Carpeted or ATA Racks - Opinions, please...

MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
All the racks I currently have are of the carpeted variety, but wanted some opinions from those who have experience with both carpeted and ATA/Flight cases. I have 12-space, 8-space, 7-space, 6-space and 2-space racks. I currently spread my band's PA mixers, amps and effects across the 12-space and 6-space racks to help ease transport, in terms of weight and packing flexibility. I group the items practically. For example, I have the main mixer, effects, compressor, crossover and an e-drum module in the 12-space rack. I have two power amps in the 6-space rack (because I do not have a 4-space rack).

The initial reasons I went carpeted to begin with were:

  • When stacked, regardless of different footprint sizes, they never slide, being that they pretty much stick to each other.
  • Carpeted racks are made of thicker wood, so items are well protected from impact.
  • Protection from each other, and other value items like my drums when packing them in vehicles during transport. Being made of wood and carpeted, if you bump them into other things, it's not a like hard metal edges hitting things.

I'd like to further lighten the load, as well as lower the overall stacked height, if possible. Since I only have two amps in the 6-space rack, the empty 2RUs adds unnecessary height, so I thought I would just get another 2-space rack and spread the two amps out over the two 2-space racks. While that would lighten the load of two amps in one rack, it would not shorten the stacked height by much, because when you stack two 2-space racks on top of each other, the top of the rack on the bottom and the bottom of the rack on the top add to the height, if you can picture that. While going with a 4-space rack would shorten the stacked height, carpeted racks are relatively heavy, so that probably won't result in an appreciable lightening of the load.

So, now I'm wondering if transitioning over to ATA/Flight style cases might be better, because I would think that since they are made of slightly thinner wood they'd not only be lighter, the overall stack height would be shorter, too. If I am wrong here, I'd sure like to know. I'm also concerned that moving to ATA/Flight case styles might compromise stacking stability (especially with different footprint sizes), provide less protection due to thinner construction, and be riskier to other equipment because of all the metal typically lining the edges of ATA/Flight style cases. In fact, I think a combo of carpeted and ATA/Flight cases might even be worse for stacking stability.

Any thoughts, opinions, suggestions and/or out-of-the-box thinking would be appreciated. :)
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
There's ATA and there's ATA style. Depends on how rough you expect to be with them. They're definitely lighter. And if it matters more pro looking. Carpeted racks spell cheap faster than Behringer or Mackie stuff inside (just about any regional rider for sound reinforcement will spell out no Behringer or Mackie, just to weed out amateurs). Poly racks like SKB are another viable alternative and acceptable for local situations. I have a combination of Gator and SKB. The SKB is definitely better but I'd sure rather move the Gator racks than some cheap carpeted wood things.
 

MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
Thanks for reply.

I, personally, like the look of the carpeted racks, because they tend to fade into the background, whereas the metal of the ATA cases clutters up the overall presentation of a band and it's instruments. It almost reduces the visual effect of the chrome on drum kits, racks, guitar color schemes, etc., especially on a well-lit stage. In my opinion, audio equipment should really not be seen. So, from that perspective, bringing attention to cases is amateurish.

That said, thankfully, since I run sound for my band, most of the racks for audio equipment is on the backline, except in setups where I am positioned more in the front. But, even then, because I have a lot of silverfish/chrome on my kit and drum rack, and I am currently using grey carpeted racks, the audio racks are hard to see anyway. I guess if I go ATA style, I can always drape a black sheet or something over them to hide their garish-ness.

Thanks for the suggestion on the poly stuff, but those types of cases are not on my radar. They just aren't durable. In fact, one corner of my DW double-pedal case got pushed in quite soon after I got it. Since I transport all of my own equipment, and am very careful with it, I don't even know how that happened. And, I, personally, think all the amp racks made of that stuff looks really cheap.

Your comment about the ATA style cases definitely being lighter has me now investigating them even more. Perhaps I can figure out a way to put some rubber or something on the metal edges. I am quite handy. In fact, I custom built some of my carpeted racks. Hmmmm...
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
If you're flying/trucking stuff in tour mode, I'd say go with the Formica covering. The carpet will just get torn and stained, and won't look so good anymore. If carefully trucking the gear locally, and you or your crew are the only ones handling it, then I agree, the carpeted cases generally look nicer without the glare and steel corners.

BTW, on tour with Al, all cases are Formica covered flight cases, and some are visible onstage. If a case is black, that's fine. Where's it's another color, it gets dressed/draped to be less distracting.

Bermuda
 

MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
Thanks for the reply. Maybe the initial decision to go carpeted was the right one, for me. Local travel only, packed by us.

Is the ATA stuff significantly lighter than wood/carpet? Also, I can't help but wonder if the ATA is LESS protective since the panels seem to often be made of only 3/8" laminate, whereas carpet/wood are typically 1/2" - 5/8" multi-ply? I made mine with 9-ply 5/8" birch.

BTW, who is this Al you referenced?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'd say that 5/8" is more than sturdy enough for around town work!

The one I call Al is Weird Al.

I'm that Bermuda. :)
 

MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
I think you misunderstood my post. I was saying that I was wondering if ATA rack panels being only 3/8" were less protective. It almost doesn't make sense that the thinner construction is flight ready, when carpeted racks are thicker, yet not flight ready. Do you think 3/8" is sufficient?

Oh, THAT Al! :)
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
3/8 is certainly fine for local and light trucking without much abuse.

Bermuda
 

MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
Aren't flight cases 3/8" as well? How to they hold up to the abuse of air travel? Although my current band doesn't travel far, I previously flew to gigs, and may do so again at some point. So, if I am going to invest in a complete change to ata it would be nice to know if a measly 3/8" paneling would really protect equipment and not crack when some other luggage lands on them.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
3/8" cases can certainly fly, but it is subject to damage from other freight (or your own cases) being pushed into or stacked on them. But an equal potential for damage exists from loading cases in & out of trucks.

What it really comes down to is the care taken when transporting the gear. I used to fly & truck my drums in fiber cases (!) and I don't think I ever had a problem. Later I went to hard plastic cases, and again, no problems except for an occasional cracked lid. Granted, everyone took a little more care because the cases weren't ATA rated.

Ironically, when I finally went to ATA trunks just 7 years ago, they really started to take a beating, because they were handled like flight cases. I've got a few trunks with pushes in them that would have destroyed the contents had they been in the fiber or plastic cases I toured with for the first 25 years! Happily, no problems since. Unfortunately, I don't know the plywood thickness on my trunks. I'll bet we went with 3/8". :)

Here are my drum trunks, I also have two trap cases for cymbals & misc.

bermuda
 

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MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
Now that I think about it, my drums literally flew the world when fiber cases were the only ones available, and you're right, nothing bad really happened. But, then again, drums are relatively light, and the cases LOOKED like there were drums in them, so they were likely cared for appropriately. But, heavy amps and equipment racks are subject to rougher handling, I bet, simply because of the weight. I guess the thing to do is modularize well, and pray more. ;-) As far as stacking onstage goes, maybe some thin sheets of rubber between them would eliminate the sliding thing.

While fine for drums, I'm not so sure I'd touch plastic or poly amp racks with a ten foot pole, even for local gigs. ;-)
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
While fine for drums, I'm not so sure I'd touch plastic or poly amp racks with a ten foot pole, even for local gigs. ;-)
True, you need a workable isolation mount for the Rackspace, or put the rack inside of a nicely foamed case and let it do the protection.

As far as stacking onstage goes, maybe some thin sheets of rubber between them would eliminate the sliding thing.
There are dimpled corners that allow non-wheeled cases to stack (fairly) securely. Also, there are wheel-wells that let wheeled cases stack without sliding off.
 

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MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
But, what happens when not all cases are the same footprint sizes? Then you have metal on laminate (I think the 3/8" laminate models are better then 3/8" fibreboard), which I would think almost definitely would result in sliding, am I right?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
But, what happens when not all cases are the same footprint sizes?
You plan accordingly when ordering cases.

Or when adding new cases to an existing arsenal, you also plan accordingly.

Bermuda
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
We're kind of going between local bar/wedding band and varsity touring rigs here. The difference between loading into a box or semi-truck and the back of an SUV.

My impression was that the OP was looking at local gigs loaded into cars and such. And looking at lightening the load. Not having them thrown around by airline baggage handlers or rolled down truck ramps into each other in the back of an arena.

3/4" ply (or worse MDF) as used in consumer carpeted racks is HEAVY. Fill up a small trailer with this stuff and move it several times a week and it will get old real fast. Been there. Migrated to ATA style cases to lighten the load. Eventually ended up with the poly cases which have been hauled in and out of innumerable clubs, hotel ballrooms and street festivals. My mains amp rack consisted of a Crest Pro 9200 and two QSC PLX amps. 12,000 watts in an 8U rack (with the DriveRack and I/O-power distro panel) that weighed less than 100 lbs. Meaning I could move it myself and even put it in the back seat of a car. Monitor amp rack nested on top of that as the poly racks have a nesting feet feature and I built a dolly that the nesting feet went into so I could roll the whole bit in and out of the ramp trailer and move it around. But if I had to lug it up stairs or something, it didn't take a whole crew.

They've taken a couple tumbles with no damage since each is not that heavy. I agree that I would want shock mount ATA if I were touring. Even for a van and trailer tour. Just to make sure "helpful" people didn't break anything.

A good compromise are these folks: http://www.audiopile.net/products/Cases/Case_products_page.shtml Very good people to work with. Not full blown varsity tour stuff but good for local/regional bands and easier to move. Better than the offshore e-bay stuff. And with consistent case hardware, you get corners that nest and won't slide off each other. They could even do custom stuff that latches together.
 

MrLeadFoot

Silver Member
You're right, we have deviated a bit from the original topic... sort of. Yes, my initial intent is to lighten the load, and reduce stacking height if possible. If I am going to replace my carpeted racks with ATA style, I want to get the most bang for my buck, so yours and Bermuda's input has provided me with things to consider.

You are correct about my current needs and transportation methods. I have a Suburban. The following items I tote to gigs:

  • 6-piece drum kit in Kaces heavy-duty soft-sided bags. When I need extra protection, I fit the soft bags into vintage Anvil fibre cases.
  • 5 cymbals and hi-hat in Reunion Blues bag.
  • Tama drum rack with 48" uprights, 2 side wings, floating snare tube and legless hi-hat stand, along with overhead mic and vocal booms fit into Kaces Ballistic hardware bag.
  • Cymbal booms and throne in hardware bag.
  • DW double-kick pedal in stock hardcase.
  • Drum carpet
  • 15" mains
  • 15" monitors
  • 18" subwoofer
  • Chauvet LED lighting in bag.
  • 4 Hercules mic stands in stand bag.
  • 12RU Carpeted amp Rack
  • 6RU Carpeted amp rack (sometimes another rack for another sub-mixer)
  • Drum and cymbal mics in a case.
  • Lighting foot control unit and vocal mics in a bag.
  • Audio cables in a rolling bag.
  • Laptop in a bag
.

It may not sound like much, but it is quite a tight, puzzle-fit arrangement in my Suburban to get all this in, which adds some time to the loading, but it eliminates the need for a trailer, and provides complete protection from the elements. I modularized items to help with the fit. And, you're right, load-ins and load-outs are getting old, so lightening each item I have to lift is desirable.

That said, because of such a tight fit, obviously everything is solidly up against everything else, so a serious concern is the hard metal edges of ATA-style cases. I'd hate to bang a metal edge against something and dent it, let alone bump an edge against the body of the vehicle. I previously once bumped a corner of a keyboard combo amp into the body near the door and I was surprised that it put a good dent in the vehicle. Prior to that I didn't think the stuff was heavy enough to do that kind of damage so easily, so I am much more careful now. In fact, on the racks I made, I took the time to use a router on all edges and corners so I didn't have any sharp edges or corners, just for that reason.

So, that's why the concern with the edges on ATA cases. However, if ATA style cases are significantly lighter, and are not much more than good carpeted racks, then I want to consider them. But, along with that comes the following compromises:
  • If I later want to switch out ATA case sizes, say, a 6-RU for a 4RU, it seems that I have to be sure they are the exact footprint and hardware, or I have a stacking issue.
  • I have to be much more conscious when moving them because I could more easily damage them and something I bump into.
  • I have to be more conscious when packing the vehicle.
  • I may have to carry something to dress them so they don't stand out too much onstage.
  • I may also have to carry some sheet rubber in case I want to stack them and they don't fit perfectly together.

It sounds like if I go ATA I might actually have to consider replacing all the racks I potentially use at a given gig, at the same time just to be sure they stack well, and in case a company later no longer makes the same models that fit well together. And, if I need to do that, then I might as well get stuff that can withstand "rougher" handling. like air travel. And, of course, all of this starts to add up in cost.

I've looked at EW stuff in the past, and I will look again. Thanks for the reminder. But, in the end, maybe a lighter and possibly more compact, but not weaker rack/case doesn't exist. I dread the thought of remaking my racks in 3/8" ply, only to find they are much weaker because of that. There's got to be something other ideas that would serve to meet my needs/wants. ;-)
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
LF, you might scratch EWI grade ATA style cases slamming them into the back of a Suburban but you won't dent or crack them. When I had mine I would roll them into a trailer and use ratchet straps to hold each layer or two together. So they would rattle against each other driving around. Same scenario with the poly cases. Never had any damage. There were also two 23x23x36" serious ATA trunks that I'd collected which had cables in them. One with the distro and all the power cables, and the other with mic and speaker cables. Both were in the 150lb range and the worst part of the load. And the main reason I abandoned the SR business. But they never dented in any of the other stuff so it was good enough for that level of abuse.
 
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