About the 500 Series

The 500 series 'phenomena' is best explained as a classic format whose time has finally arrived.

Why? Simple... Today, recording is primarily done in the computer. Computers are tremendously powerful devices that enable you to manipulate audio with unlimited facility and deliver exceptional quality. But they lack in one area: feel. They do not have the vibe, tonal character or feel of real analog circuitry. The 500 series brings the fun and excitement of analog into the digital realm while also providing an almost unlimited range of options. And with more and more companies migrating towards the standard, the future has never been brighter.


There are two basic components to the 500 series. The power rack and the various modules. API coined the term Lunchbox(TM) which has become somewhat of a generic name for the power rack. These come in various sizes to accommodate anywhere from two to 10 or more modules. The power rack itself supplies the current to power the modules along with phantom power to feed a preamp when used with a condenser microphone or active direct box. These come in 19" rackmount formats like the Workhorse(TM) and Powerstrip(TM) or in stand-alone versions like The Cube(TM). The Workhorse can be purchased with or without a built-in mixer to suit.

Connecting to and from the power rack is primarily done via +4dB balanced professional signals using XLR connectors. Some racks are also outfitted with extra jacks such as ¼" TRS connectors or D-Subs to add greater patching facility. When using a preamp, the input is usually made to accept a microphone or instrument level source. The output is typically +4dB which is designed to feed the balanced input of a recording system or line level input of a mixing console.


There are hundreds of modules available today. These include input devices like preamps, equalizers, dynamic controllers like compressors and limiters and then all types of effects. Like their digital counterparts, these analog 'plug-ins' are basically selected depending on need or desire to create a particular sound.

Back in the day when big studios were the only ones with multitrack capabilities, one would go to a Neve room to record guitars or an SSL room to mix. These studios were equipped with million dollar consoles that each had a personality. Today, you simply 'plug in the personality' in the form of a 500 series module to get the sound you want. With so many modules to choose from, most studios begin with some basic modules such as preamps, EQs and compressors and then build their assortment from there.

Plugging one module into the next can be done by using a hard-wire patch such as taking the XLR out from one module and plugging it into the next. Radial racks are outfitted with a FEED switch that performs the same function without the extra cable. This leaves the XLR connector free for cross patching or parallel signal processing.


The 500 series platform is particularly effective when it comes to creating new sounds. You can mix and match modules, introduce weird effects, force some modules out of phase or bring microphones into phase. Once you have your power rack, you can add modules at a much lower price point than buying full sized rack gear. And with more choices means more creative options!