Whether we opt for a single 500 Series module or an entire signal chain's worth or 500 Series modules, we'll want to keep them safely running inside a proper rack or “chassis.” Since 500 Series modules are such a powerful yet mobile format, it's important that we choose a top-notch rack to host them.
In this article, we'll go through the best 500 Series racks/chassis options on the market to host your well-thought-out modules.
The top 11 best 500 Series racks/chassis are:
- Cranborne Audio 500R8
- API 500V
- Radial Engineering Workhorse 8-slot 500 Series Chassis
- Rupert Neve Designs R10
- Lindell Audio 506 Power MkII
- Purple Audio Sweet Ten Rack
- Heritage Audio MCM-8 MkII
- Black Lion Audio Patchbay Rack 8
- BAE 11 Space 500
- Mercury D Series G810 Rack System II
- WesAudio Supercarrier II
Each of the above-mentioned chassis is a superb option for a 500 Series system. In this article, we'll discuss why that is.
Cranborne Audio 500R8
The Cranborne Audio 500R8 (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is a one-stop solution for all your 500-series needs. Moreover, it can double as your one-stop recording solution on the go or in the studio.
The reason I call it a “one-stop solution” is because it can do it all effortlessly. To begin with, the28 in/30 out recording interface is state-of-the-art and can connect with your favourite DAW to lay down up to 30 tracks at the same time. Furthermore, you can combine it with the company's own C.A.S.T. connections and expand the number of channels indefinitely.
For my take on the best DAWs, check out my article Top 7 Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) On The Market.
Speaking of which, you can load up your favourite 500-series analog preamps to record vocals, drums, guitars, and much more. Once you've captured those sounds, you can exchange modules and go into mixing mode with your favourite compressors, EQs, and effects. Routing the recorded audio through the analog modules is as easy as it gets.
Finally, the audiophile-grade headphones output allows you to monitor everything perfectly and have enough power to drive even the highest-impedance pair of cans.
If you are looking for the best all-in-one solution to record, mix, add effects, and master your tracks, this unit should be on your top-5 list. For a taste of what it can do, you can check out this official video by Cranborne.
API is, arguably, the definitive company when it comes to 500-series equipment. Indeed, it was Saul Walker, API's founder, who invented the 500-series format and made it popular worldwide together with the Aphex lunchbox. This combination became (and continues to be) the industry standard for recording engineers on the go.
Following that same tradition, the API 500V (link to check the price at Sweetwater) features 10 slots to add your favourite 500-series modules. The unit can feed the modules via the included tri-polar L200PS power supply. The aim of the standalone PSU is to make the unit a zero-noise piece of equipment. This way, you can use it as a part of your studio setup, enhancing the signal, feeding noise-free, crystal-clear audio to your DAW.
Speaking of which, this unit features 10 XLR outputs and inputs. This means you can connect your favourite microphone to your favourite 500 Series preamp and route the unit to your sound interface or A/D converter, and hit your DAW with the dialled-in sound you love. Moreover, with ten available channels, you can use this unit to record anything from drums (or a full band) to a simple vocal take.
If you are in the market looking for a not-so-complex case for your 500-series gear that can fit into a rack and is ready for the road, this should be a serious choice to consider.
API is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Radial Engineering Workhorse 8-slot 500 Series Chassis
The Radial Engineering Workhorse 8-slot 500 Series Chassis (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is way more than just a way to carry your favourite preamps, compressors, and EQs from one place to another. Indeed, it features a very handy, perfectly-built, great-sounding mixing console built into the chassis. This allows you to mix the unit's sound before it hits your DAW.
In this sense, the plethora of different outputs, the 8 in/out XLR connectors, and the possibility to turn off any channel at any time with just a sliding switch makes it the best companion for home studios and recording engineers on the go. Moreover, the “Feed” switch allows you to cascade one module into the next. This way, you can add a preamp, effects, and compression to what you are recording, feeding the processed signal into the next module.
A good example is plugging into a preamp for the colour and analog warmth fed into an EQ to better address a singer's unique voice and a compressor to avoid volume jumps. Feeding the signal from one module to the next allows you to progressively find the tone you want even before hitting the DAW. Furthermore, since it is a portable unit, you can even do it on the go too.
If you are a producer/engineer hitting the road often or the owner of a small home studio in need of a one-stop solution for your tone-searching endeavours, this unit is for you. To see it in action, watch this video.
Radial Engineering is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Rupert Neve Designs R10
If there is a name that represents the highest standards in audio recording, that is Rupert Neve. From the legendary Sound City console to guitar pedals, every piece of equipment created by Rupert Neve is ready to make history. The Rupert Neve Designs R10 (link to check the price at Sweetwater), as you might expect, only adds to that long heritage of ground-breaking designs.
To begin with, the first thing to say about this rack case is that it is built like a tank. Furthermore, it features one of the most reliable and abundant power sources in the market. In other words, the unit ships out with 150% of the required current for the 10 slots available.
This power consumption is monitored through a series of coloured LEDs you can follow on the right-hand side of the chassis. Besides, the power supply received a double-shielding treatment to avoid any magnetic induction. Finally, it is made of solid steel, which guarantees long years of use and abuse without issues.
If you are after the best of the best, this Rupert Neve design might be what you were looking for. You can watch this unboxing video to see it in real life.
Rupert Neve Designs is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Lindell Audio 506 Power MkII
This Lindell Audio 506 Power MkII (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is, perhaps, the most portable unit on the entire list. It is made of lightweight yet super-sturdy aluminum and can take your 500-series with you safely everywhere you go.
But the Lindell Audio 506 is not just a mere case; it also features one of the quietest power supplies in the market. Furthermore, it is not an internal-built power supply but an external one, making it an easily serviceable or exchangeable part.
This external, crystal-clear power supply allowed the company to reduce the footprint of this case. Thus, what you get is the perfect size to fit into the included neoprene bag and carry it from your home studio to wherever you need to.
In the back, the 6 inputs and outputs (with a selectable “feed” into the next module feature) allow you to feed each channel straight into your DAW and be able to track, for example, drums utilizing your favourite preamps, compressors, and EQs.
Finally, the unit features a super important and utterly handy short-circuit and overload protection, so your loved collection of 500-series modules is perfectly preserved at all times.
Lindell Audio is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment.
Purple Audio Sweet Ten Rack
Purple Audio put together quite an impressive package with their state-of-the-art Purple Audio Sweet Ten Rack (link to check the price at Sweetwater). To begin with, it features a very particular built-in power supply that is the result of years of testing and modifying by the amazing team at Purple Audio.
The big difference between this power supply and many others is that it is switching instead of linear and is specifically built to avoid hum, interference, and any noise that can ruin your takes in the studio. In this vein, the team of notable developers at Purple Audio tested this unit for noise in the broadest frequency range possible (10Hz to 500 kHz) and found it to be flawless throughout.
Besides the switching power supply, the entire unit is finished with trivalent, yellow, chromate, cold-rolled steel to increase the unit's isolation possibilities. Finally, the Sweet Ten Rack offers 2 inputs and 2 outputs per slot (XLR & TRS), so you can increase the possibilities per module and for the entire rack as well.
If you're interested in zero-noise racks, and this unit matches your budget, then you have to give it a try before buying. Here's a video of it being shown by Purple Audio's Andrew Roberts.
Heritage Audio MCM-8 MkII
Vintage gear lovers are going to embrace and love the Heritage Audio MCM-8 MkII (link to check the price at Sweetwater), and once plugged in and working full-steam, the rest of the world will love it too.
First of all, it is difficult not to notice the gain knob on the far right side that resembles the legendary Neve preamps. Indeed, the red-over-gray colour scheme takes you to the past instantly. But this unit is not only about looks; that red knob can add some vintage warmth and gain to make up for any gain losses after the signal has gone through the 500-series modules installed.
Speaking of which, you can bypass each of the slots so you can arrange the signal flow in the way that suits your project the best. In the same vein, if you want to track and also mix, you can route your signal from the preamp to the equalizers/effects/compressors and mix the audio on the spot.
For those who love vintage gear, warm, analog-sounding mixes, and have a nice collection of 500-series jewels, this is a must-try before buying anything else. You can watch this video for a thorough rundown of the unit's features. This video features Peter Rodriguez from Heritage Audio explaining the wonders of this unit as well.
Black Lion Audio Patchbay Rack 8
The one thing separating the Black Lion Audio Patchbay Rack 8 (link to check the price at Sweetwater) from all of the rest is that connection possibilities are endless. Indeed, you can route the 500-series modules installed in any way that is convenient for the task you are currently working on. You can do this through the fully-balanced, state-of-the-art, built-in TT/Bantam patch bay.
But the possibilities of the patch bay don't end there; you can also try out the signal chain and decide the order in which to process the audio to achieve a different result. Also, you can re-route any module at any time, split the signal via the patch bay mults, route the signal through other effect processors (other racks or pedals), and then route it back into the Black Lion Audio Patch bay Rack 8. With these many choices at hand, the sound-processing power of this unit is virtually endless.
Beyond flexibility, this unit is also resistant to noises. With the dedicated Heritage Audio On-Slot Technology, you can ensure that each module receives the power it needs and won't bleed into the next. Isolated power in a 500-series rack is nothing short of a must.
You can watch this video to see it in action; if it covers the specs you need (and is within your budget), it is a must-try before buying anything else.
Black Lion Audio is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
BAE 11 Space 500
Those searching for a no-frills approach to 500-series module usability will love the BAE 11 Space 500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater). Not only because BAE made an amazing job with it but also because it eschews away from PCB construction, opting for a simpler approach: shielded wires on individual connectors.
This makes the BAE 11 Space 500 a sturdy, reliable unit that can be easily serviced anywhere in the world you're working. In the same vein, construction-wise, the level of isolation given to each module is uncanny. You can ensure that you'll get no interference even with the eleven modules installed and plugged in.
Finally, the XLR inputs and outputs are mounted on a chassis that is not aluminum but real steel to prevent noise and deliver unrivalled reliability. If simplicity and good sound are what you're looking for, you have to give this unit a try.
BAE is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment.
Mercury D Series G810 Rack System II
The Mercury D Series G810 Rack System II (link to check the price at Vintage King) represents the pinnacle in 500-series rack systems. To begin with, it is one of the sturdiest constructions in the market. The chassis is entirely made of solid steel with the addition of aluminum ears to rackmount it. Also, the steel construction not only helps durability but also provides optimum shielding.
Besides the shielding provided by the steel construction, the unit comes with the PSU-I power supply that is powerful enough to drive all modules and silent enough to meet the highest recording standards. But that's not all since the unit is equipped with a convenient ground lift to reduce noise even further.
On the features side of things, the “Link” and “Chain” switches per module allow you to feed the signal from one module to the next without any extra cables or connections. For example, suppose you have your favourite preamp on channel one, an EQ in channel 2, a compressor in channel 3, and a limiter in channel 4. In that case, you can plug the microphone on channel one and utilize the output of channel four, engaging the “chain” switch in every step of the way. Thus, your DAW will receive the processed signal.
Finally, the Neutrik golden-pin connectors in every XLR are a great touch that enhances audio connections. If you'll be on the move a lot, and this unit fits your budget, you need to check it out before buying.
WesAudio Supercarrier II
The WesAudio Supercarrier II (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is the improved version of the famous Supercarrier I. it follows the same line as the original being one of the sturdiest chassis in the market.
To begin with, the entire unit is wired to have ISP connections (Isolated Slot Power) for each of the 11 available channels. This makes it suitable for all kinds of scenarios in which clean audio is needed.
But isolation doesn't end there for this unit; it also features tantalum caps for each slot. With those in place, you can be certain you will not find any noises in the entire signal flow and frequency spectrum. Besides, you'll also be safe from any pops, clicks, and interference. Finally, the oversized toroidal external power supply keeps the weight low while delivering reliable, noise-free power to every module.
If this unit fits your budget, it will surely fulfill your need for a case and a clean power source for your favourite 500-series modules in the studio and on the go.
Building out your 500 Series system can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive 500 Series Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next 500 Series purchases.