ProD8™ Development

The concept behind the ProD8 development actually stems from a meeting with John Mayer's technical crew when they were playing in Vancouver. The keyboard player had a series of 8 Radial JDIs strapped together with the 'stereo to mono' merge functions engaged. There was two completely identical setups feeding the direct boxes. One setup was live, the other a fully redundant backup system. We had never seen the merge function used this way. So when we decided to build the next generation rack DI, the first thing we did was source special stacked ¼" jacks that would enable us to fit in enough connectors to create dual redundant inputs.

The concept of redundancy hit a nerve. It seemed that with the frailties of computers becoming part of professional touring that more and more backup systems would play a greater role. This also stemmed the development of the Radial SW8 backing track switcher. As we also needed to provide a 'thru' output that could feed the artist's playback system, a second stacking jack was introduced. This left us with a free jack… we thought: 'what if the keyboard player had an old tape echo on his Minimoog? How would he route the backup unit?' the answer was obvious: we needed a ¼" TRS insert point that could be shared by both instruments.

The next big question was performance. For the engine, we chose to use Eclipse ET-DB2 transformers as they are able to withstand the high output levels produced by today's digital keyboards. Digital pianos are particularly nasty when they overload things, and they often do. They deliver huge transients and a wide frequency response that makes them difficult to handle. Because transformers saturate, they distort in a more gradual way acting like a very subtle limiter. This takes off the digital edge and gives the sound a vintage character. Transformers also provide complete isolation between the input and the output. This is particularly useful when interfacing equipment that share the same earth ground such as keyboards and a mixer. Because the audio path passes through a magnetic bridge, once the audio ground is lifted, there is no hardwire connection between the two devices. This eliminates hum and buzz caused by ground loops and stops stray DC voltage from contaminating other gear. Standard DI features such as polarity reverse and ground lift switches were added along with internal grounding options and the ability to route the effect insert pre or post the transformer.

Next came the physical construction. Some techs wanted the XLRs on the front panel for easy patching to sub snakes and ¼" jacks on the inside to patch with rackmounted sound modules. Others wanted the ¼" jacks on the outside to make it easier to connect to external keyboards. We flipped a coin and it miraculously landed on edge. (not really) To address both camps, we introduced reversible rack ears that would able the system tech to mount the ProD8 either way.

Today, the ProD8 shares the stage with many of the world's most esteemed artists including U2, Radiohead, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Rush and many others.