Review: API 7600 Channel Strip – Counterpoint

You can hear sound clips of this and other reviewed pieces of gear here:

API 7600 Channel Strip

API 7600 Channel Strip

As you well know, dear blog reader, we’ve been publishing reviews of the lovely gear we have experienced here in the Digital Bear studio.  I’ve been having our wonderful studio interns do the reviews so they get more time on the gear.  Earlier this week Josh Nachbar published (with my supervisior) a review of the API 7600 channel strip.  What interested me about his review was that he had a close look at this piece of gear, and came to exactly the opposite feeling about it than I.  Rather than interfere with his review (too much), I decided simply to write a response.  You can ultimately be the judge.

Factually, of course, Josh was right on.  The API 7600 is a now discontinued channel strip comprised of the 212 microphone pre-amp, the 550A 3 band semi-parametric EQ with filters, and the 225 compressor.  For those of you who don’t immediately recognize the 200 series, they are the API parts from their esteemed Legacy console.  This is the sound of every American record from the 1970s and early 80s.  The 500 series was designed later to fit the “lunchbox” format; providing simple, transportable, interchangeable modules.

The 7600 was designed to provide access to these three amazing modules in astonishing ways.  Of course, it can be used as a channel strip, going from the mic pre into either the compressor or the EQ and then the other.  However, it was really designed to be part of the DSM series, which was a fully modular Legacy console in a rack.  You could buy the full console in various configurations, or you could buy the 7600 with the 8200 and 7800 and build a custom board!  As a consequence, every section of the 7600 has inputs and outputs.  Not only can you use the 7600 as a channel strip but you can use each piece of it individually; costing less and taking less space than the sum of its parts.  Want a Neve pre amp followed by a 225 compressor?  No problem (assuming you have a Neve pre).  Want to patch an SSL compressor between the 550A and the 225?  No problem!

API Legacy Console

API Legacy Console

On the left hand side of the 7600 are a series of Aux sends, pan, mute, solo controls, as you would expect on the channel strip of a real console.  These are intended to be used in the DSM configurations I mentioned above.  They aren’t much use without the center section pieces.  At first glance, it does seem to be a waste to have these functions.  However, when you consider that a 7600 is significantly less expensive than The Channel Strip (with which API replaced the 7600), the 7600 has more extensive I/O, and the 7600 is built around the sonically more coveted 212 and 225, the 7600 is really a bargain.

Now one of the things that has bothered me about both Josh’s review and mine so far, is that we’ve talked mostly about the functionality of the box.  So I want to rectify that, and talk about the sound.  You know that I NEVER buy a box based on what it does, but rather on how it SOUNDS.  There are many great boxes out there, but there is only ONE API.  The API sound is muscular and forward. It has a pronounced mid-forward character than brings out the balls in male singers and distorted electric guitars.  It is killer on snare and rock kick.  It rounds high frequencies subtly, so it’s great on overheads. It makes a J-bass through an Ampeg SVT really growl.  If you’re looking for warm, thick, friendly, low end-y: get a Neve.  If you want transparent and chime-y: use an SSL.  API does what it does, and nobody can touch it.  That’s why I buy gear.


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