jensen JT-DB transformer, intended for direct boxes. But first, a refresher on why you might want to have a transformer-based DI. Transformers provide electrical isolation between your rig and the FOH (which keeps noise from one from getting to the other). Transformers can take your unbalanced instrument signal and convert it to a balanced signal (which can be transmitted through a cable for longer distances without losing signal or introducing noise). Transformers can also help match signal gain levels between different devices (like bass amp inputs and mixing board console inputs).

Some potential downsides to transformers are their cost, their added bulk, the possibility of frequency dependent phase shifts, and the potential for external magnetic interference. These last two items are directly addressed [pun intended] by the folks at Jensen, who employ a Besel low-pass filter (to eliminate phase distortion) and multiple Faraday shields to minimize hum, buzz and RF interference. Since 1974, Jensen Transformers, Inc. has been building a reputation for excellence. Forty plus years later, Sonic Nuance lets you take that legendary Jensen performance with you, wherever you (or at least your pedal board) go(es).

Our Technical Editor, Dan Kropp, put the TDI through its paces to prove its technical prowess [his technical evaluation immediately follows this Bassic Review]. I opted for some real world testing. Out on the gig, the TDI did just what I had hoped, with dead-silent connection between my pedalboard and the mixing console. In my typical pedalboard setup, I run my tuner pedal at the very front of my pedalboard, and I use this as my primary means of muting my signal when changing basses, in between sets, or – gasp! – when tuning. It only made sense to use the TDI in similar fashion. At least, it did at first. Then, I realized that if I tapped my FOH DI signal from my typical “tuner pedal slot,” I wouldn’t be getting any of my downstream effects in the mains. This problem was easily remedied, of course, by moving the TDI to the end of my pedal chain.

You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish

The included chromatic tuner stands out for both its tracking speed and for its accuracy. No waiting on the low B to track. It is basically instantaneous. Accuracy is also excellent (with the Mk2 being even more accurate than the Mk1 – which I was also allowed to audition, and which itself is more accurate than many tuner pedals on the market). In fact, it is accurate enough to show the note pull sharp as you initially pluck it. This can take a little getting used to, but with a light touch, and/or a little patience, I think you will appreciate the accuracy (as it quickly indicates the “true” tuning, once your finger quits dragging the string sharp).

The main display will indicate the note detected (if the TDI is in mute mode and power is supplied), and will show “P” for play mode. This main display does include a sharp note indicator, when appropriate, just to the right of the note display. The five tuning level indicator LEDs predictably show if the note is sharp, flat, or in tune. Once you bring the note into perfect tune, the LEDs will momentarily flash. Both the main display and the indicator LEDs are bright enough to be seen on a dark (or sunlit) stage, from standing height.

Manufacturer:Sonic Nuance Electronics, LLC
Model:Tuner + DI (TDI) Mk2
Made in: USA
Enclosure:Hammond die-cast aluminum
Inputs:¼” input, 9-24v DC center negative (100mA minimum recommended)
Input Impedance:73.1 kOhms with 612 kOhm XLR load and 660Hz sine wave input at 100 mV
Outputs:¼” out, balanced XLR
Controls:Footswitch (mute), on/off switch, XLR ground lift switch
Other Features:Option of (48V) phantom power or DC adapter
Dimensions:3 7/8” wide, 2 1/2” high, 5” deep
Battery Operation:NO
Warranty:3-year limited
Price:$330.00 (limited time price)

Bottom Line

  What is not to love about the TDI? For less than the price of a “Jensen upgrade” to your favorite bass head or preamp, you get a quality Jensen transformer-based DI and a killer tuner, to boot. The sturdy pedal is hand-assembled, made in the USA, and features excellent customer service from Ted, himself.  
author avatar
Tom Bowlus
Editor-in-Chief, Tom Bowlus, surprised his parents by riding home from grade school on his 10-speed with an upright bass. Thus began a life-long love of all things bass… After writing reviews in 18 issues of Guitar World’s Bass Guitar Magazine, Tom founded Bass Gear Magazine in 2007. If there is one thing Tom loves more than playing all kinds of cool bass gear, it’s telling people about cool bass gear!