Recording - September 2014 - 16

API THE BOX

patched in individually or in stereo, pre- or
post-EQ/500 slot on any of the four input
channels, or they can be applied to THE
BOX's master bus, providing something
similar to having an API 2500 strapped
across your mains. Like the 550A modules
on channels 1 and 2, the 527 compressor
modules in THE BOX are not removable
like their 500 Series counterparts.
In its native form the API 527 is a 500
Series module, a VCA-style compressor that
uses both 2510 and 2520 Discrete op amps
along with a transformer output. It starts with
standard compression controls like a +10 to
-20 dBu threshold, ratio settable from 1:1 to
infinity:1, attack from 1 to 25 milliseconds,
and release from 0.3 to 3 seconds, all continuously variable. Compression can be set
between a hard or soft knee, and you can
choose between Old-style feedback compression or the feed-forward variety, labeled
New. Each compression channel has its own
LED gain reduction meter.
The 527 compressor features API's
patented Thrust circuit, also found on the
2500 compressor and the JDK Audio R22
compressor (April 2011). The Thrust circuit
is similar to a highpass filter, as it allows lowfrequency information to pass through the
threshold circuit without causing it to clamp
down. This gives the effect of a punchier
and more present low end while the mids
and highs are brought under control around
it. As I mentioned in the JDK R22 review, this
feature is fairly common in many modern
compressors, but API was one of the first
companies to implement the idea, first in the
1980s in the Paragon live mixing consoles
from then-parent company ATI, and then in
API's own 2500 compressor.
Putting THE BOX to work
I had the pleasure of two months with
THE BOX in my studio. Once I found a
place for it-not trivial for something this
size in an existing studio-I put it to work
for tracking and mixing down several sessions, as well as remixing a few projects I
had already mixed previously in my DAW.
Initially I assumed that THE BOX would
be a real bugbear to hook up and interface with my existing setup, but once I got
the hang of the overall paradigm, it went
really smooth. If you consider THE BOX
as a sum of its component sections and
hook it up just as you would four channel
strips, a summing mixer, and a monitor
controller, it's pretty simple.
Having said that, I highly recommend
budgeting for a patch bay or two so you can
have convenient access to all of THE BOX's
I/O points, especially its insert sections on
16

RECORDING September 2014

the summing mixer! With this mixer, almost
every component in the chain can be tapped
into or out of, and for maximum enjoyment
and flexibility you will want to use them all.
And of course you will want to be able to
route in your favorite external effects!
The input channels are classic API all
the way, from the punchy forward mic
pres to the unique classic EQ to the
smooth yet bold compressors. One simply
can't argue with the sound, feel and function of these channel strips... other than
wanting more of them, of course.
Mixing with THE BOX is a very organic experience. Since you can't automate
the faders, just as with a vintage desk,
you have to memorize and preplan your
movements and mix in real time.
I have tested quite a few analog summing devices over the years and my
biggest problem with many of them is that
despite adding analog mojo, they mess
with my workflow. Since many lack inserts,
let alone faders and routing, channel processing and bus compressors need to be
run in line prior to the summing box's
inputs, or after the main output in the case
of bus compression and EQ. THE BOX can
be set up as a no-frills summing box if you
want (um, why...?), but since it has inserts
and Aux sends on every channel, it is really best thought of as a full-on line mixer,
whether or not you use the faders.
The integrated large format console
experience
What struck me as most significant about
THE BOX was its overall unified sound.
One of the biggest debates I often see
online is the argument of choice vs. integration. Some engineers love having a mic
pre for vocals and another brand's mic pre
for guitars, then drums, etc. To my ears,
THE BOX elegantly illustrates the other side
of the argument in a very tangible way.

While I have mixed on large-format
desks before, boards from Yamaha to SSL,
Soundcraft, Crest, TASCAM and others, I
must humbly admit that my experience
with API has until now been limited to mic
pres, EQs, and compressors in 500 Series
and 19" rackmount forms. While they all
sound stellar on their own, there is something even more sonically magical that
happens when they combine in one unit.
People often talk about the "air" and the
"grit" of analog. Thanks to THE BOX's signal flow of transformers into transformers
and discrete op amps into other op amps
and all the internal combinations in
between, there is an effortless analog ease
to the sound. People talk about "chasing
the sound of a real album," and to my
ears, this is it. Sounds seem to inhabit more
space, depth and dimensionality then they
do when you're just using individual rack
pieces patched into your DAW.
I know this all sounds like hype, but if all
you have ever done is worked in the plugin realm, the sound of a high-end large-format console may blow your mind. Make
no mistake, small size notwithstanding,
THE BOX is absolutely a high-end largeformat console.
Sticker shock
There is one sobering reality to THE BOX
that I have not mentioned until now, and
that is its price tag. This is one of those "If
you have to ask..." moments, because The
Box will set you back a cool $17,000.
Considering the high price tags of most API
desks, THE BOX is actually highly affordable on the large-format console scale.
So who is it for? In my mind THE BOX
is the type of device that forms the centerpiece of a serious project studio, a pro
overdub suite, or even a B Room in a fullfledged facility. With this issue's focus on
studio ergonomics and optimization, THE



Recording - September 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - September 2014

Contents
Recording - September 2014 - Cover1
Recording - September 2014 - Cover2
Recording - September 2014 - 1
Recording - September 2014 - 2
Recording - September 2014 - 3
Recording - September 2014 - 4
Recording - September 2014 - 5
Recording - September 2014 - Contents
Recording - September 2014 - 7
Recording - September 2014 - 8
Recording - September 2014 - 9
Recording - September 2014 - 10
Recording - September 2014 - 11
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Recording - September 2014 - Cover3
Recording - September 2014 - Cover4
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