July 22, 2008
Back in my Wonder Years (actually more like the mid-70s) I worked as an electronics engineer for a government systems contractor. (You didn’t think I made a living playing music, did you?) The projects I worked on involved racks of equipment, mostly “homebrew,” with all kinds of lights and knobs on the front panel and a lot of wiring between units on the backside.
While we were developing and trouble-shooting a system, the various wires and cables in the back could go any which way, but when we prepared a final prototype all of the wiring was grouped into “harnesses,” sets of cables with a cable tie around them every 6 to 12 inches that could be neatly routed around the backplane as a single unit. A similar idea pertains to the wiring in your car, wherein harnessed sets of mystery cables can be seen wending their way hither and yon.
The overlap between my old systems projects and a home recording studio is obvious. After all, a home studio also consists of a set of equipment with lights and knobs on the front and interconnecting cables on the back. So would a similar approach to cabling be appropriate?
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July 12, 2008
One of the best things about XLR-type microphone cables is that they can be plugged into each other end-to-end with a locking connection. This is handy for making a 20-foot cable out of two 10-foot ones, for example. It is also the basis for a handy way to store and transport the microphone cables you use for live shows or on-location recording.
The best way I have found to store my XLR cables is to plug them into each other end-to-end and wind them up onto inexpensive cable reels of the type found at Lowe’s or other hardware stores. As you can see in the photo, I have separate reels for 10-foot, 20-foot, and 25-or-30-foot cables. To keep them from unwinding prematurely, I bring the “inside” and “outside” ends up through the holes in the reel and plug them into each other.
I can carry all three of these on my arm at once and still have a hand free for something else. (I hate extra trips between the car and the playing area!)
[An expanded version of this Mini-Tip appears in my eBook, Cheap Advice On Live Sound.]
July 4, 2008
When we set up the PA system at yet another fabulous Rusty Strings gig, one of the main things I find myself doing as sound man for the band is running cables. I run cables from the instrument amps, microphones, and direct boxes to the snake’s stage box. I run cables between the mixer and the power amp and to and from the effects box (two separate channels). I run the main speaker cables. I run the monitor speaker cables. Lots of cables!
Some of the cables are short (three to six feet) and are used to interconnect components at the mixing position: mixer to PA, mixer to and from effects box, etc. These short cables are easy to run and present no problems, as they never leave the surface of the card table - er, mixing desk - that the gear is set up on. Other short cables are used onstage, from the instruments and microphones to the snake’s stage box. These cables aren’t a problem either. It’s the cables that run from the mixing position to the stage (or to an AC outlet) that can cause problems, especially if they have to cross a traveled walkway of any kind.
The main problem with cables that leave the stage or mixing area, whether or not they cross a walkway, is that people (including you) will trip over them! (I don’t say may, I say will - you’ve heard of Murphy’s Law.) This is bad in many ways, some involving injury and insurance (and lawyers), and some involving possible damage to your gear due to its being pulled clean off the table when “Clumsy Kyle” goes down. At the very least it’s likely to pull the daggone cable end right out of its connector. I’ve seen it!
The cables I am talking about, at least for Rusty Strings, are the AC power cord, the snake cable from the stage, and the main speaker cable to the stage. (See my article Mini-Tip: Send Monitor Signals On the Snake for ideas about eliminating an additional cable.) The approaches I use to deal with the trippage problem are: (1) tape or mats, and (2) knotted strain relief.
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