17 – API 525
The 525 is a speciality piece. If you’re looking for a flexible compressor which is versatile enough to work on anything then it probably shouldn’t be on your shortlist.
The 525’s front panel layout gives a hint of the unorthodox approach on offer here. C (compression) and L (limiting) modes represent either 2:1 or 20:1 ratio respectively. Push button switches select one of four release times, which are then varied depending on the frequency range of the incoming signal. Likewise, attack time is determined automatically depending on the input. An input gain control stands in for a dedicated threshold setting, while a unique ‘ceiling’ control adjusts both input gain and output gain simultaneously in order to increase or decrease the amount of compression while automatically compensating with make-up gain.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a de-essing option.
It’s not hugely intuitive: it demands work and time to achieve good results, but that’s not to say the 525 isn’t a lovely bit of kit. Favoured on guitars, vocals, drums and bass, it has a vaguely 1176-esque sound, imparting obvious warmth and weight, with signals leaving it richer and thicker. It can also do great things on a parallel bus. In short; if character’s what you need, shortlist the API.
Although rarely chosen as a first compressor, alongside others in the rack it can bring a signature colour to the mix palette largely unavailable elsewhere. First introduced in the 1970s to fit the 500-series slots in API’s mixing consoles, the 525 is still only available in 500-series format, so bear in mind that you’ll also need a lunchbox or similar enclosure and power supply in order to use it.