Inexpensive Mini Stage Snakes

This isn’t the first time I’ve built a snake like this, nor is it the first time I’ve written about it. But we’ve made a few updates to them, so I thought I’d write a new article on them. This particular snake in question is what we use for our percussion or winds player, though sometimes it gets dragged over to the guitar position depending on the weekend. 

Simple stage box. The orange shrink is the snake color code.

The design goals were thus: create a 4 channel audio snake with an Ethercon jack to carry the M-48 signal as well. We wanted it all loomed together neatly so it would be easy to deploy and pick up. Here’s how we did it.

Middle Atlantic UCP Series

The box is built around the Middle Atlantic UCP Univ6 plate. The UCP series is an incredibly useful modular series of plates designed to go in a rack mount rail system. You can put 5 plates between the rails and build pretty much any kind of patch panel you want. The UCP series has everything from Neutrik D-style to DB-style knockouts to various sized holes to fans and power switches.

They also make a UCP Box Adapter, which cleverly lets you mount a UCP plate into a 4” square box. With this simple adapter, you can quickly make up a 4” snake end with up to 6 connectors of your choice. Speaking of connectors…

Standard Neutrik connectors.

Neutrik D-Series

I use the Neutrik NC3FB-1-B XLR panel mount connectors for most of these boxes because they’re black and blend in well. We either rivet or screw the connectors to the plate, depending on whether we have rivets or screws on hand. If you use rivets, make sure to put a washer on the backside of them. We also dropped in a NE8FDV-Y110-B Ethercon connector. This is a standard panel mount connector with 110 contacts on the back for the Cat5 cable. Finally, we put a blank panel on the sixth port because we didn’t have anything to put there.

Cable

We used a four-channel snake that we had lying around, cutting off the old Switchcraft ends to go into the box. For the Cat5, we used Gepco’s Tactical Cat5, which is super tough (and super-tough to strip—you’ve been warned). All of our stage Cat5 is Gepco Tactical, and we’ve yet to have an issue with it. 

It's a simple box we picked up at Home Depot.

Boxes

The boxes are really hard to come by. We just go to Home Depot and buy 4” square boxes and 3/4” cable clamps. Actually, we would have used 3/4” clamps if had some, but we used 1/2” instead. Either are fine. About 6-8 coats of black spray paint gets them nice and black; however if you know of someone who can powder coat, that would be better. The paint comes off after a while.

Loom

I’ve used various types of loom in the past, but I’ve found my new favorite. It’s made by Techflex and we buy ours through CableOrganizer.com. What’s great about F6 is that it’s side-entry, meaning it’s split down the length so all you have to do is open it up, slip the cables in and you’re done. If you’ve ever tried to shove 50’ of cable through regular braided sleeving, you’ll be amazed at how easy this is. ProTip: Buy the $4 insertion tool. You can thank me later. A little bit of heat shrink tubing (also from CableOrganizer) cleans up the ends. 

That’s about it. One thing we had to keep in mind is how much non-loomed cable to have at the fan end. For us, we needed about 3-4’ of separate cable to get the XLR ends of the snake into our stage snake and the Ethercon into IEM rack. Your mileage may vary, depending on how you need to configure it. Total cost for this set up will vary depending on length and what type of cable you use, but it will be less than what you’d pay from a custom cable shop. Unless you don’t like to solder. In which case, find someone who does.

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