PowerStrip™ Development

The migration towards digital recording has been nothing short of monumental. But few could have predicted that old school analogue would still be around, let alone see old standards be revived so many years later. The 500 series revolution has come around because today, it simply makes sense. Engineers love the creative aspects and fun that old-school analogue brings to the recording process. And while the producer use to record guitars in the Neve room and move to the SSL room to mix tracks, today the personality of the recording is introduced into the recording by simply selecting the module of choice.

After we launched the award winning Workhorse, it became abundantly clear that studios of all sizes wanted to get involved with the 500 series format. The Workhorse is great, but not everyone wants a built-in mixer or 8 channels of processing. This led us to develop two products that follow a similar development path: The PowerStrip and The Cube.

The PowerStrip

When we looked at 19" single space power racks that were currently on the market, it seemed that the designs could only contain two modules. Although this may be fine for stereo, it seemed to be missing a major factor whereby most of the time - one creates a channel strip by combining a mic preamp with an equalizer and then a compressor-limiter. In other words, you really need space for three modules, not two.

By taking the power supply out of the rack, this enabled us to fit in the three modules and also benefited by reducing potential noise problems caused by electromagnetic induction. The external supply also enables the PowerStrip and Cube to carry safety approvals for countries around the world. We chose to use a locking XLR connector to ensure positive retention. This is particularly important for live touring where things get banged around when transported.

The Cube

We then set about looking at today's ultra-lean recording studios. These places seem to be equipped with a computer, screen and a pair of studio monitors. With most of the action happening inside the box, 19" racks are simply not in use. This led us to develop a 3 module desktop solution called The Cube.

The Cube employs the same high output power supply as the PowerStrip to deliver 800 milliamps of current that can be shared between the three modules. The original API specification called for 130 milliamps or a total of 390 milliamps but many found this to be insufficient for powering certain modules. Both the Cube and the PowerStrip deliver twice the amount of current! This makes them 'at the ready' for just about any module imaginable including power hungry tube mic preamps.

We then thought about how The Cube would be used in various types of studios... for a small production suite, desktop mounting would work great. For those with dedicated mixing surfaces, we thought it would be cool to offer some mounting flanges that would enable The Cube to be recessed into the woodwork. We then figured it would be really cool to allow the user to angle the Cube to optimize viewing and improve the ergonomics. Two optional sets of mounting hardware were created.

For larger studios, the sheer attraction of being able to mix and match any combination of modules had tremendous appeal. But being able to bring the mic preamp right next to the source to improve signal-to-noise rang loud and clear. Thus we added a top mounted carry handle to make moving The Cube around the studio easy with one hand, leaving the other free to carry the microphone.

Workhorse Features Transposed

As described above, the intention with The Cube and the PowerStrip was to open the door for the 500 series to spread to a wider audience. This of course meant brining the price down from the Workhorse to a more affordable level. We did away with the mixer, D-Sub routing and of course lowered the channel count. But we kept some of the really cool features that have gained the Workhorse international recognition and awards from various media including a recent Tech Award nomination.

Feed™ Function

On older API racks, in order to feed one channel into another, you had to 'hard patch' modules using an XLR cable. This not only muddled up the back of the rack with excessive cables, it also eliminated the possibility of parallel processing as the only available output jack was taken up. The Workhorse introduced a simple function called FEED that enables a module to feed into the adjacent module by simply moving a selector switch. This frees up the XLR for direct patching while cleaning up the inside of the rack.

Extra TRS jacks

Today, music production is all about creating unique sounds that will capture the imagination of the listener. This comes from a combination of great song writing, wonderful production and innovative use of technology. One of the most exciting developments has been the use of parallel processing whereby a preamp may be used to feed a compressor while it is also feeding a distortion pedal. The Workhorse, PowerStrip and Cube are all equipped with extra ¼" TRS jacks that essentially work like a patch bay to allow you to route signals at will.

Stereo Link

Another innovative jump was adding a stereo link switch to the Workhorse. In the past, if you had an API rack you would have to solder a tab together to get two channels to link up in stereo. Now... all you do is move the slider switch and you are in full stereo...Duh... way too easy!

Omniport™

One of the coolest features we built into the Workhorse was the Omniport jack. This simple TRS connector enables each 500 series manufacturer to assign the Omniport to perform a unique function that would best augment their module. For instance this could be an instrument input on a mic preamp, a direct box output on an instrument preamp, a key input on a gate, a footswitch on a distortion... control voltage on a synthesizer... who knows. Omniport is loaded into each channel of The Cube and the PowerStrip.

More power

A common complaint from earlier API Lunchbox designs was the lack of available current which caused certain types of modules to 'starve' and of course limit their performance. As mentioned above, both The Cube and the PowerStrip employ an 800 milliamp power supply to deliver tons of current to power hungry modules. Because the power is shared like a pool, using a tube preamp like the PowerTube is not a problem.

At Radial, we are committed to expanding the 500 series and taking a leading role to ensure this exciting standard is fully supported from modules right up to power rack housings.