A 500 series rack is one of the best ways to add a bunch of outboard firepower to your studio in a compact form factor. It’s possible to keep a variety of processors like preamps, compressors, EQs, and more all in a single rack (also called a chassis). A fully loaded rack can pack a huge sonic punch, and it doesn’t take up too much space in your studio or on-the-go.
What Is a 500 Series Module & What Does It Do?
A 500 series effect is a modular piece of outboard equipment. They come in standardized sizes: 5.25″ tall and 1.5″ wide, though some are wider and occupy more than one slot in a rack. 500 series modules are all powered by a dedicated rack/chassis, in which you can load and unload units, swap the order of the signal path, bring with you to sessions outside or studio, or just leave on your desk at home.
Many of the popular outboard processors you see in standard 19″ rack format also have a 500 series equivalent. The biggest advantage of these modular versions is the price and form factor. Though not cheap, a 500 series module will almost always be less expensive than a 19″ rack unit, and the format means you can squeeze several effects into a single chassis to save a ton of space over full-sized processors.
When Would I Need/Use a 500 Series Rack?
A rack refers to the housing and power source for a 500 series module. You’d need a rack if you decide to start collecting modular effects. 500 series is a great way to get into outboard equipment for the first time, namely due to its flexibility, cost effectiveness, and size. We’ve recommended some of our favorite racks below.
Things to Consider When Looking for a 500 Series Module
The two most important factors to consider are number of slots and how much power the rack supplies. The number of slots tells you how many modules will fit in the chassis — for example, you might not need more than a few slots for a basic microphone signal path, but if you plan to expand your collection, more slots are necessary.
Power is also incredibly important. It’s a good idea to choose your first few modules, then add up the power draw from each. After that, compare it to the rack you want to purchase, and ensure the total power draw doesn’t exceed the total mA supplied by the rack.
The 8 Best 500 Series Racks for Your Home Studio in 2023
The R6 by Rupert Neve Designs is a six-slot chassis with flexible I/O, including XLR, TRS, and D-sub. It supplies up to 150% of the current required by six modules, so being underpowered isn’t a worry with this rack. The R6 also includes LED indicators on the front panel which show you just how much current is being drawn.
2. API 500V
For larger collections of modules, the API 500V offers 10 slots in a rack-mountable 19″ chassis. Overall, the 500V provides the simplicity and quality you’d expect from API. All of the I/O is XLR for standard wiring, and a total of 10 slots ensures expandability for future module acquisitions.
Here’s an innovative device that exemplifies what an “all-in-one” studio can be. Not only is this an eight-slot 500 series rack, but it’s also a 28-in/30-out USB audio interface with analog summing, powerful headphone amps, a monitor controller section, a no-latency artist mixer, and top-notch conversion. If you needed one piece of equipment to house an entire studio worth of gear, this is it.
Lindell Audio’s 510 is a 10-slot chassis. It includes both XLR and D-sub I/O, with a feed switch that lets you daisy chain processors without needing to cable them. Power includes 500ma per slot delivered by the units dedicated power supply, so you can safely light up the whole rack and all 10 modules without hesitation.
The Workhorse eight-slotter by Radial is always a good place to start when it comes to 500 series racks and modules. Module I/O includes XLR, TRS, and D-sub, with a link switch to daisy chain modules without cables. Other unique features include built-in noise filtering and hum mitigation to ensure a clean, reliable signal at all time.
RND’s R10 is a larger version of the R6, increasing slot count to 10. Similar to the R6, the R10 boasts 200% of the optimal current you’d need to power 10 500 series modules, ensuring ample juice at any given time. The internal power supply is also double-shielded to protect against interference and noise.
When you’re just starting your adventure with 500 series modules, you probably don’t want to throw down for a 10-slot rack right away. Heritage Audio’s OST-4 is the perfect solution: a four-slot chassis that’s affordable, compact, and full of high-end features. Channel link lets you chain effects together cable-free, and proprietary on-slot power delivery ensures each individual unit has its power requirements met.
Finally, we have the 500-8 lunchbox by API. This eight-slot rack forgoes traditional I/O for D-sub connections only, which simplifies cabling and cuts down on materials — ultimately making it a more affordable chassis. It has rubber feet for desktop installations, though you can also rack-mount it with optional ears.