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Building distro

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brian maddox:
This may be an unpopular opinion but...

I feel like the days where building your own Power Distro made sense have passed, at least at all but the most basic entry level in our industry.

When I started in the business there were almost no off the shelf solutions for Power Distro and the few that there were were pretty expensive since they were pretty much custom made to order. And it was basically Motion Labs and a couple small mom and pop shops building them, so a lot of larger companies were still rolling with the systems they had custom built a decade or more before. There was also little if any connector standards between different companies which again made any commercial solution expensive since again, you were basically paying someone else to make a custom thing for you.

But now things have largely standardized around a few common connectors and there are a number of companies building Pro Level distro solutions using modular components. This has driven the price down on these units considerably and made "home brew" solutions less and less economically advantageous. Combine this with a higher level of oversight of our industry from the various safety agencies and it just makes less and less sense to "roll your own".

This was really brought home to me a couple years ago when I was helping a company I worked with spec out a Motion Labs solution for their Video truck. I went through the Motion Labs catalog and listed off what they needed expecting the price tag to come back in the multiple thousands and the quote came back in under a grand. Compared to what we pay routinely for consoles and speakers and microphones [and freaking plugins which aren't even actual "things"] and all the rest, the cost of a Professional Power Distro is now well within the reach of most people in the industry.

Now I'm not saying you can't roll your own and end up with a very good, safe solution. And I'm not saying you can't do it and save a few dollars. But I am saying that the cost gap between doing that and just calling up one of the existing companies to sell you what you need turnkey is pretty narrow and I for one wouldn't even bother.

YMMV, etc.

^^^  Brian I'd have to agree with you.  My stuff is a combination both commercial and custom.  This includes the speakon stuff as well - some cables are made up by me and some are commercially manufactured.  Distribution system is COTS and a few custom cords and adapters.

Manufacturers buy components cheaper than I can, due to bulk purchasing power.  That's where things swing that direction.

I learned that in a similar way some years ago when I put UPS's on electronics at home.  Buying good condition used APC rigs, then came batteries.  Shipping battery weight from a UPS seller at their rates for used batteries or even new -vs- the shipping rates a battery resale firm gets just make it stupid to pay shipping on used batteries or new batteries from the wrong source.

I do custom work on rack panels and rack power distribution and go with commercial made for the system distribution spider.

Brian Jojade:
Rolling your own distro if you have to buy all of  the parts new is certainly not going to be economical if you factor any value in your labor.

But, if you have a pile of old but good parts, you can easily build your own. Unfortunately, you aren't going to get a UL listing on what you built, so even though you may have built something perfectly safe, an inspector could pull the plug - literally.

So I agree with Brian that for most businesses, it doesn't make sense to build.  The small players that are playing in areas that don't have inspectors, and the hobbyist that just does this for fun and doesn't value their time can build if they want to. Just be aware that some places may not allow you to use it which could cause the show to suffer unexpectedly.

Sam Saponaro Jr:
I hear ya on labor to build one but I like doing electrical work so I really don't mind and really just getting restarted doing sound jobs and having spent my cash flow on new( ok good used) gear saving any buck I can is just sick of hunting for circuits and running extra cables and popping breakers.

Paul Johnson:
I've always built my own, and they got cleverer and cleverer as new internals came on the market. I also got safer and safer creating them, and in my later ones, they were tough as well as functional. The UK electrical Regs are followed pretty accurately and oddly, anyone can produce a distro - even if a hobby electrician, but it will need to be testable and inspectable. That all said, I now buy them - we have a manufacturer here call rubber box - and they build the connectors, circuit protection, isolation and monitoring components into things that can be used indoors or out. Even worse we now have a spec for temporary electrical installations so it's just easier to buy or rent something somebody else takes the responsibility for.


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