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API 550A and Waves 550A comparison
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albertors
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#1
17th February 2013
Old 17th February 2013
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API 550A and Waves 550A comparison

A couple weeks ago, as part of the studio "VIP" (always sounds great to say VIP) education programs, I posted a comparison between the API 550A and Waves 550A eq.

I tried to give the comparison a different twist by mentioning some elements of gain staging that are either misunderstood or underrated by some (but not all).

I hope you like it and - if you want - please let us know what we could do to improve future comparisons!

http://www.fuseroom.com/api-550a-comparison

I hope to add the UAD 550A to that, in the near future!

Cheers,
A.
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#2
18th February 2013
Old 18th February 2013
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I have a severe cold and one of my eardrums feels like it's going to pop but can't
wait to get better so I'll give my initial response.
On the vocals I can't hear any significant difference.
On acoustic guitar the real API is meatier/fuller and more dynamic, a bit nicer.
On the whole - small differences. As usual.
Both API and Waves sound good.
Will try again when my cold is gone.

Listening in a lowbudget compact stereo but with Sennheiser HD600.

Great test, well done!
Thanks.
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18th February 2013
Old 18th February 2013
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If I didn't have to go back and forth between a page for each audio file it would help so can flip between seamlessly.

I listened to the e guitar and the original sounded best on my PC's Edirol monitors. The Waves sounded crunchiest in a not so good way.
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18th February 2013
Old 18th February 2013
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albertors:
Quote:
I hope you like it and - if you want - please let us know what we could do to improve future comparisons!
Please do a blindtest next time. That will give much more interesting results even though more people will be intimidated.
In this test some people here will praise the hardware and bash the software no matter how they sound.
Their minds are already made up.
albertors
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#5
19th February 2013
Old 19th February 2013
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Thanks guys!

You are right: I will add a blind test section at the beginning of the page, while still having the final results listed as they currently are, at the bottom. This way users will have both possibilities: to blind test first and then either know the answers or skip the blind test and get to the .WAV to import them into a DAW software or listen to them the usual way.

I am happy you liked it, next up I have a test between something passed through a 1073 PRE..I was asked for it to compare phase alignment, changes in stereo image etc.

I'll keep you up on the changes, I think there are some blind tests apps that I can integrate in the CMS..

UPDATE:

I've been asked in PM what my opinion was, on the two units compared. I thought this might be the best answer I gave and - maybe - it will be interesting to "post it for posterity".

By experiencing the test live in the studio I have to say the following:

1: first off the main difference between the two is that the API (500 serie version) has some critical bands that are missing from the plugin. For example, the 600Hz mid band or the 20Khz top sound amazing and you won't be able to get them from the plugin. If I was to use those in my tests you would hear the API sound better than the Waves:
- the drumkit would have loved a dip on 600Hz
- the acoustic guitar would have loved the 20k
but it would have not been fair because I could not replicate the same settings on the plugin.

2: The plugin does not get affected by the input level, which makes a lot of difference. Most of the signals we work on in our DAW are normally too hot to get into the real API (as you noticed, -20dBFS RMS might still clip the API on strong transients). Those who don't know how to make use of this will benefit from the plugin because it will auto-fix hotter signals. The experienced engineer will benefit from the real API, because different input levels generate different compression..so the real unit influences the dynamic range like some sort of slight compressor (see the waveform for the acoustic guitar at -20dbRMS on the real unit..it's way compressed by the API itself).

3: The real unit has the typical analog gear bonus..the good old, loved and hated: depth and air. The 2K-8K range is more meaty, less harsh and airy. That's where I can usually spot the plugin from the real one, especially on guitars. Does this subtle detail affect the overall result? On 1-3 tracks, maybe not..but if you track with it, mix with it on critical tracks and so on, along with other analog gear, summing etc. that added detail of musicality gets combined, emphasised, multiplied, enhanced etc. etc. until you hit the final master stage - the old story repeats itself: it makes a lot of difference. I don't want to get into "worth-or-not" subject because it is useless. Only YOU know what is worth for YOUR studio. Your money, your studio, your choice.

I have to say the plugin comes REALLY close if you think it's a clone and it ends up costing way less than a whole rack. They got the typical 1K/1.25K quite right on the API, and that's pretty much a joy in itself.

I hope I was able to add more info to the test Let me know if you need anything!
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10th March 2013
Old 10th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albertors View Post
Thanks guys!

You are right: I will add a blind test section at the beginning of the page, while still having the final results listed as they currently are, at the bottom. This way users will have both possibilities: to blind test first and then either know the answers or skip the blind test and get to the .WAV to import them into a DAW software or listen to them the usual way.

I am happy you liked it, next up I have a test between something passed through a 1073 PRE..I was asked for it to compare phase alignment, changes in stereo image etc.

I'll keep you up on the changes, I think there are some blind tests apps that I can integrate in the CMS..

UPDATE:

I've been asked in PM what my opinion was, on the two units compared. I thought this might be the best answer I gave and - maybe - it will be interesting to "post it for posterity".

By experiencing the test live in the studio I have to say the following:

1: first off the main difference between the two is that the API (500 serie version) has some critical bands that are missing from the plugin. For example, the 600Hz mid band or the 20Khz top sound amazing and you won't be able to get them from the plugin. If I was to use those in my tests you would hear the API sound better than the Waves:
- the drumkit would have loved a dip on 600Hz
- the acoustic guitar would have loved the 20k
but it would have not been fair because I could not replicate the same settings on the plugin.

2: The plugin does not get affected by the input level, which makes a lot of difference. Most of the signals we work on in our DAW are normally too hot to get into the real API (as you noticed, -20dBFS RMS might still clip the API on strong transients). Those who don't know how to make use of this will benefit from the plugin because it will auto-fix hotter signals. The experienced engineer will benefit from the real API, because different input levels generate different compression..so the real unit influences the dynamic range like some sort of slight compressor (see the waveform for the acoustic guitar at -20dbRMS on the real unit..it's way compressed by the API itself).

3: The real unit has the typical analog gear bonus..the good old, loved and hated: depth and air. The 2K-8K range is more meaty, less harsh and airy. That's where I can usually spot the plugin from the real one, especially on guitars. Does this subtle detail affect the overall result? On 1-3 tracks, maybe not..but if you track with it, mix with it on critical tracks and so on, along with other analog gear, summing etc. that added detail of musicality gets combined, emphasised, multiplied, enhanced etc. etc. until you hit the final master stage - the old story repeats itself: it makes a lot of difference. I don't want to get into "worth-or-not" subject because it is useless. Only YOU know what is worth for YOUR studio. Your money, your studio, your choice.

I have to say the plugin comes REALLY close if you think it's a clone and it ends up costing way less than a whole rack. They got the typical 1K/1.25K quite right on the API, and that's pretty much a joy in itself.

I hope I was able to add more info to the test Let me know if you need anything!

You described that really nice

I own Waves Api but I do not use it a lot. Prefer Tritone Digital ClassicTone-560 which sounds soo much better. I will make a shootout between Waves 560 vs. TD Ctone-560 and maybe Nebula and use higher boosts to see the difference more obvious.
albertors
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10th March 2013
Old 10th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poshook View Post
You described that really nice

I own Waves Api but I do not use it a lot. Prefer Tritone Digital ClassicTone-560 which sounds soo much better. I will make a shootout between Waves 560 vs. TD Ctone-560 and maybe Nebula and use higher boosts to see the difference more obvious.
Thank you! I'd be happy to read your shootout!
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10th March 2013
Old 10th March 2013
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Originally Posted by albertors View Post
Thank you! I'd be happy to read your shootout!
I made a shootout but without nebula because I have just 550 library and there are different freq. selected.

API emus shoot-out
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19th March 2013
Old 19th March 2013
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Bump

Fellow gearslutz, listen to the files and comment.
This test is very good.
Do follow the link, read the interesting and important remarks made by albertors.
#10
21st March 2013
Old 21st March 2013
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I'd like to try this with my Nebula API 550a.

Edit:

https://soundcloud.com/meatballmulli...550a-shooutout

Okay these are blind. One is Waves, one is hardware, one is Nebulized (Alex B) with only one band including a distortion kernel.

I tried to upload the wav files directly to GS but I'm missing a security kernel (?). Anyway, differences are still evident.
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21st March 2013
Old 21st March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yummerz View Post
I'd like to try this with my Nebula API 550a.

Edit:

https://soundcloud.com/meatballmulli...550a-shooutout

Okay these are blind. One is Waves, one is hardware, one is Nebulized (Alex B) with only one band including a distortion kernel.

I tried to upload the wav files directly to GS but I'm missing a security kernel (?). Anyway, differences are still evident.
it would be helpful to have more complex material and also dry track as a starting point
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21st March 2013
Old 21st March 2013
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Originally Posted by poshook View Post
it would be helpful to have more complex material and also dry track as a starting point
Dry track is posted above.
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21st May 2013
Old 21st May 2013
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Thank you very much for doing this shoot out . Unless you hear it for yourself , how do you know what the real difference between the plugin vs hardware are ?

I've been trying to figure out if getting the hardware version API EQ is worth it . I hear so many people say theres barely any difference .

But from what I heard on your shoot out there is a big difference . The plugin sounded flat . They sound the same , but don't "feel" the same . My body reaction when first hearing the hardware is "Hell Yeah" , thats the classic sound I love , then hearing the plugin , its like a water down version , doesn't have the impact the hardware does . I'm listening through really good speakers . If I was listening on cheap PC computer speakers , I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference , because the extra little bit of phattness the hardware provides would not show up on the cheap PC speakers .
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21st May 2013
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Albertors, maybe I am miss reading something? Just compared the two (550a 500s and Waves 550a) visualy and they appear to have the same bands. Also, none of them have a 600hz band or a 20khz band. The 550b has a 20khz band.
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Ha I did miss something there is a newer version that does have those bands. :-)
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Ha I did miss something there is a newer version that does have those bands. :-)
Exactly, sorry I didn't make that much clear, I should have mentioned that.
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ABBA View Post
albertors:


Please do a blindtest next time. That will give much more interesting results even though more people will be intimidated.
In this test some people here will praise the hardware and bash the software no matter how they sound.
Their minds are already made up.
Actually I was hoping for the other way round, as I have the software but not the hardware so I was praying the plug-in would sound as good (highly unlikely it would sound better, right?!)

But alas, I was wrong and albertors I feel is pretty spot on in his findings.

Enjoyed this and would like to see more.

Cheers, Pete.
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Thanks Pete!

As with all the plugins, it's an "almost"...they "almost" make it. Being a subjective word and not a number, it's your angle on the word "almost" that makes them always worth, partially worth, not worth etc.

Being impressed is free and today's plugs are definitely impressing that is a given.
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albertors View Post
Being impressed is free and today's plugs are definitely impressing that is a given.
Couldn't agree more Being impressed is what inspires me - whether it be a £59 guitar pedal or a £2k pre-amp (or plug-in in my case )
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Originally Posted by petemojo View Post
Couldn't agree more Being impressed is what inspires me - whether it be a £59 guitar pedal or a £2k pre-amp (or plug-in in my case )
The opposite (=not being impressed) can really make or break your day for expensive analog gear.. it all depends on whether or not you OWN it
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25th May 2013
Old 25th May 2013
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To be honest, I would like to hear the test myself but, it has to be done without giving the testers the actual names. I don't want to know what they are until I can really hear them both in a great room.
Also, they have to be RMS leveled to no more than .1 to .2 db difference.
That way, the ear cannot be tricked by the louder factor.
These things I find so important.
Make sure you are hitting both the hardware and the software going into each at the same RMS/Peak levels as well. Honestly, you may want to start with a peak level at around -12 to -16db. On both...

I hope this helps.
I did these things with my A/B tests and they helped a lot. Also, helped people be honest with themselves and it seems that when you do it right, people really do appreciate it.
I know I do. I love these types of test because, it can show the truth about a lot of stuff that we all have a preconceived notion about.
Now I know what Paul Frindle meant when he said, there's no magic sound in the SSL Board. There's no extra mojo. We have in our minds that it is though and that's hard to break.

Sorry for the rant. I take these things very serious now a days. Love music and mixing....

Thanks,

Marc
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7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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Hi everyone!
I took the liberty of updating the article page. The contents are the same but the media player is now integrated in the page and it makes it easier to listen and to compare. Ok ok, nothing like an ABX app, but I haven't found any specific player that does that. If you know one, feel free to tell me, beer is on me!

Also, I've added a blind test between two acoustic guitar clips. Because why not.

http://www.fuseroom.com/it/api-550a-comparison.html
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7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albertors View Post
Hi everyone!
I took the liberty of updating the article page. The contents are the same but the media player is now integrated in the page and it makes it easier to listen and to compare. Ok ok, nothing like an ABX app, but I haven't found any specific player that does that. If you know one, feel free to tell me, beer is on me!

Also, I've added a blind test between two acoustic guitar clips. Because why not.

API 550A Comparison | Fuseroom Studio
Very nice indeed. I see that you took the advice and this A/B Test works.
Off hand, I couldn't tell which was which from listening through some Behritone mini speakers.
They were so close. I will listen through some headphones (DT 990 Pro) then on my NS10's later in the day.

I appreciate this test and hopefully, you'll get around to testing if you have the API2500 Compressor with the Waves.

Thanks,

Marc
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7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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waves sounds flatter and colder but good. hw sounds more organic, softer, more 3D with "something" in it (vocal sample)
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17th November 2013
Old 17th November 2013
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Thank you for your time in doing this.
Sample B sounded far superior.
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Sample B (hardware) in the blind test definitely sounded a bit more meatier. And I am not biased towards hardware at all. As for Waves, I own the API Collection, and I love the plug-ins. I've never had a chance to try the real thing, but I mainly mix in the box, so I can say that the Waves plug-ins work well for me, and that I would not go out my way to spend a couple of thousand dollars on the API hardware.

Analog or not? I think it's really more about how you utilize your resources (equipment/plug-ins) when mixing, as well as putting more of your time and ears into the mix. Attention to detail when mixing with a software EQ will beat out a half-assed mix with a hardware EQ any day.
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