P.A. System Leads & Stagebox ML16/4-SFBX-50
Any band or P.A. hire company running a medium size mixer from the preferred 'front of house' position (i.e., in among the audience) has an immediate problem with finding suitable 'stage boxes' and multicore leads. They're not the sort of things which many music shops stock, and neither are they all that easy to make, unless you have a fair degree of electronics knowledge, coupled with access to the right multicore cables, metal-clad stage boxes etc.
One British-based company which ITs team has come across in the past, and who are in the forefront of pro instrument and P.A. lead suppliers, are Musicable, situated in luvverly downtown Slough. Musicable supply (largely anonymously) a vast number of pro bands with such items, along with their superb 'Alright Jacks' recording and instrument leads (one of which our illustrious Editor has been trampling underfoot for the past 18 months and which even he can't destroy!) so we felt it was high time that their superbly engineered multicore and multipair P.A. systems were made better known to musicians at large - hence the giant cardboard box which arrived at our offices, containing a complete 16 in, 4 out stagebox-to-XLR fantail system, with some - gasp! - 50 metres of cable.
The problem facing bands who want to mix their sound 'front of house' isn't just what type of mixer to use - after all, there are plenty of reasonable quality new types around these days at low enough prices (Starsound Dynamix, Cutec, Oval, Seck and so on - not to mention those from traditional backline amp makers like Traynor, Yamaha, Peavey etc.) but rather, how best to connect their on-stage sources of leads (mikes, D.I.s etc.) to their mixer.
The worst option of all is to try and link your mike, D.I. and other leads individually to your mixer. These represent a major hazard, both to audiences and to your sound quality. What you need is a decent stage-box, into which all your sources (both mike and line) can plug, and one heavy duty multicore to deliver all your signals, safely and correctly, to and from your mixer and foldback system.
With the Musicable system we sampled (and it's just one of numerous options they offer), a multipair cable connects to a stagebox, which takes the inputs from your mikes, D.I. leads from amps etc., and leads them, via one single massively armoured multicore cable, to the mixing desk.
Each 'pair' of cables carries a mike signal from the stagebox to the inputs of your mixer, or, alternatively, a signal from the mixer back to the stagebox. To make life easy for your soundcrew, each connector is individually labelled, and an option is provided whereby the mixer end of the lead can be terminated in either a 'fantail' of individual XLR connectors or a multipin connector.
Taking this sturdy set-up out of its packing case, the first thing to become obvious was the stupendous engineering quality of the system. The stage box itself is fabricated from sheet steel, with a rubber non-slip base. Neutrik connectors are used throughout, and the whole system appears to be utterly bomb-proof. A galvanised steel cable support is used, which removes any possibility of strain being placed on the fantail or multipin connectors. The fantails themselves are protected with armoured conduit and galvanised steel cable glands. Frankly, however much you excited your audiences, we couldn't imagine any damage occurring to the security of your multicore lead, and of course the mike/D.I. inputs are safely contained on stage. Likewise, even the most manic of players would be hard-pressed to inflict any damage at all on the steel stagebox itself, which was sturdy to the N'th. degree - heavy metal guitarists watch out; you may have met your match here!
The most impressive thing about the Musicable system has to be the sheer engineering excellence of it. The overall - massive - strength of the system will undoubtedly withstand both the extremes of live use and the constant reeling and re-reeling of such a system, every time your P.A. is shifted from gig to gig.
However we assaulted the Musicable system, it seemed impossible to damage it. Wherever a joint required protection, it was provided. This is the sort of engineering quality which Britain used to be world-famous for, and it was inspiring to see that such standards still exist in this plastic day and age!
The only difficulty we could see with this system lay in its cost. The raw materials used in such an uncompromisingly professional assembly are so expensive, and the time employed by the Musicable team so lengthy, that the price has to be high. For a professional band, this is more than acceptable - after all, what price a ruined gig (worse still, a tour) due to P.A. cable breakdowns? Semi-pro and amateur bands whose equipment and conditions don't call for such rugged workmanship and materials, however, may well be looking for something more cost-effective. After all, the number of secondhand and cheap mixers on the market these days could well mean that a fully pro multicore system like this would cost more than your mixer did!
Fortunately, Musicable have come to the rescue here, with their newly launched Multi-Link 'Minor' System. Realising that a full-blown Multipair system might prove too costly, they have provided a much better alternative to the usual dodges of mixing your sound from just off-stage, or using cheap and unreliable multicore systems.
The 'Minor' system comprises two 25 metre (82ft.) overall braided copper-screened multicore cables with fantailed jacks at one end and an integrated cable drum and stagebox at the other. The 12 core cable handles mike sends and (3 core) line returns, and is designed to cut-out any crosstalk between low-level inputs and high-level outputs.
The integrated cable drum and stagebox has 15 jack sockets on a side panel, allowing 12 mikes and 3 amps wired for unbalanced use. The drum also features a Locking device which prevents it unreeling, and the drum can be placed on its side so that stagebox connections face upwards for ease of use. Price is £175.
Overall, the Musicable system we were loaned for review would suit any band or hire company whose P.A. system connections needed to be 100% reliable. It was a thoroughly pro-quality piece of equipment. If this sounds too ambitious for you, then why not look at the new 'Multi-Link Minor' package?
In fact, since writing this initial report on Musicable's superbly engineered 'pro' system, we've just heard that, in addition to the two systems mentioned above, a cheaper, 16 in, 3 out version has just been launched - at the very comfortable price of £199.
Musicable's range extends from ultra-high quality instrument and mike leads (in their 60 model plus 'Alright Jacks' range) through P.A. system leads and connectors, stage boxes and so on. Anyone wanting the very best in leads and connectors couldn't do any better than to contact this maker, in our opinion. 18 months with one of their guitar leads, plus a careful examination of their Multi-Link Stagebox/Multipair cable system shows us that their products, from our experience, cannot be bettered.
Musicable, fortunately, have a new catalogue in preparation at the time of writing, showing their huge range of leads, plugs etc., and it would be worth any player's while getting hold of this.
RRP £544 Inc. VAT
More details from Musicable, (Contact Details).
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