Review: API 512c
Positives:*Adds a vintage vibe to your tracks
* never muddys up anything
* amazing on snare
* Go to preamp on female R&B/Pop vocals
* Fantastic tone that makes it easy to fit in a mix
* Makes Drums really "punchy"
* Emphasizes the midrange making things easier to find on small speakers
* saturates high frequencies in a nice, musical, and crunchy way that can tame sibilant and "honky" frequencies
* Easy to use
Negatives:* Needs a "Lunchbox" power supply to run
* Output is very hot and clips your DAW very easily
* Always have to engage the pad
* Sounds "thin" when recording "Full' sounding sources like acoustic guitars or rhodes
* Line In bypasses output transformers
Vintage sound for a modern era
What can be said about the API 512c? Vocals or Guitar? Snare or Bass? Drums or keyboards? There isn’t much that 512c doesn’t shine on. It remains a go-to preamp for R&B/Pop vocals and is a perfect marriage with a SM57 on a snare. I personally love to push the meters into the yellow (almost clipping) as it begins to saturate the high end in a very musical way. It kind of “crunches” the high frequencies, to where a sibilant vocal can be recorded without having to de-ess as much in the mix. The added “Crunch” gives a sharp sounding snare a pleasing sound and brings it forward in the mix and works wonders on those sharp “ear piercing” high mid frequencies that electric guitars are know for. On Electric guitars, it sounds like all those old rock & roll records from the 70′s. Instant vintage vibe that never muddies up a mix. Its clean, but crunchy. They always leave a good impression and tend to sound like the sweetest thing on a record. Using it on female vocals is fantastic, It really emphasis Midrange which can be very helpful with a nasally singer. The saturation in the high frequencies is an added benefit to a sibilant vocal, making it sound full and taming the sibilance on its own. Although it wouldn’t be my go to preamp for something fuller, like a male vocal or an acoustic guitar, due to the fact that it doesn’t really bring out the low midrange or “body” of a source. In fact, without a “fat” sounding compressor that adds weight to a signal (Cl1B, Distressor, Manley comps, etc…) after the preamp, it tends to sound a bit “thinner” than alternative “fuller” sounding preamps.
On drums, it is the punchiest sound I know. Just running any percussion through any API product and you get a “punch” that is difficult to mimic. It captures and emphasizes your transients like nothing else I know. It definitely puts your speakers to work. It can really excite things and makes it simple to fit in the mix. Although on drums or any loud source, it easily clips your DAW inputs, causing you to use the “pad” on the preamp. It has an extremely hot output and clips pro tools easily. I am not a fan of using the pad on the unit because it changes the sound in a subtle way, but in a way I can notice a difference. It allows causes me to bring down the input on the preamp and I can’t utilize my gain structure (I like it hitting the yellow always) especially on snares, guitars, and vocals, which is when I tend to push the preamp close to distortion to “crunch” the highs. If possible, i add a separate pad after the output before it hits my DAW, or If I’m lucky enough, run it through a console and use the fader to control my input to my DAW. Running your mix through the preamps is fantasic and really brings out alot of details. It makes all your drums punchy, cleans up muddiness, Brings the Midrange forward and out into the front of the mix (Awesome for making your bass easier to distinguish on not-so-”pro” speakers) and of course tames your high sharp frequencies. My only complaint is if you run your mix through the D.I/Line input, it bypasses the input transformers and basically misses the saturation and “vibe” its known for, so you must run it back through the preamp itself. It has a great sound that can bring flavor to your recordings and it is definitely something to have in your arsenal.