Which is better? This question has been around for ages with no real answer. In this article, we will dive into pros and cons, and even a bit of history.
Dedicated Signal Processors
The classic pieces seen in studios everywhere. Outboard gear separates the amateurs from the professionals and will fill the racks of studios for years to come. Even today, as prices on high quality outboard gear decline, it is difficult to find a piece that wouldn't be a nice addition to a rack.
In the 1970's, a company called Automated Processes Incorporated (API) was made famous from the creation of their modular consoles. Eventually, engineers would form their own rack configuration with these modules. From the famed 512 preamp, to other legends like the 550 EQ, an engineer could make a custom rack to fit their needs.
Other companies like DBX, Allison Research and Valley Audio jumped on the modular rack bandwagon, but none of these fit the well-loved API 500 series format. Now that API is back in business again, their 500 series racks and modules, as well as brands such as Radial, Chameleon Labs, Golden Age Project and many more are readily available here.
So which is better?
500 series rigs are perfect for traveling engineers. If they have a setup that they know, then they don't have to learn the signal processors within the studio they are recording. Typically, 500 series engineers will acquire a really nice preamp or two, and a compressor or EQ to fit in a 3-space lunchbox. This combines power and portability for any traveling engineer.
If you are an engineer who will stay in one place, in one studio, then dedicated processors are for you. That isn't to say that 500 series wont be a great addition though. For studios with some extra rack space, Radial Engineering makes 3U, 10-space 500 series racks that sound great with all of your other gear.
The two most notable differences between the two is the power supplied to each unit and the price difference between 500 series slots and dedicated units. With dedicated units, the power supply requirement is clearly laid out on the back. Different 500 series manufacturers create slot cards with different power requirements, so you need to be sure that you have a reliable 500 series chassis like the Radial Workhorse. The smaller price you pay in 500 series format cards will be made up in the chassis. In the end, the price difference is diminished to a very insignificant amount.
Keep in mind, a lot of rack gear is not scaled down to a 500 series format, and vice-versa. If you have any questions about what gear is right for you, or you're looking for a deal on the gear you want, give us a call at 855-269-0474, or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!
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