The Vermilion Audio ION 8 is a premium modular 500 series power unit that is lovingly made in America. Expandable upon request, the affordable M2 cards allow easy expansion and we have found that the ION 8 is a valuable asset to any record production environment. The power supply appears to be clean, the design is rock solid, the attention to detail is brilliant, although in the long run it is rather expensive.
Vermilion Audio was founded under a simple principle; to make exceptionally flexible professional audio products, by musicians for musicians. The fact that American born Vermilion Audio design, engineer, and manufacture their products locally in California demonstrates their fanatical assault on quality control, personal relationship with their products, environmentally conscious mindset, and motherly support for smaller homegrown industries. Noting this, currently Vermilion Audio produce only one product; the ION 8. However, with 500 series units making a fashionable comeback, Vermilion Audio have intuitively tackled the 500 series power supply design.
Simply put, the ION 8 is a modular 500 series power supply that grows with your collection and can accommodate up to eight 500 series modules. When the ION 8 is purchased it will come with a single ION M2 card. This single M2 card allows you to connect two 500 series modules, but when you expand your 500 series collection and need another two 500 series bays you simply purchase an additional M2 card. The purpose of this design is to make owning a larger 500 Series rack more ‘affordable’ and less cluttered since having to settle with desktop smaller power units can become frustrating and, in some situations, more expensive.
If we can forget the exceptional quality of the product for just one minute, sadly is not necessarily as affordable as it should be from the word ‘go’. Currently it is possible to purchase a new API Lunchbox with six active slots, or API 500-
The price of a standard ION 8 with a single M2 card, which offers two 500 series slots, comes to $660.00 (c. £400.00) and each additional M2 card costs $65.00 (c. £40.00). If you are looking at purchasing a fully loaded ION 8 with eight available 500 series slots you are looking at $855.00 (c. £520.00). Whilst we do not condone comparing products within any of our reviews, for reference the API equivalent is $424.15 (c. £260) at Vintage King or the six slot API Lunchbox works out at $594.19 (c. £365.00).
The ION 8 rack is exceptionally well packaged. Arriving within a white box and the ION 8 suspended inside with a great deal of room there is next to no chance that it will be damaged in transit. Within the same package Vermilion Audio have included a 1.5m regional IEC power cable, and each M2 adapter is lovingly held within their own box, encapsulated between two thick layers of low density foam and each encased within an antistatic bag. In order to connect them to the ION 8 all you need to do is line up the serial connectors inside, push gently, and secure it to the back of the unit with the eight screws supplied. This process is just as easy as seating a 500 series module and you will have your ION 8 up and running in no time.
Having inspected the exterior of the ION 8 I can confirm that it is exceptionally well made. The enclosure appears to be crafted from 1mm thick plate steel with a thick resilient textured black power coated finish and has a three slot built in power supply on the far right. Within this power supply area it has been, again, sealed off with a thick plate steel panel and is finished with an enamel vintage cream gloss and red screen print logo and it really does look great. Vermilion Audio have opted for a sturdy chrome flick switch to control the power on and off and it feels very solid and requires some force so that it is not accidentally switched off during use. Above this are three red LEDs which illuminate to indicate that the + 16v, -
On the rear of the ION 8 you will find that each channel has an XLR input and output. This easily allows any of the operational 500 series unit signals to be fed into an external effects processor, analogue to digital converter (A2D), back into an analogue desk, or indeed to your audio interface routing matrix. Alternatively, if you would like to keep these free, Vermilion Audio have placed two independent D-
Now, if we come back to the M2 cards, Vermilion Audio have added a trick which allows stereo and channel linking for each consecutive module. This comes in the form of an small internal red ‘stereo linking’ and ‘channel linking’ slider switch. During install of any given M2 card this is an easy setting to switch and means that you don’t have to confuse the back of your ION 8 with XLR’s running everywhere, however whilst this switch enables the creation of a 500 series channel strip, here lies the problem. Once an array of 500 series cards have been installed it is almost impossible to change this selection without uninstalling each 500 series card. Had Vermilion Audio installed this slider switch on the rear of the M2 card and opened up a hole on the backplate it would be much easier to spontaneously unlink a stereo configuration. Still, if you are confident with the positioning and linking of each module then this will come as a pleasant bonus. In use we certainly felt that this enhanced the experience of this 500 series power strip and allowed all sorts of useful chaining.
It has to be said that it is plain to see that the ION 8 is exceptionally well built, in fact it is just as well crafted as the API Lunchbox! This may come as quite a surprise considering API’s legendary status, but it is certainly true. Believing that the 500 series module resurgence is simply a studio fashion statement is one side of the story, but 500 series modules have been designed to be effortless to instal and take up a minimal workstation footprint. Considering this, if you have ever purchased an expensive 500 series module, then you will know of the great care that is taken to actually insert it into the dark depths of the power rack without scratching the enamel paintwork or the small chance of damaging the exposed circuitry. Unlike many other racks that somewhat feel like a tight squeeze, the ION 8 has enough room to secure a solid connection with enough room for the modules to breathe during both install and operation. Keeping the rack thermally efficient is an important aspect during long a long recording session and we have noticed that the ION 8 performs adequately and poses no potential risk. In fact the internal power supply is also protected by three separate fuses, of which two are user replaceable and in total the ION 8 has 2.4A of power. This far exceeds many of the popular 500 series power racks (including API) and means that if eight 500 series modules are installed each will have access to a maximum of 300mA of power, which is more than adequate for 99.99% of ‘new’ and ‘old’ modules currently on the market.
In terms of compatibility the ION 8 proves that it is a valuable asset to a recording studio of any size and conforms to original API specifications. Internally Vermilion Audio have included plastic spacer guides to help the instal of each new 500 series module, but these can easily be removed if oversized third party 500 series modules need to be installed. Although during use a very low high frequency noise is audibly emitted from the power supply enclosure, testing has proven that this has not crossed over into the signal path and the ION 8 still delivers a clean ‘distortion free’ power source to each module.
The Vermilion Audio ION 8 is a premium modular 500 series power unit that is lovingly made in America. Expandable upon request, the affordable M2 cards allow easy expansion and we have found that the ION 8 is a valuable asset to any record production environment. The power supply appears to be clean, the design is rock solid, the attention to detail is brilliant, although in the long run it is rather expensive. In light of our findings we award the Vermilion Audio ION 8 with four brilliant stars.