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July 9, 2019

Simple Rack-Mount, Rental Proof, AVL Control

The finished product!

One of my biggest frustrations for a long time as a volunteer tech director has been rentals.

We have a smaller sanctuary that can hold around 100 people, and the church loves to rent it out to various eclectic groups. I have no problem with this – it’s great extra money for the church to improve the facilities with, and it provides work for the custodian, etc.

Rentals can use 1 microphone and plug in a device to play music, which the custodian can set for them. If they want more, myself or one of our audio guys gets hired to come in.

Often, the audio system or computer gets messed with and it creates a HUGE headache for me. Things get unplugged, many knobs get turned, or buttons get pressed and then we have issues on Sunday morning.

It’s my simplest room, so my volunteers in there aren’t always knowledgeable to troubleshoot. Plus, I inherited this system from previous tech directors, and nothing is labeled. Ugh.

The Task – Make it Simple, Make it Safe

My biggest goal with the re-do of the control area (FOH) was to:

  • Make it simpler for volunteers to run. The audio console was an Allen and Heath MixWizard 16. While it’s a great console, in my past 5+ years serving here, I’ve NEVER used more than 6 channels. We just don’t do complex things in this room.
  • Lock it down: I needed to get all of my connections and important gear into some kind of lockable rack with venting so that it could be locked while rentals used the facility.
  • Keep it cheap: Oh, did I mention there was no budget to do this…

So, where to begin?

The Rack

I started with a cabinet that was already built into FOH and already had a lock bracket on it to hold a simple padlock.

This particular cabinet was somewhere in the neighborhood of 30″ wide and 20-some inches tall below the counter. And it was already painted black!

I wish I had taken more pictures of the construction, but as you can see in the pictures, I built-out a simple 2×4 frame for the rack rails which I bought on Amazon.

You could use thinner wood (2×3), but we had scrap 2×4 around, so that’s what I used.

This part is my biggest regret about the project. While it was much cheaper to do it this way, I probably should have built a simple pine rack (pine/whitewood 1×12 wood, cut and joined) and mounted the rails into it.

Using this construction method meant that it was very difficult to get behind/beside the rack to wire it. But the price was right!

The Gear

Inside the rack, I mounted:

Outside of the rack sat our wireless units, which I’d love to get into a rack on the counter at a later point to use when we do events outdoors. But for now a basic “surfboard” mounting works.

Putting it All Together

I began my day by pulling all of the gear out of the FOH area and wrapped up all the cables. Over the years a LOT of extra cables had found their way into the system – it was a definite nightmare!

Then, I stretched out the critical wires that head to the stage and routed them to their new location. Thankfully, they were all long enough. I had somewhat checked beforehand but was glad there were no surprises.

Then I mounted the rack shelf (front and back mounts!) and audio console in. I figured out the correct height and then pulled out the console to bring the snake cables in.

Because the snake was much larger than needed, I simply ran it above the console and screwed it up to the countertop with some conduit clamps.

I then mounted and plugged in everything else, with the power amplifier last. I fired it up, tested everything, and mounted in my LED lights.

For those, I simply staple them to the wood frame of the rack with a standard construction stapler. It’s simple, and it’s not going anywhere! The adhesive on most of these LED strips isn’t great, so stapling is needed to hold them up.

And it’s done! Now my volunteers can come in, power it all on and run the service – no more monkey business from rentals!

Best of all, it’s been a few months since I installed it, and I am happy to say that we have had no “surprises” from rentals. Previously, we would have issues at least once per month!

I call that a win!

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David Henry

David has been involved with church AV and networks since around 2003. He's played a variety of roles in church tech, from Intern to Audio and Lighting Lead, and also is a Professional Lighting Designer and Lighting Teacher. But don't let those fancy terms scare you, he's really a nice guy, and wants to help you!

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