Axe-FX II 6U Rack
Axe-FX II 6U Rack

As promised in my Axe-FX II Quick Look article, here is a more detailed look at my custom interface panel.

Inspired by similar 1U rack panels made by people like Vafam Sound, I thought I would build my own, firstly so that I could arrange the connector layout exactly as I wished and, secondly, because I thought it would be a fun project.

The parts were easy to source (even here in Switzerland), and I guess I spent about CHF 300 on the 1U panel punched with 12 x D-Series holes and the Neutrik connectors.

Frankly, I could probably have got a Vafam custom panel for around the same price, though there are always extras such as delivery costs (from the USA) and Swiss Customs duties to take into account.

Luckily, I had some good quality cable lying around, which I could use for making the tails that connect from the panel to the various ports on the rear of the Axe-FX II, so a little money was saved here.

The layout

Axe FXII Interface Panel

From left to right:

  • Neutrik PowerCON power-in (part number: NAC3MPA-1) – This is where my mains power comes in. Hidden away inside the rack is a mains voltage, AC compatible junction box which breaks the supply into two: one lead going to feed the Furman PL-Plus CE power supply/conditioner for powering the rack equipment, and one feeding the Neutrik PowerCON output. However, the PowerCON chassis connector uses 3/16″ push-on tab terminals, so I ended up having to buy Neutrik’s NLFASTON tab receptacle connectors to ensure a proper fit as non-metric stuff is difficult to get here.
  • Neutrik PowerCON power-out (part number: NAC3MPB-1) – Originally, my plan was to use this to provide power to my FRFR active speaker. However, now that I have two Atomic CLR Active Wedges, one mains output isn’t enough. I’ll probably end up not using this connector.
  • Neutrik EtherCON feedthrough (part number: NE8FDP) – This is the connector for hooking up the MFC-101 MIDI Controller. The chunky ethernet cable was sourced from G66.eu.
  • Neutrik USB Gender changer feedthrough (part number: NAUSB-W) – This is the USB pass-thru connector, used for connecting my MacBook for firmware updates, preset backup and loading, and for using Axe Edit of course.
  • TRS Jack (Neutrik part number NJ3FP6C) with green sealing gasket – This is the Axe-FX Output 2 Left channel, which could be used as the Send for the Axe-FX’s FX Loop, or an alternative output eg FRFR active speakers if using Output 1 for FOH.
  • TRS Jack (Neutrik part number NJ3FP6C) with green sealing gasket – This is the Axe-FX Output 2 Right channel for stereo.
  • XLR Male (Neutrik part number NC3MD-L-1) with black sealing gasket – This is the main Output 1 Left channel. This is where I hook up the CLR Active Wedges at home, or to the FOH stagebox.
  • XLR Male (Neutrik part number NC3MD-L-1) with black sealing gasket – This is the main Output 1 Right channel, for when I need stereo, either to the CLR Active edges or FOH stagebox.
  • TRS Jack (Neutrik part number NJ3FP6C) with red sealing gasket – This is the Axe-FX Input 2 Left channel, which could be used as the Return for the Axe-FX’s FX Loop, or as an alternative input for line-level instrument/equipment.
  • TRS Jack (Neutrik part number NJ3FP6C) with red sealing gasket – This is the Axe-FX Input 2 Right channel for stereo.
  • Blank – Not used.
  • TS Jack (Neutrik part number NJ3FP6C-BAG) – This is hooked up to the Line 6 Relay G90 output so that I can use a short jumper cable to connect to the main Input 1 jack socket on the Axe-FX II front panel. This makes it very easy to swap between direct guitar cable connection (eg when at home) and wireless.

The panel itself was sourced from Thomann.

Just for info, some of the other parts used for the panel and connectors:

  • Neutrik sealing gaskets = Part number SCDP-0 (Black), SCDP-2 (Red), SCDP-5 (Green)
  • Neutrik dummy-plate = Part number DBA-BL (Black)

Putting it together

I’m not a super-duper solderer but, with care and patience, and a good quality solder station iron, it was not too tricky to wire it all up. I used my multimeter to check continuity after soldering each connection and – so far – everything works fine.

I did get a little creative by using tiny metal brackets to provide some additional strain relief on the back of the panel. Really, this is just an additional protection for the solder joints from vibration, etc, when the rack is in transit. However, I’m glad I took the time to do this – once the panel is wired up, there are a fair few cable tails to be tie-wrapped and organised – as I don’t fancy having to disassemble it all to fix a dodgy connection at a later date.

For the mains power I took a lot of care to make sure that I used properly rated components for creating the junction, which feeds the front panel PowerCon out and the Furman, as it is just not worth doing a shoddy job with 230v AC floating around in the rack case.

Some reflections

With the benefit of hindsight, there are a few things I would do differently next time:

  • The PowerCon power-out is a bit of a waste of time as it is unlikely that I will use it. The junction box tucked away in the rack case was a fair bit of work too. Next time, I won’t bother with this.
  • Using PowerCon for power-in is all very well, but this connector system is non-breaking, which means that arcing can occur if the plug is removed when the connection is live. Although I always remember to switch off the mains before unplugging, someone being “helpful” when breaking down the rig may not be. Next time, I will use an IEC male panel connector, although finding a pre-punched panel with one IEC cut-out and 10 D-series holes may be tricky.
  • It may have been useful to provide TRS Jacks for the unbalanced Output 1 ports, in addition to the existing XLR balanced ports. This would then give me a further duplicate of the main signal, which could be handy in certain situations. On the other hand, I think I’ll be fine with what I’ve got.
  • The single TS Jack for the wireless connection is, perhaps, overkill. It wouldn’t have been too difficult to route a flying cable directly from the Relay G90, which could then be plugged in to the front panel Input 1 when needed. On the other hand, I think it’s rather neat as is.
  • I’m not entirely convinced about having the interface on the front of the rack. Sure, it makes hooking up really easy, but there is something about all those cables dangling down that bothers my aesthetic sensibilities!

And finally…

As mentioned elsewhere, I’m going to downsize the rig to a 4U SKB case to save weight and bulk. I may take this opportunity to make a new panel and mount it on the rear rack rails. We shall see.

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