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Custom Cabinet Construction Details

When I put together a new SAC rig last spring I decided that it (and me) deserved a better home than the second hand rack that the original rig had lived in for the past five years. The original had always worked well but it looked like a cobbled together home-built system. It always took some extra set up time because I carried several parts into the venue separately and had to plug it all together before it was ready to turn on. I primarily do multi-day events so it was not as bad as it would have been if I were doing one nighters but there was much room for improvement.

Because my vision was for a cabinet that did not have a standard format (and because budget was tight) I decided to build a custom cabinet for the new SAC system. I have been doing wood construction projects for many years. I built many of the speaker cabinets that I use in my business. I have reasonable tools and experience to take on a project of this nature. I seldom work from actual plans, just needed dimensions and a mental image of the product that I want to build.

The finished build

I had some wood laying around the warehouse. This was either scraps from previous projects or material purchased for other planned projects that had never materialized. The minimum dimensions were set by the equipment that I planned to instal in the new box. So with the tools and most of the materials and the mental image of what I wanted I began the construction project. The workdeck, bottom and lid are made of 3/8" paraply. The end caps and center brace are 3/4" luan plywood.

the bare cabinet

The minimum height for the cabinet was determined height measurement by the equipment that I intended to install. I built the computer in a three space server case and acquired a single space rack mount inline UPS. For a 32 channel system I needed four single space rackmount converters. Mounting them in a side by side configuration meant a four rack space height and two rack widths minimum internally.

On the left I would mount the three space computer and single space UPS and on the right the four single space converters. The lid had to be thick enough to accommodate the monitor and I wanted the monitor mounted at a slight angle so I gave it a 3.75 inch overall depth. The overall width was determined by the two 19 inch rack widths plus the end caps and center rack rail mounting board. The final width is 40 5/8 inches and the height with the lid in travel position is 12 inches. The depth front to back is 20 inches to allow space for things to plug in on the back plus the thickness of the front and back covers. The rack case for the computer is 15 inches deep. I did remove the handles from the case and need a bit of room behind so that things can remain plugged in.

width measurement

For the lid and back cover I use standard butterfly rack latches. The front cover did not lend itself to that method. I made a channel at the bottom with angle aluminum and a drop in cover for the front of the rack. I had intended to use a Velcro closure at the top but the necessary mounting strip would have been in the way. For a while I wedged the front cover in place for transport but the cover tended to get bumped loose when the cabinet was moved. I ended up using a magnetic cabinet latch in the center of the door and this has worked well.

View of cutouts for latches

My first intention was to hinge the lid using a piano hinge. I went to the hardware store and bought the hinge but I was concerned about the durability of the attachment to the cabinet and could not find the right hardware to hold the lid at a good but variable angle. I decided to forgo The lid holderthe hinge. I built a two step keeper block that holds the lid either upright or angled back (in practice I have yet to use the angled back position). I used a piece of screen molding for a toe board on the rear top surface of the rack to prevent the lid from sliding off the back and positioned it so that it also is an aid to alignment when packing up the rig. When I got the monitor I discovered that the input connectors now days are mounted on the back instead of along the bottom. I had to get an offset adapter for the HDMI video cable. They make offset HDMI cables but I did not know I would need one so did not order one when I ordered the monitor. Luckily Home Depot had the swivel adapter hanging on the wall.

Lid construction detail

Internally in the cabinet I mounted a quad box with a single cord to the UPS on the right at the rear of the end cap. This provides a place to plug in the four converters and minimizes the cords running across the deck. I added a small sub-floor at the back of the right bay and run the power wire and toslink cables under the sub-floor to keep them out of the way when accessing the back panel connections on the converters.

When I mounted the converters I numbered them from bottom to top. I have long had the habit of plugging things from channel one upward. By putting channel one on the bottom converter I avoid the hassle of sorting through the dangling wires when I am plugging in the channels above eight. It is a bit counter intuitive but makes things much more convenient for me.

equipment bay installation

I mounted rubber feet on the bottom of the cabinet for the occasion when there is a table on which to set the rig. In practice I usually set it on one of my amp racks. If I am not carrying racks or if the unit will be used away from the amp racks I carry an 'X' frame keyboard stand. The monitor, keyboard and mouse remain plugged in at all times. The top deck make a nice work area when the rig is set up and the keyboard fits at the right end for transport.

There is a pro case builder here in town, Classic Cases (FaceBook Page with contact info). The company does work for Disney and for touring acts. They build cases with a fiberglass finish for durability. When the case was finished I took it by the shop intending to show a friend that works there. The friend wasn't there but Chris, the owner, took a look at the case. He made a drawing of the case and would build one with several enhancements that he could see with his professional eye. He does offer various discounts but you would need to negotiate a final price with him. He said that he would need about two weeks lead time to work the build into his schedule.

For a little more information about the rig with some pictures of the finished product see My SAC V2.0 Rig page.

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