Guitars

Taking It With You: The Best Rackmount Cases

Protecting your equipment should be your primary concern while traveling, touring or simply setting up a studio in your home. The right rack mounts make it possible for you to protect your equipment from falls and improperly mounted hardware.

Not all racks use the same high-quality features. When you consider a setup can costs you thousands of dollars, the rack is not the place to go cheap.

Protect all of your equipment, including power conditioners, processors, mixers, microphone preamplifiers and samplers from damage due to improperly stored gear. SKB, Gator and MBT rackmount cases are all suitable choices depending on your needs.

Top Pick: Gator Cases G-PROR-4U-19 4U

Buy from Amazon

This essentially indestructible case, made out of a roto-molded polyethylene, holds up to four units, which tends to be the perfect compromise between weight and practical usage requirements.

Why You Should Trust Us

As a professional composer, I’ve had my share of experiences traveling with expensive musical instruments. In this time, I’ve realized the importance of a good rackmount case. You’ll need something that the roadies won’t bust and that the airlines won’t break.

Even if you’re strict about the rules regarding no sitting on the rackmount cases, there is always going to be someone who unwittingly violates this rule. It’s these considerations that require you to take into consideration the opinion of an expert with real experience before you choose your next case.

As an experienced musician, I’ve wasted plenty of money trying to save a few dollars or a few pounds of weight only to lose out in the form of damage to expensive equipment. If you care about your equipment, consider the cost of a high-quality rackmount into the equation.

Accept that it’s going to weigh a bit, and you’ll rest easy knowing that your equipment is safer. Over the course of 20 years and thousands of miles in flight, you begin to develop a working knowledge of the kind of case that is going to last.

While I always advocate getting the most durable and robust rackmount case possible, if you’re truly on a budget and you have aging equipment that you don’t need to protect from minor bumps and bruises, a portable bag may be enough.

This is especially true if you’re only traveling a few miles a week to the local coffee shop or bar. The advantage to a bag is that it’s lightweight, protects from dust and minor scrapes and they are more affordable.

For all other uses, I highly recommend investing in a heavy-duty case that is rated for airline travel. Hard cases can come in a variety of materials, and you can even customize the case with your band logo.

Protecting Your Equipment

One of the primary reasons to purchase a rackmount case is to organize and protect your equipment. By purchasing a quality rackmount case, you can improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your studio.

A rackmount case should provide good ventilation so that your equipment doesn’t overheat when under intense pressure. Your audio settings can take a lot of time to configure and once you get them right you don’t want others to come in and mess with your settings.

Finding a rackmount case with a roll-top cover can prevent others from adjusting your mixer settings so that you’re always ready to record at a moment’s notice.

Choosing the Right Size Unit

If you have more than one piece of equipment, it might be tempting to purchase a single rackmount case that can hold all of your equipment and isn’t designed to be portable.

In general, this is not a good recommendation. Buying a separate case for every piece of equipment allows you to customize the case to fit the equipment and ensures that the equipment is adequately protected.

When you buy a large studio rackmount shelving unit to save some money, the equipment will likely get damaged since it’s not well protected. This can cause damage during transit.

And if you end up taking a flight, you simply can’t take a studio rack with you. Some smaller cases may even be able to work as a carry-on so that you don’t have to pay extra in baggage fees. Just one extra bag on some airlines may end up costing you more than the cost of a single rackmount case.

If you don’t mind occasionally having to lift a heavy case, you can choose the most sturdy and indestructible unit you can find. However, expect to pay a premium at the baggage check.

Many of the top-line manufacturers create cases that hold from 2U to 12U rack spaces. The 12U cases are going to be the heaviest, but if it’s important for you to get up and running quickly, choosing stackable cases may be the best option for you.

There is a limit to how large of a unit a case can hold. Typically, the units designate their size by indicating whether it fits a 2U, 4U, 6U, 8U, 10U, or 12U rack space.

Rackmount Cases for Travelers

There are several features that are important in a proper rackmount case designed for traveling. The case needs to be tough enough to handle the most intense conditions, and you need to ensure that the rackmount is also lightweight and portable enough to take with you.

An innovative design that aims to help keep moisture out of the case is crucial depending on where you live. An artist in California may never need a case that protects against moisture while an artist in New York may not be able to survive without a fully waterproof case.

This is one of the many things that makes choosing a rackmount case such a highly individual decision. You have to weigh the pros and cons of your personal situation and needs and then seek out a suitable case that will serve your needs.

Consider the following criteria when choosing a rackmount case intended for traveling:

Weight – Rackmount cases should be lightweight and easy to carry. Keep the weight to how much a single person or two people could easily carry.

Stackable – Portable rackmount cases need to be stackable and have reinforced sides. This helps keep the weight down and makes it possible to transport equipment more easily.

Rugged – Strong and durable cases are a must. Look for cases with molded construction and medium density materials for a good compromise between a solid and lightweight case.

Moisture – Protect your equipment from water damage by using a moisture-resistant case. Tongue-and-groove locks and rubber gaskets are essential to keeping your equipment dry.

Materials – Aim for strong threaded steel rack rails and cases with reinforced rivets to ensure that the case can withstand the rigors of travel.

Rackmount Cases for Studios

If you’re not planning on traveling and you only need a rackmount case for your home studio, then you won’t need a portable rackmount case and you only need to worry about purchasing a case that fits within your studio and meets your needs. A single rackmount may be all you need to fill out a smaller studio.

If you want to organize your samplers, servers and other equipment, you may wish to purchase several racks to organize your equipment. It’s crucial to spend the time to lay out your studio map so that you purchase the right equipment to keep your studio organized.

An in-house solution should include racks that are solid, can be bolted to the wall and are large enough to avoid the need for stacking. Rackmount cases that aren’t secure can cause serious harm to others in your studio if you fail to properly secure the case.

Keep the following considerations in mind when purchasing a rackmount case for your studio:Sturdy – The cases should be sturdy and capable of holding your equipment.

Sturdy – The cases should be sturdy and capable of holding your equipment.

Balanced – A case should be mounted, but it should also provide good standalone balance.

Stacking – Avoid stacking cases since you want a rackmount that is capable of holding all of your equipment without the potential for weak joints.

Security – It doesn’t hurt to purchase a rackmount case with doors that can be closed. This can help reduce dust and ensure your equipment is better protected from theft or accidental damage.

Consider the Details

Like everything that is worth knowing in life, the devil is in the details. A rackmount case isn’t simply a box that houses your equipment. There are a few components you should be aware of when searching for a case.

Rails

The rails serve to reinforce the case and prevent intrusions into the case. They will also protect your case against overly zealous roadies and airline baggage attendants.

The rails should be made of a high-quality metal that can withstand some abuse. Hardware must be recessed to ensure that the equipment inside is well protected. Rivets must be machined to withstand impacts and the rigors of travel.

Floor-Safe

The floor beneath the case should also be protected, so you need to ensure that the bottom of the case doesn’t have any sharp edges that could damage your venue’s floor.

You don’t want to be known as the musician who marked up the floor of a world-renowned concert hall.

ATA

An ATA rating of 300 is essential to ensure that your case can withstand a trip around the world. It’s also extremely useful if your case is designed to be stackable, but this means the ball corners must be designed to withstand the weight.

Industrial-grade casters are also essential to make it possible to move your equipment virtually anywhere.

Cost

While the cost of a rackmount case might deter some musicians from considering forking over the extra money, damage to your equipment can exceed the cost of the case. Many cases also come insurance that guarantees the value of your instrument in case your equipment is damaged.

The following video provides an overview of some of the things you should consider when purchasing a rackmount case:

Brands to Look For

There are some brands on the market that are well-known for their reliability, quality construction and attention to detail. Gator, SKB, Road Runner and Middle Atlantic are all good options and should provide you with years of reliable experience.

When it comes to protecting your gear, it’s essential that you go with a manufacturer that is trusted. This isn’t to say that these are the only brands that manufacture exceptional equipment, but it’s a good idea to go with a major brand if you want to ensure that you are getting the quality you deserve.

Unless you can physically inspect the cases from another manufacturer, it makes the most sense to avoid the hassle and go with what the industry knows works.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Gator Cases G-PROR-4U-19 4U
Holds up to four units, which tends to be the perfect compromise between weight and practical usage requirements$184.99
Gator G-Tour 12U ATA Cast Rack Road Case with Casters
possible to fit 12 units, and it's so sturdy you could use it to hold up your car while you change the tire$373.27
Ultra-Portable and Convenient Gator Rack Bag
rubber feet are useful for absorbing impact$97.22
MBT Rackmount Case
can accommodate up to 10 units, small form factor makes it possible to carry all of your most important equipment with you$174.87
Gator G-Tour Flight Case
recessed latches and handles ensure case won't get caught riding along a conveyor belt or being moved from a bus or truck.
Gator Lightweight Rolling Rack Bag
bag interior constructed with aluminum, plenty of protection for your casual event$159.99
Gator Shallow Rack Mount Case
shallow and perfectly sized for your smaller equipment$104.05
Rack Mount Studio Mixer Cabinet
can support 15 spaces on the bottom rack and 10 on the top$189.95
Musician's Gear Rack Flight Case
fiberboard provides good protection for your equipment$154.40

Our Top Pick: Gator Cases G-PROR-4U-19 4U

Buy on Amazon Price Range: $130.00 to $240.00

When you want the very best, Gator has long been a trusted option among musicians. This particular case holds up to four units, which tends to be the perfect compromise between weight and practical usage requirements.

The case is an essentially indestructible case that is made out of a roto-molded polyethylene design. If you’re one of those brave souls who takes their equipment on an airplane, you’ll some protection with this case but you shouldn’t trust the airline to care for your equipment blindly.

This makes it virtually impossible for the case to come apart, and you won’t be one of those musicians who takes a flight to find that their case has popped open on its way out of baggage claim.

While this case is secure, it’s still not a bad idea to use some masking tape to tape down the hinges to ensure the don’t come undone during transport. The case can support racks up to 19-inches deep, so it should fit the majority of audio equipment that you’ll need to use for your typical concert.

To make travel easier, there is the option of getting a rolling rack on the 4U, 6U and 8U racks. The 10U and 12U racks don’t offer a rolling option, but any rack case starts to become a hassle for travel when you get into the 10U and 12U sizes.

One of the nice features of this unit is its ability to access the compartment through the front and the rear. Both sides grant full access, which makes it much easier to get connected and adjust your settings before a performance.

If you go with the rolling option for this case, you’ll be happy to know that the wheels actually help to cushion the impact of traveling. The wheels are soft and help to cushion the equipment against impact. This is especially useful if you’re going up on a sidewalk or over speed bumps in a parking lot.

Don’t be discouraged if you receive a case with some plastic shavings still inside the case. This happens with virtually all units, and you’ll need to do a little vacuuming before you install your equipment.

It’s also possible to store these units upright or flat without worrying about damaging the floor. The rubber feet on both sides makes it gentle on any surface, which is crucial when you’re working in pristine concert environments.

Since this case does offer a 19-inch rackable depth, you’ll be able to hold both all depths of gear. The case also comes with ergonomic handles that make it easier to move the case into position.

This is the ideal unit for transportable all manner of gear, including reverb units, rack-mountable mixers, effects processors, compressors and other gear that your band needs to ensure an effective performance. The 4U case only weighs about 15 pounds while the 12U case weights only 24 pounds.

When it comes to protecting your equipment, these cases are the single best option for you to ensure that you can enjoy performing and touring without constantly worrying about your equipment. Depending on what size rack space you need, the case will set you back anywhere from $130.00 to $240.00.

A few things to keep in mind. The case needs to be closed when traveling to keep dust from getting inside. The sides of the case do have latches and seals to help keep dust out.

There are also some breather screens located along the sides, but if you need to keep everything completely dust-free, you can easily seal these vents with tape.

The vents are nice for when you need to quickly pack up after a show. They will ensure that your equipment doesn’t get damaged by the heat. They’re also useful for musicians who live or play in hotter climates.

Runner Up: Gator G-Tour 12U ATA Cast Rack Road Case w/ Casters

Buy on Amazon View on Musician's Friend Price Range: $400.00

This would be my favorite, but the price is a bit steep for most musician’s budgets. This rackmount makes it possible to fit 12 units, and it’s so sturdy you could use it to hold up your car while you change the tire.

The case has plenty of options to make it easier to use as well, including a removable lid and rugged casters that will be able to take some real abuse on the road. You could run a complete installation with this rackmount, and you won’t have to leave any of your gear behind.

For the performer who always wants to keep all of their most important equipment on hand, this is the best option available. Another drawback is that it is big and heavy. However, if you don’t mind a bit of weight, this rackmount will serve you reliably for years.

The case glides smoothly on the casters, and when you lock the casters in place this rackmount case won’t budge. The only thing it needs to make it suitable for a professional is a shock mount. But, that’s something you could easily add to the case yourself.

Other Products to Consider:

Ultra-Portable and Convenient Gator Rack Bag

”Buy Credit: Amazon.com[/caption]

Buy on Amazon Price Range: $160.00

As with every case that MBT makes, this is a solid case that can stand up to a bit of abuse. It has load bearing handles, which is important when you need something that isn’t going to buckle under the weight of your gear.

It’s also the type of case you could sit on and feel safe that your equipment inside won’t get damaged. Of course, it’s still never recommended to let anyone sit on your cases.

The case can accommodate up to 10 units, and its small form factor makes it possible to carry all of your most important equipment with you. This is the perfect case to fit two Marathon amps and still leave you with enough space left for one extra rack.

This is one of those simple, no-frill cases that will get the job done without a lot of hassle.

Gator G-Tour 4-Space ATA Wheeled Rack Flight Case

View on Musician's Friend Price Range: $315.00

If you need a solid case for taking on airlines, this is the case for you. This case will keep your equipment secure, but you should still aim to pack your equipment in some additional shock absorbing materials.

The case is made to protect your gear and it is a 4U unit to enable you to bring more of your equipment along with you. The stage setup with this case is easy, and you’ll be able to take it with you anywhere.

This case is really built like a tank, and a small investment in a case like this can save you from some serious heartache later on. The recessed latches and handles ensure that the case won’t get caught while riding along a conveyor belt or being moved from a bus or truck.

Gator Lightweight Rolling Rack Bag

Buy on Amazon Price Range: $140.00 to $155.00

This is another good option for musicians who want a portable bag but also needs a strong interior frame. The bag interior is constructed with aluminum and it provides plenty of protection for your casual event.

With a retractable tow handle and recessed wheels, this bag really makes it easy to get around in a variety of situations. There are two sizes for this bag, and it’s highly recommended you get the larger bag unless you are trying to carry along smaller equipment.

You may find the smaller bag won’t accommodate the handles and knobs on much of your equipment. If you’re serious about carrying along your gear in a highly mobile way, this is the bag to get.

It won’t provide the same level of protection as the stronger bags, but you definitely won’t regret getting this sleek case.

Gator Shallow Rack Mount Case

Buy on Amazon View on Musician’s Friend Price Range: $130.00

This rackmount case is shallow and perfectly sized for your smaller equipment. If you only need to care one piece of equipment with you, this might be the perfect option.

It is only 14.25 inches deep and has 19-inch rack rails located in the front. Musicians will love this case for its sturdy design and ease of transport.

This case is also competitively priced, and it looks great as you’re unpacking for your next show. This may be one of the few shallow cases on the market that can fit equipment with a depth of this size.

While it may not serve your purposes for a large show, it’s perfect for those smaller events where you don’t need to bring an entire arsenal of equipment along with you. It effectively keeps dust out, has sturdy clasps and is extremely easy to carry along with you anywhere.

Rack Mount Studio Mixer Cabinet

Credit: Amazon.com

Buy on Amazon Price Range: $190.00

This unit is massive, but if you have a lot of equipment you need to take with you, it may serve your needs. The unit offers a 25U design, and it can support 15 spaces on the bottom rack and 10 on the top.

If you like to stack from top to bottom, that’s not a good idea with this case. The case is most sturdy when you place your heaviest equipment on the top and move up from there. Placing all of your equipment on the top of the unit is a recipe for disaster and asking for trouble.

The unit is stable, but it’s not particularly strong. Don’t expect this to hold up to rugged touring situations, but if you just want something big for the occasional gig, this unit might suit your needs.

Musician’s Gear Rack Flight Case

Buy on Amazon Price Range: Starting at $100.00

If you’re in the market for an extremely affordable rackmount, this is the one. It’s built with fiberboard, and it provides good protection for your equipment.

It’s not the strongest case on the market, but if you need something that will get the job done, this unit works well to keep your equipment safe. It has sturdy corners, exceptionally affordable pricing and a host of features you would only expect from a case twice its price.

The main drawback is that the set of cases aren’t very attractive, but they do come with everything you need to protect your equipment. The rack doesn’t feel as sturdy as some other more expensive units, but you shouldn’t have a problem with this unit as long as it’s stacked on a stable surface.

References:
  • Sweetwater: Choosing a Rackmount Case https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/RotoRk6?adpos=1o3&creative=55686423721&device=c&matchtype=&network=g&product_id=RotoRk6&gclid=CJ3w2djrntICFUlNfgodWwIGUg
  • Guitar Center: Rackmount Cases, Stands and Furniture http://www.guitarcenter.com/Rackmount-Cases-Stands-Furniture.gc
  • Gator Cases: http://www.gatorcases.com/c/310131/rackmount-cases

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