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Simon Allen takes a look at the first small- footprint console from API, and finds that The Box stands its own against its bigger siblings.

THE ANALOGUE and digital worlds are continually blending in new and exciting ways. With the increasing number of project studios, manufacturers are focused on providing affordable solutions, which deliver ‘that’ high-end analogue sound. The Box is API’s latest product design to cater for this growing market’s demands, so I put it to the test to find out how seriously this piece of kit can perform. At first glance, API has taken great care in the build quality and design of the console. The finish is to a very high standard, especially when compared to other modern pro-audio products. It gives the feeling of a classic vintage piece of gear and really looks the part. The Box is essentially split into three sections: a four-channel input tracking section; a master control section; and a 16-track summing mixer. All this is provided on a very small footprint, which would fit into almost any compact studio.


The four-channel input section offers four high- quality mic/line/instrument preamps (the same as found on the 1608). Each channel has several vital functions such as +48V phantom power, input select, 50Hz high-pass filter, insert bypass, and a -20dB pad. There are also buttons for changing the processing order (compressor pre/post) and meter switches to determine whether the eight segment LED meters are pre or post fader, allowing you to meter your inputs and outputs. There is also a direct pre/post switch enabling you to bypass the fader as well as solo safe switches. Other channel functions

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available on the input side include centre determined pan pots, with the API ‘program’ switch for easy monitoring without routing to your DAW. Best of all, however, channels one and two have API’s 550a three-band EQ units, and channels three and four have blank slots to allow you to spec any VPR approved 500 series units you like. The Box also offers four auxiliaries, two are mono while auxiliaries three and four work as a stereo aux, which can also be used to create your CUE mix.

MASTER CONTROL The centre section of the console gives you all your important studio controls that complete the way you work with any DAW system. Here you have your master ‘program’ bus fader as well as master auxiliary controls. All talkback controls including routing and level are found here along with headphone and CUE mix levels. The well-located

headphone outputs default to the console’s main output, but can also be selected to use the CUE bus. The CUE bus itself can be routed from either the main ‘program’ bus or any of the four two-track inputs. These can be summed together on the CUE bus for any combination, or all four of the two-track inputs plus the main ‘program’ bus. The control room source can also be routed from any, or all, of the four available two-track inputs but not the ‘program’ bus at the same time. As soon as you select the ‘program’ bus the two-track inputs are bypassed. Completing your master

controls is the classic large API control room level knob and

the important alternative speaker output. There are also CUT and DIM switches along with a mix insert bypass switch and a mono button. The DIM has its own attenuator and the alternative speaker outputs offer a trim level. At the top of the master

section lies the 527 stereo bus compressor that is highly rated among many professionals. This is the 500 series version of API’s 2500 bus comp and has all the same features you would expect. There are all the normal compressor functions such as attack, release, link, knee, and threshold, as well as API’s ‘old’ and ‘new’ compression styles and its patented ‘Thrust’ feature. The ‘old’ style compression is feedback based like the old 525 units, whereas the ‘new’ style is using feed-forward compression with the sidechain taken directly from the input. The ‘Thrust’ feature applies a high-pass filter before the compressor’s sidechain to retain a tight and punchy bottom end. There is no make-up gain as such, as the compressor is designed to have a ceiling control so as you adjust the ratio and threshold

you can hear what effect the compression is having. One very important

addition that has been applied to the 527 bus compressor

“The pleasant sonic performance was immediately apparent, which you would expect from any large- scale API console.” Simon Allen

inside The Box is the available routing. By default the compressor sits on the ‘program’ bus with an ‘in’ switch for bypass, but it can also be routed to any of the four input channels to allow you to track with some compression. After you’ve routed the compressors to your tracking channels you can then either place the compressor before or after the EQ (or spare 500 series slot on channels three and four) in your signal chain. In true API character, the default places the compressor first.

SUMMING UP The right-hand side of the console is a dedicated 16- track analogue summing mixer. Although there are 16 mono channels, the layout appears as eight stereo pairs for today’s common fashion of bringing down stereo stems from your DAW. Above these long-throw faders are each channel’s respective routing and panning functions presented in two rows, odd numbers and even numbers. Each channel has insert,

‘program’ bus routing, solo, and mute switches. There are the same auxiliary/cue sends and pan pots as the four input channels and each channel also offers a 0dB fader bypass switch (preserving the gain structure of the DAW channels or any automation within the DAW), which is exactly the same as setting the fader to unity gain.

IN SESSION Once I heard I was about to receive The Box for review, I knew exactly on which project I wanted to carry out the road test. I was set to record some piano and marimba pieces with recent Grammy award

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