Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment


Since the mid-1980s, 500 Series audio equipment has become a significant part of the audio hardware market. Cherished for its portability, modularity, low price point and small form factor (relative to rack-mount gear), many manufacturers/brands have hopped on the trend of producing 500 Series modules and racks.

With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to find precisely what would work best for your needs and wants. In this article, I’ll share my take on the top brands to look out for when deciding on a new 500 Series module or rack.

Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):

  • Company reputation
  • Variety of 500 Series modules
  • Variety of 500 Series racks/chassis
  • Performance of the equipment
  • Longevity of the equipment
  • Currently in operation

With all that being said, let’s list out the brands.

The top 11 best brands (on the market today) to produce 500 Series gear are:

  1. API
  2. Rupert Neve Designs
  3. Lindell Audio
  4. Solid State Logic
  5. Elysia
  6. Fredenstein
  7. A Designs
  8. BAE
  9. dbx
  10. Meris
  11. Radial Engineering

Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best 500 Series brands. I’ll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable module and rack/chassis, and a link to their official website.

Related article: What Is 500 Series Audio Equipment & Is It Worth It?


Click here to return to My New Microphone’s articles on musical equipment brands/manufacturers.


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API

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API is, without a doubt, the top company on this list. After all, Automated Processes Incorporated’s founder Saul Walker invented the 500 Series to make API consoles more modular in the late 1960s.

What started as an idea to make API consoles more modular has become a popular method of mixing and matching portable hardware effects chains in modern recording. Plenty of companies produce modules and racks to 500 Series specification, but API has been doing it longest and offers some of the best units on the market today.

API even put out a set of standardization guidelines for other manufacturers to subscribe to in order to ensure compatibility between 500 Series equipment. This program is called the VPR Alliance.

Today API boasts an impressive catalogue of high-end audio processors, many of which are available in 500 Series modules.

With a mission to create the highest possible quality professional audio gear, API continues to offer their classic units while developing new classics along the way.

Notable 500 Series module: API 550A 500 Series 3-Band Equalizer (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

API 550A 500 Series 3-Band Equalizer

The API 550A is a 3-band semi-parametric EQ in the 500 Series format. Since its introduction in the late 1960s, this EQ has come to be regarded by many as one of the greatest EQ units ever to be built. With simple functionality and superior sonic performance, it makes perfect sense that this unit is as cherished as it is.

Notable 500 Series rack/chassis: API 500V 10-Slot Lunchbox (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

API 500V 10-Slot Lunchbox

API’s Lunchbox Series was the first-ever commercially available 500 Series rack/chassis. The 500V 10-Slot Lunchbox offers 10 individual slots for modules, mounts into a standard 19″ rack (3U), and is powered by a tri-polar L200PS power supply (included).

Automated Processes, Inc. was founded in 1968 by Saul Walker and Lou Lindauer in New York City, New York, USA.

Official website: apiaudio.com

API is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
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Top Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World


Rupert Neve Designs

Rupert Neve Designs was founded by none other than the legendary Rupert Neve, one of the most prominent audio equipment technology and design pioneers.

Included in RND’s impressive catalogue of audio processors is a fantastic lineup of 500 Series modules. These 500 Series modules offer classic high-performance Neve technology in a fraction of the size (and price).

If you’re in the market for a high-end 500 Series module or rack, Rupert Neve Designs will surely have something to fit your needs.

Notable 500 Series module: Rupert Neve Designs 511 500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Rupert Neve Designs 511 500

The Rupert Neve Designs 511 is an incredible microphone preamplifier, combining the technologies from Neve’s powerful Portico 5017 and 5012 preamp designs with the transformer-saturating power of a variable silk circuit derived from the Portico II Channel. It’s truly amazing how RND has crammed this much functionality into such a small preamp.

Notable 500 Series rack/chassis: Rupert Neve Designs R10 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Rupert Neve Designs R10 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis

The Rupert Neve Designs R10 is a 10-slot 500 Series chassis capable of providing more than 150% of its modules’ required current. This prevents the power rails from failing under higher-than-expected loads and ensures the modular signal chain performs to its fullest potential safely.

Rupert Neve Designs was founded in 2005 by Rupert Neve in Wimberley, Texas, United States, where it is still headquartered today.

Official Website: rupertneve.com

Rupert Neve Designs is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Studio Recording/Mixing Console Brands
Top Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World


Lindell Audio

Lindell Audio may not be a household name among all audio professionals, but the Swedish company is certainly one of the best on the market when it comes to high-quality 500 Series equipment.

This brand offers an outstanding roster of 500 Series modules and several superb racks. With noteworthy performance-to-price ratios on their products, Lindell Audio’s modules will deliver high-end sonic performance without breaking the bank.

Drawing inspiration from classic designs, Lindell’s design team combines old wisdom and inventive thinking to produce top-notch audio processors for discerning engineers around the world. Many of these processors just so happen to be built according to the 500 Series format.

Notable 500 Series module: Lindell Audio 77X 500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Lindell Audio 77X 500

The Lindell Audio 77X 500 is a stereo compressor designed for mix and drum bus duties. It’s an 1176-style FET compressor with tons of functionality, including variable attack and release knobs; 3 ratios; a high-pass sidechain filter; wet/dry control for parallel compression, and stereo linking capabilities. This unit packs so much that it requires two rack slots.

Notable 500 Series rack/chassis: Lindell Audio 510 Power MKII 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Lindell Audio 510 Power MKII 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis

The Lindell Audio 510 Power MKII is a rugged 10-slot chassis that utilizes an external no-noise power supply to run 500 Series modules at their peak performance. This lightweight unit offers 500mA of power per slot and 48V phantom power and can be mounted within a standard 19″ rack (3U).

Lindell Audio was founded in 2010 by Tobias Lindell and is headquartered in Kungälv, Sweden.

Official website: lindellaudio.se


Solid State Logic

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For those in the audio industry, Solid State Logic should need no introduction. This legendary company made a name for itself by manufacturing some of the greatest mixing consoles of all time. Today, SSL offers some of its magic in the form of high-end 500 Series modules.

Sure, you won’t find as many options with SSL modules as, say, with Lindell Audio. However, the company deserves a spot on this list due solely to the fact that their few 500 Series modules are instant classics, capturing the highly sought-after sound that made the brand famous, to begin with.

Essentially, Solid State Logic has now made it possible for engineers to get their hands on premium SSL processing without having to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars on a console.

Notable 500 Series module: Solid State Logic G Comp 500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Solid State Logic G Comp 500

The Solid State Logic G Comp 500 brings the SSL Stereo Bus Compressor’s sound to the 500 Series format. This classic VCA compressor has been glueing award-winning mixes together for decades now. This model comes with additional ratio settings and the renowned auto-release and sounds absolutely incredible on mix buses and individual tracks alike.

Solid State Logic does not currently offer any 500 Series racks/consoles.

Solid State Logic was founded in 1969 by Colin Sanders in Stonesfiled, Oxfordshire. Audiotonix Group acquired the company in 2017. It is headquartered in Begbroke, Oxfordshire, England.

Official Website: solidstatelogic.com

Solid State Logic is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Audio Interface Brands In The World
Top Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World
Top Best Live Sound Mixing Board/Console Brands
Top Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
Top Best Studio Recording/Mixing Console Brands

Top Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
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Elysia

Elysia is a German brand made up of a small team of expert audio equipment designers. With a keen focus on music gear with warm sound, creative usability, handcrafted build quality and outstanding design, it’s no wonder why Elysia’s products are so well received.

This brand offers various high-quality analog 500 Series processor units that sound incredible and perform at an elite level. A notable percentage of Elysia’s 500 Series module designs are slots wide, providing high levels of functionality and stereo processing. Even the single slot units are uber-powerful in how versatile they are.

With a catalogue that includes analog compressors, transient shapers, analog equalizers, saturators, and fine preamps, Elysia’s 500 Series equipment is among the best of the best on the global market.

Elysia is part of the VPR Alliance.

Notable module: Elysia NVelope (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Elysia NVelope

The Elysia nvelope is a 2-slot analog transient shaper module. By combining stereo equalization and dynamics processing, this module can make subtle or drastic changes to reshape all sorts of audio signals in such a way that is largely independent of the specific signal level.

Elysia does not currently offer any 500 Series racks/consoles.

Elysia was founded in 2006 by Ruben Tilgner. The company headquarters is located in Nettetal, Germany.

Official website: elysia.com


Fredenstein

Based in Taiwan, Fredenstein is another relatively small company that produces impressive 500 Series equipment. The brand strives to produce audio processors that combine the strengths of modern and vintage audio technologies and avoid the inherent weaknesses of each.

This company emphasizes zero-negative-feedback designs, which they use to produce their high-end 500 Series modules. In the days of highly functional and even complicated “in-the-box” digital recording, Fredenstein is focused on delivering user-friendly outboard gear for professionals at affordable prices.

Fredenstein has developed an impressive lineup of 500 Series modules that are certainly worth considering when it comes time to pick up your next (or first) module!

Notable module: Fredenstein F609 Tube MicPre (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Fredenstein F609 Tube MicPre

The Fredensteine F609 is a professional tube microphone preamplifier designed with two double-triode vacuum tubes. It features input and output level controls, pad and polarity switches, phantom power, low-cut/high-pass filter, and a DI input on its front face. This preamp sounds incredible and has all the makings of a professional unit in the 500 Series module format.

Notable 500 Series rack/chassis: Fredenstein Bento10S 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Fredenstein Bento10S 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis

The Fredenstein Bento10S is a 10-slot 500 Series chassis with onboard audio routing, compress bus linking, auxiliary inputs and outputs, a multilayered backplane, and a ground-lift switch. It’s powered by a universal power supply and fits nicely into a standard 19″ rackmount (3U).

Fredenstein was founded in 2013 by Fred Schuckert. The company headquarters in located in Taipei, Taiwan.

Official website: fredenstein.com


A Designs

If you’re looking for simple yet highly effective 500 Series preamps, then A Designs may be the company for you. The company has a superb line of 500 Series preamps meticulously designed to impart a unique and sonically pleasing character. In addition to preamps, A Designs also manufactures other excellent audio processor units.

A Designs modules are hand-crafted with leading-edge design and quality manufacturing. By listening closely to customers’ comments, the team at A Designs creatively innovates its products based on the needs and wants of the market. It’s really amazing that their products carry such affordable price tags.

This brand stands by its motto “quality without compromise” and continues to deliver top-notch audio processors that include 500 Series modules.

A Designs is part of the VPR Alliance.

Notable 500 Series module: A Designs P-1 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

A Designs P-1

The A Designs P-1 is one of the brand’s 500 Series preamps. This simple unit is based on the company’s Pacifica preamp and gives you exceptional sound quality with the classic vibe of great vintage preamps. The front face includes a 1/4″ input for direct-inject along with switches for 48V phantom power, 20 dB pad and phase/polarity flip. Of course, there is also a gain control (which offers 72dB of quiet gain).

Notable 500 Series rack/chassis: A Designs 503HR 3-Slot 500 Series Chassis (link to check the price at A Designs)

A Designs 503HR 3-Slot 500 Series Chassis

The A Designs 503HR is a 3-slot 500 Series chassis that fits into a standard 19″ rack (1U). Unlike many other racks, this model is set up horizontally. This all-metal chassis has XLR inputs and output and feed controls for its modules (to feed 1 into 2 and 2 into 3 without having to patch).

A Designs was founded in 1998 by Peter Montessi and was acquired by the TransAudio Group in 2005. The company headquarters is located in West Hills, California, USA.

Official website: adesignsaudio.com


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BAE

BAE is a boutique audio equipment manufacturer that focuses on producing high-end audio devices that are faithful to the vintage/classic designs of the 1970s and earlier.

The company produces a superb line of 500 Series modules with vintage flair, recreating classic performance with the highest quality components.

All BAE products, including their 500 modules, are hand-wired/soldered using discreet electronics and not economized on a circuit board. The results of such dedication to tradition can be heard in the superior sonic performance of BAE’s 500 Series modules.

Notable 500 Series module: BAE 500C (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

BAE 500C

The BAE 500C is a single-channel FET compressor inspired by those from the 1960s and 1970s. This module offers continuously-variable input and output gain controls and attack and release time controls. The ratio of the 500C can be set to 2:1, 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, 20:1 and the revered “All Buttons Mode.”

Notable 500 Series rack/chassis: BAE 11 Space 500 Series Chassis (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

BAE 11 Space 500 Series Chassis

As the name would suggest, the BAE 11 Space Rack offers 11 slots for 500 Series modules. The unit’s remote power supply keeps transformer interference away from the modules to improve signal clarity. The rack mounts perfectly into a standard 19″ rack (3U).

BAE Audio (Brent Averill Enterprises) was founded in 1988 by Cameron Brent Averill. The company headquarters is located in North Hollywood, California, USA.

Official website: baeaudio.com


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dbx

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Since the 1970s, dbx has been building its reputation as an innovative audio equipment manufacturer. Perhaps most notable among the company’s inventions is the dbx Blackmer gain cell (a superior voltage-controlled amplifier for professional audio applications) and 160A VCA compressor.

In keeping with the times, this spirit of innovation has led dbx to produce its amazing 500 Series modules. With expertise in audio and a long history of top-notch designs (including modular designs), dbx has brought a small but awesome lineup of 500 Series modules to the market.

dbx focuses on professional-grade audio hardware and accessories for the pro studio. The brand’s series of 500 Series modules fully represent this professionalism and perform to the standard that dbx has long held itself to.

dbx is part of the VPR Alliance.

Notable 500 Series module: dbx 560A 500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

dbx 560A

The dbx 560A is a 500 Series compressor module largely inspired by dbx’s classic 160A VCA compressor. It features program-dependent attack/release times with a switchable soft/hard knee control and the typical threshold, ratio and output/makeup gain controls. This unit is flexible and functional enough to compress any audio source to our liking.

dbx no longer manufactures 500 Series racks/chassis.

dbx Inc. was founded in 1971 by David E. Blackmer in Sandy, Utah. After several acquisitions, dbx was bought by Harmon International Industries, which is owned by Samsung Electronics. The dbx brand is still headquartered in Sandy, Utah, USA.

Official website: dbxpro.com

dbx is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World


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Meris

If you’ve been considering spicing up your 500 Series rack with some effects, Meris is a company to consider checking out. This boutique manufacturer is relatively new on the scene but has been welcomed with open arms by those who love effects. Whether it’s an effects pedal or a “pro audio” 500 Series module, Meris brings some potent audio effects to its customers.

Meris lives up to its ethos of “uniting art and engineering” by producing high-quality effects units that will surely inspire musicians and producers to create their own inspiring art pieces.

In addition to powerful effects that push the boundaries of sonic possibilities, Meris also offers a few “standard” pieces of equipment. Regardless of the product, high-end design and impressive functionality is par for the course with this company.

Notable 500 Series module: Meris Mercury7 500 Series Reverb (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Meris Mercury 7 500

The Meris Mercury7 500 Series Reverb is the world’s first 500 Series algorithmic DSP (digital signal processing) reverb. This powerful unit has a remarkable amount of control. It can offer everything from a standard plate reverb effect to an ethereal algorithmic reverb to pitch-altering experimental effects.

Meris does not manufacture 500 Series racks/chassis.

Meris was founded in 2014 by Terry Burton (who also founded Strymon) and is headquartered in Ventura, California, USA.

Official Website: meris.us

Meris is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Radial Engineering

Radial Engineering may not be the flashiest company on this list. Rather, this company’s reputation is based on its many products’ superb utility, reliability, and durability. From the world’s finest direct boxes, splitters and audio interfacing devices to the brand’s re-amp units, Radial Engineering products have become standard fare in live environments, professional and home studios, and broadcast centres across the globe.

Since the invention of the first passive direct box (the JDI) in 1996, Radial Engineering has grown to employ industry-leading in-house research and development, engineering and production departments.

Solving problems in simple yet innovative ways is the name of the game for Radial, and this can easily be seen in the company’s list of products, including, of course, its 500 Series modules and racks.

Notable 500 Series module: Radial X-Amp 500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Radial X-Amp 500

The Radial X-Amp 500 is a re-amping distribution module in the 500 Series format. This module allows users to take a pre-recorded track (through a DI, for example) and send it back to amplifiers and effects so that you can tailor the sound to suit your needs. This unit has two Class-A-buffered transformer-isolated outputs to send the signal to two amplifiers at once. Each output has a ground lift option to help combat hum in the signal, and Output 2 even has a polarity switch.

Notable 500 Series rack/chassis: Radial Workhorse Powerhouse 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Radial Workhorse Powerhouse 10-Slot 500 Series Chassis

The Radial Workhorse Powerhouse 10-Slot Chassis, as the name would suggest, can house up to 10 slots worth of 500 Series modules. Each of the rear panel slots contains both XLR and TRS I/O. The feed function allows us to connect one module to the next, making it easy to set up channel strips without having to hard patch modules using cables. Each slot also has its own phantom power supply and an omniport that will allow for external control of the modules (if applicable to the chosen module).

Radial Engineering was founded in 1996 by Peter Janis and was acquired by Regimen Equity Partners and CEO Mike Belitz of Ultimate Support Systems in 2018. The company headquarters is located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Official website: radialeng.com

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