Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Building a New 20-Space Rack

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I was really bummed when my 20-Space Raxxess mobile rack disintegrated on me with all of my most expensive gear in it.  The bottom collapsed and then the whole thing twisted breaking the sides as well.  I was not at all impressed with Raxxess’ design after looking at it closely.  The entire weight of both sides of the rack is held up by 6 metal pins in 3/4 inch particle board.  Not a good design.  So I called Raxxess and they agreed to send me the broken parts after they grilled me about how heavy my equipment was and what I was using it for.  It’s a rack and I put audio gear in it and it broke because the design is bad.  The guys on the phone were pretty snotty, but they did agree to send me the replacement parts and they did it pretty quickly.  Then I thought, “Do you want to put your favorite rack gear in a rack that previously disintegrated?”

Broken Raxxess Caster Plate

The broken pin holes on the bottom plate of the Raxxess rack

Detail of Broken Raxxess Rack

A detail of the broken particle board

So I decided to build a replacement instead.  The new version is MUCH stronger, better designed, has bigger casters and it is generally awesome.  I DIY.  It would have been faster and maybe cheaper just to buy a new crappy rack, but I wouldn’t be very proud of it!

Top Corner of New Rack

Top Corner of New Rack

Big Fucking Wheels

Big Fucking Wheels (For Off-Road Recordin')

Side View of New Rack

Side View of New Rack

Cable Tie Mounts

Cable Tie Mounts

Cable Tied Power Cables Down the Right Rear

Cable Tied Power Cables Down the Right Rear

Fully Wired Rack

Fully Wired Rack with Optional Squirrel's Nest

I would love to see other people homemade audio equipment racks!  This one is probably only going to be loved by me and the family of squirrels that made their home in the back!

Working in the Studio: BYO External Hard Disk

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

When I start working with a new studio client at Indecent Music, one of the things that I ask is that each client bring their own high-speed external hard disk.  This allows the artist to keep their own files with them, which gives them the security of a back-up copy should anything happen to their data at the recording studio.  Hard disk failure doesn’t happen very often, but discs are wear-items.  Drives can only keep spinning for so long before they’re going to wear out. The majority of the disk failures happen when a hard drive is spinning up from stationary or spinning down.  If a computer gets hit hard while the drive is spinning the platter (the part of the drive that spins with the data on it) can crash against the stationary parts of the drive. After this happens, the only people that can retrieve your data are pro’s that have a clean-room to work in.  It’s incredibly expensive to get your data at that point and sometimes it’s still impossible.

There are a bunch of manufacturers out there that make external drives, but most of them are not designed to deal with the kind of data transfer that audio (and video!) production requires.  The industries first big manufacturer is Glyph [http://www.glyphtech.com/], which makes hard drive especially for the audio and video industries.  There is no question that Glyph does make some of the best gear out there and they do have a great warranty which is for 3-years with a 1-year overnight replacement clause.  They also have a fantastic basic data recovery service for FREE for the first two years that you own your drive.  There are no guaranties that they will recover your data, of course, but this is better than what the competition offers by far.  Many Glyph hard drives have also been certified to work with Digidesign software which includes ProTools. The downside is that the drives sell for about double the cost of other comparable drives.  You are paying for the name and for the data recovery service.  The best versions of the Glyph drives are as follows:

Glyph PortaGig 320 GB External Hard Drive

Glyph PortaGig 320 GB External Hard Drive

Glyph Technologies

Glyph Technology 500GB Quad Desktop Hard Drive

All Glyph Technology Products

Glyph was the original for-audio drive manufacturer, but they are not the only game in town.  The major advantage to the Glyph systems is the Oxford chip which is the brains of the hard-drive enclosure.  Oxford is pretty much thought to be the best company for many chips that interface an external SATA hard disk to a computer via eSATA, Firewire 400/800 and USB 2.0.

Another company call Icy Dock also makes a fantastic hard drive enclosure line that allows you to put your own hard drives into the enclosure.  This means that you can buy the same drives that Glyph uses (Seagate Barracuda’s) and utilize an Oxford chip without paying a lot of extra dough.  To get a complete package, you simply buy an enclosure (like a Icy Dock MB559US-1S External Enclosure or a Icy Dock MB664US-1SB Screwless External Enclosure) and then you just buy a hard disk.

Icy Dock MB559US-1S External Hard Disk Enclosure

Icy Dock External Hard Disk Enclosure (MB559US-1S)

Icy Dock Screwless Hard drive enclosure (MB664US-1SB)

Icy Dock Screwless Hard drive enclosure (MB664US-1SB)

Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM 500GB SATA Internal Hard Drive

Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM 500GB SATA Internal Hard Drive

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These Seagate Barracuda drives are extremely quiet at 28 dB idle and 35 dB writing and they have fantastic shock resistance of 63 Gs while in operation. These are the same discs that Glyph uses, so they’re A-O.K.

If you have any questions about other types of drives, leave a comment and let me know!

The Best Vise for Electronic Projects: Panavise 350

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
Panavise Model 350 Electronics Vise

Panavise Model 350 Electronics Vise

One of the the most important tools on your workbench is your vise.  Without a strong, stable support for your work you will spend hours knocking over junior size vises or “helping-hands” alligator-clip toys. My personal favorite vise is the Panavise 350 [Panavise.com] shown to the left.

The 350 is actually 3 products shipped as a single product. First you get the heavy-duty base, the Panavise 312.  It weighs 2 pounds by itself and at 8 ½ inches wide you won’t be able to tip this baby over. It comes with nice rubber feet to help keep it from sliding and you can mount all of the Pro (300 and series) mounts as well as the Jr. (201) mounts.

Next is the standard 300 base which can hold all of the vise jaws that you could possibly want. It weighs in at 1 ½ lbs, which adds a good deal of stability in itself.

The 350 also comes with the Model 376 self-centering extra-wide jaws!  These jaws have a number of really convenient features.  First the vise is opened and closed with a rotating handle with ball bearings.  You can open or close very quickly without having to take your hand off the handle.  The jaws are reversible so you can hold small items or PCB as big as 9 inches across.  The neoprene jaw pads are grooved to hold your boards and they are replaceable if they should ever wear out.  The Panavise 350 comes with a lifetime warranty also, so no worries about quality here.

Amazon.com has the best deal on the PanaVise 350 Multi-Purpose Work Center which is $69.50 at the time of this posting.