Powerhouse™ Development

After launching the 8 slot Workhorse with a built-in mixer, it became abundantly clear that for studios equipped with large format consoles, the mixer was a luxury that they could do without. These studios simply wanted more space in the 500 series power racks so that they could maximize the gear density in the studio.

Radial president Peter Janis explains: "It seems that there is no end to the creativity that the 500 series format can deliver. And after exciting studios with the added features we introduced in the Workhorse, we immediately received calls for a rack with the same feature set, but with more slots, more power, less noise than the competition and a greater margin of safety. The Powerhouse was designed to address their needs."

Developing the feature set

It seems that for the most part, larger studios think in terms of stereo. So having an even number of slots seemed to make the most sense. And since there is only about 17" of usable space inside a 19" rack... 10 spaces it would be.

We had already created a compelling format when developing the Workhorse by adding ¼" TRS connectors to the typical XLR i/o set. The extra ¼" connectors can be used for cross patching, multing or for sending out a second signal to a second mixer when recording live. So incorporating these made complete sense.

Another 'couple of firsts' that we brought to market are the FEED and LINK functions. Before the Radial Workhorse rode into town... one had to patch modules into each other using XLR cables. This function was replaced by a simple slider switch that feeds the output signal of one module to the input of the adjacent module. You can simultaneously use the ¼' TRS connector to cross patch to a second module for parallel processing. Another problem was organizing older racks so that two modules could be linked in stereo. This is commonly done with compressors. On other 500 series racks, you have to actually solder a wire to make this work. This too was replaced with a switch. These new features were of course added to the Powerhouse.

To add a creative element to each module, we came up with the concept of incorporating a TRS connector called Omniport to the Powerhouse that could be used as an insert point, separate output, guitar input or some other function. The circuit designer simply determines the most suitable application for a given module and the Omniport automatically transforms itself to suit. Omniport is defined in the WHOS-DOC - a free open-source downloadable document - that describes the powering and mechanical format for manufacturers and studio techs alike.

We also decided to incorporate a slide-in tray that makes it easier to align the module's card edge to the back panel card slot. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to plug a module into one of the other 500 series racks! Not only do you have to try to align the pins in the vertical plane, but you also have to center them in the horizontal plane. The Easy-glide tray makes much of the frustration go away. Simple, yet effective.

Powering the Powerhouse

Most evident during our research were the serious concerns studios had with the current array of racks that were on the market. This included lack of power, noise, safety, liability and mechanical robustness. As these are important, they are addressed in point form:

Lack of power

Many 500 series racks do not have enough power on hand to enable modules like tube preamps to be used without completely draining the device. This of course causes brown-outs, reduces dynamic range and affects the signal quality. To address the problem, the Powerhouse boasts a 1600 milliamp supply with a shared pool. This lets you combine power hungry tube modules like the Radial Powertube that can draw upwards of 250 milliamps with dynamic or EQ modules like the Komit compressor or Q3 coil EQ that typically draw less than 50 milliamps each.

Induced Noise

To address complaints regarding the lack of power, some companies have increased the size of the internal power supply only to find that the larger transformer needed to do the task introduces a nasty side effect: larger transformers produce a more intense magnetic field which in turn radiates inside the rack! This introduces noise into many modules, particularly those that do not have individually shielded enclosures. The Powerhouse employs an external power supply to keep the radiation out. This power is carefully filtered at the input to ensure ripple-free performance.

Safety Measures

Another concern with 500 series power racks is how they work with various brands. One would think that this should be easy, but the truth is, it took us over two years to iron out all of the wrinkles. More concerning is the plethora of modules that are made in basements or in kits. Although some of these are extremely well put together, some smaller companies rarely take the time to do thorough testing. The Powerhouse is equipped with safety measures built into each slot to help avoid disaster. This means that when you plug in an unknown, the chances of blowing up the module, the power rack or causing problems to adjacent module are pretty much eliminated.

International Approvals

One more important advantage with the Powerhouse is that our power supply has been tested to meet international standards. In other words, unlike most companies that do not have any form of safety approval like UL, Radial products are safe to use. This is particularly important with respect to insurance claims should a disaster ever occur. And since the Workhorse works with any voltage from 100 V to 240 V, you can travel the world in confidence!

Built for the road

As with all Radial products, the Powerhouse is built using 14 gauge steel, welded corner joints, and is coated using a durable powder coat finish. The heavy steel construction not only helps reduce pollution from other noise emitting devices, but also enhances the durability when the Powerhouse travels between studios or hits the road.

Although simple when viewed externally, the Powerhouse is in fact a very carefully designed device that will deliver years of trouble free performance. The added feature set not only enhances connectivity, but opens the door to greater creative options as you get used to the 500 series format.