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We review a range of 500-Series cases to suit a budget of under $600.
Mid-range price point, best bang for buck.
What is 500 Series Gear?
The term ‘lunchbox’ is thrown around the industry, to the confusion of many. Those in the know are aware that it is not actually a case for your sandwiches, but rather a revolution in the audio industry’s interaction with rack unit gear. It was invented by API in the 1970s, and has now become a widely popular modular analog format for rack gear.
On a very basic level, individual modules (such as an EQ) are inserted into a rack that supplies power to the modules. Each case is built to hold a number of units (modules), and besides powering up the modules, the case also suppies input and output routing to each unit.
Rising Popularity Of The 500 Series
With the growing popularity of 500 series gear, a handful of companies are now also producing their own variations of 500 series racks.
As companies try to compete with each other for market share, we now see many variations of these cases, each with their pros and cons. Some of these include things like link switches, stereo compatibility, and extra routing choices for the producers who like to get proper modular with their summing and routing.
We’re basically spoilt for choice now, and it can get a little confusing as to where to begin when selecting the best 500 series chassis for your home studio.
Why Add 500 Series To Your Home Studio Setup?
A large part of the 500 series’ success is that it ushered producers into a whole new world of customization.
Due to its modular nature, engineers can easily ‘mix and match’ modules from different manufacturers, creating the signal path of their dreams. To many of us, this is a much more freeing experience than being limited to a fixed console desk (not to mention, a lot cheaper).
Ah, API – the company that brought the 500 series to life.
The 8-slot powered lunchbox rack is a highly portable and functional addition to any home studio.
The DB25 connectors located at the back provide you with an easy connection to almost any multichannel interface or patchbay you can think of (provided they use those connectors). In terms of power, 250MA per slot is more than sufficient to power all of our VPR approved modules.
Of course, it’s fully compatible with all API 500 series modules by API and other manufacturers.
The unit is built with quality in mind: it has a fair bit of weight, and features rubber feet for grip. Whether you want to rack-mount the unit, or simply place it atop your studio desk, the API 500-8B (check price on Amazon here) will look and perform great wherever you decide to house it.
It’s a solid unit, though not everyone enjoys the fact that Lunchbox have opted for the external power supply.
The SixPack features two XLR inputs on its front panel and a whole bunch of extra connectors and switches on the rear.
The back features XLR jacks for six channels of I/O and an external power supply for an effortless ‘plug and play’ experience. The external power supply is rated at 1600 mA (which is twice the ‘per-slot’ current specified by the original 500-series).
The chassis is comprised of solid steel with bumpers to support the unit in both horizontal and vertical configurations and features a collapsable handle for portability. All connectors and fittings are of the highest quality to ensure that the R6 will hold up to many years of use.
The chassis also gives you the convenience of linking adjacent channels together using the internal jumpers.
Also, the moveable screw-holes are handy for installing 500 series modules with holes that are slightly different or have a differing sized faceplate. For those wanting to mount the R6 into a standard 19″ rack frame, there is a rack kit available. Also, when the bottom feet are removed, the R6 takes up 3U of rack space.
It does what it says on the tin. The 150% supply capacity prevents power rails from failing under a higher than expected load. The LED metering does a great job of displaying power consumption, and it gives us peace of mind knowing that the internal power supply has been double shielded.
For the second-generation 506, Lindell has improved performance further by moving the power supply outboard with a new external no-noise high-frequency-switching unit that delivers the perfect amount of power to run your modules with crystal clear sound.
Feed switch. Mix one channel into another without cables
No-noise, high-frequency switching power supply
Overload and short-circuit protection
400mA per slot
Includes protective neoprene bag
In our ‘best of’ reviews, we generally like to include a budget option. Low cost doesn’t necessarily mean low quality, and the Lindell Audio 506 (check price on Amazon here) has been included as it’s just as capable as many of the others on this list, at a price that won’t break the bank.
For the money, it’s hard to beat the Lindell Audio 506 Power MKII. Feature-wise, you’re given exactly what you need to power up your 500 modules: D-Sub 25-pin connectors and a total of 6 gold-plated XLR inputs and outputs.
On the surface, it may not appear to be too different from its counterparts, listed above. However, the ‘On Slot’ Technology that it boasts is deserving of some mention.
Essentially it allows per-slot linear regulation stages, which isolate the slots and avoid modules from ‘sharing power’. This means that each slot has its own power supply, isolating modules from one another. The only thing they share is the metal enclosure itself.
Each slot features some neat LEDs for power status indicators, which is always nice to have.
The construction is one of the strongest we’ve felt. It is made of heavy-gauge steel with an aluminum front panel. The side-mounted carry handle makes for easy transportation though, despite the weight.
In terms of phantom power, the unit supplies up to 140mA, which is sufficient.
The bonus ear racks that they give you is also a nice touch, as many companies would have these as a purchasable ‘extra’.
That it’s rugged as hell
Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API