Novice hardware rack questions

I’m just getting started with a soft rig. Most of the keyboard software side is done (v1, anyway) thanks in great part to GP. I’ve never built a hardware rack, but with the wiggly-ness of the USB connections, it seems to me that a rack would be a good thing to do. Are there any suggestions on how to do this (cheaply and lightly, especially)?

So the rack would only have an audio/MIDI interface (Behringer UMC404HD) with wallwart, a USB hub with wallwart, maybe a DI (Or do I not need that? Would it be beneficial to use the DI to run a guitar or bass through my interface and soft-amp it, or is the DI unnecessary when you go through the audio interface? I’ve not really started the guitar/bass side yet), and something to plug the wallwarts into. To cover what I may have going in and out, I’d have fewer than 6 USB lines running into the hub, one USB out, one MIDI in, one or two 1/4" audio in (if it goes into a DI, otherwise I guess the UMC404HD goes in the front of the rack and I plug directly into that?), and audio outs.

I read the post from @dhj about using Neutrik USB connectors, which sounds like a great idea, given the wiggly-ness of my connections. Can you just buy a 1U patch panel and put a hodgepodge of connectors in it? Where would I get that? Or is there some other easy alternative that doesn’t necessarily use a standard rack.

Also, do I need a power conditioner?

Oh, I should add that I’m not gonna tour with this or anything like that, although it will gig out some. The point is more to just organize and make moving it easier, without a major concern for protection. I just want more plug and play and less likelihood of problems with loose USB connections.

I can’t comment on all your questions but some ideas only:

For my laptop and audio interface on stage which is not rack-mount, I use a rugged industrial grade USB cable like this:

The plugs fit quite tight into the sockets of my laptop, never had any problems.

It is mostly adviced to avoid USB hubs between the computer and an audio interface, to avoid any latency or performance issues, especially in former times. However, in my home studio I can use a USB 3.0 docking station with my audio interface at low buffer sizes (64 samples) for low latency and jitter, without any problems.

I don’t know this Behringer interface. But for real-time live performance when it comes to driver stability, long-term support, and preformance (low latency requiring low buffer sizes, and all this without stressing the CPU by the driver alone) many musicians swear on more pro audio interfaces. In my case RME, or a RME Babyface Pro, more specifically. For the price of this Behringer interface, just try it out.

DI is often some kind of black magic. DI boxes for avoiding ground loops and nasty hum on the sound can be beneficial if the signal comes from some devices connected to mains with poor grounding or far away, typical for stage situations, or using badly designed switched-mode power regulators, unless the pedal board or similar things of the guitar player has an own balanced XLR or DI out, anyway.
With a DI box with optional ground switch for trial and error, you are on the save side, but it might work without if you have proper equipment and a well grounded mains grid.
If you go straight out of the guitar into the interface with a line cable, a DI box is not required.

You can build a custom panel of any kind of connectors you can imagine. That’s what I did with a mixture of midi, xlr, FireWire and vga connectors. Look at — you can design a panel there.

Sure - lots of such things, e.g.

Using the 1U panel, you can attach LAN, USB and Audio style devices on a 1U panel.

Neutrik USB. Each connector is reversible. And the internal connection to a USB hub can be made with standard cables. But externally you can use the Neutrik cables which have a protective shell. I use them to connect my foot pedal to the 4U rack that I put together.

I use the MOTU 624 interface for audio in/out which works really nice.

Here is a design that I put together when I built the 4U rack.

And here is a block diagram of all the connections. A bit much but it does work well.

And if you really want to get the details. Here is a PDF describing the entire setup with some links to other products used in this design.

Keyboard Rig 2019 Performance.pdf (280.7 KB)

Although the sad part is that I finished it just prior to the start of COVID and used it only for 3-4 gigs in 2019.

Anyway I hope some of you might find this information useful…

And any reference to other programs can be replaced with GigPerformer because I have converted all of my settings and have them ready to use with GigPerformer once my band gets back together to restart rehearsal for performances.


Thanks, you guys! Lots of good information!

Here’s the solution I came up with works great for me, everything pretty much stays connected for quick and easy setup. I picked up a Roland RRC-DJ808W Black Series DJ Road Case from Musician’s Friend as a Stupid Deal of the Day for $99.


I created a padded space under the platform to stow the laptop I just roll up the cables (mic,guitar, foh) and put the lid on. There is a powered USB hub under the laptop. Everything is held in place with tie straps and Velcro. The only thing I unplug is the USB cables to the laptop. The only downside is it is kind of heavy!