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Coming soon - a big black box!

Discussion in 'Outfitting a Group' started by SOTSDO, Apr 8, 2013.

  1. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    This past Saturday, I finally encountered the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. We had a typical benefit job, but with a twist - we could only get into the room at 3:00 PM. As the downbeat was scheduled at 6:30 PM and I had to shower down after all of the equipment humping, that didn't leave much time for setup.

    My sound setup has five vocal mikes (wireless) with associated receivers, a Peavey PA head with ten channels in, a sub mixer board with ten channels in through which all of the instrumental mikes are run, plus all of the associated cables and power supplies. To date, I have used some light weight black monitor stands to mount it all, but the set up has been cumbersome at best, and hard to get everything properly plugged up and running. Attaching the power supplies to the microphone receivers usually takes 10 minutes, just for that. Then, balancing out all of the microphones has to be done. It's a real time eater.

    So, after shaving it so fine this past time that I walked up on the bandstand just as the downbeat was scheduled to occur, and having again to break it all down and store it away, I decided that enough was enough.

    My plans have been drawn up for ten years or more - using a rack mount case, I would install half inch Plywood shelves for the receivers, the PA head, a passage way for the cables from front to back, and a retracting mount on top for the mixer board. All of the power would be wired up permanently, patch cords would remain in place from the receivers to the mixer, and from the mixer board to the PA head.

    All I had to do is to find the right enclosure. Shopping around locally, I landed a couple of options, neither of them what I really wanted. So, I went on line and landed a fourteen high, twelve rack mount case with casters and solid, latching covers all around.

    I'll pull the rack mounting hardware, install 1/2" Plywood shelves to allow for installation of the electrical supply (with only one power cord for all - Yeah!!!) at the bottom, a space for the receivers (held in place with silicone caulk), stacked two or three high, a divider for routing the sound cables from back and top through to the front to be plugged into the PA head, and a shelf for the PA head (fastened to hardwood cleats through bolted to the case body. The mike power supplies will screw to the bottom of the PA head shelf, and the PA head (with rubber padding under the metal feet) will be secured in place by additional hardwood cleats through bolted through the walls at top, front and back.

    The mixer board (or a new one, with additional channels - I haven't decided yet) mounts to the retractable board mount in the top of the unit. Power supply housed down with the rest of the electrical at the bottom, lead routed up to the top level and left permanently connected. The two channel stereo to mono patch cord will be routed down to the routing divider and through to the front of the PA head. Shortened up power cords on the microphone receiver power bricks. A short cord for power to the PA head from the outlets.

    Once it's all bolted and screwed in place, all I will have to do is to wheel the thing in to the off-stage location, pull the panels and the top, plug it in, and plug in the sound snake for the instrumental mikes.

    Then, it's one cable from the head of the sound snake to each of the mikes, power on the wireless mikes, and all's good to go. With open front and back panels, there's no chance of overheating the PA head - its on-board fan will do all of the work.

    In equipment handling alone, this will reduce three significant loads and a couple of stands down to one slightly more cumbersome one, which it will pack better in the trailer in the bargain. That's at least one less trip from the trailer to the stage and back again, saving maybe ten minutes more. No coiling up the little microphone power supplies any longer, or folding up the receivers - they will all stay in place in the box. The microphones will store into one smaller Pelican case, rather than the jumbo sized one that they occupy now.

    This one improvement will also cut my electrical wiring way down, from eight plugs into eight outlets, to one plug in one outlet, with the rest kept connected within the box. Three short extension cords will be eliminated, and all of the electrical stuff will be made up in a much more permanent fashion.

    A couple of other improvements will include some sort of flex neck red LED light, mounted under the sub mixer board at the top of the case, and wired in red LED lights mounted over the mike receivers and the PA head fronts, with one pair of outlets switched for the lighting system. I have yet to find the right LED gooseneck light, however.

    And, a full set of instructions mounted inside of the lid panel, covering the system adjustment basics without all of the bells and whistles that are included in the manuals. (The uninitiated never can seem to find the right knob in a sound emergency.)

    I've got an older mixer for use with wired mikes for rehearsal (although we have been using the cordless equipment for now), so this will only go to the jobs or recording session in the trailer. A bit of a lift, but only into and out of the trailer - the castors will handle the rest.

    All I have to do to find the 1/2" Plywood, have them cut a 4" strip off at a 45° angle (to miter the shelf ends and the ends of the bottom shelf), and then bolt it all up, hit it with the flat black paint, and she's done.

    I did all the design work into my iPhone using Siri, this while sitting in the hot tub after the job.
     
  2. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    An update on the black box on wheels:

    Thus far, i've got the power supply deck completed and tested. I've figured out a way to secure the shelves in the unit in place (with knurled nuts tightened down on bolts run up through the shelf from below), and have added a switch for the outlet dedicated to powering the PA head. (Less risk of blowing a speaker or monitor that way.) All is wired to a strain relieved box that passes the 20' flexible cord out to attach to the power supply.

    I've got the light provided (and ready to install) in the form of an Ikea four LED strip outfit. The transformer is out of the way under the second shelf from the bottom, and the four strips are each to be installed on the inside of an aluminum "L" channel that "shades" the light so it will only shine on the equipment. All four strips are tinted candy apple red with hobby paint, cutting down the "shine" considerably.

    There is one cord and plug connected circuit that will be routed up to the top shelf, under the tilting mixer board. It powers two electrical outlets (for the two recording decks that we are using - God bless digital recording equipment) and has four USB outlets. The USB outlets are there to power goose-neck LED lights (like for a laptop computer on an airplane), which will shed their red tinted light on the face of the mixer board. When the mixer board is folded down into the top of the box, the goose-necks can be pulled to be stored in a tube on the shelf below.

    Thus far, it has been easy to fabricate the innards of this, as I bought myself what's called a "contractor saw", a smaller table saw on a folding stand. Once it was all squared up (a five or six hour process in itself), it was easy to precision (and squarely) cut up the hardwood for the shelf supports and the Plywood for the shelving.

    I also decided to use the rack mount brackets to support and attach the front overhang on the shelves and (through bolts run from the outside of the case to the inside) the hardwood shelf supports.

    Once it's all completed, I will have to disassemble it to paint the innards flat black. At that point, I'll have my wife take a series of photos for your amusement and edification.

    Oh, and boy did I generate a lot of sawdust. I don't have a permanent workshop here, so I do the woodworking out in the garage. With about a third of the cutting of Plywood done, I generated a couple of inches of sawdust in the bottom of a five gallon pail.
     
  3. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    It makes me tired just reading and thinking about all this stuff. You are very ambitious running a band this size. I burned out transporting a small sound system for 1 vocalist who sang with our quintet. There's nothing like walking into a gig with your horn, playing charts for 2 1/2 hours, putting your horn back in the case and walking out. Those are the only gigs I play these days.

    Does your saw have a connector to attach a shop vac? Mine does and it takes care of about 80% of the mess. Congrats on your design and fabrication. It should be worth all the hard work in the long run.
     
    Gandalfe likes this.
  4. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I love gigging with one or two horns. Compared to lugging all the fronts, stands, lights, and sound system, it's just a joy.
     
  5. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I agree with the throw the horn in the case and walk out of the job feeling, but the sad fact remains that someone has to shoulder the responsibility of the group, or there ain't no group.

    I formed this group when I got tired of playing stuff like Tommy Dorsey's Original Boogie Woogie for five hours, and after I heard customers of other groups air the same sort of objections, i.e. "Can you guys play anything from Debbie Harry?" Taking things in a new direction requires both physical expenditures (for the book and the equipment) and physical labor (hauling the fronts, lighting, sound system and so forth).

    The money part isn't that big of a deal for me; we're very well off retirees who banked money right and left with an eye towards our retirement years. Although I'm getting a bit old for the harder portions of this (I'm saddled, among other things, a low testosterone level, and have very limited endurance as a result), shortcuts like our handling systems for the goods (cases for most everything, including mike stands and cable runs) and this "black box" help with the physical aspect.

    The mental load, not so much. I'll expand elsewhere on this at a later time, but I had so much trouble with one vocalist who had fallen on hard times (with two college degrees, he lost his job with the State of Texas and had a cascade of financial problems so extreme that I was supporting him and his family for a while) that it was consuming all of my free time. The solution there was to give up on him and write off the lost money investing in helping to keep him afloat.

    Compared to that issue, putting together a sound system shortcut is a walk in the park...
     
    Gandalfe likes this.
  6. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Regarding the saw

    I have looked at the underside of the saw for suitable mountings for just such attachment. (Rochler Hardware offers two "funnel bottoms" for saws in their wonderful catalog.) However, it appears that the lower priced "contractor saws" are not designed with easy adaptation of such a fitting.

    I put the saw up a week ago in preparations for us leaving on a two week vacation with a grandchild and great-grandchild to Disneyworld. Before storing it in the trailer (we live in Texas, and storage space in our slab and pier-foundation houses without basements is always at a premium), I upended it and cleaned out the interior with the shop vacuum. There was finely divided sawdust (almost wood flour, so fine it was), stuffed up in the smallest recesses of the underside of the saw. It all sucked out fine with the vacuum, but it took a while to bring it up to my housekeeping standards.

    My scroll saw, my only other bench type power woodworking tool, does have a vacuum fitting on same, and it works fine at capturing 50% (the stuff cut on the downstroke) of the saw or plastic dust from the cutting process.

    If you have ever done any shop work, a stroll through a Rochler store (we have one here in Houston) or just their catalog will really set your mental juices flowing. Last week, I bought an "outlet turret" from them, a pop up fixture that will put an easily accessible electrical (and USB power) outlet in my half room sized "desk" in the office. You cut a hole through the desktop with a hole saw, pop this into the resultant opening, tighten a screw fitting, and there you go. Much better than having to get down on hands and knees when some occasional computer accessory requires a power source. Now I can lose the extension cord that I keep plugged in for such occasions - once I get the hole cut.
     
  7. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    One other thing: I've bought a new "submixer board", one that allows for compression on the vocal mike channels. I've reworked things so that the vocal feed is what goes through the board, with a single mono feed from the submixer into one of the channels on the PA head. This will simplify the wiring somewhat, and add the benefit of compression on the vocals in the bargain.
     
  8. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    An update:

    I've finally processed the photographs and am starting in on the captions. Stay tuned...
     
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