When researching the best 500 Series Case you can buy, you will probably come across the term ‘lunchbox’ often. This is not a case for your sandwiches, but rather a case that houses a widely popular modular analog format for rack gear – the 500 series. At it’s core, individual modules (such as a compressor or EQ) are inserted into a rack that supplies power to the modules. Each case is built to hold a specific number of units – also called modules – and powering them and providing inputs and outputs to each unit.
With the growing popularity of 500 series gear event in the home recording sector, a few selected companies are producing their own variations of 500 series cases. Each variation naturally has their own pros and cons. At this point we are spoilt for choice, and as with most things in audio production it can easily get confusing when you are trying to select the best 500 Series Case for your home studio.
Why Add 500 Series To Your Home Studio Setup?
A big part of the success of the 500 series is the level of customisation it affords the producer. Due to its modular nature, you can easily ‘mix and match’ modules from different manufacturers, basically creating the signal path of your dreams. Back in the days when console desks ruled the studio world, you didn’t have this flexibility. Another win is the portability and convenience, especially in the home recording and bedroom producer space. A 500 Series Case is great option for using classic analog gear ‘on the move’.
Let’s look at some of the choices you have so you can determine which one is the best 500 series case for your needs and budget.
API 500-8B 8-Channel 500 Series Lunchbox Rack
What better way to start with the API – the company that invented the 500 series. This 8-slot powered lunchbox is a highly portable and a great addition to any home studio setup. The DB25 connectors on the back of the unit give you easy connections to any multichannel interface or patchbay. The 250MA per slot, this case you as power, is more than sufficient to power any of the available modules. The API Lunchbox Rack is built with quality in mind. It’s quite heavy, but if you rack-mount the unit, or place it on your studio desk, the API 500-8B will look and perform great wherever you decide to house it.
- 8 slots with 250mA of power per slot
- DB25 connectivity on the rear panel
- Phantom power
- Optional rack ears available for rack mounting
- Toggle switches for channel linking
- Rubber feet & carrying handle for portability
- Rugged steel chassis
- Includes external power supply
Radial Engineering: Workhorse SixPack 500
The SixPack has two XLR inputs on its front panel. The back has XLR jacks for a total of six channels and an external power supply. The external power supply is rated at 1600 mA. The most interesting part that can make this the best 500 series case for you are the ‘Link’ switches. Engage these and you are able to connect adjacent modules. This is great especially for stereo signal processing! Another great addition are the ‘Feed’ switches which allow you to route module outputs to the inputs of the next modules in sequence, without patching cables. This way you can have the channel strip of your dreams with no cables or patchy needed.
- Portable 6 Slot Power Rack
- Comes with a Carry Handle
- Powerful 1,600mA Supply
- Front Panel Convenience XLRs
Rupert Neve Designs R6 Six Space 500 Series Rack
If connector flexibility is important, the Rupert Neve Designs R6 might be the best 500 series case for you. This one also lets you link adjacent channels using internal jumpers. Another nice feature are the moveable screw-holes which are great if you need to install 500 series modules having a differently sized faceplate. There’s also a custom rack frame for those wanting to mount the R6 into a standard 19″ rack, where it takes up 3U of rack space.
- 150% supply of the required current
- LED current consumption meter displays available current
- XLR, TRS, and DB-25 I/O
- Variable-position screw holes make for quick and easy module insertion
- Double-shielded internal power supply designed to avoid magnetic induction in module slots
- Switchmode PSU with frequencies considerably outside audible band
- Internal jumper configuration lets you link slots in pairs
Lindell Audio 506 Power MKII
If you are looking for a budget option, but don’t want to sacrifice quality, you should check out the Lindell Audio 506. It’s just as capable as many of the other options on the market, at a very competitive price. To be more precise: For the money, the case is hard to beat! You will have everything you need to power up your 500 modules like D-Sub 25-pin connectors and gold-plated XLR inputs and outputs.
- 6-slot chassis for 500-series modules
- Lightweight aluminum enclosure
- Gold plated XLR I/O’s
- dSub I/O’s
- 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
Heritage Audio OST-6 Enclosure
Last but not least, the Heritage Audio OST-6 certainly is a contender for the best 500 series case money can buy. It doesn’t look so different from the others , but the ‘On Slot’ Technology is worth pointing out. This essentially gives each slot has its own power supply, isolating the installed modules from one another for a cleaner sound. The construction is rugged as hell – made of heavy-gauge steel with an aluminium front panel. The included rack ears are a nice touch, because most companies would charge you extra for these!
- 6 slots
- 48 V phantom power
- External power supply
- Incl. 19″ rack ears
This wraps up our look at the best 500 series case money can buy. Each producer has different needs, so there’s no perfect case for everyone. But we hope we could shed some light into this amazing modular analog gear category and get you started on your journey!