The 500

500 series
I’m sure many of you share my desire to own hardware compressors, EQs, and effects units instead of relying on plugins, which do a great job, but aren’t much fun to use. Plus, let’s face it, buying new toys is the strongest reason for adopting any hobby. Unfortunately, a quick browse of the web will dash your hopes by showing you how expensive these things are. However, there is a way to start your collection without requiring a bank loan or lots of extra space in the studio. I am talking, of course, about 500 series modules.
With smaller studios and mobile recording becoming more and more popular with the advancements in technology, the 500 series market has exploded into new realms of popularity. For a mere $350 you can purchase a European built hardware preamp, compressor, or EQ with Oxford components. Usually something like this would be contained in a large 2u unit and cost thousands of dollars. So, you can see how there is a way into this for budget conscious engineers and hobbyists.
A 500 series unit is a small module that slots into a power supply unit that will house anywhere between 3 and 10 modules. These power blocks also provide all the i/o connections you need, usually with XLR sockets.

 


If your sound card doesn’t have inserts, then you’ll need to run whichever track(s) you wish to process out of the main output(s), through the desired 500 series module(s), and back into the interface via a line level input. Of course, if you’re happy to spend some time getting the sound you want before hitting record, you can run your mic/instrument through the module(s) and into the interface when recording and commit. However, keep in mind that unlike a plugin, you can’t remove the processing/effects after recording.

For individual tracks, this puts professional hardware units at a perfectly attainable price point, but when you plan on running stereo compression on a drum bus or the master bus, you’ll need to purchase two 500 series compressors, or a single stereo module (which is likely to take up two module spaces), which will generally cost over a thousand dollars. However, when you consider that you can buy a European hardware compressor for around $300, it’s certainly something to get excited about!

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