API’s ‘The Box’ Analogue Console
(first published in CX magazine – Feb, 2015)
I’ve had ‘The Box’ – API’s relatively new compact recording/summing console – at The Mill for a while now and I’m still torn about what I truly make of it.
It’s one of those consoles that seems caught in a nether world between comprehensive large format facility and hog-tied summing mixer.
From my point of view The Box has pros and cons that change depending on what project you’re working on, in a nutshell because the console tries to do as much as it can with the smallest amount of facilities ever offered on a new API console.
They’re great facilities mind you, just fewer of them. What this means is that one minute the console is lacking in one specific area (four preamps for example are likely to be insufficient for a tracking session with a three-piece rock band), and then, for the next session, it’s lacking in some other way (when you’re mixing 95 channels together, 16 summing faders will arguably feel somewhat pointless, although with some patching trickery you can squeeze 28 down the chute). If this is what you see The Box as being, it’s not for you.
The Box is a small-format console that harks back to the days of consoles like the Neve BCM10, where channel counts on recording sessions were nothing like they are today, but quality meant everything.
The Box offers four quality transformer-coupled 548B multi-input preamps, a 16-channel summing section with 100mm faders and a fairly comprehensive monitoring section. It’s in many respects the perfect high-end analogue console for physically constrained control rooms that require a central command and control facility.
The API has fantastic attributes. First and foremost it sounds beautiful and offers plenty of luxurious headroom (provided your recorders are properly calibrated to interface with an analogue setup). It has a fantastic stereo summing bus compressor that can also be redirected to the front end as required, and like all good professional consoles, it offers a control section and back panel connectivity that’s arguably far more valuable to the operation of a studio than its handful of preamps or line-level outputs.
To me, this is what The Box is all about. It’s not about pretending to be a large-format console; it’s never going to be that. It’s about running a studio setup from a high quality analogue mixer, rather than a cobbled together hybrid of converters, outboard or half-arsed monitoring systems. Setup this console with a patch bay and you’ll have a centerpiece that’s perfect for a modest studio operation.
There are only two downsides. The cost is fairly hefty, and this fact alone – irrespective of the console’s specs – will likely knock many prospective buyers out of the contest. Secondly, the lack of EQ on the summing side of the console really feels like a let down to me. API is as famous for its EQ as it is for its preamps, and a simple two-band API tone shifter would have made The Box a much more comprehensive and self-sufficient little unit.
Regardless, The Box is well worth an audition if you’re looking for a new, high quality mixer-come-control-room-centrepiece for your studio… something that fits through the studio door, works reliably, records and mixes things with plenty of clarity and headroom, offers great control room management and a fantastic stereo analogue mix bus output (with VU meters!).
In Australia, contact Studio Connections for more info: (03) 9416 8097 or www.studioconnections.com.au