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Author Topic: Distro production?  (Read 1477 times)

David Winners

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Distro production?
« on: January 08, 2018, 09:20:45 pm »

After reading the recent Ampshop threads in the Lounge, I'm wondering (A) how someone could screw up something as relatively simple as a stage stringer or distro, and (B) if there is a void in the market so large that a shop doing terrible and dangerous work can exist for years, is there work for someone that should take care of their customers and provide a good/safe product?

I've worked on residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems for decades. I can read and understand code. I'm a small time audio operator, so I would need to familiarize myself with common parts and practices, but that shouldn't be too difficult.

Sounds like I should talk to my lawyer and insurance agent.
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Henry Cohen

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2018, 09:48:16 pm »

After reading the recent Ampshop threads in the Lounge, I'm wondering (A) how someone could screw up something as relatively simple as a stage stringer or distro, and (B) if there is a void in the market so large that a shop doing terrible and dangerous work can exist for years, is there work for someone that should take care of their customers and provide a good/safe product?

There are plenty of consumers who look for cheap as the primary decision driver, and numerous vendors willing to provide for just that price. The quality, properly designed and built, and listed products manufactured and backed by respectable OEMs are out there, but they're not the cheapest.
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Henry Cohen

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Ray Aberle

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2018, 09:53:00 pm »

David,

A lack of QC/caring enough to check over your work can always mess things up. Like copy-editing, sometimes it's also a case of starting at it LONG enough that something stupid gets overlooked.

You'll notice that the majority of the posts about these manufacturers are always "here's how it all got screwed up," and unfortunately, not many people chiming in, "I buy their stuff all the time, and it's never a problem." You know how it goes- takes 20 "Atta-Boys!" to cover for one "Oh, Shit." So, there's a good chance that these are just The Bad Things you're hearing about the different people/suppliers. Like DimmerRack.com - I bought two distros at the same time. One was the one that let out magic smoke on its first use, and the drama with trying to get it fixed- the other one's been great. A buddy of mine (who also buys their distros) said he always has to go through and tighten things down before using them.

So, that being said, being able to get some of the pre-printed/punched/filled panels, and building up your own custom work, might be a good fit for you. There's definitely a need for low to middle end power systems that doesn't involve ML/WhirlWind/EMG/Lex. Just be honest ("not UL listed, yo.") about your products, make sure you over-deliver/under-promise, and make sure every customer is super satisfied (excepting, of course, the occasional jerk-of-a-customer. Those are never your fault!).

-Ray
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2018, 07:20:32 am »

After reading the recent Ampshop threads in the Lounge, I'm wondering (A) how someone could screw up something as relatively simple as a stage stringer or distro, and (B) if there is a void in the market so large that a shop doing terrible and dangerous work can exist for years, is there work for someone that should take care of their customers and provide a good/safe product?

I've worked on residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems for decades. I can read and understand code. I'm a small time audio operator, so I would need to familiarize myself with common parts and practices, but that shouldn't be too difficult.

Sounds like I should talk to my lawyer and insurance agent.
A significant wrinkle is that the NEC electrical code as of 2017 now requires portable power distribution equipment to be listed, so even if you build it to code, you can’t build it to code.

There are reasons that distros cost what they do - the potential for injury goes up exponentially with available current, and there are nuances to the design that are different than a typical residential panel. 

Construction spider boxes are a few hundred dollars.  I believe Peavey still sells their spider-box style distro for a similar price. 

Going up a step, the custom Whirlwind PLR-SKB distro I just ordered (Google it - they’re very cool) cost less than the 100’ of feeder cable that powers it.

If you need a distro, you need a listed distro.
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William Schnake

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2018, 09:25:06 am »


...You know how it goes- takes 20 "Atta-Boys!" to cover for one "Oh, Shit."...

Ray, you are close.  The actual ration is about 200 to 1.

Last weekend is a prefect example.  Several years ago we were working with Marty Stuart and his band.  Great guys.  Anyway, just before the show we couldn't get a clean signal out of the Mando.  We change the cable from the snake, re-patched to different snake channel and changed 3 direct boxes.  I told Marty's stage tech that it had to be in the Mando or in the cable to the Mando.  He said the cable was new and the Mando worked last night and refused to change the cable.  I went to the FoH Tech and told him what the hold up was, explained what we had done and he agreed either cable to the Mando or in the Mando.  He got on the talkback mic told the Marty's stage tech to change the Mando cable.  Marty's stage tech walked to the front of the stage and in front of 3000 people flipped of the FoH Tech.  FoH called to the stage and told the stage tech he had 30 seconds to change the cable or he could walk back to Nashville and fine a new job in the morning.  The stage tech changed the cable the Mando worked great and the show went on.  Last weekend I was asked what the problem was that we had on the Marty Stuart show.  That show was 9 years ago.

It takes a lot of good to makeup for a bad even if it isn't your fault.

Bill
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Brian Bolly

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2018, 12:01:32 pm »

As TJ and Ray point out, there's plenty of market share at the bottom - the need for "big boy" products, but people not wanting to pay the price tag.  But even with some of the well known manufacturers, there is a difference.

Case in point: I own several stringer boxes made by a couple different manufacturers - L21-30 in and thru, with 3x L6-30 out on the top.  No breakers, nothing fancy, and they are nearly identical - Hubbell connectors, similar enclosures, etc.

Mfg A is a listed product, Mfg B is not.  Price-wise they are close, with Mfg A being just a couple dollars more (<$50, IIRC). 

Recently I had cause to open up one box from each, and immediately it became clear why Mfg A is a listed product and costs a few bucks more - mounting hardware, distribution blocks, etc.  Mfg B was simply wire and zip ties.  Nothing wrong with it (IMO), it still gets the job done, but the difference in quality was clear.

As you have been in the industry for years, you know as well as anyone that electrical work deserves a healthy respect.  We all joke about "if bad sound could kill", but we know that bad electrical will do just that.  Why companies like Ampshop still exist are beyond me, but clearly someone is keeping them in business.  Seems like a Darwin award waiting to happen.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2018, 12:26:03 pm »

Why companies like Ampshop still exist are beyond me, but clearly someone is keeping them in business.  Seems like a Darwin award waiting to happen.

They exist because some business owners think they can "cost savings" their way to profitability when their real issue is lack of sales and/or the price point their services bring.
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2018, 01:05:45 pm »

A significant wrinkle is that the NEC electrical code as of 2017 now requires portable power distribution equipment to be listed, so even if you build it to code, you can’t build it to code.

There are reasons that distros cost what they do - the potential for injury goes up exponentially with available current, and there are nuances to the design that are different than a typical residential panel. 

Construction spider boxes are a few hundred dollars.  I believe Peavey still sells their spider-box style distro for a similar price. 

Going up a step, the custom Whirlwind PLR-SKB distro I just ordered (Google it - they’re very cool) cost less than the 100’ of feeder cable that powers it.

If you need a distro, you need a listed distro.

I am curious, I have heard that listing requirement,  but I do not see that listing requirement in either Article 520 or 525-of NEC 2017?

I would be concerned with manufacturing from a liability standpoint.  How many discussions on here talk about special requirements-these are the kinds of things that get modified quite often.  If someone modifies something on the signal side of sound it is relatively safe-on the power side it can become a problem in a hurry-and how do you prove who did what?  Recently I had a service call at a tanning salon I wired-a 22kW bed was malfunctioning.  I found a melted wirenut in a j-box.  They had moved the bed from one room to another using a box I installed, so this was not my "wirenut install).  Had a fire occured, could I prove that?
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Steve Swaffer

TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2018, 01:33:12 pm »

I am curious, I have heard that listing requirement,  but I do not see that listing requirement in either Article 520 or 525-of NEC 2017?

I would be concerned with manufacturing from a liability standpoint.  How many discussions on here talk about special requirements-these are the kinds of things that get modified quite often.  If someone modifies something on the signal side of sound it is relatively safe-on the power side it can become a problem in a hurry-and how do you prove who did what?  Recently I had a service call at a tanning salon I wired-a 22kW bed was malfunctioning.  I found a melted wirenut in a j-box.  They had moved the bed from one room to another using a box I installed, so this was not my "wirenut install).  Had a fire occured, could I prove that?
Hey Steve.  It's 520.53 "Portable stage switchboards shall be listed and shall comply with 520.53 (A) through (E)".

Here's a rundown of NEC2017 changes that affect the entertainment industry as compiled by Steve Terry who sits on the NEC committee:

https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/summary-of-nec-2017-entertainment-industry-changes.40489/#post-349892

One other point of interest is 520.54(b) states "The power supply conductors for portable stage switchboards utilizing solid-state phase control dimmers shall be sized considering the neutral conductor as a current-carrying conductor for ampacity purposes."  This should end the debate about 6/4 SOOW being acceptable for 50 amp use - it's not.  4/4 SOOW is required for 14-50/California cables (and even if it wasn't required by code, you still want it anyway for voltage drop reasons).



TJ
« Last Edit: January 09, 2018, 02:03:56 pm by TJ (Tom) Cornish »
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David Winners

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Re: Distro production?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2018, 08:14:00 am »

Thank you very much for the feedback gentlemen.

After seeing what is available from current manufacturers, and at what price point, I can't see this being a viable business. I could produce a great product, but it would be prohibitively expensive to do it right.
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