Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Solder Fest 09 Continues

I love soldering. I love making cables. I’ve even written excessively about it on this site (here, here and here). There is just something satisfying and rewarding about making your own mic cable, or a sub snake, or a patch bay. Perhaps it’s the joy of knowing you just made future set ups a little easier. Or saving a few bucks. Or the contact high you get from breathing vaporized flux. Either way, it’s great fun.

Moreover, I love it when other people “get the fever.” The other night, two of our audio guys and I spent some quality time making sub snakes and cables. After I showed Rob, our newest and youngest sound guy, how to make a mic cable he proclaimed, “I’ll never buy another cable again!” Ah, the sweet smell of victory. Or was that burning flesh? Sorry about your thumb, Rob. I hope it feels better today.

erik-and-rob Erik (left) and Rob making cables at our improvised soldering station. Note the extreme concentration. These guys are serious about soldering!The goal of the evening was to build a couple of subsnakes to simplify set up and neaten up the stage. We would build one snake with 4 XLRs and 2 Ethercons and one with 3 of each. Since we only needed a 6 port boxes, I had to come up with a creative solution. Most factory snake boxes are 12 ports and up, and are a good $60 or more. I didn’t have that in the budget. And they’re way too big. It turns out Middle Atlantic makes a very cool modular rack panel system. You can find them at Markertek by following that link back there. They have all sorts of modules that bolt to a set of rack bars and you can create a custom patch panel. They also make an adapter plate that allows those panels to connect to a standard 4″ square electrical box. Problem solved.

A custom little sub snake box on the cheap. A custom little sub snake box on the cheap.I bought the electrical boxes at Home Depot and shot them with about 5 coats of black spray paint. Minus connectors, the box costs under $20, and at 4″ square by 2 1/8″ deep, it’s small and unobtrusive. I also picked up some loom at our local electronics mega-mart (Electronics Center in Golden Valley, MN), and we settled down for a fun night of soldering.

The box above will live on stage between the keybaord and bass players. We use 2 keyboards, so that’s 2 jacks, the bass is a third and we have a spare. The two Ethercons will feed their Avioms.

The box in place. The box in place.We used heat shrink tubing to cover the end of the loom and keep it from fraying. The hardest part of the night was getting the 4 channel snake cable and Aviom cables down the loom. The stuff works like a Chinese finger, and is quite challenging. The other box will sit next to our worship leader and pick up his mic, his guitar and the background vocal. We threw an extra Ethercon in that one just because. In the future we can always swap it out and put in another XLR if we need to–the audio cable is there.

Combining 3 mic lines and 3 Aviom lines will make set up and tear down go a lot faster. Combining 3 mic lines and 3 Aviom lines will make set up and tear down go a lot faster.I forgot to take picutes at the end, but we also labeled each input on the boxes as well as the cable ends, so it’s really a plug and play set up. We made up a few custom length cables to plug into these boxes (a set of two 1′ mic cables for the keys DI–a Radial ProD2–for example) to further speed set up.

We also shortend up the Aviom cables that go from the boxes to the mixers themselves. I’m a big fan of using as short a cable as possible all the time. It makes clean up go a lot faster when you’re wrapping 100′ of cable instead of 300′.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be marking out lengths for mic cables for the rest of the band and we’ll make those up another evening. This works for us since our set up is pretty static. If you need more flexibility, you’ll have to be more strategic in how you plan your cable lengths. Either way, I’d recommend a few little snakes like this.

26 Comments

  1. jblasongame@gmail.com

    Personally,

    I hate the solder flux smoke smell. I feel as though I’m about be sick and pass out. But your idea of saving money by building your own sub snakes is brilliant! When it comes time to redo the youth room wiring, I’ll definitely consult you on ideas.

  2. jblasongame@gmail.com

    Personally,

    I hate the solder flux smoke smell. I feel as though I’m about be sick and pass out. But your idea of saving money by building your own sub snakes is brilliant! When it comes time to redo the youth room wiring, I’ll definitely consult you on ideas.

  3. mikeallenmusic@gmail.com

    Whoa! That’s a steel for a snake! Good find on the parts.

  4. mikeallenmusic@gmail.com

    Whoa! That’s a steel for a snake! Good find on the parts.

  5. cryanwoolsey@gmail.com

    What’s your solution for supplying power to the Aviom’s, or are each directly tied to the DA?

  6. cryanwoolsey@gmail.com

    What’s your solution for supplying power to the Aviom’s, or are each directly tied to the DA?

  7. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Ryan–The Avioms are powered by the A-16D Pro. It’s essentially a power-over-ethernet device that works with the proprietary Aviom protocol. As long as we don’t daisy chain, the Aviom mixers get power. Adding a few connections in the middle of the chain doesn’t hurt as long as they’re good ones.

    I should also note, for anyone wanting to make boxes like this that the Aviom protocol uses the T-568A wiring scheme, not the more common T-568B. The Green and Orange pairs swap between those two schemes. It’s important to get that part right, otherwise it won’t work.

    Thanks for reading!
    mike

  8. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Ryan–The Avioms are powered by the A-16D Pro. It’s essentially a power-over-ethernet device that works with the proprietary Aviom protocol. As long as we don’t daisy chain, the Aviom mixers get power. Adding a few connections in the middle of the chain doesn’t hurt as long as they’re good ones.

    I should also note, for anyone wanting to make boxes like this that the Aviom protocol uses the T-568A wiring scheme, not the more common T-568B. The Green and Orange pairs swap between those two schemes. It’s important to get that part right, otherwise it won’t work.

    Thanks for reading!
    mike

  9. travis@travispaulding.com

    Great post. I like the subsnake idea alot. We only use a 12 channel sub on our drum riser right now though. We have 10 floor boxes built into our stage so people are usually plugged in pretty close to one. On top of that, we use wireless mics, ears and acoustic.

    You certainly present a much more economical solution to a clean stage here.

  10. travis@travispaulding.com

    Great post. I like the subsnake idea alot. We only use a 12 channel sub on our drum riser right now though. We have 10 floor boxes built into our stage so people are usually plugged in pretty close to one. On top of that, we use wireless mics, ears and acoustic.

    You certainly present a much more economical solution to a clean stage here.

  11. jr.riechers@gmail.com

    Can you give exact part numbers for the Middle Alantic products you used? Thanks, I really like this idea and plan to use it in our youth auditorium this summer.

  12. jr.riechers@gmail.com

    Can you give exact part numbers for the Middle Alantic products you used? Thanks, I really like this idea and plan to use it in our youth auditorium this summer.

  13. mike@churchtecharts.org

    JR–

    The adapter is a UCP-ADP, and the plates we used are UCP- XLRM6 UNIV-6. I just picked up standard 4″ square 2 1/8″ deep boxes at Home Depot, and used 3/4″ non-metallic clamps to keep the cable in place.

    The XLRM6’sUNIV-6’s are essentially universal plates, they’ll take Switchcraft D and Neutrik panel mounts.

    –mike

  14. mike@churchtecharts.org

    JR–

    The adapter is a UCP-ADP, and the plates we used are UCP- XLRM6 UNIV-6. I just picked up standard 4″ square 2 1/8″ deep boxes at Home Depot, and used 3/4″ non-metallic clamps to keep the cable in place.

    The XLRM6’sUNIV-6’s are essentially universal plates, they’ll take Switchcraft D and Neutrik panel mounts.

    –mike

  15. jeremy@lifewayfamily.org

    We were a portable church but now have a building. I’ve prewired the stage but due to lack of budget was unable to finish it out. So, now I’m, 1 by 1, finishing out the prewired boxes with the XLR connectors and Ethercons. What brand of XLR connectors and Ethercon did you use?

  16. jeremy@lifewayfamily.org

    We were a portable church but now have a building. I’ve prewired the stage but due to lack of budget was unable to finish it out. So, now I’m, 1 by 1, finishing out the prewired boxes with the XLR connectors and Ethercons. What brand of XLR connectors and Ethercon did you use?

  17. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Jeremy–I used Neutrik XLRs, but Switchcraft would have worked just as well (I used what I had on hand–and I like them both). Ethercon is a trademarked product of Neutrik, so you pretty much have to buy from them. Which is not a bad thing.

    Note they do make a few different grades of Ethercon. Some are very expensive. I used these: NE8FDV-Y110-B. Just over $7 each from Markertek.

    Remember to use the “A” wiring scheme if wiring for Avioms.

    –mike

  18. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Jeremy–I used Neutrik XLRs, but Switchcraft would have worked just as well (I used what I had on hand–and I like them both). Ethercon is a trademarked product of Neutrik, so you pretty much have to buy from them. Which is not a bad thing.

    Note they do make a few different grades of Ethercon. Some are very expensive. I used these: NE8FDV-Y110-B. Just over $7 each from Markertek.

    Remember to use the “A” wiring scheme if wiring for Avioms.

    –mike

  19. jeremy@lifewayfamily.org

    For anyone else looking for these universal plates; as I typed in my search for the xlrm6 plate the only one that came up had the screw holes vertically centered and not horizontal as shown in Mikes pics. Search for UNIV 6 and it will pull up the correct plate.

    Thanks Mike for all this great info. Newbies like me need all the help guys like you are willing to give.

    http://www.markertek.com/Patchbays-Wallplates/Mid-Atlantic-Panel-Express/Middle-Atlantic-Products/UNIV1/

  20. jeremy@lifewayfamily.org

    For anyone else looking for these universal plates; as I typed in my search for the xlrm6 plate the only one that came up had the screw holes vertically centered and not horizontal as shown in Mikes pics. Search for UNIV 6 and it will pull up the correct plate.

    Thanks Mike for all this great info. Newbies like me need all the help guys like you are willing to give.

    http://www.markertek.com/Patchbays-Wallplates/Mid-Atlantic-Panel-Express/Middle-Atlantic-Products/UNIV1/

  21. mike@churchtecharts.org

    That’s true, Jeremy. I forgot they make 2 different versions of that. I did use the UNIV6 plates–they’re universal for Neutrik OR Switchcraft. The mounting holes are elongated to hit either jack.

    Thanks for correcting that!
    mike

  22. mike@churchtecharts.org

    That’s true, Jeremy. I forgot they make 2 different versions of that. I did use the UNIV6 plates–they’re universal for Neutrik OR Switchcraft. The mounting holes are elongated to hit either jack.

    Thanks for correcting that!
    mike

  23. soundcheck606@gmail.com

    Thanks for the budget D-I-Y soldering solution. That Markettek link has changed slightly to: http://tinyurl.com/5rlg977

    Another great solution to the cable snake that involves the XLR connectors and ethercons that you dealt with here comes from the folks at ETS, their Instasnake products. Essentially it gets rid of the bulky runs of regular balanced XLR cable and uses CAT5 runs instead. A genius solution! – http://www.etslan.com/pdfdocs/Audio/PA200_Series_InstaSnake.pdf

    But the ETS boxes run about $128 to $173 each. I’d love to get a wiring diagram so I could replicate a few of the junction boxes on my own. Is this something your team could come up with?

  24. soundcheck606@gmail.com

    Thanks for the budget D-I-Y soldering solution. That Markettek link has changed slightly to: http://tinyurl.com/5rlg977

    Another great solution to the cable snake that involves the XLR connectors and ethercons that you dealt with here comes from the folks at ETS, their Instasnake products. Essentially it gets rid of the bulky runs of regular balanced XLR cable and uses CAT5 runs instead. A genius solution! – http://www.etslan.com/pdfdocs/Audio/PA200_Series_InstaSnake.pdf

    But the ETS boxes run about $128 to $173 each. I’d love to get a wiring diagram so I could replicate a few of the junction boxes on my own. Is this something your team could come up with?

  25. tylermckellar@gmail.com

    I found a bit of info Here about the Instasnake. It's all straight connections for the most part. Pins 2 and 3 are wired to their respective pair on the RJ45 connector. All the Pin 1s are wired together to the shield connector for the Cat5. I imagine it would be fairly easy to replicate as long as you have shielded Cat5/6 cables. You'd be limited to only 4 channels but they'd be great to have if you needed a snake in a hurry.

  26. tylermckellar@gmail.com

    I found a bit of info Here about the Instasnake. It's all straight connections for the most part. Pins 2 and 3 are wired to their respective pair on the RJ45 connector. All the Pin 1s are wired together to the shield connector for the Cat5. I imagine it would be fairly easy to replicate as long as you have shielded Cat5/6 cables. You'd be limited to only 4 channels but they'd be great to have if you needed a snake in a hurry.

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