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Author Topic: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.  (Read 4129 times)

Liam Croft

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Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« on: March 08, 2016, 06:13:24 pm »

This is my first ever post, so hi all!  :)

I work for a music shop in south London and I'm currently working on a church PA install. We will be flying Electrovoice EVA elements and using QRX subs on the floor.

These will be powered by 2 EV CP4000 amps with a DX46 speaker management system. We are also supplying a 9 mic AKG wireless system and it all needs to go into a rack.

So I started thinking about the rack layout, did some searching online and couldn't really find any in depth articles or discussions about that kind of thing, which is why I'm posting here!

In total, the wireless mic system takes up 6u (3 AKG APS4 antenna distribution plus 9 WMS470 receivers). The DX46 is 1u, and the amps are 2u each. The customer also wants a 2u drawer for storage. In total, that's 13u.

I was planning to mount all the wireless stuff at the top, followed by the drawer, then the speaker management, then the amplifiers - all without any spaces in between. I will also need some kind of power distribution.

So I have a few questions - and would greatly appreciate any advice anyone has to offer on this subject.

1. Is it worth leaving ventilation gaps between gear when building install racks?

2. Can anyone recommend any good rackmount power distribution units? I will need 16 plug sockets in total - ideally with everything running off a single mains lead. Would power conditioning be necessary? Or a power sequencer?

3. Can anyone recommend any good cable management systems, or techniques/best practices for cable management?

4. Is it worth installing forced air cooling?

5. Does anyone have any general tips for rack layout? I usually just put the heavier stuff at the bottom, but have never really considered any other factors that might affect layout.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read and reply!

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Joseph D. Macry

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Re: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2016, 09:32:16 pm »

This is my first ever post, so hi all!  :)

I work for a music shop in south London and I'm currently working on a church PA install. We will be flying Electrovoice EVA elements and using QRX subs on the floor.

These will be powered by 2 EV CP4000 amps with a DX46 speaker management system. We are also supplying a 9 mic AKG wireless system and it all needs to go into a rack.

So I started thinking about the rack layout, did some searching online and couldn't really find any in depth articles or discussions about that kind of thing, which is why I'm posting here!

In total, the wireless mic system takes up 6u (3 AKG APS4 antenna distribution plus 9 WMS470 receivers). The DX46 is 1u, and the amps are 2u each. The customer also wants a 2u drawer for storage. In total, that's 13u.

I was planning to mount all the wireless stuff at the top, followed by the drawer, then the speaker management, then the amplifiers - all without any spaces in between. I will also need some kind of power distribution.

So I have a few questions - and would greatly appreciate any advice anyone has to offer on this subject.

1. Is it worth leaving ventilation gaps between gear when building install racks?

2. Can anyone recommend any good rackmount power distribution units? I will need 16 plug sockets in total - ideally with everything running off a single mains lead. Would power conditioning be necessary? Or a power sequencer?

3. Can anyone recommend any good cable management systems, or techniques/best practices for cable management?

4. Is it worth installing forced air cooling?

5. Does anyone have any general tips for rack layout? I usually just put the heavier stuff at the bottom, but have never really considered any other factors that might affect layout.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read and reply!

Far too much to answer right here and now BUT:
1. Leave gaps between power amps, and anything that has top or bottom vents. Not that critical for amps (if you're tight on space) that vent front to back or vice versa.
2. Most rack manufacturers have vertical power strips that will fit the rack. Use this for your low-current gear. Some have surge protection built in. Otherwise, plug it into a power conditioner or sequencer. Sequencers cost more, but they can make the amps come on last and off first, as well as controlling surge current.
3. Again, far too much for right here. Much can by learned from InfoComm's site. Keep the low-level lines, speaker lines, and power lines separately bundled away from each other. Neatness counts when it comes to later service.
4. Forced cooling? If your heat load is high. Middle Atlantic Product's site has a white paper on thermal management. (Sorry, not hunting for the link right now.)
5. Heavier stuff (power amps) goes at bottom for mobile racks, as it's harder to tump over. (Yes, "tump" is a word among my crowd.) In installed racks, having amps up top helps the heat flow up and out easier. Keep user controls at height comfortable for to read and reach. Anything with a display to be read (CD players etc) should be where it's easy to read. Put storage drawers low where you can look and reach into them.
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Joseph Macry,
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John Rutirasiri

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Re: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2016, 05:00:11 pm »


1. Is it worth leaving ventilation gaps between gear when building install racks?
2. Can anyone recommend any good rackmount power distribution units? I will need 16 plug sockets in total - ideally with everything running off a single mains lead. Would power conditioning be necessary? Or a power sequencer?
3. Can anyone recommend any good cable management systems, or techniques/best practices for cable management?
4. Is it worth installing forced air cooling?
5. Does anyone have any general tips for rack layout? I usually just put the heavier stuff at the bottom, but have never really considered any other factors that might affect layout.

When I do installs:

1) If space is available, I leave 1RU between hot components.  Many components don't like to be heated by the unit directly below it (e.g. Shure UR4D receivers.)  I don't leave space between power amps since nearly all have forced cooling, but I do leave 1 space above a power amp. 

2) I recommend my clients leave all equipment on 24/7.  The daily turn-ons does stresses equipment more than leaving them on.  I use PDUs designed for server racks, and have begun putting IP-controlled ones for monitoring and remote/sequenced on/off (have had good luck with Raritan stuff).  Standard in my installs is an online UPS battery backup unit for all the electronics except power amps.  Power conditioners are useless IMO, and most surge protectors don't protect after a couple of surges.  An online UPS protects much better.  Never plug a surge protected power strip or PDU into a UPS.  Make sure UPS has automatic bypass, so that it uses wall power if there's problems with the batteries.  Tripp Lite UPS are notorious for not powering up if batteries go bad.

3) I keep audio and data to one side, and power and speaker to the other.  Route from bottom to top.  Coax for wireless antenna come through the top.

4) I do forced air cooling (that is, an actual rack-mounted air conditioner, not just a blower) if the audio rack is in a a press box w/io air conditioner, or some space without ventilation.  If it's indoor, I don't think you need it,  as long as the front and rear doors have ample ventilation slots/holes and you put blanks on all unused spaces.

5) Heavier stuff on bottom is correct, to lower center of gravity since racks get moved.  For me that would be UPS all the way at the bottom, then PDUs (to keep power cords out of the way), then power amps.  If there's a rack mount mixer, it goes so that the display is eye level.  Not necessary to have wireless at the top since you're likely to have antennas in the sanctuary.  I never put drawers near the bottom where people can kick them close.

Best of luck,
John R.
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ClearImpact Sound & Event Services, Inc.
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Liam Croft

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Re: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2016, 05:58:53 pm »

Thanks a lot for all the info guys! I'm having a look at the Middle Atlantic white paper now and it looks very interesting.

Really appreciate the in depth answers, thanks again. This is my biggest project so far so it's all very exciting!
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duane massey

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Re: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2016, 03:52:28 pm »

There are several different philosophies on rack layout. I only have a few things that I insist on. If at all possible, install a taller rack than you think you'll need. You'll need it.
I normally leave a space between units with different depths, especially if there are connectors that can be challenging. Very few things make me cuss more than trying to reach into a single-space opening and plug in phoenix or bnc connectors.

It's nice if the rack looks neat, but leave service loops.

Label EVERYTHING!
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Duane Massey
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2016, 04:06:25 pm »

install a taller rack than you think you'll need. You'll need it.
I normally leave a space between units with different depths
It's nice if the rack looks neat, but leave service loops.

Label EVERYTHING!
What he said!
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James Hicks

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Re: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2016, 04:21:50 pm »

There are several different philosophies on rack layout. I only have a few things that I insist on. If at all possible, install a taller rack than you think you'll need. You'll need it.
I normally leave a space between units with different depths, especially if there are connectors that can be challenging. Very few things make me cuss more than trying to reach into a single-space opening and plug in phoenix or bnc connectors.

It's nice if the rack looks neat, but leave service loops.

Label EVERYTHING!

This!
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Nitin Sidhu

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Re: Rack build layout/design best practices, tips etc.
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2016, 01:50:37 pm »

To all here.

Images please.

Thank you.
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