Can manufacturers consider providing even the most basic of bags or cases for all those vulnerable small items of equipment?
I've just acquired a pair of Gemini DJX headphones, and I'm very pleased with them for all sorts of reasons. Value, comfort, durability and the kind of sound I like all figure in my assessment, but quite apart from all this, guess what? Trivial as this may seem, they came with what is to me one of the most important yet least available of accessories: a bag.
Said bag's nothing special, being nothing more than a drawstring thingy made from soft fabric, but with the cans folded and with the cable wrapped around them I can at least stuff them into it in the knowledge that they'll be protected from knocks and scratches and that the cable won't unwrap itself until the next time I need them. More importantly, I can now chuck them into a larger case full of other stuff with relative impunity. I use an assortment of gear in live situations, and given that a great deal of equipment originally conceived for studio use is now sufficiently small and portable for live deployment, I deploy it, as do many others. Why, then, can't this be reflected in the availability of simple bags and carrying cases for all those sequencers, effects units, controllers, small sound modules and other non-rackmountable widgets that otherwise make portable music technology such fun? Full-sized rack units can at least go into a padded rack case and there are various cases for keyboards and DJ equipment, but that's about it.
Over the years I'm come across a few instances where manufacturers realised this. I bought a Yamaha QY10 when it first came out, and, lo and behold, it came with a little plastic case that fitted it exactly. I've also got a couple of those ubiquitous, cheap mini-mixers, sold under the Soundlab brand among many others, each of which has its own dinky rigid case. Other than these and a very few similar examples, though, I've been forced to use all sorts of weird and wonderful bags, cases and pouches in an effort to protect bits of gear that were otherwise clearly designed with portability in mind. Multitrackers and small mixers? Laptop bags from Maplin. Drum machines and other odd rectangular devices? Zip-up toiletries bags. Microphones? Pencil cases from WH Smith. My Roland drum pads? A briefcase-shaped tool case. My multi-channel headphones and their amplifier? A small padded drum bag. Yamaha's insight seemed to fail them when they brought out the QY-sized MU15 sound module without a case, so that ended up living in a double VHS box. I also find myself ransacking camera shops, DIY stores, Oxfam shops and even office suppliers hunting for that elusive case/bag/cover in whatever shape and size I need. I'm currently looking out for something that will accommodate an Evolution UC16 MIDI controller, its tough metal casing rendered redundant by its 16 unrecessed fragile plastic knobs and its otherwise user-friendly oblong shape.
Now, no doubt most users of all these more-or-less delicate bits of kit just leave them safely in the studio, but I'm sure I'm speaking for a pretty sizeable minority who don't. Only recently I've been called upon to set up a multi-keyboard MIDI rig in a local concert hall, provide some Latin percussion in such a small space that digital was the only answer and sort out PA and background music at another event. All of the equipment involved requires some sort of protection so that it can be shunted around safely, as things are far more likely to get damaged in transit than in use. How often do we find ourselves carting stuff around in its original packaging of tatty cardboard and crumbling polystyrene, which is not only scruffy and awkward but which positively bellows 'steal me!' to any passing miscreant?
Could I therefore gently suggest to manufacturers that they consider providing even the most basic of bags or cases for all those vulnerable small items of equipment we can't do without? The cost to the manufacturers would be minimal, but I'd personally be quite happy to see an extra couple of quid added to RRPs if only to provide soft drawstring bags like the one that came with my headphones, as these can still make the difference between damage and no damage if the thing takes a wallop. Furthermore, aren't we more likely to upgrade more often if we're confident that we'll get reasonable prices for our undamaged used gear? I'd have thought so. It's got to the point where I'm seriously thinking of enlisting the aid of a competent craftsperson and knocking out a range of suitable bags myself, so if you see someone leaving a newsagent carrying the latest Sound On Sound and a pile of needlework magazines, it'll be me, still wondering what to do with my UC16.
Roger Thomas is an author, journalist, lecturer and musician in variable proportions. If you would like to air your views in this column, please send your submissions to email@example.com or to the postal address listed in the footer of any SOS web page.