We run all of our drum machines through DIs before we hit our consoles' mic pres, to minimize noise (via the ground lift) and balance the audio to a mic level signal.
For our traditional sample packs, we opt for clean, solid state DIs, because they have less noise, and preserve transients. But tube DIs can be a wonderful and fun way to achieve some RMS and harmonics on the way in.
What most people don't realize is - the volume of your *source*, not the volume on the DI, is what affects the amount of saturation.
To demonstrate this, we recorded the 909 (analog, so hits the tubes nicely) cleanly, and at 3 different levels through the (awesome) REDDI DI. Here's a demonstration of the samples:
*Tip* - if your drum machine can't go loud enough, you can run it through the mic or line input of a mixer, crank the volume, and take the direct out to your tube DI.
We normalized each drum voices' samples to the exact same peak level so you can hear the difference in RMS the saturation makes.
Not only do the samples demonstrate this effect quite well, but they're really nice to sequence together in a production - download below!
909 one-hits recorded cleanly, and through a REDDI tube DI at various levels, to demonstrate how volume can affect tube DI saturation.