Best equipment purchases

In looking at the amount of equipment purchased to make sure that the Colorado Music Festival could be recorded at the best possible level I purchased a bunch of equipment; microphones, cables, stands, interfaces, cases, power supplies, hard drives and software.  There was a lot that was needed to make sure I could do more than what was expected.

So far there have been a couple pieces of equipment that have really outdone themselves in usefulness and value.

The number one best purchase was Manfrotto Alu Ranker Air cushioned stands.  These are technically a lighting stand, but with a simple adapter they can be used for microphones.  The build quality is excellent, and with the purchase of multiples they clip together making which is very convienient.  They are also light weight, which is great considering they get set up and torn down four to six times a week.

Manfrotto Alu Ranker Air Cushioned Quick Stack Light Stand

Manfrotto Alu Ranker Air Cushioned Quick Stack Light Stand

There were two downsides to these stands.  The first is the design of the feet of the stand.  Essentially they are straight tubes and don’t provide traction or great security in how they meet the ground.  Even a simple rubber cap would help provide a little cushion and friction.  With lights this may not be a real issue, but with microphones suspension mounts should really be used as the vibrations from the floor go straight up the stand.

The second issue is really a feature, but one that is important to deal with.  This is the light weight nature of the stands.  While it’s awesome in transport, when you throw four large diaphragm condensers 22 feet in the air on one stand the top-heavy situation is alarming.  So my solution, and a purchase that comes up as the second useful purchase was that of (bright orange) Impact 15lbs saddle style sand bags.  These have worked perfectly, and decrease the need for massive amounts of gaff tape as well as create visible indicators so people don’t kick the base of the stands.  We’ve used these in other areas on stage as well where things needed a semi-permanent and quick securing of cymbal and gong stands.

Impact 15lb saddle style sand bags fit over cross braces and tripod style legs

Impact 15lb saddle style sand bags fit over cross braces and tripod style legs

Purchased in a set of six and empty, I then purchased two 60 lbs bags of tube sand (of which there is plenty of in Colorado hardware stores) for $6.00 and some gallon size Zip-lock bags.  put one Zip-lock in each side and filled them up.  These have a double zipper and a strong webbed handle.  So far they’ve been used on every single recording set up for the summer.  An excellent purchase as well.

A final excellent purchase was four 50ft Quad-core Pro Co Ameriquad cables.  I had originally purchased four of the not star-quad-core cables and the noise from radio chatter and interference made them unusable in Chicago.  I returned them and got these.  For more on star-quad-core cables and how they differ from “normal” XLR cables check out this SOS article.  Now I could have built or bought some Mogami cables, but the connectors on these are excellent, and when throwing microphones up 24 feet in the air having longer high quality cables has made set up and runs across stages significantly quicker and cleaner.  These were a reasonable value, though had I a little more time I’d probably order the Mogami Neglex 2534 cable and Neutrik NC3FXX-B and NC3MFXX-B connectors and build them myself, for slightly less than the cost of these.  A great resource on all questions cable related is here on the SOS FAQ site.

Ameriquad 50ft cables with quad-core twisted pairs.

Ameriquad 50ft cables with quad-core twisted pairs.

All in all, it has been interesting as these purchases, which are among some of the smaller financially, have proven to be extremely useful and made the crazy set up and tear downs quicker while keeping other more expensive equipment safer.  A good tool is a good tool, whether a screw driver or a computer.