API 550B

ph1_550b_lSince the release of the 550 EQ module in 1967, Automated Processes Inc has produced a bewildering array of EQs. You can take your pick from dozens of vintage models, many of them related to each other. Special mention must go to the 550a and 560, but for our money the pick of the bunch are the 550b and its dual-channel counterpart, the API 5500.

The 550b is a relatively simple but incredibly versatile four-band EQ. Each band offers a choice of seven frequency centres and ±12 dB of boost or cut. The low- and high-frequency bands can be switched between peak and shelf mode.

One of the major selling points of the 550 design was its ‘proportional Q’ characteristic – easily achieved in software now, but a truly innovative feature back in the 60s. The bandwidth reduces as the gain is increased, effectively allowing for broad, subtle strokes of tonal adjustment or more precise control of specific bands when making heavier boosts and cuts.

As for the sound, it’s punchy, aggressive and full of character, suitable for everything from bass to drums to vocals. The dual-channel 5500 version is even good on sub-mixes and mastering. “The 5500 isn’t widely used in mastering rooms for some reason,” Alchemy Mastering’s Matt Colton tells us. “Probably because of the limited choice of frequencies and limited control over Q shape – but it’s one of my favourite EQs, and great for dance music. It’s punchy as hell, really great presence, and good value for money. It’s not good for adding the mastering ‘air’ or ‘sparkle’, but it has the classic API character – sometimes a bit hard, but great bottom end and mids.”

Great for dance music. Punchy as hell, really great presence, and good value for money.

The 550B and 5500 are still available from API, albeit with prices which reflect their quality and classic status. For those of us who can’t stretch to the hardware version, there are excellent emulations available from the likes of URS and Waves. 

27th February, 2014

Comments

  • I love you all.

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  • You missed KUSH! for higher, simply the best.

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  • PS I dot think you acknowledged that precision cuts are a different ballgame to those beautiful wide sweeps. Different tool.s.

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  • for me, Pultec for bass. Cambridge for tight cuts. and natives for gentleness. If that makes sense. Either way, keep up the good work.

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  • Maag?

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  • The most important Eq curve for dance music is the 24 or preferably 48 dB/Oct slope highpass filter. It allows producers with even average abilities to create low end and low mids that are complex and layered yet intelligible. Most producers I know have an Eq doing just this on good percentage of the tracks in every song. I’d say that for and EQ to truly be the EQ of dance music it would need to be able to not only do this but be available to do it on 10 or more (usually more) stereo tracks at the same time. This is where the humble native EQ in most daws shines with its low DSP rent high flexibility. It might not be the most glamorous or best sounding EQ but it might do more for the bass than even a pair of hardware pultec or even a gaggle of dsp pultecs. Add in its pre and post internal spectrum analyzer and it seems pretty amazing.

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  • I Love the IK Pulteq, it just makes most things sound better. Too easy to get carried away with it though.

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  • Just some notes on availability of these EQs as emulations. Both the API 500 series and Sonnox Oxford have officially licenced plug-in versions from Universal Audio.

    http://www.uaudio.com/store/equalizers/api-500-series-eq-collection.html
    http://www.uaudio.com/store/equalizers/oxford-eq.html

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  • KEEP up the phenomenal work guys!

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  • I own a clariphonic myself, and I don’t think there’s a better eq to focus and lift the highs on your 2-buss. Personally, I’m getting ready to sell my SSL E-series EQs so that I can pickup an Electra from Kush…

    He’s doing it right.

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  • Awesome magazne with loads of very useful tricks and insights for the general producing general producers that just don’t have the means to approach music with real world professional knowledge. Very grateful and wish you a continuesly sucessful and quality ensured publication of such! 100% support :)

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  • Um how there is no baxendall eq here is just beyond me. The most used and useful eq of all time. Didn’t get a look in.

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  • Kush isn’t a secret anymore, the word is out. The best, most intuitive and creative EQ and Compressor I’ve ever used. Slow to upgrade completely to AAX, but worth the wait.

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  • Oh .. I love SSL EQ man ! its the amazing shit u can ever get 😀

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  • what about the millennia NSEQ-2, the GML 8200 and Maselec Mea 2 ? (there’s also the Crane IBIS)

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  • That mackie EQ is fucking shite, I can’t believe you put that next to the SSL, which is the mutt’s nuts.

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  • I use the 5500 in my mastering rig everyday. It’s stellar for fast program, passes every transient perfectly. Big bold sound. Not what I would call transparent but perfect for electronic music.

    Will Brodeur
    lacquer channel mastering.

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  • Elysia Xpressor is one notable absence from this list… the Elysia stuff is practically made for electronic music, so clean and precise.

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  • So why you not tell anything about NEVE EQ’s?

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