Radial Engineering Workhorse 500 Review

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Kevin Becka



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The Radial Workhorse 500 offers eight 500 Series card slots.
The Workhorse 500 also features an 8-channel mixer.

The Radial Workhorse 500 offers eight 500 Series card slots. The Workhorse 500 also features an 8-channel mixer.

Radial Engineering has a knack for creating practical, solidly built, problem-solving gear for stage and studio that are both innovative and fairly priced. The company’s DIs, reampers, splitters, switchers and acoustic stabilizers come in a variety of configurations that offer engineers plenty of creative options. In this lineage, the Workhorse 500 takes two simple ideas and marries them in a single unit. The Workhorse is an 8-channel mixer with panning, main, monitor and headphone outs, housed in an 8-slot, 500 Series rackmountable unit.

What takes the Workhorse beyond your standard 500 Series rack are the little extras that expand the interactivity between the mixer and rack modules. For instance, on the back of the unit, the I/O sections for each card slot includes a Feed switch that takes the output of one unit and sends it internally to the input of the next unit over. I used this with great results with preamp/compressor combinations using modules from three manufacturers. Each module can also feed the mixer internally (with reservations), and the Omniport uses a ¼-inch TRS plug on the back of each module section and extends the capabilities of each module, depending on its function. For instance, when used with a Radial PowerPre, the Omniport acts as an instrument input.

Some features (like units auto-feeding the mixer and the Omniport) are only available on modules developed for the Workhorse or purchased from Radial; other features work as advertised across all manufacturers’ modules. For example, the Stereo Link option allowing odd/even modules to work in tandem on odd/even slots operates in standard API master/slave configuration. In addition, the ¼-inch TRS input and output on each module works with any unit

In addition to the standard XLR and TRS I/Os, the Workhorse also supports 8-channel, balanced D-Sub I/O for all card slot I/Os, and there is another D-Sub that lets you feed eight channels of balanced audio directly to the mixer for summing. Finally, the Workhorse also includes external lugs on the back for setting up a star-grounding scheme in high-end installs.

The Workhorse mixer is a clean machine providing low-noise operation and a solid design using Jensen transformers on the main output. Each channel offers an on/off switch, panner, confidence meter and rotary level control that feeds the main output bus, monitor bus (both switchable on/off) and the volume control for the dual headphone outs, which carries a mono/stereo toggle. The main and monitor output section uses balanced XLR or ¼-inch TRS connectors, with the main out featuring an unbalanced TRS insert, To move beyond 8-channel summing/mixing capability, the expansion bus allows you to strap two or three units together for 16x2 or 24x2 operation via ¼-inch TS cable.

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