Radial Engineering Workhorse 500 Review

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



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I was able to test a variety of Radial’s 500 Series modules with the Workhorse, as well as modules from other manufacturers. During a variety of sessions, I used a pair of Millennia’s HV-35 preamps; the Magnum preamp, Brute optical compressor and Vogad VCA compressor from Inward Connections; Grace Design’s m501 preamp; and the DACS MicAmp 500. (See the accompanying reviews of four 500 Series modules.) Once I loaded up the rack with a variety of components, my first wish was that all third-party companies accommodated the Workhorse’s added feature set. Although essential operations such as in/out work as promised, I missed the Omniport, Link function and ability to feed the mixer internally. Alas, all features are not always available when using third-party modules.

The Workhorse’s mixer was put to the test using an APx525 audio analyzer with great results. The first trial run was to run signal through a Radial PowerPre at mic level and then out at +4 dBu. The signal was automatically fed to the mixer on the same channel number, then out of the mixer at +4 dBu and back into the APx525, which read S/N at a very respectable 87 dBu. To see what happens at the extreme, the preamp gain was raised until the first red light was lit (before clipping). The mixer’s channel output was also maxed, providing 49 dBu of total gain at the mixer’s output, which tested well again at 0.004 THD+N.

The Radial Engineering Workhorse 500 certainly lives up to its name. It is a versatile tool for live and studio use. I found it easy to get excited about using 500 Series modules with the Workhorse—I used the Feed switch often and liked how individual modules worked within the unit’s framework. The mixer is superclean; I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as my main summing mixer out of my DAW.

I only had two negatives come up during my time with the Workhorse. One involved the new Millennia HV-35 preamp, which would not fit into the Workhorse without removing the HV-35‘s outer steel housing. A call to Millennia revealed that its units do work with the API Lunchbox but hadn’t been tested with the Workhorse. A look at the manual revealed that slots 1 through 4 are set up for single-wide modules while 5 through 8 are double-wide. I was able to fit the HV-35 with its outer housing on the double-wide slots without a problem. Also, the card tray can be completely removed if the need arises.

Another third-party module issue came up with the Grace Design m501 preamp. Instead of using standard 500 Series rack-screws, Grace went with longer hex screws that proved difficult when trying to thread them into the Workhorse. In both cases, I was able to work around the problems, but be aware that 500 Series modules are manufactured by a range of companies and aren’t tested across all platforms.

Despite these minor issues, the Workhorse is a great unit and reasonably priced for what it offers. The feature set is deep, the system is scalable, construction is solid and it sounds great. What’s not to like?

Kevin Becka is Mix’s technical editor.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Workhorse 500 product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Workhorse 500 product page.

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