API 3124+ Preamp Review: The Secret Weapon for Drum Recording

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As a musician and audio engineer, I’m always on the lookout for tools that can elevate my recordings to a higher level. In my search for the perfect preamp, one name continues to pop up – the API 3124+ by Automated Processes Inc. Described by many in the audio community as a secret weapon for drum recording, I thought it was about time I delved deeper into this device to understand what makes it so special.

The API 3124+ is a four-channel microphone preamplifier that boasts discrete circuitry, custom transformers, and extremely high quality op amps for impressive audio fidelity in a single rack space. It boasts 4 XLR inputs as well 4 Hi-Z instrument inputs. From countless user reviews, it quickly becomes apparent that the 3124+ is revered for its versatility and ability to bring out the best in drum recordings. With its classic API sound, the 3124+ has become synonymous with professional studio quality and quite possibly the holy grail for drum recordings. I am eager to explore its potential to transform my own projects.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the API 3124+ preamp and dive into what sets it apart from the competition. From its design and construction to detailed sonic characteristics, I will share my findings with you to help you decide if the API 3124+ might just be the secret drum weapon you’ve been searching for.

API 3124+ Microphone Preamplifier Overview

As someone who values quality sound and performance, I cannot help but be impressed by the API 3124+ Preamp. This preamp is highly versatile, offering that classic API sound we all know and love.

Key Features

When it comes to the design aspects of the API 3124+, I quickly noticed the impressive specifications it holds. With four high-quality mic preamps based on the classic API 312 design in the vintage API consoles, this unit delivers outstanding sound clarity and headroom. One aspect that truly sets the 3124+ apart is its use of API’s iconic 2520 op-amps, which are responsible for much of the rich and dynamic tone character.

Additionally, the API 3124+ provides a range of valuable features, such as:

  • 65 dB of gain, ensuring a broad scope of recording possibilities
  • Front panel Hi-Z inputs for direct connection of electric guitars, (often negating the need for a direct box)
  • Front panel polarity switches, -20dB pad switch, and 48V phantom power for each channel
  • The familiar LED output level meter enables precise monitoring of levels
  • 4x rear panel male XLR connectors
  • 4x rear panel female XLR connectors

Applications in Recording

When it comes to using the API 3124+ Preamp in a recording context, I can confidently say that it excels in many applications. Whether capturing vocals or instrumental performances, this preamp delivers the sonic quality that professionals seek.

For example, in my experience, the API 3124+ performs exceptionally well with electric guitar, offering a vibrant, punchy sound that really brings the instrument to life. Additionally, with its four mic inputs, it’s ideal for recording drum kits, providing that sought-after “secret drum weapon” sound by ensuring each microphone captures the full impact of the drums.

Moreover, with its classic API console character, it excels in a range of recording scenarios, from intimate acoustic performances to robust rock bands in the studio.

In conclusion, the API 3124+ Preamp is a versatile, high-quality unit that I would recommend to anyone looking to elevate their recording game. Its feature-rich design and excellent performance allow it to hold its own as a top-tier microphone preamp, and its applications in recording environments are practically limitless.

Using API 3124+ The Secret Weapon for Drum Recording

Setup and Configuration

The first time I began setting up the API 3124+ for drum recording, I found its versatile tonal capabilities perfect for capturing everything from tight and punchy sounds to warm and rounded tones. I connected the preamp to my interface and made sure to enable 48V phantom power when using condenser microphones for overheads.

a basic configuration I used for recording drums with the API 3124+:

  • Kick drum: Dynamic microphone positioned inside or close to the kick drum head
  • Snare drum: Dynamic microphone placed a few inches above the snare, aimed at the center
  • Toms: Dynamic or condenser microphones placed close to the rim
  • Overheads: Pair of matched condenser microphones for capturing cymbals and overall drum kit ambiance

Recording Techniques

I found that the API 3124+ adds a distinct character and punch to my drum recordings, making it an excellent choice- quite possibly the holy grail for tracking bass-heavy instruments. When recording kick drums, I experimented with different microphone positions and angles to find the sweet spot that showcased the preamp’s ability to deliver tight and powerful low-end.

For snare drums, I noticed an added midrange presence and snap when using the API 3124+. Adjusting the microphone placement, gain levels, and even trying different microphones helped me achieve a variety of snare sounds – from snappy and aggressive to warm and vintage.

When recording overheads, I chose to use a spaced pair or XY configuration with condenser microphones. The API 3124+ provided plenty of headroom and transparency for capturing cymbals while maintaining a balanced and cohesive representation of the entire drum kit.

Output Attenuation Requirements: Little Labs RedCloud

One downside of the API 3124+ is the lack of output knobs. I quickly realized that although the API 3124+ is a powerful preamp, it sometimes clips the mic signals and overdrives the input levels of my audio interface with certain sources even with the front panel -20db pad switches engaged and the gain at 0. To resolve this issue, I incorporated a Little Labs RedCloud attenuator into my setup. The RedCloud provides precise control over the preamp’s output level, allowing me to optimize gain staging and prevent unwanted clipping or distortion. By carefully setting up the API 3124+ and employing these recording techniques, I discovered how effective this preamp is for capturing drums with depth, presence, and energy.

Recording Other Instruments


While the API 3124+ preamp has earned its reputation as a secret weapon for drum recording, I’ve found it to be equally impressive when recording guitars. The clarity and warmth provided by the API 3124+ bring out the nuances of my guitar’s tone, whether I’m tracking an electric or an acoustic guitar. A particularly delightful aspect is the Hi-Z front panel input, which enables me to connect my guitar directly to the preamp, making it a breeze to capture the instrument’s natural character.

I often experiment with mic placement and technique when recording guitars in my studio, and the API 3124+ consistently delivers excellent results. Its sonic characteristics bring out the depth and fullness of my guitar tones, and it ensures they are well-represented in the mix.


As a musician and studio owner, I’ve come to rely on the API 3124+ for more than just instrumental recordings. Its performance with vocals has been equally impressive, and it has rapidly become one of my go-to preamps for singers. The API 3124+ lends a certain richness and warmth to vocal recordings, which helps bring out the best in a singer’s performance.

I’ve found that using the API 3124+ on vocals helps to enhance and emphasize the emotional quality of a performance. It adds a certain level of depth and character that is sometimes difficult to achieve with other preamps. When working with a talented vocalist in my studio, the 3124+ consistently presents a vocal performance that is clear, present, and impactful.

So, whether I’m engineering sessions for powerful instrumentals or capturing emotive vocal performances, the API 3124+ has become an indispensable part of my recording process. Its versatility, tonal character, and reliable performance make it a true asset in any recording studio.

API 3124+ and the Signal Path

Transformer and Polarity

The first thing I noticed about the API 3124+ is its excellent signal path, starting with the transformer. The transformer plays a vital role in providing the classic API sound, which is known for its warmth and thickness. Additionally, the API 3124+ has a polarity switch, which is beneficial when recording sources with phase issues or when using multiple microphones at once.

I found the API 3124+ to be a powerful preamp that elevates drum recordings, making it an excellent choice for those seeking to enhance their drum sound quality. With features like the transformer, polarity switch, variable output, and transformer tap selection, the API 3124+ is indeed a secret drum weapon in the recording studio.

API 3124+ in the Music Industry

Impact on Recordings

As a recording artist, I find the API 3124+ preamp to be an essential piece of vintage gear in my studio setup. Its unique sound quality and versatility have had a significant impact on how my recordings turn out. Not only does it provide ample headroom and pristine audio quality for vocals, but it also works incredibly well for recording drums. In fact, I consider it my secret drum weapon.

Since I started using the API 3124+ preamp, I’ve noticed that my drum tracks sound punchier and more present in the mix. The preamp’s signature warmth imparts a certain character to the recordings that I find quite appealing. Additionally, the high-impedance instrument inputs make it even more convenient to record guitar and bass tracks directly, ensuring that my entire recording process is seamless and efficient.

Music Industry Marketplace

The API 3124+ preamp has certainly made a strong impression throughout the music industry. Record labels and fellow artists frequently commend the rich, distinctive sound it imparts to recordings. In the marketplace, the API 3124+ is known for its professional-caliber performance and reliability, which has led to its use in numerous commercial recording studios.

Freelancers in the industry greatly appreciate the ease of use and flexibility offered by the API 3124+ preamp. In fact, many audio engineers rely on it to achieve their desired sound in a variety of recording situations.

As the API 3124+ continues to gain popularity, I hope that more artists and record labels will take notice of its incredible sound and versatile functionality. Its adaptability and performance make it a valuable asset for anyone in the music industry, whether they’re just starting or are seasoned professionals.

API 3124+ for Studio Owners and Engineers

Professional Equipment Choices

As a studio owner or engineer, I am constantly looking for ways to improve the sound quality and overall experience for my clients. One piece of equipment that has caught my attention is the API 3124+ preamp. This 4-channel mic preamp is renowned for its work in capturing drum sounds, making it a must-have for any professional setting.

From my experience, drum recordings are among the hardest to perfect in the studio. Thus, investing in the API 3124+ has been a game-changer. This unit utilizes API-designed components, including custom transformers and op-amps, which allow it to capture the intricate details and character of drums. I’ve found that the natural and punchy sound produced by this preamp sets it apart from its competitors.


Despite its impressive performance capabilities, the API 3124+ offers the flexibility to upgrade and enhance its features. For example, the API 3124MV is a version of the 3124 that includes some important additional features such as an additional stereo mixer, allowing for even greater control over the audio mix.

In my sessions, I’ve found that upgrading to the 3124MV has further enhanced the audio quality by providing:

  • Four channels with individual gain control
  • Balanced insert points for adding external processors
  • A high-quality stereo bus with adjustable gain master output controls
  • Individual channel solo and mute functions
  • Output gain knobs

The flexibility of these new features allows me to tailor the preamp’s performance to suit the needs of specific recording sessions, ensuring the best possible results for my clients.

As a studio owner and engineer, regardless of which version of the 312 preamps you choose, the API product line is a solid investment and the API 3124+ preamp has proven to be a wise choice for me. Not only has it vastly improved my drum recording capabilities, but it also offers the adaptability and expandability needed to stay at the forefront of the professional audio industry.

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