It’s rare to find a truly outstanding solid-state channel strip that can deliver a vintage vibe reminiscent of classic high-end products, yet employs a thoroughly modern design. To find one that you can buy without heavily depleting your bank account is even more rare. But there is one channel strip that delivers the goods without the big tab: the PreSonus RC 500.
Every instrument in this video was recorded through the PreSonus RC 500 – even the voice over!
For more on the RC 500, click here.
[This just in from Pershing Wells, who recently got the RC-500 and has been putting it through the paces at his studio, Digital Sac-a’-lait Productions. Pershing, thanks for the kind words!]
I’ve been eyeing this box since I first noticed it announced around the end of last year or so. I own some boutique gear made in the USA. I also own a PreSonus MP20 that I purchased about 12 years ago. I ALWAYS considered that mic pre a sleeper. It’s way more high-quality than it gets credit for! I bought the RC 500 from SoundPure about three weeks ago.
What I Like:
High-end clean! Clean! Clean! The EQ is very sweet! I’ve read that it’s not very “surgical,” but I’ve found I can change things pretty drastically. The
compressor is VERY good, but may take some getting used to because of the very small VU meter. Affordable!
In Use: So far I’ve used it on an acoustic guitar, direct from the guitar’s preamp, miked electric guitar cab, miked fiddle, and on vocals.
Acoustic guitar: This was my very first experience with the unit. I plugged in my Takamine TAN15 with a “cool tube” preamp into the instrument input. I set the EQ on the guitar to flat. I was quickly able to dial in some very clean and musical EQ on the RC 500—I set a bit of boost at about 100hZ with the low band set to peak, some scooping at about 800hZ on the mid band and about 3dB of boost at 7 or 8K on the high EQ,switched to shelving.
When I engaged the compressor and began adjusting, I found myself getting a little too funky with the gain reduction. After looking more closely at the VU, I found I was in the ‘hood of 12dB of gain reduction! There was some pumping going on. After adjusting the threshold and getting the gain reduction to peak on the very loudest parts at 6dB of gain reduction, it started getting NICE! The guitar sat very nicely in the mix! I layered four parts and normally have to strap a software compressor on the buss to have it sit where I can hear it, but I haven’t had to do it with this thing. Impressed!
Electric guitar cab: I used a Les Paul>Marshall JVM205 with some nice crunch dialed in>a pair of Celestion V’30’s in a Mesa cab>Senneheiser e609>RC 500>Mytek A/D>Roland VS700 via AES>DAW (Sonar X3). This is where the EQ SHINED! Miking this rig has been a lot of hit and miss to get right. The combo of the guitar/amp/speakers seems to produce a bit too much brightness for my taste at around 4K, and not quite enough mids to cut through the mix. In this case, I left the bottom eq flat, boosted about 3 or 4dB at 1.6K and cut about 3dB at 4K using the high EQ set to peak.The guitar was near freakin’ perfect! The mid’s help it cut through like I’ve not quite heard yet- very “Marshall-ish” sounding—the bomb, man!
Miking a fiddle: I had a local and well-known Zydeco fiddler in for a session. I used a Neumann TLM103>RC 500>Mytek A/D>Roland VS700 via AES>DAW. I engaged the 80hZ high pass filter and cut everything below 150hZ by 16 dB. I cut a bit of the mids, about 2dB at around 1.2K. I added some air at around 10K (set to shelving) with a boost of about 3dB. The compressor was engaged, and on the loudest parts, I adjusted to get no more than 6dB of gain reduction. We were both very impressed with this. We cut three songs and as I was backing up a song, the fiddler continued to play as if he were digging what he was hearing more than he had before!
Vocals: I used an SM7b>RC 500>Mytek A/D>Roland VS700 via AES>DAW. This mic has a well-known reputation for requiring a LOT of gain. NO PROBLEM with this box! I did have the gain up substantially from the Neumann, but didn’t notice the noise floor rising at all. I adjusted the compressor to the sweet spot, which seems to be about 3 to 6dB of gain reduction on the loudest passages. I engaged the 80hZ high pass filter. The EQ was set to a bit of cut below 300hZ on the low EQ, set to shelving. The mids were cut about 3dB at 500hZ. I added a little top end at about 9K with the high EQ set to shelving. The vocal sits beautifully in the mix!
This box is the real deal. No corners were cut from the sonic perspective. Ok, it’s made in China. I live and in work down here in south Louisiana near where PreSonus is located. Sure, I wish it were built here in the USA, but I can understand cutting costs to produce a box with this kind of quality! For the record, I’m comparing this unit to some boutique mic pres in my studio made out in California that cost almost twice as much. If you can get past the import issue, you can rest assured that it’s $800 WELL-SPENT!
The RC 500 is hanging easily and evenly with the more expensive gear in my studio. I’ve used it exclusively for a week now. While I can get the compressor to pump if overused, the same is very true about the LA610 that sits in the same rack. I can’t see how anyone could go wrong with investing in this box!