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What is a Lunch Box?
Old 17th October 2013
Gear Nut
dlt123's Avatar

What is a Lunch Box?

I have seen the term Lunch Box mentioned in several threads here at GS and I've been wondering just exactly what they are...

There really isn't too much information here on this topic, unless you already know what it is or what they are... So I wanted to have a place where others, like myself, who are not "in the know" can come to, to get information on this subject.

Is a LunchBox a DIY Channel Strip? If so, can someone explain the reason and benefits of making one. Is it cheaper in the long run to build your own LB as apposed to buying a Channel Strip? Do you end up with a better High End kit at a cheaper cost? Is it just a "Right of Passage" thing for bragging rights?

What's the difference between a LB and just a studio audio rack? Is the LB idea just a smart marketing ploy to make us Slutz buy more expensive kits or spend more money?

I mean no malice with these questions, it just seems that a LB is no different from a studio audio rack and I would really like to know why one should go this route. Am I wrong?


Now, I've done some preliminary searches and come up with these links which help blow away some smog of misunderstanding about Lunch Boxes...

Explain to me the 500 rack system

I'm not so sure how the API luchbox works

API 500-6B 6 slot lunchbox with built-in Power Supply

But... Can anyone add more information here to help understand the benefits, and reasons for going this route rather than a dedicated Channel Strip or a standard audio rack?

Old 18th October 2013
Thats a lunch box. Just an empty "rack" with powersupply to fit 500series modules.
Old 18th October 2013
Lives for gear
traditionally audio gear came wither in a self-contained box, sitting on a desk, or more commonly in a self contained box with "rack ears," so you could mount it in a rack, which was just a frame with rails and standard spaced holes for mounting... rack mounted gear.

Traditional gear had a power supply, either internally or via a wall wart, and all the necessary input and output jacks

A lunchbox is like a rack with a power supply and output jacks and connectors. It has a built in power supply and input/output jacks, and slots you can plug gear into.

So let's say I make a compressor for a lunchbox, I just make the compressor--no power supply, no input and output jacks. But it's designed to just plug into a lunchbox. It's much cheaper that way

So I could take a three slot lunch box, and plug in a preamp, and eq , and a compressor, and have a basic recording setup, for less money than it would cost to buy a rack and three traditional rack mounted units. Less money, less weight, less physical size.
Old 18th October 2013
Lives for gear
LoFi_By_Choice's Avatar

I'm uninitiated in the lunchbox 500-series arena myself. But I've been checking out some things about them over the last year and I've come up with a few observations:

1) 500-series units are generally cheaper than their stand-alone rackmount equivalents.
2) Lots of 500-series manufacturers making basically clones of well known and respected circuits for far cheaper than actually tracking down the originals.
3) For now, 500-series is not for me financially, but one day I will probably invest in at least one or two of the smaller desk-mountable setups. I think they hold 3 units each.
4) In addition to #3, I would need a budget of about $1500-2500 for each 3 space unit. So in some cases, it may be cheaper to get the 500-series, but I could get a really nice stand-alone pre with compression/eq for the same price, however, the stand-alone is what it is. I can't take the compressor out of the chain without bypassing to another compressor. In a 500-series, I could try a setup, and switch out within the unit whatever I don't like: keep the pre and the eq, but get a new compressor, etc. In this sense, it could be cheaper over the long run, yes.
Old 21st October 2013
Lives for gear

These are all great answers.

The 500 Series has benefits and drawbacks. You can draw on some pretty close approximations of classic or new gear and arrange signal chains that might otherwise be impossible without a very large budget.

The drawbacks are considerably solid, too. Many, but not all by far, of the 500 Series are somewhat stripped down sections of their legendary originals.

For instance, my typical answer is the Manley Massive Passive. There is no way I can imagine it being fitted to that format. However, the 500 Series is WAY more economical. Were I starting out now, it would have ALL my attention.

Just make sure you are getting the modules that bring the sound you want. That you can change their order in the chain is a huge plus.
Old 21st October 2013
Gear Nut
Triscuit's Avatar
Agreed with all of the responses thus far. When I first began looking into 500 series, I found myself in the High End Theory forum; thought, "this isn't me at all - I am not 'high end.'" However, what I found is that there truly some amazing modules that are extremely reasonably priced, and the worst is the first purchase of the power supply itself plus the first module. When you build out the rack, you can budget some money aside for that one unit and make an easier investment down the road.

Also, I am very much so into soldering and DIY - I LOVE 500 series for that other reason. I just built a CAPI VP26 with a gar2520 opamp from the kits. It all took me a total of seven hours or so, and cost total about $220. Sounds AH-mazing, too.
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