Designed around the celebrated 2520 discrete op-amp that has kept Automated Processes Inc. gear in hot demand since the early '70s, the legendary company's new "channel-strip-in-a-pedal" series juggles several crucial studio roles while providing an affordable way to get "the API sound."

These two devices are more than DI boxes. In fact, they are really "augmented DI / preamps" that offer line level outputs – no need to connect to a mic pre – for recording direct to a tape machine or DAW input. In addition to providing clean gain and impedance matching for instrument inputs, the GT and LX each include an EQ section and a compressor circuit (both separately by-passable via footswitch). The GT is voiced for guitar and has three EQ points at 5 kHz, 1.5 kHz, and 200 Hz (15 dB boost/cut) while the LX is voiced for bass guitar, having 15 dB of boost/cut at 2 kHz, 400 Hz, and 100 Hz. Each pedal also has a one-knob "525-type" compressor with six threshold settings ranging from -15 dB to -40 dB. Despite the instrument-specific voicings, each pedal is flexible and could easily be used for a variety of sources.

Powered by an 18-volt supply (included) the TranZformers feature 30 dB of gain, Hi-Z inputs, and custom output transformers, with handy clip indicator LEDs on both the input and output. A nice touch is the polarity reversal on each output (both "through" the 1/4-inch and main XLR outs), which allows flexibility when matching phase with amplifier and direct signals.

I tried recording both bass and guitar with the TranZformers and was immediately enamored with their headroom and fidelity. Heavily plucked bass retained transients, and dynamics never sounded "spongey." Similarly, direct-recorded electric guitar remained pristine and sparkly, even with the treble boosted on a spiky Telecaster bridge pickup configuration. The EQ sections were very easy to use, particularly for enhancement – it was difficult to dial in a setting that sounded flat out bad. I was happy to hear the compressor behave and sound like a classic API 525. With only the one knob to select threshold levels and automatic makeup gain, it is not a particularly "surgical" compressor, however, it is easy to set and is quite musical (particularly on bass) – with the ability to add aggressive tonal variations while controlling peaks.

Sweeping slabs of brushed aluminum make up the "business" surface of these attractive pedals, which are dotted with classic signature API knobs. The TranZformers are massive, weighing over 4 pounds each and measuring 8-inches x 5.5-inches x 4-inches. Probably not something you want to lug around to run-of-the-mill gigs, but perfectly solid, sturdy and stable for studio work (where their audio role is likely more appropriate).

The price for these pedals may seem a bit steep until you ponder just what you are getting for your hard-earned cash – essentially two slightly-simplified versions of amazing, very real, API hardware, under one very, very high-quality hood that will live comfortably on a tabletop, pedalboard, or studio floor.


Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More