| | NetStor TurboBox NA211A PCIe expansion chassis
NetStor TurboBox NA211A - PCIe > PCIe expansion chassis
With the proliferation of PCIe expansion cards in modern DAWs these days for both plugin DSP power (Universal Audio, SSL, Waves, TC Electronics) as well as enhanced functionality (ProTools) and I/O duties (RME RayDAT & MADI) the need for reliable and affordable expansion chassis is apparent.
Enter the NetStor TurboBox.
Currently with options for host connection via either a PCIe host card or a laptop ExpressCard (and with Thunderbolt interfacing to arrive very soon) the TurboBox is solidly built and very easy to install - in my case I added the host adapter, plugged in the special cable and opened up the box to install 2 UAD2 Quad DSP cards, the whole process taking me less than 10 minutes to accomplish. Powered up the main system and everything was picked up instantly.
In use, you really do not even notice it is there and the performance is flawless. It just works, and does it extremely reliably. Adding more cards (there is a limit of 3 in a single box, but if this is not sufficient then simply plug a second box into the remaining slot in the first one for an additional 3 slots) is as easy as unscrewing the top cover, removing the blanking plate and adding your expansion card. It's plug & play as it always should have been and I have been running mine constantly all day, every day since I have had it with no issues at all I have noticed.
Who needs one?
Anybody who is thinking of going down the DSP route, or someone with a portable system who needs to use PCIe expansion cards - it contains room enough for full-length cards as well as the smaller type - and has also been tested by RME and found to be flawless with both their RayDAT and MADI I/O cards on both Mac Pro & Windows 7 machines.
If one was feeling harsh, you could say that perhaps just 3 slots is not really enough, but this is easy enough to get around by simply adding another box. One other little "gotcha" is that on powering up, the on button needs to be held in until it lights up (in a tasteful blue colour) before letting it go - at first I thought my box had a problem until I worked this out. I really cannot think of any other problems with the unit though. The fans are a little noisy on startup, but it quietens down very fast (usually before the system has even finished booting) and once you are running the noise from the active cooling is inaudible.
Pricing and Options
The model I tested was the NA211A, with the 3 PCIe slots. Also available is a version with slots for up to 4 SSD or SAS/SATA drives, a single slot version (comparable to the Magma ExpressBox 1 but at a fraction of the cost) as well as 2 larger, 6 slot versions designed with a PSU suitable for hig end GPU cards.
NA211A (3-slot) is available for around £450, the HDD variant at around £510. Interfacing with PCIe>PCIe is £130, and Expresscard/34>PCIe at around £100 (both these include the special cable as well) so they are far from expensive.
Highly recommended. The build quality is very good, finished in the usual brushed aluminium and everything I needed was included in the box, including an extraction fan to aid cooling & a very handy carry case for laptop users. Given the cost of the main competition (magma) NetStor offer serious value for money with high build quality & reliable operation - what's not to like?