I typically use the API 3124+ for close miking drums, where the response and mid-high bump bring out the best in toms, kicks, and snares. It's articulate character also produces excellent results when I track the kind of rhythmic vocals you find in pop and hiphop. As a DI, it's upfront and articulate, and the 3124+ delivers the classic API sound on any source.
We've passed just about everything through this pre.. Drums & Distorted Guitars are where she shines though. It's open and clear with some great punch, but does lack the low end Neve flavors. DI sounds great for guitar and decent for bass as well.
The not-so-great.. The pads are terrible, they completely alter the sound of the preamp and in my opinion are unusable. This wouldn't be such an issue if this pre didn't run so hot. To counteract this I really only use dynamic mics, preferably with a bass roll-off, or low output ribbons, so the pre can really be pushed. There is a learning curve to get this pre singing but once you do it's a great 4 channel addition.
Sounds Great when it Works
There are many instances of op-amps failing in these units. My 3 and 4 channels failed. I personally know someone who is also having the same problem and you can find complaints on the web.
API should start fixing these for free.
Really, it just doesn't get much better than API. Drums, guitars, horns... there is nothing that doesn't benifit from the API sound. Don't be afraid to push the gain on this thing, that saturated transformer sound is just lovely. This is the second one I have bought and neither will ever be out of the rack.
Amazing Pre Amp!
Running some Neumann 184's and other good mics through the 3124+ is like magic. It just gives everything a punchy powerful tone. Obviously that won't work on everything but for the other 99% of stuff you do, it will!
Awesome Classic Preamp
The API 3124 is a workhorse in our studio, the sound is BIG, the tone is BIG, the output level can be very BIG (greater than +30dBv) and it's got an important feature that many other high-end preamps don't have, the LED output level meter on the front! That output level meter is a critical feature, you need to know how much level you're sending out. Look at how many $500+ per channel mic preamps DON'T have output level metering, it's surprising to me, I depend on the output level meter and it's a key factor in me choosing these preamps. My API preamps have been absolutely reliable, the internal power supply is nice and quiet and the overall package feels like it is built like a tank. Each preamp features transformer-coupled input and output using parts that are equal or better than the vintage parts of long ago. I have original API 312 preamps with original New York op amps and transformers, they're in high end rack chassis and have a remote power supply, they don't sound any better than the 3124 IMHO, different maybe but not better, I think API is building some of the best equipment the company has ever made. If quality tone matters to you then you can't go wrong with API.
API 3124+ Provides That "Professional Sound"
This gear is not a consumer or "pro-sumer" piece.
It is the real deal.
These preamps are worth every penny and help you get the most out of your signal.
At this level of the game, you can only find something with a different character. You really can't get higher quality.
The only way to find out if API is better for you compared to another piece of gear at the same price range is to actually try it for yourself.
I have never had a single issue with my APIs. They are durable and reliable. Countless sessions, countless basement studio relocations, and recording a vast array of instruments. They sound great on everything. I will never regret this purchase.
You can't go wrong with API pres
I just purchased my second 3124, and I'm about to get a third. I also have some Neve Portico. But they are much more expensive. I personally like to put a Little Labs Redcloud on the back of the 3124. That way you can really get all the juice out of the pre without peaking in your AD/DA converter.
Can't have just one!!
I had always been a Neve/Vintech guy for drums and everything else. I played on a session in Nashville at a drummers home studio. Super nice studio. Anyways, he ran all of his close mics, OH and 2 pairs of room mics through 3 3124 pres and wow. Extremely clear. So I had to get one for my studio. This is a very fast Pre, which is perfect for drums. I've also cut bass and acoustic with it and they both sound great. When you drive the Pre there seems to be a slight distortion on the higher frequencies. I plan to buy a second one soon! If you don't have one, I strongly recommend to try it.
I'm using these in a session right now, and being sweetwater fans, the band says I have to review this item haha.. If you pair these preamps with Sennheiser MD-421s, Shure SM57s, (name your favorite dynamic mic), you will be blown away, I promise. So happy I have two of these... yes, I bought another one :) ... they are a little harsh with some condenser mics, but other than that, you can use these to amplify any microphone up to line level (and a very nice sounding line out it is) with any instrument for excellent results. The DI will make any bass SMOKE. My $250 Peavey bass (for beating on) sounds like thunder through this. I frequently use both the DI's and the mic amps on this... the mic amps LOVE dynamic mics! Can't stress that enough.
A great front end...
Stop here. Pair this with any high end converter that can handle its +24db output. Bright but not harsh. Punchy mids but not popping. Smooth bass without the boom. Works really well with just about any mic and has loads of gain. A great standard workhorse. I have this alongside a Brent Averill reracked pair of vintage 1272s. Two different animals, but both ferocious =). The 3124+ sounds professional because it is professional. Very simple circuitry, with almost no noise. It's very clean, yet puts a nice focused and balanced touch on everything. Great for instruments and LOVES dynamic mics...say goodbye to mic incompatibility. It just works with ANYTHING... if you prefer solid state to tubes. If you find yourself using a lot of plugins to "tone-shape", skip 'em and get this. You will never need to EQ for faulty tone again, as it loves to show you the differences in mic placement and always displays the full spectrum of tones how the mic picks them up, it doesn't mask or emphasize really. Again, very clear with a classic signature sound that you will instantly recognize, as long as your monitoring is in the right place =P Had it for a while ... I'm considering writing in my will that I should be buried with it. Just kidding of course, but I am considering getting another one.
Phenomenal--For the Rock Producer and Beyond.
This preamp is AMAZING. For the price, there is nothing better you can do for your rock music. It's punchy, it's warm, it's thick, it's a CLASSIC.
PROS: This is an awesome unit. Very quiet operation, great for rock, especially on drums. If anyone ever asks me what preamp to use for drums, I say API or Neve. Nothing else does the job like them. They also sound amazing on electric guitars, clean or distorted. Huge amounts of gain, easy to use, no problems at all.
The One (yes, only one) CON: the input stage of this thing is very hot, so you may want to buy a few inline mic pads to go with it (unless your mics have pads on them) of maybe 10 or 15dB. This is because your signal can overdrive slightly if you're not careful--sometimes it sounds great...a bit of analog saturation works well...sometimes. Usually this happens when a clean sound is desired, like for acoustic, perhaps vocals. It's not like it will damage anything, but because all you have is a single GAIN knob, you've got to be a lot more conscious of the volume you put into the pre and the volume you get out. Buy a few ProCo 10dB mic pads to have lying around just in case.