Getting Started with 500 series Units

Anyone fresh out of Recording School understands the luxury and allure of analog gear. Audio engineers and producers also know how devastatingly damaging to the wallet outboard analog gear can be.

And rightly so! The time and material that is required to produce a compressor as coveted and iconic as the Universal Audio 1176 justifies the $2k plus price tag.

Enter the 500 series. Boasting smaller footprints, smaller power requirements and in some cases DIY assembly, 500 series units provide the benefit of analog gear at a lower price point. Originally designed by API the popularity of the format has seen the adoption by industry giants such as Rupert Neve Designs, Radial Designs andKush Audio amongst others.

In the blink of an eye, the options for 500 series gear have exploded and we are now truly spoiled for choice. Any conceivable classic emulation can be found in a 500 series format these days. The creativity that designers are displaying is staggering an example being the bt500 from Heritage Audio boasting the bower to stream your mixes from your DAW via bluetooth technology....Which 500 series unit is best for you?

Let TRCOA help familiarize you with the 500 series world!

You can find EQ, compression, routing, coloration, delays, reverbs and just about any type of outboard gear in 500 format. So an important step in choosing a new piece is identifying your needs.

Once you’ve established your needs, and you’ve set aside a budget to spend’s off to the shops.

Buying audio gear can be tricky if you don’t know exactly what piece you are going for. The best advice for picking out a new piece of gear is to ask for a pro-dealer for a demo unit to borrow for a few days, generally they will be happy to do so.

Short of a demo, go to a store like and walk into one of their pro-audio rooms and ask to run a song or some files of your own through their gear.

For a starter list of cool 500 series units to look at we recommend among many many others:

Xpressor500 by Elysia!

Incredibly clean and incredibly loud. This monster will take up two of your 500 units but then again it is a STEREO compressor. So you do get two channels of discrete class A compression. Amazing on guitar busses and chock full of options to dictate the shape of your compression

Clariphonic by Kush Audio

Designed after the massively successful stereo rack mount eq unit, Kush audio released mono 500 series versions that can be run in stereo in you so choose. For mid range to high frequencies you’d be hard pressed to find a better piece of gear. From injecting crystal clear top end on a vocal to running your mix through a stereo pair to get amazing clarity, these units are a no brainer.

1073d preamplifier eq and DI by BAE

This MONSTER of a 500 series unit will also take up two rack spaces. But its all worth the space. BAE faithfully replicated one of the most sought after preamp designs with its rendition of the Neve 1073. Powerful, charismatic and flexible, this preamp resides in the golden vocal chain for many of the world's top producers. Single unit versions also exist without an eq section...but in our opinion the extra unit is worth the amazing eq.

For Creative routing options, Radial Engineering have a great collection of 500 series tools that are really worth a look into.

Things to think about when buying into the 500 series for the first time

Power Supply Chassis

Not the sexiest part of 500 series life, but a necessary one.

The 500 series units are powered in most cases by a dedicated power supply commonly housed in the same chassis that will eventually hold the 500 unit(s). These convenient arrays come in various capacities. A pitfall to avoid with some power supplies is that in some cases they cannot carry the load of several or all of the 500 units in the chassis running together. In light of this “teething” issue with a relatively new format, pro audio companies are now releasing chassis with better equipped supplies that can handle heavier power loads.

Our personal favorite is Purple Audio’s Sweet Ten 500 series chassis, which outperforms many power supplies in a number of areas, however, the most notable is that it was amongst the first to offer a 10 slot chassis with enough power to run all units simultaneously.

Should I mess with DIY?

Spend a little while on a 500 series module rabbithole on google and you are bound to run across companies that will sell you the parts to assemble your own kits. Many of these including Hairball audio and CAPI audio make amazing products. HOWEVER, the quality of your unit will be directly proportional to your soldering and assembly skills.

We hope this guide helps you a bit in your quest to quench the everlasting thirst for great audio through gear acquisition...we know, its the ear not the gear, but hey...great gear helps.

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