API Audio Tranzformer LX by PB+J
This is an odd duck, kind of great though. Well really great in some important ways, but still odd. It’s sort of a cut down API channel strip, with feature-limited comp, feature-limited Eq, and an API preamp.
I hate the name. It’s like a Michael Bay movie meets Kaitlyn Jenner. It doesn’t look serious and professional to me. Maybe I’m being shallow. it’s nothing a piece of gaffer tape covering the logo won’t cure
It’s very big and very heavy. If you are going to have this on your pedalboard it’s going to take a lot of space and add a lot of weight. It’s going to be tough to anchor securely.
Construction. Mostly tank like. Heavy top plate, silkscreened print. Plastic press-on knobs that feel a little flimsy compared to the weight of the unit. Feels like they would be easy to break, and they pull off easily. I would not put this on a pedalboard unless someone else was carrying it and I had a good case for the board. It’s tall. The pots have very long stems, and while they are attached to a galvanized metal strip just above the PCB (see image) they are not screwed to the top of the case, so if those knobs get bumped they are going to flex a good bit
Wallwart power supply provided—18 volts at 650 mA, center negative. But it says in the manual that the unit has an input for “18 volt power supply 500 mA maximum,” while the enclosed power supply puts out 650 mA, and on the top of the unit it says “18 VDC 250 mA.”
i wrote to API to ask them, and they responded within an hour or so
"For a couple milliseconds when you first power on the pedal, it will draw 500mA. Then after the caps have charged, it'll draw 250mA. We provide a 650mA PSU because having a little wiggle room is always nice when possible. If you are going to use a pedal board, it needs to provide the pedal with at least 500mA."
API Service Tech"
OK, now you know.
What’s in the case? API 2520 op amp, big input and output transformers. Some trim pots which I’m going to leave alone. See image below
I bought this to be a dedicated API bass “channel strip,” since it has transformer coupled preamp, eq, and basic comp in one unit. I figure I’ll also use it on guitar, since the preamp and comp are the same, and adjust eq in the DAW if needed
Stepped input and gain knobs, but no markings
variable three point boost/cut eq with center detent, no markings
Stepped “compression” knob with steps marked with back dots but no other info
footswitches to bypass or engage the eq, the comp, and the preamp, with LEDS to signal state of the switch, and an LED to show clipping. I could not get it to clip.
One ¼ inch input, 1 ¼ out, onr xlr out, ground lift, phase reverse for both balanced and unbalanced outputs.
Note when you use it with the XLR out the output knob doesn't do anything, which is odd. Instead, your gain level becomes a dance between the comp knob and the input gain knob
Manual—1 page photocopied sheet which explains the controls well. Includes a graph of the eq controls, which are quire powerful but optimized for bass. All are +/- 15 dB peak type, centered at 100 hz, 450 hz and 2.5 respectively.
How does it sound?
Below are fast and dirty comparison files, using a passive j-bass with a pbass neck pickup, old nickel roundwounds, Apogee duet interface with preamp bypassed.
Avalon U5 no eq or comp
API dry Tranzformer Lx with input on max, no eq or comp
API heavy comp eq boost at 100, cut at 400, boost at 2 k comp at 4 of 6. Note with input on full this is heavy compression. You can hear it pumping
API mod comp input at middle, slight boost at 100, flat at 400, slight boost at 2 k comp on 2
My feeling is the Avalon sounds a little better, but only a little better, and maybe just “different”, not better. I feel like it’s a very effective punchy sound with the API. The comp is a little fiddly and it’s easy to overdo it, and it seems to sound better on some basses than others. The 100 hz eq works better as a cut than a boost—it gets out of hand pretty quickly when boosted. The 400hz band is great, and the 2 k band is useful but it adds a good bit of noise. It’s not a very quiet unit.
I think it's a great buy for a home studio. The comp is fiddly and has very limited controls but works. You get a fixed center frequency and a fixed Q, but they are well chosen and effective.
I have not tried the 1/4 output into an amp yet.