American flightcase manufacturer SKB Corporation have added yet another model to their extensive range. This is not simply an existing design with added racking units, but a new case aimed at a specific user. The appropriately‑titled 'pop‑up' mixer case is intended to house one of the many so‑called 'flat bed' rackmount mixing consoles currently on the market, like Mackie Designs' 1604.
Removing the case from its cardboard packaging reveals the now‑familiar black SKB moulded styling, manufactured from Ultra‑High Molecular Weight Polyethylene — the same material used by the US military for containers required to survive the most gruelling punishment and to 'deliver weapons in performance‑ready condition' according to SKB's blurb. Whilst on the subject of the build quality, SKB cases are impervious to all solvents, oils, fuels and acids — good news for gigging musicians in beer‑swilling, or even beer‑spilling establishments! The uniquely moulded ribs and bumpers of the design serve a double purpose, as they not only absorb shock vibrations, but also allow the cases to be conveniently and securely stacked together.
The pop‑up case is surprisingly shallow in depth — 5.5 inches, to be precise. This is just enough to accommodate the aforementioned 'flat bed'‑style mixer, though I'll say more on this in a moment. The case's generous 12U rack space allocation is comprised of 36 precision‑punched holes on aluminium flanges positioned within an inner hinged rectangular frame. The frame is in turn attached to lockable lid stays capable of extending to a 45‑degree open position, leaving ample room to access the inevitable mixer 'cable salad'. The mounting process involves clipping hardened steel nut retainers into the aluminium flanges. These retainers should enable the flanges of the pop‑up case to outlast those cases with threads tapped into mild steel or aluminium.
As a 12U unit, Alesis' popular 1622 Audio Console fits the SKB case perfectly, as a quick test proved, although it's worth bearing in mind that the mixer's depth of six inches would not allow the case's hinged rectangular frame to close fully. This is not to suggest you can't mount a 1622 in the pop‑up case, as the lockable lid, at 3.5 inches, is almost as deep as the main body of the Alesis mixer, so there's plenty of 'headroom' for extraneous rotary pots. Perhaps the lid's arguably excessive depth is a constraint of the moulding process employed by SKB?
The same occurs when mounting a Spirit By Soundcraft Folio Rac Pac or Samson MPL2242 — they'll fit, but the hinged frame of the flightcase won't then close completely — and given that the case is directly aimed at the flatbed mixer owner, perhaps an extra couple of inches' depth on the main body of the case would not go amiss.
On the plus side, SKB reckon their cases weigh 50% less than wooden counterparts, and though I wouldn't go as far as to agree with the manufacturer's humorous suggestion that the case is 'filled with helium', it was certainly light. It's not light in the visual sense, however, and the jet‑black colour goes all the way through the material, so scratches won't show. As far as I'm concerned, if these cases are good enough for Uncle Sam, then this one should easily survive the rigours of the road. At £164, the case also represents a good 'bang for the buck', in the words of our cousins across the pond. Jonathan Miller