DIY Projects for the API Lunchbox

One of the coolest trends in recording equipment in the last decade or so has been the emergence of API’s 500-series “Lunchbox” format. The Lunchbox and other 500-series racks can provide power and housing 6-11 modules in a single 3RU chassis. These racks are great for DIYers like me love building electronics but don’t possess the time, skills, or tools to build their own racks.

Of course, DIYers have found ways to have their own fun with the 500-series. Eisen Audio’s DIY500 was the first module to the scene. It provides a PCB, faceplate, and the other hardware needed to build a transformer in/out, DOA-based (API, Twin Servo, et al) microphone preamp.

The next to arrive were ClassicAPI’s preamps in the vintage API-style. Created by a 1976 API console owner with a penchant for authenticity, the VP25/VP26 and the VP312 are precise clones of original API circuits. ClassicAPI has also worked with other manufacturers to replicate the original API iron and opamps. All of this makes the VPxx to closest thing on the market to a real vintage API preamp, closer even than what is offered by API today.

A couple of years ago some DIYers started talking about creating a modular system specifically for DIY. The result is 51x, a format with the 500-series form factor but with added +/-24v power rails. And last year the 51x Alliance brought out the 51x Alliance 511 Rack, a DIY, 3RU, 11-space rack with the choice for a 2RU power supply. Now the DIY community has their own modular rack with a hefty PSU and the correct voltages to power Neve preamps, a John Hardy DOAs, and so on.

Since the Alliances big announcement, the community has exploded with new modules for the format. Some, such as Don Classics Neve clone, Igor’s SSL buss compressor, and Classic API’s VP312DI have already been release. Others are on their way: [silent:arts] posted pictures of an optical comp based on the D-AOC and Igor intends to release a kit for an 1176-style compressor. Jeff Steiger of ClassicAPI has even started work on a 500-series/51x console (!!!) with the first draft of a “second stage” fader and filter unit already announced. It’s a great time to Do It Yourself!