What is the 500 series format?
Started by Automated Processes Inc. (API) to please a market which wanted modularity in their consoles with switchable preamps, eq’s and compressors, they standardized the format into what is known today as the 500 series format. This format made high end rack mounted hardware processors more affordable and portable. The fact that it was so portable meant that it could easily be carried around so it could be used in live recordings as well, all in a handy rack which could be customized to suit the need of the hour. Since API standardized this format a huge list of third party manufacturers have jumped on this bandwagon including brands like Rupert Neve, Heritage Audio, ShadowHill, SSL, Moog, Elysia, Tonelux, Lindell and many more! Today the 500 series format has exploded onto home studios and high end recording studios all over the globe giving engineers and producers an affordable access to otherwise really expensive and boutique gear.
Benefits of the 500 series format
The key benefits of the 500 series format is the quality, flexibility and affordability it offers, allowing you to create a personal rig with different flavors of processors based on your needs. Never before was it possible to have a variety of quality analog processing in a compact 2U rack space. From creating a personalized channel strip, a summing mixer, or a box with some custom processors, all can be achieved using the 500 series racks without having to deal with otherwise heavy equipment, tons of cabling and not to forget a hole in your wallet. The demand for high quality outboard analog gear is higher than ever right now, so this highly customizable and affordable format has gained followers from high end recording studios to music producers working out of home studios.
So how does this work?
To get started with the 500 series format one has to invest in a chassis for all the modules to reside in, get power and have inputs and outputs. There are many flavors of chassis available in the market. The original chassis from API was aptly called the ‘Lunchbox’ because of its portable nature and can house 6 modules. Lindell Audio Offers 3 variants of the chassis, the 503, 506 & the 510. As the name suggests the last digits of those models indicate how many modules it can house. The chassis is the component that houses the power delivery system for the modules and handles the I/O. The Lindell Audio chassis offer 400mA per slot which is way more than the API’s 215mA. This enables compatibility with all 500 series modules, even the power hogging tube preamps. The chassis hosts the Input and output connectors which bring signal into and take signal out of the modules. The I/O offered varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, some offering Digital I/O, DB25, while some offer the widely standard balanced XLR connectors.
After picking a chassis based on the need, the modules can be chosen. For eg: Lindell Audio has 3 modules that are hugely popular – the preamp & EQ (6X-500), the 1176 style compressor (7X-500) and a pultec style eq (PEX-500). All of which sound amazing at the price point it is at! Once the modules have been decided on all that needs to be done is sliding them into the chassis. Once the modules have been inserted, properly screwed on, the I/O hooked up and then the chassis powered up, voilà! A custom 500 series rig ready to be used!!
The 500 series format is continuing to break boundaries with the amount of high quality analog processing available in a small format at more accessible prices than ever before. Lindell Audio has surely broken new ground with a balance between functionality, sound and cost. More modules are being released as this article is being read and this goes to show that this is a great format to get onto. Hope this article helps you understand the 500 series better and why it has gained popularity with some of the best engineers and studios in the business.
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