Everyone needs a 500 series.

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The 500 series format (or lunchbox) has been around for some time (to be precise: 1978 with the launch of Datatronics first 10 slot powered rack) but it’s only relatively recently come to prominence. Maybe it’s because budgets are getting tighter or maybe it’s because studios are getting smaller but the lunchbox seems to be de-rigeur in a lot of setups these days.

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It’s probably because the 500 series is a modular format (and anyone who knows us knows we love modular!) meaning it’s affordable, customisable, compact and portable. What you start with is the rack, which is a powered case with audio I/O on the back. These are available in various sizes from various companies ranging from whopping 10 slot, 19" rack-mountable monsters to compact, wee ultra-portable 3 slot boxes. Once you’ve got your desired rack, then you  can start having fun buying modules…

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It’s good news then that there are tons of manufacturers around making interesting, high quality audio processors for you to slot into your lunchbox. These range from conventional compressors to weird and wonderful sonic manglers like the Moog analogue delay and ladder filter. Check it’s capabilities in this vid!

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We’ve also been impressed by the folk at Golden Age Projects. They’re making faithful recreations of some classic bits of analogue hardware in the 500 series format including this rather impressive microphone preamplifier. Kudos to the first person who can name what it’s been modelled on…

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The dons at Radial, who have been making high-end problem solvers and other audio accessories since 1991 have also been pretty instrumental in the lunchbox game and they have a collection of compatible equipment including the incredible Komit compressor.

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It’s also worth checking out new kid on the block Lindell Audio who are making a stunning range of 500 series modules and racks at seriously competitive prices. Oh, and when we say they are a new kid, that’s not strictly true because the man behind Lindell Audio is one Tobias Lindell, a music producer who has been around the block and knows a thing or too about high quality audio engineering. Watch this space for some arriving at RAD…

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Warm Audio are deserving of your attention too. The WA12 microphone preamplifier sounds lush and, as you would expect, errrr, warm so, it’s perfect for adding a full, rich tone to your vocal processing.

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And, of course, we couldn’t talk about 500 series without a tip of the hat to the godfathers of the format: API. They were building modular consoles way back in the 1970s and they implemented the VPR alliance, which is our way of saying that these boys know their onions. Anyway, you should all be checking the API gear out. It’s the nuts.

All that and we haven’t even mentioned the plethora of DIY projects and other nerdy stuff out there for the lunchbox….

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