We love racks loaded up with music gear, but hate moving them (or more specifically, lifting them in and out of our vehicles for personal transport). If you’re like us, you’re always looking at how you can shave a pound or two here and there, since a ten pound difference (or more) overall can make transporting your own equipment a much more pleasant experience.
Calzone has been one of the leading manufacturers of custom music cases to the pro audio and touring industries for decades. If you’re thinking, “Yeah, but Anvil is better,” relax, as they are both the same company, just operating under different names on each coast to preserve the history of each brand since their first customers aren’t quite dead yet, though probably still sporting silvery gray mullets.
Typically constructed from layers of plywood with steel hardware, bracing, rails, rugged locking casters, etc. and (in the case of shock racks) packed with dense foam inserts, Calzone cases deliver whatever level of protection your gear requires, and the company can build any case you can dream of. We own Escort-series cases of theirs manufactured almost twenty years ago that are still just as rugged as when we ordered them, and the foam lining in one 76-key keyboard case hasn’t even deteriorated!
We’re big fans of cases made from poured plastic molds since those tend to be just as protective as their plywood alternatives at a fraction of the weight, but those do have their limitations and just aren’t suited to all tasks. First, the hardware is typically of a lighter grade best suited to local transport. And second, if you’ve ever tried to attach anything to the walls or covers of those plastic cases (either mounting equipment to interior side walls or placing some cool stickers on the covers), you’ve probably ended up disappointed. Not much fun for custom/complex rig installations.
Imagine our excitement to learn that Calzone introduced rack cases that blur the lines between these seemingly disparate worlds of wooden cases and plastic. Made from XLT-1 Polypropylene, a corrugated plastic composite cut in sheets and installed like a traditional plywood case, these new rack cases deliver the best of both worlds: the usability of wooden cases (with some actual improvements) with a real weight saving advantage. And, they’re eco friendly too!
XLT material is available in 1/4”, 3/8”, or ½” density (the later by sandwiching two layers of ¼” XLR together) and comes in blue, black, or a black tread plate pattern. Handing samples of the material, it is extremely robust, with just the slightest flex to the ¼” material. Place a pair of sheets together for ½” thickness and you can’t flex them at all (that’s about it for our “scientific” rigidity testing).
As we were getting ready to build a new effects rack for our guitar rig, this proved to be the perfect opportunity to check out the new material, and we ordered a “typical configuration” for effects rack purposes: ¼” XLT, 10U rack spaces, 18” depth, rear rails installed, heavy duty locking casters, dual handles on each side.
The case features familiar Calzone construction: pneumatically machine-driven steel split rivets, tapered aluminum edging, zinc plated steel corners, latches and handles, tongue-in-groove valance extrusions, and rivets only in a handful of locations where absolutely necessary.
One of the coolest things about these cases — definitely a unique feature compared with other builders, is that rather than rely upon wooden shims between the exterior case and the rack rails, Calzone uses a high-density foam shim. This subtle difference adds a touch of shock absorption to the case without it truly being a shock rack.
Everything can’t be perfect in the world, but fortunately our only gripe with the case is extremely minor. Because of the foam shims, the spacing from left to right in our case was just barely off enough that we couldn’t use our beloved Humfrees rack isolation tabs when mounting our gear in the case. But Calzone provided a bag of steel screws with plastic washers, so all was not lost.
We love this XLT material! Another cool difference over plywood cases besides the obvious weight savings: a smooth finish on the inside of the case! Because adhesive materials do stick to the XLT material, we were able to Velcro our Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus power supply for a pedal shelf to the interior of the case, as well as our RJM Mini Line Mixer, thus not wasting precious space on our shelf with the pedals. Alternately, you can actually drill into the material, too.
In the end, our case ended up weighing only 46 pounds, a 15% weight savings vs. construction with ¼” plywood. The raw XLT material is 30% lighter than plywood of equal size, but all of the steel hardware is the same, and the caster board was made from plywood, so the larger the case you order, the greater the percentage of overall weight savings will be. And if you’re outfitting multiple musicians in your band for touring, the weight savings could add up to better fuel efficiency or lower shipping/freight charges.
It should be noted that while the XLT material is ideal for effects rigs, it is not useful for rack cases that hold amplifiers, so if you’ve got rack-mounted guitar tube preamps and power amps, those are still best suited to traditional shock rack cases. Because the XLT material is plastic instead of wood, over time, the extra heavy weight of power amps could stretch the holes through which the rails are attached to the side walls, thus loosening them. But for your rack gear and shelves with boutique pedals, no worries.
Keyboard players would also be well advised to check out the XLT material, assuming they aren’t sticking power amps in the bottom of their rack cases.
If our effects rack isn’t quite what you need, racks constructed with XLT are available in sizes ranging from 2U to 10U in non-shock style (like the case we reviewed here) or 2U to 8U in the shock mount.
Pricing and Contact Information
The Calzone Escort XLT rack as configured here sells for only $575. And here’s a real treat: order this case just as we spec’d out (ok, go ahead and choose black if you must), and mention discount code MP10. MusicPlayers.com readers get a 10% discount on the case.
Not quite what you need? This discount code may be applied to any XLT rack cases offered! Happy holidays!
Calzone Case Co.