API The Channel Strip Review

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Steve La Cerra



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There has been an incredible surge producing 500 Series devices during the past few years. Recognizing this, API has released The Channel Strip (TCS), which combines three of API’s 500 Series processors in a rackmount package with a dedicated power supply, API 325 line amplifier and comprehensive I/O. The front panel mirrors its default signal flow. From left to right, there’s a 512C microphone preamp, 527 compressor, 550A EQ and 325 output. Anyone familiar with these units has a jump on learning TCS, but there are differences. The 512C’s input meter is in the output section and may be switched to show signal level post-preamp or post-master output. Individual bypass is provided for the compressor and EQ sections, and the compressor may be switched pre- or post-EQ. The compressor lacks the dedicated output gain control of the modular 527, instead employing auto-gain-makeup. The line output stage includes a master mute switch (very handy), the aforementioned meter switch, a large rotary fader and an insert switch. All switches are backlit, making them very easy to read.

The insert switch hints at TCS’ routing capabilities, which become clear with a look at the 11 rear panel I/O jacks, including an XLR mic input, TRS line input and XLR “channel out.” Additional (balanced) TRS jacks are for preamp out, first effect I/O, second effect I/O, compressor sidechain and link, and insert return. (Editor’s note: The reason that API labels these jacks “first effect” and “second effect” is because the position of EQ and compressor in the signal path may be swapped via the front panel switch. The default is that the EQ uses the first effect jacks and the compressor uses the second effect jacks. When the compressor is switched post-EQ, the compressor uses the second effect jacks and the EQ uses the first effect jacks.) These jacks enable simultaneous use of the mic pre, compressor and equalizer as discrete devices. Becauase all outputs are half-normaled to the subsequent stages, you can tap and split the output at any point in the path without disturbing signal flow to the next stage. The insert return jack facilitates incorporating an external device into the channel by patching “second effect out” to the external device and output of the external device to insert return. This path is inactive until the front panel Insert button is engaged. Initially, I thought this was overkill: TCS provides everything you might possibly need, so why insert another effect? Nevertheless, I inserted a channel of my UREI 1178 for a lead vocal and the sonic result was pretty sexy.

I used TCS on a multitude of sources with excellent results. The 512C and 550A equalizer modules sound fabulous. The 512C preamp is clean (until you decide to push it), had enough gain for my RCA 44BX and Shure 330 ribbon mics and—though I wouldn’t call it transparent—allows mic character to come through. Recording an acoustic guitar with a Neumann KM84 was perfection; the sound was balanced across the instrument’s frequency range, detailed and present yet smooth, with a controlled low end. Substituting a Cascade Fathead II ribbon mic for the KM84 produced a classic euphoric guitar sound: warm and full with a mellow top end.

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