Field Test: API A2D Dual Microphone PreampVINTAGE-INSPIRED DESIGN WITH CONVERSION 1/01/2007 7:00 AM Eastern
Each channel has an XLR input with a 1,500-ohm input impedance and a ¼-inch 470k-ohm jack for DI use. Gain starts at +34 dB and tops out at +65 dB. A 20-segment LED meter shows precise level control from -30 dB to +27 dB for each channel. Calibration is set at standard reference level: 0 VU = +4 dBu. Polarity reverse is provided (on the mic input only), and 48-volt phantom power is switchable individually for both pre's. A -20dB input pad is also built in. The 2:1 transformer tap gives an additional 10 dB of attenuation at the back end, letting me drive the front end harder. It offers user-selectable rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192 kHz.
Digital output is simultaneously fed to a standard single-wire AES/EBU XLR and an S/PDIF RCA connector. A 9-pin D-sub master output will slave multiple A
To access converters separately, a ¼-inch line input connector offers a direct insert into the digital section. This input is normaled to the mic pre's output. However, by taking the XLR output of the mic pre and sending that signal to additional processors, you can then return the signal back to the A/D converters at this jack, making this an insert send and return.
MAKING THE STUDIO ROUNDS
In use, the A
Next up was a pair of BLUE Bottles above a drum kit. Again, the sound was natural; the cymbal tone was clear and forward. The room sound around the kit was great, adding in the space that I couldn't get from close-miking. The transient response will take you by surprise if you haven't worked with a preamp of this caliber.
On kick drum, using a Beta 52, the percussive click on top really gave some nice snap to the already well-defined fundamental. This is where the 2:1 transformer tap worked well. This track responded well to additional EQ, blending perfectly with an additional kick track recorded using Yamaha's Subkick. On snare, using a Sennheiser MD504, both the pad and the 2:1 tap had to be used as it was just too hot. All the superlatives apply: punchy, natural, a faithfully reproduced tone and that stellar transient response.
Recording cajon with an AT4051 was a piece of cake. For this track, I placed the mic 18 inches out and 45 degrees from the drum's leading edge to roll off some of the low end so that it wouldn't muddy the track. The preamp's midrange and transient response did the job. When miking a piano using two Neumann U87s, the midrange was too pronounced, making it come forward in the mix. The upper “interactive” harmonics were reproduced almost too faithfully, but the pad seemed to attenuate those harmonics and the 2:1 transformer tap in this situation. The particular “character” of the A
I'M BEING CONVERTED
To test the A
API has taken its time jumping into the already-crowded converter market; the company has done its homework and produced pristine digital components that stand alongside some of the best stand-alone units currently available. This is a highly recommended addition to any engineer's collection and a definite upgrade for every project studio. Price: $1,995.
API, 301/776-7879, www.apiaudio.com.
Bobby Frasier is a digital audio product specialist, consultant and educator.