Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rack rearrangement

I decided last weekend to rearrange some of the contents of my two 19" racks.  I have two, a rack that I built myself which is about 25 units tall, and a tabletop rack which has a tilt-up top for the mixer, plus 6U of space underneath.  My main goal was to clean up my MIDI routing by swapping some things around.  The tall rack contains a MOTU MIDI Express USB interface which handles all of the MIDI for the rack and both of the keyboard stands.  The tabletop rack contains an Edirol UM-2 for the synths in that rack.  All of the I/O (8x8 in the MOTU, 2x2 in the Edirol) is pretty well spoken for.  

Here is a photo of the tall rack from several months ago:

Among the items in this rack are a Yamaha TG33, which is the black thing protruding out the front just under the patch bay at the top, and an Oberheim Matrix-1000 and a Kawai K5M, which are the bottom two items in the photo.  You can just see a bit of the amp underneath the K5M; the amp sits at the bottom of the rack.  The MIDI interface is in the middle; it's the unit under the one where the headphone cord is plugged in.  

Here's the tabletop rack, visible at the left of the photo:

This photo was taken while I was setting up the studio, and only the Oberheim Matrix-6R was installed at the bottom of the rack.  Since this photo was taken, I had added a Roland JD990.  The immediate motivation for all this was to get the JD990 into the other rack so that I could use the routing capabilities of the MOTU MIDI interface to route sysex from the JD800 directly to the JD990, which allows the 990 to be programmed using the 800's panel controls.  I couldn't do that when they were on different MIDI interfaces, without having to bring up the computer.  A secondary motivation was to get the 990 into a place where the screen would be easier to read.  

Towards that end, I decided to put the 990 near the top of the tall rack, which meant moving the TG33.  The obvious target for removal to make room was the 4U high Kawai K5m.  Here, I have removed them from the rack and both out on the floor:

The empty spaces in the rack where they were:

The K5M went to the tabletop rack.  To make room for it, both the JD990 and the Matrix-6R had to come out; the K5M and the Matrix-6R together were 1U taller than the rack.  I decided to gain space by swapping the two Oberheims.  Here's both of the Oberheims out of their respective places:

And the tabletop rack emptied out.  The Edirol is the small box in the back:

The K5m and the Matrix-1000 went into the tabletop rack, with space for the Edirol at the bottom:

And from the back.  I realized after mounting them up that the Matrix-1000's case was sagging.  A block of wood fixed that.  You can see in the foreground the Edirol, which after taking this photo, I slid under the Matrix-1000 to the front right:

The JD990 went into the top of the tall rack without any problem:

But the Matrix-6R ran into problems.  It's very wide; it just barely fits in a standard rack.  The space it, and the TG33, were to go into, with an old Furman parametric EQ above, and the amp below:

First problem: The power strips mounted on the rack rail braces were intruding into the space.  It was never a problem before, because the K5m isn't nearly as deep as the Matrix-6 is.

I moved the power strips and fixed that.  Second problem: Because the rack is homemade, I didn't get all of the dimensions quite as exactly as I should have.  It turned out to be about 3/32" too narrow to clear the Matrix-6R's rack ears, where they mount to the sides of the case.  But one of the advantages of a wood rack is you can fix stuff like that.  So out came the Dremel and the shop vac:  

I took about 1/16" off of each side, to about 3/4" deep from the front, and that created clearance for the rack ears.  After that, it mounted up nicely:

Would you be willing to stick your hand in here?  The bottom of the rear of the rack is rather busy, with the Matrix-6R taking up formerly empty space.  Getting it hooked up involved a bit of fishing:

Last item to take care of was the TG33.  I had thought at first that I would mount it at the bottom of the rack the way I had it at the top, using the unusual extending rack ears that came with it.  But then I realized that it was easier to simply set it on top of the amp; the rack doesn't go anywhere, so there was no real need to mount it.  (The amp isn't mounted; it simply sits on the rack base.)  However, the amp did need some clearance at the top for ventilation.  To provide that, I cut a couple of spacers from a piece of scrap wood.  With a couple of dabs of Permatex blue RTV silicone, they stuck to the bottom of the TG33 case nicely, but they can still be removed if need be:

With them attached, the TG33 gains about 5/8" clearance at the bottom:

This worked out nicely.  The TG33 pushes back into the rack, and can be pulled out to work with it.  In fact, with a little slack on the cables, I can pull it out and put it in my lap.  

The completed tall rack, with the JD990 underneath the patch bay at the top, and the Matrix-6R and the TG33 at the bottom:

And the TG33, ready for action:

Everything's up and running, and with all the equipment in the tall rack on the MOTU MIDI interface, I can now use the MOTU to do the following MIDI routings without needing the computer:

  • Route panel control sysex from the JD800 to the JD990
  • Route sysex from the MOTU's front panel ports to the Fizmo
  • Route the bass pedals to the JD990
  • Route the bass pedals out of the front panel port to the modular or the EML
Now, back to the Fizmo wars.

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