API, Oh How I've MIssed You!
I ran a studio back in the 90s. Rack choices included Neve, Summit, Focusrite, Avalon and other very fine pieces but as often as not I'd go with the API.
Circumstances compelled me to sell my studio about 13 years ago. I've since picked up an A-Designs Pacifica, LA-610, AEA RPQ, and Trident S40. All very fine gear, but when listening to recordings from the 90s I had to admit I felt something missing.
I had the chance to pick up a demo Channel Strip. I was curious to see if the sound held up to what I was hearing in the old recordings.
Within 15 minutes of hooking the box up, I was reminded why I am an API guy. Detail, muscle and an instantly recognizable sound that is more obvious as you layer tracks (that elusive quality that, for me, defines "high end").
The preamp sounds the way I remember, and while I love the 550A, I do miss the 550B a bit (though just a bit). It's frankly stunning how effective the EQ is. I don't know how they do it, but I never find myself thinking "I wish this cut/boost was only 1dB." It always seems to be just what I need.
One thing I do regret is the LED meter used in the compressor. I find it a bit fussy, and not especially accurate. I would very much like to be able to see in detail what it's actually doing. There are many times when I hear it working, but the LED shows no compression at work. Of course we use out ears, there are many times where visual confirmation is invaluable. A VU meter would be killer, but I'm not sure they could make that work. The sound of the compression is sublime, and (for me) a reminder that plugins come nowhere near premium hardware.
I love this box.