API Audio A2D by People Mover
When I started doing home recording, there were many issues and problems that I was just flat out unaware of because my ears and experience had not yet reached maturity. Kind of like when someone starts out drinking wine. . . the reds all taste the same. Until you drink more, and more. You begin to notice different tannins, aftertaste, sweetness, hints of the casks, etc. The same happened to my hearing as I progressed in my work at home. I began noticing things that I hadn't noticed before. Revelations were beginning to happen often. The biggest revelation I had was the purchase of an API A2D pre-amp/converter.
This revelation happened on a couple of levels. First of all, it revealed to me the truth about my mbox 2 pro. A truth that was well known in many circles, and on the Gearslutz board, a truth considered to be as evident as the sky being blue. The truth is that the mbox 2's preamps and converters are not very good. Nothing will make this truth more obvious than to hook up an A2D into your rig.
The curse of all pre-Pro Tools 9 users is the ball and chain known as the Digidesign hardware. However, the dirty secret to get around this problem on non-HD systems is the s/pdif input (at least on the mbox 2 pro's and 002, 003s). Brilliantly, API recognized this. What they did was put 2 of their world renown 312 mic pres and an on-board analog to digital converter in a single rack space unit, along with a host of other fabulous features to catapult your dumpy little mbox rig into the serious engineer's playing field.
Those features include:
API 2510 and 2520 Operational Amplifiers
20 Segment LED metering on both analog and digital sections
Mic and Instrument inputs
Polarity, phantom power, input pad, 2:1 transformer routing
Six sample rate choices
Sync to external Work Clock with feed through BNC
External Super Clock input
Ability to be slaved with other A2D units
Insert point provided between analog and digital sections
The big winner of these features is the 2:1 transformer routing. This switch knocks down the signal 10 db on the back-end so you can hit the transformer that much harder to get that signature API saturation. This switch really made its mark on me when I a/b'd it against the mbox.
I plugged a Fender P-bass into a splitter with one end going into the DI of the mbox, and the other going into the a2d. I brought both tracks into a session and recorded a simple bass line. This is the moment when I realized the difference between top level and entry level gear. The API track had so much more depth and punch. The low end was extended, it was full without being muddy. The sound just jumped out of the speakers. The mbox track was dull. It had no punch, no presence, no warmth. It was cold, boring. At this moment I knew I had made the perfect purchase. I immediately went back to the mixes I was working on, and started sending them through these 2 channels. All of my mixes made a marked improvement. I could go on and on about all the improvement my work has made.
I also do a lot of VO and ADR work, and the API 312's really shine. However, I'm going to skip that review, because I'm sure that the prior review of the 3124 will pretty much cover the same ground.
In addition, the API a2d is a steal for the price. They have a street/ebay/craigslist value of around $1600. $1600! for 2 classic API pre's AND the conversion! In addition there are insert points before the A/D stage, so you can use other outboard pres or gear and use the API conversion.
I believe the A2D is truly the answer for those home-based studios and engineers that can't afford to jump into an HD rig or Apogee or Lynx converters. Besides, if you are still working on Pro Tools LE/m-powered 8 or earlier, you have no options. You are in digidesign hardware purgatory. Thankfully, the API A2D came along and set me free.