Is the combination of audio interface and 500-series chassis the ideal solution for a compact, hybrid setup?
External hardware can sound wonderful and the growing popularity of the 500-series modules makes it possible to cram lots of quality hardware into a relatively small space. However, unless you're simply recording through the hardware, the hassle and mess of cables required to connect up to a largely in-the-box (ITB) DAW system can seem off-putting to anyone who's grown up using ITB systems, or anyone who is simply trying to keep things compact. Aphex decided to do something about that, and the result is their USB 500 Rack. They've also created their own range of 500-series modules, which draw on the circuitry used in some of their popular rackmount products.
The USB 500 Rack is, at heart, a six-input (four analogue, two digital), 10-output (again, two digital, the others analogue) USB 2 audio interface, capable of operating at 24-bit word lengths and at sample rates of up to 96kHz. Where it departs from traditional interfaces is that it doubles up as a 500-series chassis, which provides power and audio I/O for any standard 500-series modules. They've also built in enough flexibility to easily use the hardware modules as insert effects in your DAW software when mixing.
With a total case width of six 500-series slots, the USB/Monitor section takes up the right-most two module widths and houses a power button, two headphone amps (based on Aphex's Headpod 4) with independent level controls, a main volume control and buttons for Mono and Dim, the latter dropping the two main output jack levels by 20dB. Both headphone amps receive the same stereo signal from the DAW.
The remainder of the front is taken up by the 500-series module slots, which can accommodate four single-width modules, but can also cater for double-width modules. The chassis makes available 880mA of current, to be shared amongst the four slots.
The rear-panel features XLR inputs and XLR outputs for the four slots, and these double up to provide analogue +4dBu line-level I/O (more on this and other routing options later). At the back of the
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