The 500 Series Thread

Let’s talk about 500 series gears here.

Lately I’ve been thinking about outboard devices for recording & mixing mastering, I seek for a good compressor & EQ and my plan lean toward to the 500 series.

Still unfamiliar with it, hope lines users here can shred lights on, especially when deal with modular level, is this format suits the purpose? Also I think some of you are using stuffs like Tape Emulator by Rupert Neve.

Please share your thoughts!

3 Likes

I’m interested in it as well but haven’t taken the plunge. At our studio I’ve wired up a TT patch to deal mic signals/console/UAD 4-710. I’m really inclined to get a BLA PBR-8 because it looks plug and play to our setup. Seems much cheaper to have 8 channels of high end mic pres than to have 8 1U, 4 2U, etc but I suppose that depends on the quality of supply to the case. I don’t really think it would help with modular levels unless the pre had a pad or that you’d have output gain to trim the signal to prevent clipping on your A/D but you’d probably still clip the input stage.

1 Like

i’ve got a bunch of 500 modules both in a couple different lunchboxes and my console… happy to answer any questions.

the RND 542 tape emulator is an interesting beast. i tried the original 5042 many years ago and found it way too subtle… but over the years i’ve come to realize it’s because i didn’t really know what to listen for. it is subtle for sure, but not when you know what to listen for. a decade+ in mastering has taught me the benefits of stuff like that and now i really would like a pair of 542s.

don’t expect marcus fischer style tape degradation from them tho! it’s like a high end, clean tape machine.

7 Likes

I’m curious if anyone in the lines community is working with the Colour-series: the chassis is provided in kit form by DiyRE, and you either buy or solder up colour cards (eqs, compressors, tape sims, etc) that you can put in series to get an analog effect chain. The front panel basically gives you one knob per card, so say if the 2nd card was a tape sim you’d just be dialing in how much of that card’s effect sound is part of the module’s output in general.

It seems fun in concept, and brief demos I heard at the AES show seemed to sound fine (always hard to tell at trade shows though). It—at least hypothetically speaking—could make for an interesting “after the mixer” effects chain for synthesists before hitting interface/converters. What’s appealing to me in this application is the reduced interface.

1 Like

I’m deep into 500 series and happy to answer/blab about it.

I’ve had and sold the R Neve tape emulator. It’s great, subtle as mentioned above—it’s more color than effect. If you want one you should get one and see what you think. The silk buttons are good for two different tonalities of saturation (again: subtle). Like digital tape plugins it is best experienced when you run all the tracks of a multi-track recording through it (one at a time, not just one mix bus).

I liked it and you shouldn’t view me selling it as a negative—I buy and sell and try out stuff as much as I can afford (not as much lately haha). If it were back in my setup I would definitely use it often.

It’s going to give you: very mild compression ala clean tape (I liked using it to round off those outside edge transients that blow up digital true peaks and cause distortion in MP3 transcoding) and a choice of two transformer colors (or no transformer color if you prefer).

In general for 500 series my focus has involved learning when/how to use transformers creatively and effectively.

For anyone looking at racks/boxes: I run BAE racks and lunchboxes but recently got one of the new Cranborne 8 slot boxes and that thing is fantastic. Definitely recommend. The BAE are nice too, but if I was just getting into it I would go with the Cranborne.

Re modular @vinc:
Many of the preamp modules have DI inputs that either include or specifically avoid a transformer depending on your taste. Many also include both a Gain and Trim. So you can set the gain where you want it and then use the trim to attenuate for your converter. Nearly all the pres will also have a pad so you can hit the pad and then crank gain to where you like.

I have recorded many things directly from modular to 500 pre using a 1/8-1/4 TS into the DI of the 500 pre (and the pad!!). I’ve also used modular output modules and come in at line level and worked from there.

Depending on what you are after in terms of sound (clean, transformers, etc) you can select the pre you want and that has the features which work for your workflow.

3 Likes

I have run many different Colour modules in different formats, built some myself, bought some prebuilt. I love them. Cheapest way to fiddle and fuss with different transformers in different mixes etc. They’re dead simple: drive the Colour with a knob, attenuate the output with a knob.

The format is also built into several different things: line level processor, preamp (great way to make a specific character pre), HRK makes a stereo-in-one-slot etc. I think someone also made a eurorack module that takes Colour too.

For synths especially I like it because it’s an easy way to throw “just a transformer” on the signal on the way in.

Also the tape sim Colour is a trashy little thing, good for distortions, sort of the opposite of the R Neve. Dead simple to build—great first timer project. Much fun.

2 Likes

I think one of my main questions with the 500 series stems from seeing several pedal manufacturers move their designs into the 500 format… which makes me wonder if I would be investing my time into a form factor more than a set of tech and designs I can’t get in pedal format.

In general I’d look to use it for tone shaping and tracking synths, drum machines, samplers etc… so I don’t need preamps and tech that’s designed to capture mic’d sounds.

Happy to hear from peoples’ experiences with 500, I’m on the edge of jumping in… but like with pedals the breadth of boutique options has actually held my at bay because I don’t want to dive into a GAS rabbit hole.

1 Like

I preordered the color duo rackmount stereo preamp colour palette thing (looks like they’ve got a handful left right now if anyone is interested https://www.diyrecordingequipment.com/products/colour-duo?variant=37259450155181 ). Excited about it…I’ve thought about the format before, both with the color palette euro module and the 500 series ones, but this felt like a good combo of things to round out some of the things I have. I’m building a couple jfets, colourupter optical comp distortions, distortastudio op amp clippers, and the smash comp lofi compressors.

I’ve also got some longer term plans to see if I can make an adapter board for my exi[s]t (i.e. mannequins rip clone) cinnemag transformer board plus an opamp gain stage to get it to work well with the format.

I’ve really enjoyed the DIYRE podcast and YouTube videos, I feel like I’ve learned a lot of random things about classic pro audio designs. And they definitely have some of the most detail build instructions for their diy stuff…I’ve built a couple of the reamp boxes which get the job done well.

1 Like

So one of the things that I think 500 will give me better options for is the ability to submix drums+drum+bass into a unit that overdrives and EQs in some interesting and dynamic way that makes for a new overall sound that would be pretty hard to replicate in digital stuff (at least I have hard time getting this kind of interesting dynamic behavior out of plugins).

having a compressor or two involved would be a potential path to this, and in general I know I can do a lot of this in Euro rack, so I still wonder what exactly kind of circuits can a 500 series provide that are interesting points to start experimenting with.

1 Like

Been extensively using Series 500 for the past 8 years.
I owned 2x 542 (Neve Tape Emulator) and I thought they were alright. In terms of coloring, I liked better the Elysia Karacter (which can act as both stereo or dual mono) which is still currently serving me well especially on drum busses

Another great value for money module is imo the API 505. I have got 2 of these and I use either as stereo input (although they cannot be internally linked) for synths, or with Eurorack: The Noise Engineering BI sounds glorious when fed through it.

1 Like

This thread is dangerous. Now I really want a Karacter…

The colour palette modules will have to do for now.

1 Like

I agree, a dangerous and great thread! :smiley:
I have a wesaudio titan rack, and two of their modules, the dione (VCA comp) and the prometheus (discrete pultec eq). The very awesome thing about wesaudio stuff is, that they are remote controllable with plugins from your daw (vst, vst3 etc) and because of that offer “total recall” which is fantastic for me because I tend to work on multiple songs at once. The modules either connect thru usb from their respective front plates or from the back of the titan via usb for all modules and even ethernet/network, which is what I do/use. Happy to answer question! (not affiliated with them, just very happy with the products and service) .
Also have 2 colour host from hrk, the c544, which can host 4 colour modules each. Still pretty new and therefore still experimenting. As colour modules I got the LTL Mass Drivr, the LTL Royal Blue, HRK Soviet tube (will get an exchange, hums a lot) and the HRK Sputnik Germanium Saturation.
Will answer other questions in thread directly.
The one thing I realized very quickly after working with the 500 stuff: I should have done this ages ago. Getting the sound I want and more is so much easier and rewarding than using plugins. I probably could have saved myself lots of days (and money) by not looking for another, better comp eq plugin etc or trying to work with them.
Oh and also SoundonSound had a 500 special in November, can heartily recommend that!
Forgot to mention my use cases:

  1. mixbus / mastering (dione and prometheus)
  2. sound shaping (the colour stuff), thinking of using it instead of e.g. Decapitator
2 Likes

I had previously thought this as well, but the SoundonSound special demystified that rumour.
https://www.soundonsound.com/magazine/2020-11 and https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/choosing-500-series-modules , https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/choosing-500-series-chassis
w re to your varimu comment: IGS has the “IGS Audio Tube Core 500”, which unfortunately won’t fit into my wesaudio titan, because of the way it is built

1 Like

Very glad to be wrong on both counts! I definitely wish I didn’t know about that Tube Core though. Or rather my food budget.

1 Like

I appreciate the insightful comments and questions here. I like the idea of 500 series but I’m always a little uncertain how useful it is for working with eurorack or other synths (e.g. Buchla or rack synths) rather than vocals/drums etc

1 Like

It really depends on many factors, firstly on what you define useful :slight_smile:

I think maybe in your post you were referring specifically to Pre-Amps: I personally like running synths through pre amps for the same reasons I would run other instruments (like a guitar or a mic): they can add interesting coloring, subtle saturation, more definition, depending on what instrument and pre amp are being used in the chain.

I have a pair of NEVE 517 that sounds great on a multitude of audio sources: lately I have been using it a lots on pads, with the signal gently overdriven (from an Iridium).
Drum wise, my DFAM is locked in on one of my API 505 into a API 527.

2 Likes

One 500-series module I have used and like a lot is the CAPI VC528. I guess technically it’s derived from the “line input” from 70s-era API consoles, but is ultimately a different circuit (two discrete opamps, two transformers). If you find that you feel your recordings sound “thin” and need a bit of “thickening” after you’ve recorded them (adding saturation plugins, for example), building a pair of these is a comparatively cost-effective way to get a sound that is a bit more like “it was recorded on a big console.” I’ve used these in the past both on acoustic recordings and on ones featuring analog monosynths. That said, it (should) go without saying that not all recordings benefit from that kind of an extra analog input stage—especially when you want the kind of clarity digital can impart and not the “smear” of yesteryear.

4 Likes

Having 500 series coloration for synths is a bit like having insurance, most of the time you don’t need it, but when you do, you’re really glad to have it, haha. For drum machine it’s pretty great for the bus. If you are tracking bass, guitar and vocals, it’s indispensable to have a bit. Generally speaking, I don’t track my synths through it, because I’m a goof ball and just bought more modules rather than doubling it for stereo.

Also, I got the Black Market Modular Colour Palette eurorack module, which I found really useful, I haven’t used the CV capabilities, I just like being able to use these before the end of the chain, and being able to drive them in a more extreme way (especially with all the eurorack filters that let you tame the tone a bit more).

2 Likes

I’ve always wanted a pair of tx5c and for 375 it’s very difficult to resist

But as far as diy for pro audio in the neve flavour (owner worked in neve design dept.) they also have sweet pultec but that’s 19”


That DI looks brilliant, I hadn’t seen it before, it’s totally passive

The 19” ez1073 is about the best value in pro audio

Kush has a sale on too

I too was tempted by the TX5C deal. It would be cool to have a 500 series compressor with sidechain capabilities and there are no easy DIY options available for that. I’ve just sold some gear and ordered a Prophet 10 though, so I need to chill out for a bit.

Early in the pandemic I went a little nuts and built a bunch of the nicer DIY 500 kit stuff (17 modules!) from AML, CAPI, JLM etc. It’s all very nice and professional sounding and useful for actual recording with mics, but it’s not super transformative for recording synths in the same way that pedals and tube amps are. The best by far for synths are the Analog Allstars EQP1S solid state pultecs. Those can consistently make a sound much different and always better.

2 Likes