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New to rack mount systems - bouncing ideas around

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by 2F/2F, Apr 26, 2018.


  1. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hi,

    I am realizing that in order for my Ampeg PF-800 to be at its best for my purposes (loud, clean, and relatively bottom-mid heavy), I'm probably going to need to abandon the idea of keeping the head in one of the relatively measly Ampeg flip-top cabs. I also don't want to set the amp loose on top of a cab, so I was thinking of crafting a head cabinet for it. But it has occurred to me that I could use this opportunity to build myself a fairly modest rack assembly too.

    I am totally new to rack mounting, but it seems like a good approach. I am thinking power conditioner, tuner, graphic e.q., and my amp. Do you think I'm I going overboard with any of this for a basic rack system, e.g. the power conditioner?

    I assume the graphic e.q. would go into the effects loop of my amp. Is that correct?

    I'm looking at a Korg Pitchblack rack tuner, a Furman M-8x2 power conditioner, and a dbx 131s e.q. (mono 31-band). That said, I don't know crap about any of that stuff; for example, is that even the right kind of e.q. to use in a musical instrument rack, or is it more of a P.A. thing.? Any help you could give would be most, er...helpful.

    Thanks.

    P.S. One more note: I would love to make the rack case myself, based on the modern Portaflex look, instead of getting one of those plastic ones.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018

  2. Many have found out the hard way (myself included) that if you aren’t careful, it’s easy for a rack to become a weight issue.

    For instance, the rack itself can weigh 8-10 lbs., and your amp is 11 lbs. So there’s 20 lbs. right off the bat. Just about any piece you add after that will weigh about 5 lbs.

    I started off with a 6-space rack but eventually got tired of lugging around its 65 lb weight. I’m down to 4 spaces now, but it’s still on the uncomfortable side (I’m a skinny guy with girlie arms). (Pics of mine can be found in my signature.)

    I’m concerned that your proposed custom Portaflex-looking case will be a boat anchor, especially if you’re going to make it out of wood. I know what you mean about the plastic cases, I think they’re ugly. But, they are the lightest option.

    If you don’t want a plastic case, I’d suggest a so-called flight case. Of this type, a medium-duty case will be the lightest. These cases come in different depths; no need to get one that’s substantially deeper than your deepest component (which is probably the amp).

    As far as equipment goes, I don’t take much stock in power conditioners, but you definitely want a piece to plug everything into. Something with pull-out rack lights is nice if you play in dark clubs.

    If you want an EQ, all you need is a 2/3-octave (15-band). Tone control is what you’re after, not “house tuning.” One-third octave EQs (30 bands) are just too complex for quick adjustments. Yes, it could connect to your effects loop.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Ecclesia: Unique Arrangements of Hymns, P&W Standards, and Original Tunes
    Administrator, Pedulla Club #45
    Administrator, Tobias Club #133
    Fretless Club #943
    Big Cabs Club #23
    My Rig: Stage and FOH Friendly
    My Basses


     
    walterw likes this.
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks, Wayne.

    So, power conditioning is probably excessive, as is the 31-band e.q.

    The only reason I was looking at that e.q. unit is because it's the only mono rack mount one that is carried by Sweetwater (where I was looking around to gather ideas). All the 15-band ones they carry have two sides. My purpose for the e.q. would mainly be to cut out the extra lows and extra highs. Got a recommended rack e.q.?

    As for weight, obviously I don't want to be hauling the equivalent of an SVT head in the rack, but I don't mind too much if the assembly ends up being 50 lb. What really matters to me is being able to get the entire amp rig in a single trip from the car.
     
  4. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    Ft.Worth/Dallas
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Put a tray in the rack, velcro a 7-band EQ pedal in there ? It's not like you'll be changing the settings too often, right?
     

  5. You aren’t going to find a mono 15-band EQ. There’s nothing wrong with just using one side of a stereo unit. I know, I know, the other channel is “wasted,” right? So? Are you bothered if you don’t use every input on your TV?

    As far as which EQ to get, ART reportedly makes some decent inexpensive ones. dbx might also be a contender for something comparable. Ashly and Symetrix used to make excellent units, but you’ll have to get them used (they were pricey when new). One to avoid for sure is the Yamaha units.

    Re the conditioners, I meant that I don’t take much stock in them from a conditioning standpoint. But if that’s the only way you can get a rack-mounted plug strip unit with the rack lights for power management, I have no aversion to getting them. I don’t use the rack lights much on mine, but when I do I’m glad I have them.

    Another vintage unit that can be useful is the Furman PL-Tuner. It was a conditioner / power management / tuner in one single-space unit. That would let you get by with a rack one space smaller. Might take a while to find on on ebay, but you should be able to get one for $100 or so.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Ecclesia: Unique Arrangements of Hymns, P&W Standards, and Original Tunes
    Administrator, Pedulla Club #45
    Administrator, Tobias Club #133
    Fretless Club #943
    Big Cabs Club #23
    My Rig: Stage and FOH Friendly
    My Basses


     
  6. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    OK, so I've dug a little deeper, and discovered that lower end power conditioners like the ones I was considering are *not* voltage or frequency regulators, as I was assuming when I thought I might want one. I was thinking that "conditioning" meant voltage/frequency stabilization, but it does not.

    I use a 1500W voltage/frequency regulator in my darkroom; it is essential on my 10x10" (i.e. gigantic) enlarger, for consistent color balance from print to print. I assumed similar benefits might be there for a musical instrument amp. I see now that: 1) a "conditioner" of the type I was considering isn't much more than a cool looking power strip, and 2) there isn't a ton of benefit to be gained from voltage and frequency regulation in my case.

    Still, at 67 bux (brand new price) for a purpose-made, ergonomic power strip, perhaps it's still a solid inclusion in a rack.

    I appreciate your responses. Thanks very much.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018

  7. Yeah, a proper conditioner / regular will be a hefty piece of gear all by itself. The “conditioner” in 1-rack space power strip is what I was talking about that I have no confidence in. Typically it’s nothing more than some kind of cheesy little module. I disconnected the one in my PL-Tuner.

    Little tip, if you have no use for the integrated rack lights and simply want a rack-mounted plug strip: If you go with one of the flight cases I mentioned, you can get them with rear rack rails as well as front. The power strip could be mounted on the back rail, if you get one that’s not very deep (they can be found). That means you could get away with say, a 3-space rack instead of a 4-space.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Ecclesia: Unique Arrangements of Hymns, P&W Standards, and Original Tunes
    Administrator, Pedulla Club #45
    Administrator, Tobias Club #133
    Fretless Club #943
    Big Cabs Club #23
    My Rig: Stage and FOH Friendly
    My Basses


     
  8. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks. I'm definitely rear mounting at least one component, and maybe a drawer or "cage" for cables (that would mean no backpack required).

    I found a rack mounted power strip to use. I even considered putting the e.q. in the back, since it'll mainly be set as a HPF and not tinkered with much, if any.

    I picked out a fairly inoffensive looking SKB shallow molded case with front and rear rack rails. The assembled rack should be approximately the size and weight of an amp head. Maybe I'll make my own cooler looking case down the road, but the SKB will get me up and running for now.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    do you really find yourself needing this to a degree beyond what the amp's own knobs can control?

    rack EQs and such aren't "free", each thing like that you add to the chain affects the tone at least a little bit; it needs to "earn its keep" and do an actually needed job or it's better off bypassed or removed entirely.

    if it's just about having the head in something that's safe getting bounced around in the back of the van, my vote is for a 2-space rack with the amp and nothing else. maybe you can bolt through a wooden rack straight into it from the bottom, or maybe you need one of those rack shelves to bolt the thing onto before bolting the rack shelf into the rack.

    anything bigger and you've just made a lightweight head no longer light weight.
     
    WayneP likes this.
  10. rufus.K

    rufus.K

    Oct 18, 2015
    SoCal
    Don't forget to add a compressor, an aural exciter with "big bottom", and a drawer.
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Regarding your first question, by my stating that the e.q. would primarily be used to remove extra lows and extra highs, what I meant was ramping down the lows below 40 hz (HPF), and ramping down the highs above a certain point as well (LPF). It's the main reason I want an outboard e.q.

    Additionally, while the PF-800 offers a ton of punch for the buck, I find its onboard e.q. to be only fair compared to that of my B-100R. I bought the PF because I need additional volume and additional headroom over my long-time B-100R, the tone controls of which I highly prefer. In other words, I mainly bought the PF for its power amp. So even though HPF and LPF are the main reasons for the e.q., I would use the e.q. controls for a bit more than simple HPF or LPF – i.e. to make the powerful and clean PF-800 at least as malleable as my B-100R.

    FWIW, the B-100R has an excellent 4 band e.q. to my taste: 70 Hz, 300 Hz, 1.5 KHz, 7 KHz. The PF-800 has a 40 Hz bass knob, a 4 KHz treble knob, and a mid knob that can be used for 220, 450, 800, 1.6 K, or 3 K Hz (take your pick, but you only get one). I miss the two separate mid controls, and the 4K treble knob on the PF is particularly offensive, because it's lousy when it comes to rolling treble off (which is my main use of the treble knob).

    In a post above, I say that weight is not really an issue to me. For what it's worth, weight was none of the reason that I bought this particular amp either. What I care about in "conceptualizing" my rack is efficiency of movement, given the more complicated setup I'm thinking about starting to use (I was almost always just bass-tuner-amp till the PF-800). With the rack, I want to make one trip from the car, not have several loose components, and not have to set up all the cables for my rig every time I play. With the rack, I can plug in the power cable, hook up the speaker, plug in my bass, and be done setting up. Additionally, the rack I'm planning looks like it'll weigh about 40 lb., which is quite light in my book, especially for something with the ergonomic handling of a rack case with side handles.

    The latter might be in the plans. Not the first two, though thanks for the suggestions. For one, I have so little use for a compressor that the built-in one on my amp will serve me fine.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
  12. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    i think @rufus.K was pulling your leg there; that’s the typical junk bass racks get larded up with whether it’s a good idea or not.

    like i’ve said before, usually the next step after all that is to pick up a micro amp head to use “just for the grab & go gigs”, at which point the monster rack never leaves the house again :p
     
    rufus.K likes this.
  13. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    My grab-n-go rig would just be my old B-100R, which has served me for 98 percent (maybe even a greater percentage) of my gigs since I got it new around '97.

    The really fun part of all this will be trying to shoehorn my new cabs into my Dodge Challenger. The B-100R was a great fit. The PF-115HE cab was a bit bigger, but still fit. The PF-115LF and 410HLF are gonna be no-gos in that car, I think. I'll have to have my wife shuttle me to those gigs! :D
     
  14. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    P.S. The e.q. I ended up settling on has HPF and LPF knobs that are separate from the e.q. bands, so the e.q. probably won't be used for that purpose in the end.
     
  15. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    ooh, what did you decide on?

    a nice steep HPF knob for that 30-50 range is something a lot of bass players wish for as a speaker-saver. at least one guy makes stompbox versions, but it's an oddly underserved product.
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    I forgot the exact model name, but it's a Behringer. At 2U, it's taller than I was originally looking for, but it is not available as a mono unit. It's also not available as a 15 band unit with the sweepable high and low filters, so I am going to have to work with 31 in order to get those features. That said, it's actually 2.5 inches shallower than the mono one I was considering (by ART), so it lets me mount the power strip behind it with plenty of room to spare, which makes up for the extra rack unit it takes up. And it's only 7 oz. heavier and $35 more expensive. Also, I figure that at home, I can use the second e.q. channel when I play guitar. Another plus is that the e.q. sliders are lighted, unlike the ART unit I was looking at. That eliminates any potential need to light the front of the thing with an external lamp. So while it's 2U as opposed to 1U, I do gain some very nice things.

    I've also decided not to have a rack mounted tuner, at least not yet. It's just gonna be e.q. and the amp, and possibly a drawer for my cables and tuner pedal.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018

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