After you’ve invested thousands of dollars in the latest signal and effects processors, rack-mounted tube amps, delicate rack-mounted computers and synthesizer modules, and mounted your boutique pedals on shelves, it’s time to get serious about protecting your pricey and fragile gear.
Shock-mounted cases offer the highest degree of protection for your precious cargo, cradling rack contents within a suspended internal structure. Many case companies mount the internal rack within an outer layer of industrial foam, while others use various suspension systems to provide protection.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.2
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
SKB’s name is familiar to virtually every working musician. What MusicPlayers.com reader hasn’t owned at least one of their racks, cases, or pedal boards? (We’ve lost count at how many we use.) While you’re probably quite familiar with traditional SKB racks and cases, and not always pleased with some of their features (like installing those rack screw clips or the exposed latches on some models), you may not have experienced the superior build quality of their shock racks — these are very different animals. If you thought SKB was only your inexpensive and lightweight case supplier, and that you’d have to look to the custom case builders for big shock racks, you’ll be pleasantly… um… shocked by these cases.
The Roto Shock Rack we reviewed is a fantastic pro-level ATA case that is sure to protect your gear throughout the most abusive touring you can throw at it, it weighs half as much as a wood-constructed rack, and the optional (required in our book) caster kit provides smooth rolling. This case will also work fine for your typical weekend gigs… assuming you can fit it in your car!
The 12U rack case we reviewed is ATA 300 Category 1 rated, the highest standard for airline transport containers. An internal steel frame is mounted on eight elastic shock absorbers, while the exterior shell is made from the familiar, virtually indestructible, molded plastic that is common to SKB products.
SKB Roto Shock Rack - 12UThe rack space is 20” deep and has rails in both the front and rear. Gone are the clip-on screw holders and thinner aluminum rails found in less expensive SKB cases — these are pre-drilled, stainless steel rails. The case is easily suited to use with power amps.
The front and rear doors are hefty slabs (3.25” deep) that have a rubber seal to lock moisture out of your rack. The latches are spring loaded and significantly more robust that the typical SKB latches, although they aren’t significantly larger in appearance than the latches we’re most familiar with on other SKB racks. The latches are recessed, so they won’t catch on anything while in transport.
With the covers installed, dimensions are 28” D x 29.5” W x 29.5” H. The caster board ads almost six inches of height and a few inches of depth.
The caster kit is comprised of a molded plastic base with four three-inch, locking, rubber wheels. Straps are used to secure the caster kit to the rack, and ridges in the base of the rack and on the board provide proper alignment. The matching ridge system on top of the case ensures that as with other SKB products, you can safely and easily stack multiple racks.
While we’ve all praised SKB racks for their weight savings, stepping up to the Roto Shock Rack throws that feature out the window, almost. At 57 pounds empty, this is one heavy rack, and the caster board ads another five pounds or so. However, a plywood-constructed rack typically weighs almost double! Who wants 100 pounds worth of an empty box to cart around?
Cases with a suspension system like SKB’s Roto Shock Rack have a few “bonus” features that we love compared to racks with foam-lined interiors. First, the two inches of space around all sides provides for fantastic ventilation and cooling, ideal if you’ve got power amps for your PA system or pricey rack-mounted tube guitar amps installed. Second, when you coil up your speaker- and other cable runs, you can tuck them into the back or sides easily for lightning quick setup times instead of squashing them up against the back of your gear.
SKB offers a few expansion options that further increase the usefulness of this rack. The supplied shock absorbers are rated to handle loads up to 150 pounds, but a second set can be installed simply to accommodate extremely heavy loads — the case is pre-drilled for this expansion. And if you have a heavy tube power amp that lacks rear mounting support, SKB also offers a set of support rails that you can install in the case. These one-inch wide supports run from the front rail to the rear rail, installing on the sides, and provide lateral support underneath your heavy items to avoid excessive force pulling on the face of your gear. (If you ever un-racked a heavy power amp after years of use to find that the metal face had bent or warped surrounding the rack holes, this option is for you.)
The Roto Shock Rack offers significant improvements over traditional, non-shock-mounted SKB cases. The first obvious improvement is in the stainless steel, pre-drilled rack holes, which made for immediate use without having to pre-plan the layout of those clip-on screw threads.
The covers were another welcome upgrade. With their rubber gasket seal and heft, nothing’s getting inside our rack, and in the event of a water landing, we suspect we’ll be able to use the rack as a floatation device. Also, the latches, which at first glance appear to be similar to the standard SKB latches, worked much more smoothly and had a more solid feel overall.
The essential caster board is a mixed bag. It’s a huge step up in roll-ability from the tiny wheels on our old caster board installed on our non-shock SKB rack. The large wheels absorb bumps better and roll smoother, and the locks are a welcome (and necessary) addition. Although the base secures to the case via heavy-duty straps, we hate that the straps attach to the handle area, partially obstructing handling of the rack when we need to lift it. On our non-shock rack, the straps create a serious hindrance, but with the oversized side handles on the Roto Shock Rack, this has been relegated to only a minor annoyance. Still, we’d prefer the ability to permanently bolt the board to the base of the rack since it’s not something we ever plan to remove.
[Editor’s Note: SKB offers a 12U Roto Shockmount Rolling case with a built-in handle and two wheels, but at review time, it was being re-tooled and unavailable for review.]
One other great feature of the caster board is that it provides a protruding lip in the front and rear of the rack that is perfectly mated to the dimensions of the case and its covers. The covers rest on the lip, so when we unlatched them, they didn’t slide down the front or back of our rigs, which could potentially damage some gear. Re-attaching the covers was equally improved by the presence of that lip since we could rest the doors on the platform while latching them. Some of our other large racks require two people to safely install and remove covers.
The case included a bag of rack screws, but if you like to mount your gear with Humfrees Rack Isolation Tabs (we know you’re as obsessive as we are), you’ll probably need longer screws. With most of our guitar gear, the supplied screws were too short to use.
Documentation and Product Support
Documentation isn’t really necessary for a big, plastic box — operation is pretty self explanatory, but the caster board included mounting instructions, and SKB’s website is filled with product and support information.
It should be noted that SKB cases are warranted for life to the original owner, so don’t lose your receipt!
The SKB 20” Deep 12U Roto Shock Rack ($959.99 MSRP) sells for $575, and the essential SKB-1916 caster board ($284.99 MSRP) adds another $170 to the total.
For just under $750 complete, the SKB case is slightly expensive. We found similarly sized cases for a few hundred dollars less, but they were foam-lined and weighed almost twice as much (factor in another $100 just to ship those to your home). We’ll take the SKB weight savings and air circulation advantage.
Most shock racks are built to order by custom case builders.