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StageBug SB-1™ Development

For today's professional musician, touring is all about traveling light and keeping costs down. This includes avoiding extra baggage costs on airlines, eliminating handling charges where possible and reducing the size and weight of the stage equipment to save fuel and transportation costs. There is also a greater degree of focus on simplicity - in other words, we are being asked to eliminate extra features and functions that can cause confusion for the musician or undue stress for the audio engineer when problems occur on a busy stage. These are the cornerstones that led to the development of the StageBug SB-1 Acoustic.

Why use a DI in the first place?

The job of a direct box is to capture the sound of the instrument so that it can feed a clean, natural signal to the PA or recording system. A direct box converts the high impedance signal from a guitar, converts it to low impedance, and then balances the signal to enable it to go long distances without pickup up noise along the way. The allure of a Radial DI box is the renowned sound quality. Since most venues do not have very good DIs, the acoustic guitar often ends up being distorted in the PA system. The compact size and excellent sound quality make the StageBug SB-1 the perfect solution for players on the run!

Compact design with maximum features

One of our objectives with the StageBug SB-1 was to reduce the size of the direct box so that it could fit in the string pocket of a guitar case. Reducing the size of a direct box is fairly easy. You merely eliminate a number of switches, connectors and functionality. The real challenge comes with deciding which features should stay and which ones will go. In other words, what is important and why?

Most acoustic guitarists like to come to a gig, connect their guitar to the PA and be done with it. In other words, they want simple 'plug & play' functionality. So we equipped the SB-1 with a traditional ¼" input for the guitar and an XLR output to feed the PA system. The XLR output is balanced mic level which is perfectly suited for a mixing console or studio mic preamp. Powering the SB-1 is done via 48V phantom. In other words, you simply plug the StageBug into the PA, turn on the phantom power, and it springs to life. No battery or external supply is required. We also decided to incorporate a tuner out that is always on. This way, the guitarist need merely glance at the tuner for a quick adjustment. The tuner out can also be used to feed a stage amp. This is important for bass players and acoustic players alike.

As eliminating feedback is of critical importance to acoustic players, we opted for a 180° polarity reverse switch. This helps tame hot spots on stage by changing the relative phase of the instrument with respect to the PA system, monitors and physical space. By inverting the phase, you can often solve resonant feedback problems by electronically moving the problem out of the way. Best of all, since you are not using a radical EQ to notch out a problem, you get a much more natural tone.

We also added a -15dB input pad. This lets you accommodate extra-high output instruments such as an active bass guitar or a digital keyboard without fear of distortion. Simply stated, if you hear distortion, the pad reduces the sensitivity and solves the problem.

The StageBug SB-1 acoustic does exactly what it is supposed to do: It delivers exceptional audio in the most compact box ever while eliminating the complexities that can sometimes get in the way. You plug it in... and it works.

Comparing the StageBug SB-1 to other Radial active DI boxes

Since Radial makes a wide range of DI boxes, we thought it would be a good idea to quickly compare the feature set between some of our most popular active direct boxes:


Features SB-1 Acoustic™
SB-4™
Pro48™
J48™
Circuit type Active Active Active Active
-15dB input PAD Yes - Yes Yes
High pass filter - Yes - Yes
Stereo to mono merge - - - Yes
Stereo to mono merge Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ground lift - - Yes Yes
Fits in J-Rack - - - Yes

  • The StageBug SB-1 is primarily designed for acoustic guitarists on the go. It will certainly do a great job on other instruments too.
  • The StageBug-4 is designed for piezo equipped instruments. It has a very high input impedance to help eliminate the squawk and peaks that often plagues these temperamental pickups.
  • The Pro48 features the same signal path as the industry standard J48, but reduces the feature set to make it more affordable. It is great on all instruments.
  • The Radial J48 is unique in that you can lift the ground without having to revert to batteries. This is essential in live touring where noise can be a huge problem.