Lindell Audio 500-Series Modules Review
W e’d heard the buzz that Lindell had produced something rather special, so it was with anticipation that we opened the box containing these new 500-Series modules. Lindell Audio is a relatively young company, founded in 2010 by Tobias Lindell, a multi-Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer from Sweden. Tobias is a resident producer and mix engineer at Bohus […]
W e’d heard the buzz that Lindell had produced something rather special, so it was with anticipation that we opened the box containing these new 500-Series modules. Lindell Audio is a relatively young company, founded in 2010 by Tobias Lindell, a multi-Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer from Sweden. Tobias is a resident producer and mix engineer at Bohus Studio in Stockholm, and clearly has a passion for classic designs as these modules are based upon legendary models such as the Pultec EQP-1A and Urei 1176, both of which have featured in our Studio Icons series.
Manufacturer: Lindell Audio
Contact: via website
The three Lunchbox-format units arrived housed in a Radial Workhorse Cube Power Rack, a cleverly designed 500-Series rack that has some useful connectivity options, enabling the units to be linked in series. The first thing that struck us about these modules was how nice the pots are to the touch, feeling weighty yet smooth. Because of their size, 500-Series modules can sometimes be a bit fiddly, but the Lindells’ excellent layout makes the controls a pleasure to use.
We first paid attention to the 6X-500 mic preamp, which also features a three-step switched EQ boost for both low and high frequencies. This unit has a transformer-balanced input and output and provides up to 65dB of input gain; discrete op-amps are used in both gain stages. Below the input and output controls sit two similar pots for the high- and low-end EQ, a passive design that emulates the much-loved Pultec curves, providing 15dB of boost.
High frequencies can be boosted at 6kHz, 10kHz and 16kHz, while the low end can be boosted at 30Hz, 60Hz and 100Hz. Three push-buttons sit at the bottom of the unit to switch in the EQ, reverse polarity and engage 48v phantom power, while up top there is a five-position LED meter with the word LOUD written vertically alongside!
Using the preamp flat, without EQ, the sound was clear and bright with all the mics we tried, which included Neumann condensers, a Coles ribbon and a recently acquired vintage Beyer M88 dynamic. Comparing the 6X-500 with our reference Earlybird valve mic pre, we felt that the Lindell lacked a little body and the silky top end that the much more expensive valve unit possesses, but made its mark with a sonic presentation that emphasised the upper-mid frequencies, offering a sound with plenty of presence. Boosting the top end at 16kHz added a nice sparkle to various sounds, and the low-end boost lent a degree of heft that sounded very good on kick drums.
Unusually for a modern mic preamp there is no high-pass filter; however, for the money, the 6X-500 offers fine sound with very handy equalisation options.
Feel The Squeeze
Moving on to the 7X-500 compressor, things got a little more interesting. This is a FET design that emulates the classic sound of the Urei 1176, including a 100:1 ratio setting that gives a similar effect to simultaneously using all of the ratio settings on the 1176; ratios of 4:1 and 12:1 are also offered, with gain reduction shown via a 20-position LED meter. Two toggle-switches allow Slow, Medium or Fast times to be selected for both attack and release, and a mix pot at the bottom of the unit controls the balance of compressed/dry signal, enabling parallel compression techniques to be performed in-the-box. This unit does incorporate an HPF, which we found particularly useful when processing a mono mix of drums.
Sound-wise, the 7X-500 nailed the unmistakable character of the 1176, displaying a punchy vibe that gave a lot of energy to sounds, especially when driven hard to make drums pump in time with the track. Vocals also sounded superb through the 7X-500, although care should be taken when using fast attack times at higher ratios; this unit has trip-hammer-fast response times.
Flex the PEX
The final unit under review is the PEX-500 EQ, the latest in a long line of equalisers modelled on the Pultec EQP-1A. We are big fans of the Pultec, and have a couple of full-size valve-based replicas with which to compare this new take on the legendary design.
Like the original, the PEX-500 features top-end boost with a variable bandwidth (Q) control along with three selectable high-frequency attenuation (cut) filters. The low end is served by Boost and Attenuation controls that can be used together to create some useful EQ curves; this is the famed low-end trick that boosts the lower registers while cutting low-mid muddiness. Not all of the frequency points of the original units are featured here – 3, 4 and 5kHz are omitted – however, toggle-switches allow 6,10 and 16kHz to be selected,along with the usual low-end points of 30, 60 and 100Hz. We tried our favourite Pultec settings on the PEX-500 in direct comparison with our all-valve Tube Tech clone and were amazed at how faithful the Lindell sounded, even though it’s not a valve unit. Granted, the little Lindell wasn’t quite as creamy-smooth as our valve behemoth, but it certainly didn’t disgrace itself. A 16kHz boost on a vocal track created plenty of air and space around the voice, while selecting 30Hz and performing the simultaneous boost/cut low-end trick on a bass drum track gave a lovely bottom end without a hint of boxiness; it was a shame, though, that the lower treble settings were not available to emphasise the beater click.
All in all, we were knocked out by these Lindell 500-Series units. At their price point they are a pro-audio bargain, offering amazing bang-for-buck. We really enjoyed using both the mic, preamp and Pultec-style EQ, but for us the real star of the show was the 7X-500 compressor. A pair of these linked for stereo operation at under £500 is almost unbelievable – true giant killers! We invited a visiting engineer to our studios to listen to these units and tell us how much he thought they cost – his answer was more than twice the asking price! With this trio, Lindell has created some of the greatest analogue processing bargains on the market today.
+ Excellent EQ on Mic Pre
+ Superb 1176-style compression
+ Authentic Pultec sound
+ Fantastic sound per pound
– No quibbles at these prices
All three units performed at levels way above their price point, offering a modern take on some vintage designs. The mic preamp has a fine character aided by handy EQ boost, the equaliser offers a healthy dose of the revered Pultec sound, and the compressor out-performs units costing several times the asking price.