Many of you will know of API Audio. It’s a name that turns up in the best studio racks all round the world and a brand that has taken 500 Series modules to new realms with their Lunchbox portable rack casing. But when you think of API it’s usually studio preamps, compressors and even classic large format mixing consoles that come to mind. So naturally when I was handed a compact box this month I assumed we would be looking at a new 500 series rack module, which got me a little excited. When I opened the box, I got very excited to see that what was on offer was something very different indeed, yet still maintained so much of the design and class of an API tool. This month I got to use API directly between a guitar and an amplifier in the new TranZformer GT guitar pedal that is going to get a lot of attention from anyone seeking classic studio tone in an almost compact pedal.
You don’t need to see the logo to know what you’re dealing with in this seriously well-built pedal. The classic API knobs that are found on their rack gear and their studio consoles are a dead giveaway as to who designed this unit, and what a unit it is. This is one solid tank of a guitar pedal and with an 18volt power supply, it is ready for some serious signal processing. What you can expect is a studio quality compressor and EQ circuit in one pedal, with a DI thrown in for good measure. When you think about how many hit songs have had API EQ or compression applied in the mixing process, it’s a real treat to know that now you can have this same sound in your signal chain any time you like.
The compressor is pretty simple, and that’s usually a good thing with guitars. It’s taken directly from the API 525 and offers six pre-set threshold levels with greater levels of gain reduction on each. There is an input gain driving this circuit to allow you to control how hard you drive the compressor. It’s kept simple, so it doesn’t have all the control that is found on the original 525, but it has the sound that this classic compressor offers and reins in your dynamics with great care, allowing you to crush the sound for a very aggressive guitar sound if you really want to.
The EQ is taken from the API 553 EQ strip, but has been reworked to offer a more guitar-friendly frequency range. Each of the three pots are subtly indented in the centre position to allow for a neutral sound to be obtained at any frequency without pulling the entire circuit from the mix. You get a shelving filter at 5kHz to allow you to tame those nasty high frequencies at high volume. Next, there is a mid-range peaking EQ at 1.5 kHz that brings out a lot of growl in your guitar, pushing it forward in the mix, so this will be popular with those eternal soloists. Finally, the EQ is rounded out with another peaking EQ at 200Hz which adds some great warmth to your sound, without creating a false bottom end that ends up being too booming.
Really, this is one heck of a brilliant tone box. For those pedal-nuts out there constantly searching for ‘studio quality’, you really can’t ask for more than a classic studio compressor and EQ squeezed into a pedal. That said, there’s a fair bit going on in the circuit design, so it is a fairly bulky pedal which I am sure some guitarists will whine about. But you just don’t get this sort of quality signal path in a trendy mini pedal. This is studio gear redesigned for the guitarist, so it is actually pretty compact when you consider that. The only gripe I had was with the three buttons for turning on the two circuits and an overall true hardwire bypass. They are a little close for comfort and not ideal for quick engagements with anything other than pointy toed boots. Lucky for me, that’s about all I wear, but some people might find it a bit of a tap dancing effort to engage the right control. Otherwise, what’s to fault? It’s a studio rack at your feet, built like a tank and sounds great.
Hits and Misses
Incredible warmth and character in the EQ
Compression ranging from smooth to aggressive
Studio quality outboard in a guitar pedal
Slight space issue with footswitches