SixPack ™ Development

Sometimes, when developing a new product the obvious is never quite as obvious as you first think. You see... the SixPack was developed after we created the Cube which, in our view was the perfect power rack for those who want to assemble a channel strip. With space for three modules, you merely select your favourite preamp, EQ and compressor and you are set to go.

A short while after we started to ship the Cube, requests came in asking us to double it up for stereo. This of course called for six slots. The extra space also gives you plenty of room to set up extravagant signal chains by using the same patching options we developed for the Workhorse. This was the spark that led to the SixPack's development.

Establishing the feature set

As with all things Radial, we are always looking for ways to improve upon what has been done in the past. And we are pleased to say that the SixPack has been outfitted with a bunch of cool extras that sets it apart. These are the various requirements we addressed when developing the SixPack.

  • Being backwards compatible with older gear
    As with all Radial 500 series modules and power racks, the SixPack had to be backwards compatible with older API modules and conform to the VPR Alliance* requirements. This means that you can pretty much use any 500 series module with the SixPack.
  • Giving it more power for tube hungry modules
    The SixPack comes with a 1600 milliamp power supply that delivers over 265 milliamps of average current per slot. Although this is significantly more than you will ever need, it is nice to know you have it. Keep in mind that the original 500 series specified 130mA of current (average) per slot or double the available current.
  • Facilitating routing between modules
    One of the most frustrating aspects of using other power racks is that you have to use a cable to connect one module into the next. With the SixPack, this has been replaced with a simple FEED switch that basically sends the output of one module into the next.
  • Making it easier to create stereo setups
    On older API racks, setting up stereo-ready modules such as compressors required soldering an internal jumper. This is OK if you never want to change your modules around. But in our view, the fun that surrounds the 500 series is the very fact that by swapping modules in and out, you can create new sounds. On the SixPack, we replaced the soldering with a rear-panel stereo LINK switch.
  • Adding parallel processing like a patch bay
    Creating new sounds comes from combining various modules in parallel and in series, then mixing and matching until you find the magic sauce. The SixPack is equipped with extra ¼" TRS connectors on the rear panel that let you cross-patch your signal like a studio patch bay.
  • Improving workflow with front panel connectors
    Like the Workhorse, the SixPack is equipped with 25-pin D-Sub connectors for easy patching to workstations. These enable 8 channels to be routed back and forth. But with the SixPack only having six channels, we decided to add two connectors on the front panel to make patching into channels 1 and 4 more convenient.
  • Adding connectivity with Omniport
    When we reinvented the 500 series spec, we added Omniport. This enables the manufacturer to add an extra feature to the module for greater flexibility. Omniport is now a standard feature on all Radial 500 series racks and the Omniport function has now been added by a number of manufacturers.
  • Providing advanced grounding options
    Another important feature built into the SixPack is separate ground lugs for the chassis and electrical grounds. This means that when your studio advances to the next level, you will be ready for star grounding or other more advanced grounding schemes that can help reduce noise.
  • Reducing noise by removing the power supply
    All large format recording consoles employ external power supplies. There are two reasons for this. The first is by taking the power supply out of the mixer housing, you get less noise. The second is that power supplies are the most common point of failure with any electrical device. Replacing the power supply on a SixPack is a simple matter of disconnecting a 5-pin XLR cable.
  • Maximizing the shielding for reduced noise
    Noise has a nasty habit of finding a way into equipment. This is often caused by electro-magnetic induction as magnetic fields generated by power transformers pollute the air. We chose to build the SixPack using 14 gauge steel to provide maximum protection against magnetic fields.
  • Adding a protective safety measure to your system
    A major problem with 500 series modules is that not all manufacturers follow best practices when it comes to electrical powering, shielding, grounding and safety. This is particularly acute with respect to many of the home made modules that are out there. The SixPack has safety measures built into each slot to protect it and other modules from damage should a problem occur.
  • Incorporating ergonomic mounting hardware options
    We borrowed another feature from the Radial Cube: Optional mounting hardware! This lets you rack mount the SixPack using an optional hardware kit. This means that with a SixPack, you can carry your favorite modules around the studio or bring them with you on the road.

The VPR Alliance * A few years ago, API (the company historically known for initiating the 500 series format) assembled a group of manufacturers together to create what is known as the VPR Alliance. Members are asked to send their modules to API where they are checked to make sure they physically fit inside an API rack and that when plugged in, nothing will blow up. From discussions we have had with API, there are no other prerequisites involved. In other words API does not check for noise, electrical safety or compatibility with other modules. This is left to the manufacturer.

To be a member of the VPR alliance, we have been told that there are several requirements:

  • a. You cannot build a power rack to compete with API
  • b. You must sell your modules for $700 or more
  • c. You must send in your modules for API to check

These limitations make it impossible for Radial to become a member. Firstly, we produce six different power racks – more than any other manufacturer. Secondly, we do not feel that selling a Reamp module is feasible at $700 when we already sell a stand-alone device like a Reamp for around $200. So dictating price seems to be out of step with reality. Finally, we are quite confident that our engineering team is able to produce quality products that will not only perform as specified, but will also be safe.

While developing our 500 series modules, we quickly discovered that there was no clear standard. We even discovered that depending on the year, some API modules do not properly fit in their own racks! To try to bring a level of sanity to the market, we created a document called the WhosDoc. This is short for Workhorse Open Source Document. This provides full details regarding electrical and mechanical specifications and may be downloaded free from our web site. We have also suggested the AES look at this to establish a firm standard so that all manufacturer modules and power racks be compatible with each other.