A Brief History of API Consoles and Channel Strips
API consoles and channel strips have been an essential part of the recording industry since their introduction in the 1960s. These tools became popular due to their unique, warm sound that was highly sought after by engineers and producers. The API sound was achieved through a combination of tube and solid-state technology that provided a clean, transparent sound with a touch of harmonic distortion.
API (Automated Processes, Inc.) was founded in 1968 by Saul Walker, who was a former engineer at Telefunken. The company was originally created to develop electronic test equipment for the audio industry. However, API soon became known for their high-quality consoles and channel strips, which were used on countless hit records of the 1970s and beyond.
API consoles were known for their simplicity and reliability. The consoles were designed with a modular construction, which made them easy to repair and modify. The channel strips were also modular, which made it easy for engineers to add or remove modules as needed. This modularity also allowed engineers to customize their consoles to fit their specific needs.
The API sound quickly became synonymous with the sound of rock music in the 1970s. Many classic records of that era, including Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti,” were recorded using API consoles and channel strips. The API sound was also popular in other genres, such as funk and R&B, and was used on records by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, and James Brown.
Why Companies Create API-Based Plugins
As technology progressed, plug-in companies saw an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of API gear by creating software versions of these coveted pieces of hardware. These simulated software plugins aim to recreate the distinctive API sound, while also providing greater flexibility and affordability.
One of the main benefits of API-based plugins is that they allow engineers to add the classic API sound to their mixes without having to invest in expensive hardware. This is particularly important for home studio owners and independent producers who may not have access to high-end gear.
Another benefit of API-based plugins is that they provide greater flexibility than hardware. With software plugins, engineers can easily tweak settings and experiment with different sounds. This flexibility allows engineers to recreate the classic API sound while also adding their own unique twist.
Comparing Universal Audio and Waves API-Based Plugins
One of the most well-known companies to produce API-based plugins is Universal Audio. Their line of API plugins includes the Vision Channel Strip, 2500 Bus Compressor, Preamp, and 500 EQ. The Vision Channel Strip is a recreation of the classic API 212L preamp, 225L dynamics, and 550L EQ, allowing users to add the classic API sound to their mixes in a single plugin. The 2500 Bus Compressor is a faithful emulation of the API 2500 stereo bus compressor, which has become a go-to for many mix engineers. The API preamp is a recreation of the 512c mic preamp, which provides the classic API preamp sound to any microphone or instrument. Finally, the API 500 EQ is modeled after the 550A and 560 graphic EQs, giving users access to the classic API EQ sound in a convenient, single plugin.
Another popular company that produces API-based plugins is Waves. Their line of API plugins includes the API Collection, which features emulations of the API 550A EQ, API 550B EQ, and API 2500 Bus Compressor. The API 550A EQ is a faithful emulation of the original hardware, providing users with the ability to add the classic API EQ sound to their mixes. The API 550B EQ is a newer version of the 550A, which provides greater flexibility and functionality. The API 2500 Bus Compressor is a faithful emulation of the API 2500 stereo bus compressor, providing users with the classic API compression sound on their mixes.
In terms of sound quality, both Universal Audio and Waves produce high-quality API-based plugins that accurately recreate the classic API sound. However, where Universal Audio really shines is in their Vision Channel Strip, which provides users with an all-in-one solution for adding the classic API sound to their mixes. Waves, on the other hand, provides users with a wider variety of API-based plugins to choose from, allowing users to pick and choose which pieces of hardware they want to emulate.
Overall, both Universal Audio and Waves offer excellent API-based plugins that can add the classic API sound to your mixes. Choosing between the two comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of the user. Whether you’re a home studio owner or a professional recording engineer, API-based plugins can provide a powerful tool for achieving the sound you’re looking for.