API 512c Microphone Preamp

500 Series Microphone Preamplifier
API 512c Microphone Preamp image 1
API 512c Microphone Preamp image 1
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API 512c Microphone Preamp
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Get That Legendary Console Sound!

With the API 512c, you've got the chance to own API's legendary front-end sound — at an unbelievably incredible value. Fitting into API's 500-series modular chassis, the API 512c has nothing but legendary heritage. This microphone preamplifier evolved from the original 1967-era 512 - API's first-ever modular mic pre - and it's brimming with that classic's same sonic character. All in all, you get an API console-level microphone preamplifier in a design that's totally expandable and realistically portable. If you're looking for classic preamp character, then you've found it: the API 512c.

API's been creating outstanding "modular" outboard gear since the 1960s - and the numbers "512" get to the heart of that heritage. The 512c, in fact, is a directly relative of the original 1967-era 512 - API's first-ever modular microphone preamplifier. When you call the 512c into service, you'll be met by that same, now-legendary sonic character - a sound that was so much a part of the early days of recording. In all, the 512c offers up high headroom, a wide variety of inputs and input access points - all with API quality and famous tone.

The beauty of the entire API 500 Series is its long-term flexibility and lasting value - especially when you consider that needs change over time. With a range of mounting frame options, the API 512c will be a valuable asset to your ever-changing studio rigs. It's also ruggedly designed with sound you just won't outgrow - crafted to be your sonic partner for year after year after year.

API 512c 500 Series Microphone/Line Preamplifier Features:
  • Mic Preamp with 65dB of gain
  • Front and Back Panel Mic Input Access
  • Line/Instrument Preamp with 50dB of gain
  • Front and Back Panel Line/Instrument Input
  • LED VU meter for monitoring output level
  • 20dB pad switch, applies to mic/line/instrument
  • 48v Phantom switchable power
  • Traditional API fully discrete circuit design
  • Uses the famous API 2520 Op-amp
API 512C 500 Series Microphone/Line Preamplifier Specifications
  • Rear Connector:Output on edge connector, MIC Input on edge connector, can be defeated
  • Front Connectors:XLR MIC Input, hi-Z 1/4" Unbal Input
  • Gain Range:MIC, 10 dB min, 65 dB max. Unbal HI-Z Input, 14 dB min, 50 dB max
  • Maximum Input Levels:MIC, +8 dBu, Unbal HI-Z Input, +36 dBu
  • Input Impedance:MIC Input, 1500 Ohms (150 Ohm mic), HI-Z Unbal Input, 20 K Ohms
  • Output Impedance:Less than 75 Ohms, Transformer Balanced
  • Clipping Level:+30dBu
  • Frequency Response:+0, -.3, 30Hz to 20kHz
  • Equivalent Input Noise: -129, Mic In. -125, Un-Balanced In.
  • Actual Metered Noise: Mic, -95 dBu, Un-Bal., -90 dBu
  • Distortion:Less than .05% at +4 Out, Less than .1% at +28 Out
  • Size:1.50" X 5.25" X 6" Deep
  • Weight:1 lb. 7 oz.
  • Power Consumption: +/- 12/18 Volts/DC, at 40 ma.
The API 512c preamplifier puts you in touch with that legendary console sound!

Additional Media

500 Series Buying Guide

Tech Specs

Preamp Type Solid State
Number of Channels 1
Frequency Response 30Hz-20kHz
Phantom Power Yes
Analog Inputs 1 x 1/4"
Height 5.25"
Depth 7"
Width 1.5"
Weight 1.41 lbs.
Manufacturer Part Number 512C

Customer Reviews

Based on 14 reviews
Write your review

The Classic, Must have Mic Pre

I've been waiting for years to own API Mic Pres. They have not disappointed. If you're reading this review then perhaps you're not familiar with them? They are the king of midrange. Not particularly warm on the bottom, not particularly open on the top, but for mids, this is it. No big stamp on the sound like Neves. Just smooth, punchy midrange. Guitars and drums and rock vocals.
Music background: Producer, Engineer, Musician, Studio Owner

Legendary drum sound.

If cash is no object THESE ARE WHAT YOU WANT TO USE ON DRUMS. Get as many as you can. API has it down. Your snares and kick will sound clearer and punchier than you could ever want. Your toms will sound thunderous. Makes mixing so much easier as the sound straight from the pre is excellent. Works good on vocals and guitar too but I find it has sort of a harsh/bright sound on vocals. That's just my opinion though as you will find plenty of people who love it and I'm sure it varies singer to singer. Pair these with a couple 550s, 560s, and/or 527s and it will be game over.
Music background: Recording Engineer, Live Sound Engineer, Gear Collector


Absolutely classic. I'd been hearing this talk about the API "sound". Now I know what it is. I use this and the API 550b eq together and I am seriously amazed at what it's doing to vocals and acoustic guitar. I sat around for hours with just a single condenser mic playing guitar and singing songs with my headphones on just unable to believe that a preamp and eq could make me sound so darn good. I'm not a big studio guy, just a musician who records at home, and I'm telling you home recorders that you have to spend some money once in awhile to sound pro. The end justifies the means on this one and the 550b as well. Amazing difference even on cheaper mics like sm57/58 which need some push anyway. 10,000 times better than the preamps on your interface, but this preamp has character instead of just crystal clear gain. Mojo!
Music background: Singer songwriter/ Frontman

Lives Up To the Hype

Really, I'm putting this more at about 4.89. I'll explain, here. This was my first external preamp, after having had used my Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 pres for a year or so. So, I bought this with an API Lunchbox and had no problem with the fitting and sound (some people seem to with some brands). My first test was drums. I set up one mono room mic; I played the same piece twice — once through this and once through the Saffire pre. The difference even was distinctly audible through laptop speakers. It had a bit more high-end clarity, a little better lows, and overall was a bit more defined. Could I EQ to get to this sound? Maybe, but I couldn't get it exactly there, as it's a little more than just that. I bought it mainly for male vocals, and I've got it paired with my Neumann TLM 102. It works great with that, and it brings out a tad of midrange that I never can EQ in just right. Paired with an API 550a, if EQ is needed, you'll have a great chain. And for the bad: the output on this is EXTREMELY high. I love this on snare — very punchy and delightful, but even at the lowest gain stage, it's clipping. You have to either pad externally or internally. If you pad internally, that's, supposedly, getting rid of some "mojo," so pick your poison. They could have added output attenuation and a high-pass filter. I'd recommend this preamp to anyone who is looking for a new addition or first, high quality preamp.
Music background: Home Recording, Student, Hobbyist, Recording Engineer

So Hot

So HOT. And I mean that in a GOOD way. I track male rock vocals at home in my apartment. Here the signal chain: SM7b dynamic mic, mogami xlr-to-xlr cable, API 512c mic pre, mogami xlr female to balanced 1/4" male, into line input on Avid MBox (input switched pulled for -20dB). This works very well, and I want to write this review to recommend it. While the other gear in this chain is all very good, the API pre is outstanding. I can simply make slight changes to the input gain switch on the API to get solid level into Pro Tools. The sound? Don't get me started... Warm. Crisp. Good level. Love it on male rock vocals!
Music background: Recording Engineer, Songwriter, Singer

Sweetwater Advice

Ted Hunter

I have a pair of 512c preamps in a lunchbox in my studio that pretty much live on my kick and snare drum, but they also work great on everything I've tried them on...they're forward and punchy, but still very clean. There's a reason that this preamp has been around for over 40 years now with very few changes.
See also: 500 Series Pre, API, API 500 Series Preamps