9 – API 2500
There are some compressors that have a wide application and some that do one thing very well. Firmly and unashamedly in the latter group is the API 2500, which is all about bus compression, either on the full stereo mix or a drum sub-mix.
In many ways the American equivalent of the classic SSL Buss compressor, the 2500 is known for its ability to shape the punch and tone of full mixes with both accuracy and flair. As such it is mainly used for mastering and bus applications, its trademark sound evident on many chart-topping hits.
Although the 2500 can do subtle, with a sonic imprint that is sweet, clean and highly musical (and with near-inaudible noise or distortion), it shines when pushed, with much of its magic bestowed by its patented ‘Thrust’ circuit.
With Thrust switched to Loud the compressor generates a chest-hitting punch that brings out the attack of rhythmic material and delivers an attitude and glue to the bottom end of a mix that most other compressors can’t come close to. The SSL gets most of the credit when it comes to bus compression, but in many ways the clean, clear, up-front sound of the 2500 may even be a better choice for electronic music. (Neve 33609 also deserves credit here. It doesn’t make our list, but as an alternative to the SSL it’s worth mentioning alongside the 2500.)
The 2500 doesn’t come cheap ($2,995 RRP), but Waves’ (relatively) faithful modelled recreation offers a similar flavour for a considerably more affordable $300.