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March 14, 2019

Custom DIY XLR Stage Boxes on the Cheap

Our stage was a mess, and we needed a fix.

Yes, our stage was a mess!

To give you a little bit of background, we previously would set up and tear down the complete audio system, stage, and chairs every week.

But now we don’t.

In the quest to turn our gym into a permanent, non-gym sanctuary, we don’t tear down anymore.

With that comes a bit of a problem.

Before, we would tear down all the individual cables from our snake boxes to the individual instrument positions every week. Now, we leave them up every week.

Which means after about 18 months, it was an insane mess.

We all knew this, but truth be told we didn’t really do anything about it until we had to.

If we needed to add another channel and we couldn’t find the cable, we just run a new cable,  Or move something else and reuse it.

Then we had a rental in the building. We have rentals from time to time come, and generally, everything is fine. But we had a reoccurring problem with this one rental, because they would leave the stage to be quite of a mess.

So, I sat down with one of our pastors and started explaining why this happens.   This brought me to the conclusion that we really, really needed to fix our stages wiring.

I just couldn’t hold someone from the outside up to the standard of trying to keep this stage neat and clean, when the cords were a huge mess underneath.

Let’s Make Some Stage Boxes!

My biggest goal with these stage boxes, was to do it as inexpensively as possible, while still using high enough quality parts that will have these things for years into the future. But also keeping in mind that we don’t tear down or set up that much, so it doesn’t need to be professional quality!

Because of that, I decided to try out some wall plates and XLR connectors from a company called US Bargain Sound.   They offer these on eBay, and through their own website for a really great price.

Plus, 4-channel stage boxes were about perfect for what we needed at various places around our stage.

I mounted the wall plates into electrical boxes.

I used full-size switch boxes so that there wasn’t hang over the edge from the wall plate.

This meant that I had to drill holes in the wall plates to make them mount.   Not perfectly elegant, but highly functional.

Tip – I started drilling from the backside for a more accurate cut and less damage to the black powder coating on the front of the box.

The Build

To begin, I spray painted the outsides of the electrical boxes black.

While they dried, I stretched out a tape measure down the hallway in my house.

My longest stage box was around twenty feet so I needed a space where I can stretch something out that was 20 feet long.

The next Step – Techflex.

I used some generic brand Techflex that I got on Amazon, to bundle my cables together so I cut that to size next.   A good note here is that you’ll want to set your Techflex to the total length of the snake and cut it there.

Your wires will need to be longer, to accommodate for the wire inside the box and the fan and on the other end.

After that, I measured and cut my wire. I used West Penn 452, and I found the best price on Herman Pro AV.

For my stage, I use about 350 feet of wire to do 5 stage boxes.  As I mentioned above, I added about 2 ft of extra wire to each stage box to accommodate for the fantail, and inside the Box.

It’s a little on the short side, but I knew that in my situation the male ends of the wires didn’t need to have a lot of reach.

I also used my wire labels to label each channel of these 4-channel snakes. Because I was doing 20 channels total, I use numbers 1 through 20 on my various snakes.

Now, it was time to stuff the wires through the techflex. I used my favorite Harbor Freight fishing sticks to slide the wires through the techflex. This is highly, highly, highly recommended because they don’t fish well on themselves!

When you’re done, it’s best to use heat shrink to finish off the end of the techflex. I thought I had the right size heat shrink, but it ended up that I didn’t, so I just use black electrical tape at the end to finish off the connection and it looks fine.

In a few years it’ll probably get goo-y, but I can deal with that then…

Next, it was solder time. I began by soldering the individual XLR’s onto the fantail end.

Notice that I taped the techflex with some electrical tape somewhat loosely around each end. This is important because cut techflex will easily unravel if you don’t tape it.

Once I soldered all of the XLR’s, it was now time to solder the XLR’s on the wall plates. Be sure to check that you’re attaching the correct wires to each plug, so that the order is still logical when you turn it over for use.

Last, to finish it off I made sure to tighten the clamps down on the electrical boxes, label all of the boxes with nice labels, and of course test everything!

Full Parts List:

(5) XLR Wall Plates from US Bargain Sound on eBay (1 per stage box)

(20) XLR Male Plugs from US Bargain Sound on eBay (4 per stage box)

West Penn 452 mic/line wire – I bought it here because it was the best price. It took awhile to ship, but I ordered ahead so it was okay.

3/4″ Flexible Sleeving – 100′ – I could have probably got it done with a smaller size, but this felt fine (not too big), and was simple to fish through.

2-Gang Old Work Metal Boxes

3/4″ Cable Clamps (1 per box)

Cheap Black Spray Paint

Electrical Tape

Wire Marker Book

Label Maker

Tie Line – to tie up the stage boxes nice and neat when not in use (optional)

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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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