A few years ago, the McDSP APB was one of the most hyped new products to debut at the NAMM show. A few years later and not much has changed, as founder Colin McDowell and his team at McDSP created something truly novel. Does the world’s first “analog processing box” stand up three years after its release in 2019? We’ll see in this McDSP APB 16 review.
What Does an Analog Processing Box Do?
The name doesn’t give much away, and the first thought that probably comes to mind is that it’s some sort of analog summing device. In reality, it’s much, much more.
Let’s start at the top. You connect the APB to your computer via Thunderbolt and the word clock to your interface. Next, download 10 (at the time of writing) APB plugins in AAX, AU, and VST3 formats for versatile DAW compatibility. From here, you would load the desired plugin as an insert just as with any other regular software. But now is where it gets interesting.
What the APB is not, is a DSP device to offset the CPU load from native plugins. What it is, is a 16-channel analog outboard processor controlled digitally via a standard plugin interface. The input signal from your DAW combines with a control signal and sends it down the Thunderbolt pipeline to the APB hardware. The control signal tells the analog hardware inside the box what to do based on the APB plugin parameters you’ve specified, processes it in the analog domain, converts it back to digital, and shoots it from the APB plugin output back into your DAW.
You can think of the McDSP APB as a multi-channel, multi-effects analog processing unit remotely controlled from your DAW. It’s an innovative display of what hardware and software can do — a hybrid device that isn’t the norm.
McDSP APB 16 Review
- RELATED: McDSP APB 16 Demo with Founder Colin McDowell
- RELATED: McDSP Channel G Plugin Demo
Unparalleled Integration Capabilities
A big part of what makes a device like this so enticing is just how easy it is to use. Everything about integrating it into your system is seamless, provided you have a nice interface or converter with word clock connections. That’s all you need to sync it with your recording setup, and essentially arm yourself with 10 new analog outboard processors.
Rugged Build & Interface
The McDSP APB 16 is manufactured here in the US and comes in a striking green metal housing. This is a premium piece of equipment, from the internal components to the external chassis. There are no reservations about build quality with hardware like this.
- Royal MU Compressor/Limiter
- Royal Q Equalizer
- MC-3 Multiband Compressor
- Moo X Mixer (world’s first hybrid mixing console under software control)
- C673-A Dynamic Range Compressor
- El Moo Tube Limiter
- Moo Tube Compressor
- ChickenHead Compressor
- L-18 Limiter and Surround Limiter
- C-18 Compressor
The McDSP APB 16 will set you back $7000. The 8-channel version weighs in at $4000. This is by no means cheap or even “affordable” for the average production enthusiast; however, if you consider that it’s 10 analog processors (and counting) in one box, it’s a total steal.
- RELATED: McDSP HD vs. Native Plugins: Everything You Need to Know
- RELATED: McDSP FutzBox Review: The Ultimate All-in-One Distortion Designer
Our Take: The McDSP APB 16 Offers Seamless Analog Processing When You Need It
“Innovative” and “groundbreaking” are often overused when it comes to new audio technology. The fact of the matter is, nothing like this existed before McDSP developed it. If you’re seeking a ton of analog firepower for your digital system, it’s fair to say nothing comes close to this value or workflow.