Studiospares RED Range: Jacks of All Trades?

Studiospares sells many “bits and bobs” that are of relative usefulness to the average studio or live stage – some are critical components, others are for more niche requirements.

One of the essential ranges is the “RED” series, which is a set of problem-solving connectivity devices. They are cheap, good-looking, and reliable. Here is a quick overview of each of them:


RED501 Mic Preamp

Microphone preamps can sell for hundreds, even thousands of pounds a piece; however, sometimes the act of raising the level of a mic signal does not require fanciful gear. The RED501 is not going to win any vintage, boutique preamp shootouts, either on noise level or purity of sound. However, for basic monitoring, measurements, and other utilitarian requirements, the device is small, has a low cut filter and full 48V phantom power, as well as a very useful headphone output.


RED502 Bi-Directional Balancing Converter

Whereas DI boxes are designed to take delicate high-impedance, high-voltage guitar signals and transform them into basically microphone-level signals, these boxes are simpler than that; they are designed to take unbalanced line-level, low-ish impedance phono RCA or TS jack signals and balancing them so they can be run through multicore cable, for example, without getting noise or bleed from other channels.
This box has all the required connections, is very sturdy, and a no-brainer for anyone looking for a device that won’t lower the gain of their line-level signals (as a DI would do).


RED503 Passive Line Combiner

In PA situations, it’s more common than not to have mono systems; after all, when was the last time you went to a concert or live performance and even considered the stereo image?
However, many if not most systems are really geared for stereo signals, and cleanly summing the left and right channels can prove relatively tricky due to impedance mismatches. For little more than the cost of a high-quality XLR Y-lead, the RED503 allows you to do this correctly, freeing up mixer channels, and simplifying the setup in many of these situations.


RED504 Microphone Combiner

This device is the microphone-level version of the 503; even though the connections look identical, the transformers are optimised for much smaller signals. Whereas mic-level audio would gather some hiss through the 503, line-level audio may distort going through this model.
However, what the RED504 is designed to do, it does well: put two mics in one connection, get a single output. It allows phantom power to be shared, and even turned on and off individually. Of course, it’s always best to have microphones in their separate channels, but if you’re running out of inputs this box is a lifesaver.


RED505 Line Splitter

Way more than combining, the most common requirement in many studios and venues is to duplicate a signal; from sending to separate preamps, or to different mixing engineers (FOH and monitor, for example), to copying signals for a recording rig, splitters are critical for the workflow of many engineers.
The 505 is a line-level version, which has not two, but three outputs: one direct cable “bypass” XLR out, and two transformer-isolated ones, which are matched to be as close in gain as possible when this is a requirement.
The box does what it does as cleanly as can be expected, and for live performance in particular, this is a great problem-solver.


RED506 Microphone Splitter

The mic-level version of the 505 is possibly the best-selling model in the series, and for good reason; it’s the perfect solution to a common requirement. It is almost identical to the 505, but with a gain-optimised transformer, and a couple of extra earth lift switches, since mics can be fussy with regards to grounding. Phantom power is passed cleanly through the direct out, and completely blocked through the transformer outputs, to prevent problems.


RED507 Toslink S/PDIF – AES/EBU Converter

Digital audio connections are becoming less common in home studios, which are mostly using all-in-one sound cards nowadays, but for larger installations, going through different digital audio standards is a common headache. Whereas going from coaxial S/PDIF to AES/EBU is mainly an electrical matter (and in a pinch, a short RCA to XLR lead will most often work), working with optical Toslink definitely requires an adapter. Enter the RED507, which performs this conversion cleanly, reliably, and with no downsides. There is nothing much else to say, other than it works exactly as advertised.


RED508 Signal Routing Box

The last of the RED series is a slightly different beast to the rest, since it’s most at home in guitar pedalboards, even though it can work with mic or line-level signals as well. It is cable-based, which means it won’t affect the sound in any way, and can work in two completely different ways: it can be used as an input A/B switch (for example, if you have two guitars and you just want to switch cleanly between them), or as an output switch (for example, if you have two amps between which you wish to alternate).
The second button adds a Y option, which allows for simultaneous passing of signal, as a splitter cable would. This is discouraged in guitar signals (since it can cause electrical feedback problems between two inputs or outputs) but can work great on line-level audio, such as keyboards, one of which needs to be brought in and out of the signal at will.

We hope you find these useful!

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