The 500 Series format for mic preamps and audio processors has exploded in popularity — and for good reason! The 500 Series allows you to mix and match together small hardware modules from various manufacturers into a chassis. What I love about the 500 Series is that there are so many modules available from so many manufacturers that you can assemble exactly the tonal palette you want without using racks and racks of space the way you would with “full-size” audio gear.
For 500 Series gear to work, you have to mount the modules into a chassis. I recently had the pleasure of checking out the Radial Engineering Workhorse Cube, which can hold up to three modules. I/O includes XLR, ¼-inch TRS, and an Omniport, which module manufacturers can use for proprietary input or output purposes — for example, a compressor module might use the Omniport for a key input. Other features include the ability to cascade one module’s output into another’s input. This is nice for setting up the Cube as a channel strip by loading it with preamp, compressor, and EQ modules. There is switchable linking for two modules, for example, linking a pair of compressor modules for stereo operation.
The Workhorse Cube comes with a carrying handle to turn it into a portable unit, or there are options for mounting it flush or at an angle. It’s a simple box; slide in your modules, fasten them down with two screws, turn on the power, and get to work.
The Cube is awesome for assembling the portable channel strip of your dreams — choose your favorite preamp, compressor, and EQ modules; install them; and start recording! Radial supplied me with their PowerPre 500 mic preamp, Komit 500 compressor, and Q3 Coil Equalizer modules. (These modules will work in any 500 Series chassis, but they’re ideal in the Cube because they use the Omniport for extra features.)
The preamp is clean and clear, with three tonal settings for vocal use (“Breath,” “Linear,” and “Punch”), a highpass filter, 15dB pad, polarity invert, and phantom power — all the features you expect and need from a preamp. The Komit offers compression and your choice of a brickwall limiter for digital recording or a “Clipper” for warming up a signal with extra harmonics or distortion. You can stereo link two Komits, and the Omniport provides a key input. The Q3 is a unique EQ. Rather than traditional EQ controls, its high boost, mid cut, and low boost each select among 12 different preset response curves using passive coil circuitry. Shift controls for each band change the amplitude and slope. According to Radial, this allows for more than 12,000 different EQ response curves. While I didn’t try them all, it was super easy to simply twist the knobs until I found a curve I liked. It’s fast and effective — and you use your ears to select, which is the way to do it!
Radial has provided an excellent 500 Series chassis solution with the Workhorse Cube. And their ever-expanding range of 500 Series modules keeps getting better and better. The PowerPre 500, Komit 500, and Q3 Coil Equalizer were all definite winners!