Friday, March 18, 2016

FTA Mods: Making a DJ case with integrated Neutrik audio ports

This is where it all started...

I had plans to buy a new to me "compact" DJM-909 load it and my decks into a coffin and start my new weekly on air residency (more about that later). As you can see from the photo the USPS had other plans (more on this topic later as well).

With "Plan A" out the window I scrambled to come up with a solution. I would be in need of a quick, simple and safe way to transport my gear. While surfing the web I found these series of images by Soulsonica. For starters hat tip to him for this sick build, however his posts on DJ TechTools, Inthemix, and Djforums were void of details. But they gave just enough information to get the ball rolling for me.

A few days later with packages from Amazon and Full Compass arriving at the studio, we were in business. 

Shopping List:

2 - Neutrik 3-Pole Non-Locking Female XLR Chassis Connector with Nickel Housing and Silver Contacts

4 - Neutrik  XLR-M Connector with M3 Mounting Holes

3 - Neutrik  Reversible USB Gender-Changing Adapter (Nickel Finish)
2 - Cables 12 ft. Velocity RCA Stereo Audio Extension Cable, Dual - L + R

2 - Cable Vu USBA-USBB-5 5 ft USB 2.0 Type A to Type B Cable

6 - GLS Audio 3ft Patch Cable Cords

2 - LyxPro 1.5 Ft Right Angle XLR   

10 - Black 3 Pins IEC320 C14 Inlet Power Plug Socket AC 250V 10A 

Gear List: 

2 - Technics 1200M3D

1 - DJM700

2 - Road Ready Turntable Cases

1 - Road Ready 12" Mixer Case

Roughing out the placement of all the ports on the case

Note I'm not an electrical genius, I went into this project with a fair amount of fear that I would blow up my gear. Needless to say I did not. Most questions I had were answered over the internet via forums and youtube videos. Big ups to The Bright Pixel for his indepth XLR soldering video.

Neutrik ports are so pretty
Roughing out the placement for the ports was a humorous game of "musical ports". Basically I made an arrangement, tossed some darts, moved them around again, had some tea, moved then around once more. Ha.

Each one I just used a white colored pencil to map out my placements
Eventually I figured out where I wanted what and penciled it in with white colored pencil.

Making a cheat sheet
However, when drilling holes and trying to be really precise a cheat sheet is nice to have.

This illustrates how to make a simple design far more complicated then it needed to be.
This is a great example of how all the planning in the world can over complicate a design. In the end the key is always "Keep it simple stupid".

In the end keep it simple
This was the first look inside the case, thankfully it was not full of foam.

My drilling cheat sheet.
Cheat sheet in full effect. You can see the center marks I made. I then used a nail to punch a guide hole for the drill.

Mocking up the ports making sure the holes were big enough
Pro Tip: When putting the ports into the drilled holes, use a rubber mallet so as not to hurt the ports.

Hat tip to Soulsonica for the diagram!
A 3-pin XLR with a stereo signal can be split into left and right RCA. 

Pin 1 of the XLR connects to the sleeve of both RCA plugs as the ground
Pin 2 of the XLR to the tip of the LEFT RCA plug
Pin 3 of the XLR to the tip of the RIGHT RCA plug  

Presto balanced to unbalanced signal. Revers this on the other end and your good to go.

Ages ago I got one of these for fly fishing, but its was a great bit of tech to have in the build
Prepping the ports, cutting the wires, tinning the wires, heat shrink and making all sure I have all the supplies. Doing all this made it a production line of audio goodness.

Prep, Prep, Prep

Rough placement of the Rane SL4 box
Here is where I started roughing out the placements for the Serato box, power strips, and wires.

Turntable case port placement
Prepping to knock out the holes in the turntable case.

I love the smell of solder
XLR right angle cable added to the XLR port. Again I love this bit of tech

Wire management round one

Lets talk about wire management. Serato is notorious for getting your cables mixed up. For those that remember the SL1 where their was 4 RCA cables... yea headache. SL4 has only 2 but I marked them all the same so they would be easy to find or replace.

I'm sort of proud with how much space I still have in the box

labeled ports
Yes those are labeled ports... yea I got nerdy with the label maker. Smiling.

Let me tell you about being proud and scared.
At this point I've not hooked up the decks yet. I've done some minor sound tests with my phone. I'm totally freaking out that my soldering will not be up to snuf.

This was just before I tested the audio source signals.
If your looking you will see the roach clip for a grounding connector. Its the one part of this system that could be knocked loose in travel. I may update this later but I wanted something that would be easy to swap in our out decks.

Detail shot before we hook it all up.

In action. totally stoked with the build.
Freaking sexy. Now all my cables are all easily replaceable. 2 XLR in, 2 XLR out, 2 USB Serato out, 1 USB out for the Dicers. Something to note if your looking hard over in the right side of the mixer is a USB extender that allows me to hook up the Dicer to the USB port in the mixer case. Its not perfect but its functional.

Now I've gone with a 3 Pins IEC power port instead of a Neutrik Powercon, because in a pinch I can replace it far easier.

Here she is ladies and gentleman. Locked stocked and ready to rock.
What did I learn? Really... not much. It was all either really simple or easy to learn. 

The big hick up I had was actually right at the end. I found out while testing my signal clarity with the Serato box, that the track was playing backwards. But that was a 5 min fix as I had switched the red and white RCA when soldering them to the turntable XLR port. Switching them back took care of the issue.

I hope you all enjoyed this tear down of the mobile case build. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line.


iLL Omen said...

Incredible build. I would pay for this service without a doubt.

Unknown said...

I'm confused by the grounding of the RCA female to XLR port. I'm getting weird audio with both my grounds going to 1 on the XLR. When I remove one of them it sounds like it should but then one of the rca isn't grounded so there is a hum.

I see the grounding post added but not sure to what? Any help would be very appreciated as that's where I'm getting lost in this build.


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Edward the Librarian said...

@andrew rivas. are your turntables internally grounded or do they have a grounding post? I only ask to make sure my bases are covered. I have mine grounded to a metal screw in the case to be grounded. I will see about photographic images to help