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Series 500 lunchboxes vs 19" rackmount - pros and cons ? 500 Series Preamps
Old 2nd January 2011
  #1
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Big_Bang's Avatar
 

Series 500 lunchboxes vs 19" rackmount - pros and cons ?

Fellow Slutz!
May 2011 sound more analog to your ears and filled with exiting new gear!! LOL

I have a "complex" question. I have, unfortunately, never been in the presence of the 500 format. I do know about the general pro's and cons about the system, but having never been with one, there certainly must be more "obscure" reasons to opt, or not, for it, in comparison to a rack.

Now, I don't mean about specific things like pre's that sound better/worse because of different transformer and/or design adaptations to fit the slots...

Why does 500 even exist? I've never been able to wrap my brain around this one.
Seems less tidy than rack for instance, and I've only ever seen them on top of tables
taking up some workspace real-estate and I presonally think they look amateurish (though I don't give a crap about the looks)

I consistantly hear its cheaper to fill, but I cant see this at all justifiable.

So what am I missing here?

Input appreciated
Old 2nd January 2011
  #2
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Strut78's Avatar
I think the real advantage of the 500 series is that the format has it's own power supply and chassis, which is usually a major part of the development and cost of production of a lot of rack gear.

The existing power supply allows manufacturers to focus on the audio circuits and takes out a lot of the issues involving power supplies, liability and international regulations relating to power supplies. This essentially provides a cheaper point of entry to the market for many smaller/boutique manufactures and provides economies of scale to the power supply/chassis manufactures.

The upside is that changing modules is relatively easy and cheap in comparison to rack gear. There are however compromises in the power that it can supply to each unit and the size of each module, but as long as manufacturers develop their modules to spec then everything should function fine.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #3
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NF Audio's Avatar
500 Series:

Pro: one power supply for a whole bunch of gear... cheaper

Con: Small amount of real estate on front panel is annoying when there are lots of knobs

Con: Set power supply voltage. I.e. can't really do a proper, high-headroom 24v neve or neumann type design in the format.

Just a couple of thoughts.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big_Bang View Post
Seems less tidy than rack for instance, and I've only ever seen them on top of tables
taking up some workspace real-estate and I presonally think they look amateurish (though I don't give a crap about the looks)
You can get 19" racks for 500 series racks, which lets you mount them side by side in a lunchbox-like chassis, but inside a 19" rack. In pro studios these tend to be the preferential choice.

In smaller studios, I expect that lunchboxes are more popular as it doesn't cost so much to fill one! I can't find many other advantages to lunchboxes over 19" racking of 500 series modules.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #5
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500 series have:

-limited amount of front panel real state
-limited power supply
-limited room for electronics
-limited RFI isolation between modules
-limited amount of I/O connectors

500 series are getting popular because DAWs have made home recording a reality. From a Marketing poin of view the 500 series (as they are today, not as the original concept from API) is a stroke of genius, making stuff much cheaper to build and distribute, plus the "must fill all holes" drives people to buy more and more modules until they fill their chassis, and then they start all over again with another chassis. Jackpot. Brilliant.

Professional studios buy equipment after specific, first-class functionality, not because it fits a particular format.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #6
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asagaai's Avatar
500 series

Quote:
Why does 500 even exist? I've never been able to wrap my brain around this one.
Seems less tidy than rack for instance, and I've only ever seen them on top of tables
taking up some workspace real-estate and I presonally think they look amateurish (though I don't give a crap about the looks)
Exists in small 2/4/6 luncboxes for portability in terms of gigs/mobile recording. The 500 series cards are small units but are now very very high quality-so you pack huge pres/processing power in small packages.

In studios generally racks are used as said of 11 slots (BAE) or 10 slots (API), as said by previous poster.

Pros:

1. 1 power supply driving rack of 10/11 modules means one can drive more 500 series units from your studio power supply than if you had separate power supply for each item, which measn the ability of getting more processing power out of the studio power before having to upgrade the studio power.

2. Slightly cheaper than rack units for the modules.

3 If you have a small studio where space is a problem can cram amazing processing power in 2 11 slot racks etc

4. Ability to build up a custom very high end analog "mixer" using 11 slot racks when tying in to a high end mixer. For instance imagine the sonics of using a great river mixmaster 20 or a speck Li Lo etc coupled with 2 11 slot racks (1 11 slot rack stuffed with eq and the other 11 slot rack with compressors). Now if you stuff in eqs like avedis E27/API/Great River EQ32 with compressors like Buzz Essence, BAC500, Obisdian, Shadow Hills Vandegrap you will have a "console" that IMHO will be on a totally different level to a mid level small format console.

5 Ability to build up custom very high end mixer over time buying cards when you can afford.

6. If 1 card dies easy to pull out and show goes on, and easy to send card away for servicing given small size.

7. Ability to sell cards off individually and you will take less of a hit that selling a huge console.

9. Less heat generated from 1 BAE power supply driving 11 units than 11 separate power supplies.

Cons


1. Power supply dies you loose all 11 slots of rack.

2. Discussion that there is less voltage/headroom- but using really good power supply like BAE 11 slot rack with great gear probably snake oil.

3. Expensive- need to buy a great power supply which does not come cheap.

4. Even if you build up a modular console with incredible sonics (ie Avedis E27 eq's/Great River EQ32/API 560's etc,) will not have the visual punch of a big console even though the large console may not have the sonics (ie say a mackie/Allen & Heath etc) , or for instance say 11 BAC500s will not look as cool as 11 1176 compressors..

5. Small and fiddly- ie for instance the great river harrison eq 32 has a lot of dials and buttoms crammed in so it is fiddly to use.

6. OK- a bit shallow- but some 500 series cards are butt ugly-and fitting a mosaic of different units becomes a dogs breakfast. (The up side is that there are some really cool looking ones that blend well together)

7. If you only want to use 2 units for overdubs - you are turning on all 11 units of rack anyways...

GJ
Newcastle/OZ
Old 2nd January 2011
  #7
Gear Nut
 

Series 500 lunchboxes vs 19" rackmount - pros and cons ?

One big advantage of a lunchbox is that it is very portable!
Old 2nd January 2011
  #8
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spectacular g's Avatar
 

Rack's are cheap these day's a proper power supply is critically important.
and I've got snaussage fingers.

G
Old 2nd January 2011
  #9
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(Technical aspects aside, limited power supply, all your eggs in one chassis, etc...)
From the viewpoint of someone who does not own any 500 series gear, the only advantage I can see of going with the 500 series is the ability to customize a very portable, modular setup. I can see this system working well for an engineer living in an apartment in a city, who gets a gig at a tracking session. He can load up his lunchbox with 6 high-quality pres that he thinks will work best for that particular session. Or say a mixing session, he can grab any combo of comps and EQ.

The cost savings for the 500 series just isn't there for the most part. The Grace 501 is only $20 cheaper than the m101. The True Systems one is $50 more than it's chassis'd counterpart. The Great River is significantly cheaper, but eats up 2 spaces. API? Sure, the cheapest way to get a single channel of API is through the lunchbox, but even 2 channels is more expensive than an A2D, and 4 channels... forget it, the 3124 has that beat by a good $1000.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #10
You can get substantial deals on 500 format systems. However, they take a nice chunk for the enclosures, which can eat into that savings. If buying new, if you buy a filled enclosure all at once, you can get a much better deal, often getting the enclosure close to free or free. If you buy used you can certainly do very well in this format, since they get tried and passed on a lot more than the higher dollar stuff.

The thing that I notice most, having moved from a 500 format a while back to all rack mounted now, is that everything in the rack now has an analog VU meter that I can see from across the room. And of course you won't ever get an LA-2A into a 500 module either, or various other tube based units, so some of the classics will always have to be standard rack mount form.

But, if all I could do was a 10 space 500 rack, I wouldn't be crying. If you couldn't make good music with that (leaving aside the pre-amp requirements for full band recording), then I don't think that the problem is the hardware.
Old 7th January 2011
  #11
500 series nutjob
 
pan60's Avatar
 



it is the is!

but, depends on your definition of what is is?
Old 7th January 2011
  #12
Portability is the main thing.
Plus choice of 3rd party modules at reasonable prices.
Plug in, pull out:
Your lunchbox can be a mix of mic/pre, eq, and compressor modules in the studio and can transform quickly to all mic/pre for a remote recording.
Old 9th January 2011
  #13
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JBVries's Avatar
 

I think this thread is the biggest advantage of the 500 series form factor.

META - 500 Series

You CAN have a true 24V rail and there are tons of truly great projects out there to enhance your understanding of the functionality of the devices on a circuit level.

Gotta geek out to get there but damn what a journey.
Old 10th January 2011
  #14
Gear Addict
most important for me is the form factor of the lunchbox - this way i can have those knobs close to the sweet spot in an ergonomically correct position...
Old 10th January 2011
  #15
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Thank you all very much for your your input!

I am close to finishing my studio build and treatment, so budget time is near where I must decide which route to go. One thing that I was surprised wason the rack's portability and ergomomy, I had no idea it was so. Being close to the sweetspot is a plus for me as I will be setting up hybrid, and my control room is quite small

Where is a good place to check for prices, so I can compare a rack-full vs a lunch-full ?
Old 10th January 2011
  #16
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great find dj. i haven't seen many of these threads recently though.
Old 10th January 2011
  #17
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Dumb old fart question:

way back in The Day I used stuff like the Valley Arts stuff and Allison Gain brain etc in a rack system - is that what is now referred to as a lunchbox chassis, or did API just build on the earlier idea?

Also remember ISEP100 rail systems being The Thing at one time....

Now where did I put my thinking glasses?
Old 10th January 2011
  #18
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Ernest Buckley's Avatar
For me, the 500 series offers 3 advantages over the standard 19" rack mount gear.

1. Price: my first 500 series purchase was the GR. Considering the 19" costs $2200, I was able to get the one channel I needed and the API Lunchbox for $1200. That additional $1000 is used to purchase an API 512c and I still have some $$$ for my next purchase.

2. Variety: As a singer-songwriter-producer who works with other artists, its important to me to have a nice variety of pres/compressors to turn to for each voice. The 500 series allows me to own more "spices", if you will.

3. Portability: This is obvious.
Old 10th January 2011
  #19
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tamasdragon's Avatar
 

Pros:
- portability
- price (if you check the prices against full 19' rack, at the end, you save many dollars)
- you don't have to wait till your big money collected together, instead, buy module by module

Of course imho.
Old 10th January 2011
  #20
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Tuberizer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich View Post
From a Marketing poin of view the 500 series (as they are today, not as the original concept from API) is a stroke of genius, making stuff much cheaper to build and distribute, plus the "must fill all holes" drives people to buy more and more modules until they fill their chassis, and then they start all over again with another chassis. Jackpot. Brilliant.
IMO thats THE most important point!!!!thumbsupthumbsup
Old 10th January 2011
  #21
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Tone Laborer's Avatar
Why would "filling all the holes" in a 500 rack be more crucial then filling a 19" rack? Holes are OK as long as they're in a 19" rack? Ridiculous. I've had a 6b for years now and it's not full. I've lost not one minute of sleep over this fact.

I think the fact that the 500 series units sound pleasing has something to do with the popularity of the format.
Old 10th January 2011
  #22
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Big_Bang's Avatar
 

Hey!

Heads-up !

Just learnt Ruper Neve is releasing to 5043 in the 500 format at NAMM!!
Old 8th August 2011
  #23
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nodatesaid's Avatar
 

500 Series FTW

Quote:
Why does 500 even exist? I've never been able to wrap my brain around this one.
I love these 500 series units....all the cons that have been mentioned are completely true but the sounds that comes out of these units in especially the API stuff. I am planning on getting two API 512c's right now after using them in my brothers studio....My brother has a Neve 1073 and if he didn't have that the 512c's would be more than adequate for his pro HOME studio...so they are way more than adequate for my project home studio...i have used the 1073lb i think its called and i was actually better to my ears then then the vintechx73i emulator in the 19" format, when we A/Bed it...Now these are just the Pro's that i have witnessed first hand...Also surprisingly the Radial power pre 500 is quite decent for the price...great bottom and a defined top, and the simple eq is actually useful...i found it for $400...now i know they are not API's but they have held me off till my API's are ordered...
Just my 2cents
NODATESAID
Old 6th September 2011
  #24
500 series nutjob
 
pan60's Avatar
 

i have multiple 500 format racks and Lunchboxs from a number of companies and i love-em!
this is a smoking hot format that will only get bigger!

i see pro's!
Old 6th September 2011
  #25
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I've been back and forth with the thought of getting a lunchbox, pieces like the little devil pre and ELI docDerr really have me ready to purchase. However, my main con is the small knobs. And I'm surprised API doesn't make a carrying case for the lunchbox. I'm scared I would run it into a door corner or something. I already own some rack gear and the lunchbox is suppose to replace that how I see. the new D-sub connections on the back are very welcomed because I can run it to my patch bay and disc when its time to go to the studio. Still undecided but I am leaning towards getting one.
Old 22nd January 2012
  #26
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shreddoggie's Avatar
The Moog Ladder.
Old 22nd January 2012
  #27
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I think a big advantage of the 500 format is for DIY. I'm looking at getting a lunch box purely so I can pursue a few of the DIY options, specifically the Classic API gear. I have experience doing DIY, and often the most annoying part is the enclosure, and having to buy a power supply.

Great thing about the 500 format is that I can assemble a DIY module and not have to worry about getting 19" chassis machined, or purchase power supplies and transformers which can get quite expensive.

The other thing is portability. My buddy and I share alot of gear (mics etc) as we are often either working on the same project, or even if we are working on different things, its rarely at the same time. Now obviously we have some really important staples that we have our own of, but for things like the additional stuff (a set of pre's for tracking drums) it makes sense for us to go halves and share. Lunchbox is a great way of doing this..just grab it when we need it.
Old 22nd January 2012
  #28
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I like the old 19"
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