Cables cables everywhere, and not a stereo 1/4" to dual mono 1/8" to be found
January 6, 2007 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Solutions for organizing lots of different kinds of cables (xlr, 1/8 in, 1/4 in, rca, usb, firewire, ac) for easy access where space is at a severe premium?
posted by Eothele to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Previous questions, especially this one, may be helpful.
posted by box at 4:26 PM on January 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks box, but that one is about storing excess cables, whereas I need access to mine. I did the same search you did for previous questions, and if you'll notice all but one other are actually quite far afield, and that one asks about very different cables and most of the solutions are off the shelf products. (Not that I'm opposed to those, but I was hoping to cast a wider net for ideas)
posted by Eothele at 4:37 PM on January 6, 2007

How about colour-coding each end of the cable, ie xlrs red, rcas yellow etc etc.

That way you can see conversion cables at a glance.

Then sort them on a peg board?
posted by chrispy108 at 4:59 PM on January 6, 2007

Can you possibly give a little bit more information about how limited you are for space? And, further to that, is there a need for portability?

I run a theatre and, for the most part, we use a peg board for all of our long runs of cable ( as christy suggested ) although we colour code on length, not on the termination factor.

A better idea of your situation would help me understand if this is a 'tackle box' type of solution or a 'here's a design for a production road case' type of solution.

And, sorry to answer your question with more questions. Just trying to narrow down the potential solutions.
posted by Isosceles at 6:26 PM on January 6, 2007

I categorize by type, put each category in a separate plastic bag, and put the bags in a plastic storage container on wheels. Ideally, the bags are vertical, so looking at the top of the box allows me to see all the bags, and get a picture of which bag contains which category.

The categories are: audio/video, external computer, internal computer, power cables, cables with only one termination, and bare wire. Sometimes a category gets subdivided, audio video includes smaller bags for RCA, stereo mini plug, telephone. Ya, they are a little arbitrary and ambiguous..

Anything that is highly specialised, like custom wires for my projects, stay in boxes with the equipment they go with.

It works well enough :)
posted by Chuckles at 6:28 PM on January 6, 2007

How many cables do you have?

If that number is not too high, go to a place that sells fishing gear and get a four-pack of cheap plastic boxes; these will be divided into four or so long troughs eacg, with snap-in partitions to subdivide the troughs. If a given type of cable isn't too bulky or plentiful, you can do one or two cable-types per trough. Easy access, easy to label, tidy organization.
posted by adamrice at 8:44 PM on January 6, 2007

I ran a PA system for a while, and ran through many methods of storing cables. My favorite by far has been properly coiling them and using little pieces of string to keep the coils.

I put the piece of string at one end of the cable, tied in the middle, so there were two ends available. Then, after coiling the cable, I could put a half square knot in the string around the end to keep it secure.

With the cables properly coiled and tied off like this, they don't get tangled. That makes them pretty easy to sort through.

The proper coiling I'm speaking of is usually called over & under, or half twist, or something along those lines. Here's a video describing it. Though it's usually aimed at longer runs, I've found it useful for cables as short as 12-18". (I haven't watched the video, it's just the first thing I found googling for a description of the technique).
posted by flaterik at 1:53 AM on January 7, 2007

I store a relatively small number of cables for my audio/video editing setup (ethernet, USB, firewire, XLR, RCA, etc) by coiling them, tying off the coils with rope -- I got a bunch of the thin black rope that riggers use to tie cables up in theater from the riggers at my old university -- and then store them in those translucent plastic Sterilite stacking drawer organizers you find at Target/Walmart. This works for me because I have relatively few relatively short cables, and its okay for the flimsy Sterilite things to just sit on a shelf in a closet.

For longer cables, I second the "pegboard" option. Not sure what you'd do if you had to move them around frequently, but I'm guessing the "sealed in plastic bags stored vertically in a big plastic tub with wheels" solution would work, if be a bit unwieldy. In a perfect world, my big plastic tub would have re-arrangeable dividers..
posted by Alterscape at 4:50 AM on January 7, 2007

At a few of the Chicago recording studios I worked at:

For properly coiled XLR cables we used a 4ft long board with 1in thick dowels sticking out of it. The dowels were attached at an upward angle. The XLRs were color-coded either with tape or ribbons signifying length (5ft, 10ft, 20ft, etc.). This made things very easy in the middle of a session when Freddie the Engineer needs another mic on that horn section and make it snappy.

For other cables such as RCA, 1/4" and adaptors, we used another board with either nails or thin dowels placed along it at 1/4in intervals. We would hang the cables through the spaces between.
posted by chillmost at 6:23 AM on January 7, 2007

I wrap the cables (either circularized or figure eighted-ed) with different coloured velcro straps (basically a strip of soft velcro on one side and spikey velcro on the other). Unfortunately, I just toss them into a large wicker basket.

I also do the same with cables that are too long - make a loop/8 somewhere convenient, and fasten with velcro to minimize rat-nest-ed-er-ness.
posted by porpoise at 9:48 AM on January 7, 2007

For tying off, try tomato tape.
posted by Chuckles at 11:34 AM on January 7, 2007

Chuckles, that's awesome. The little strips of velcro branded for audio cable use are insanely overprices, so I never buy them.

As a bonus, you could punch a small hole through your custom sized piece of tomato tape in order to zip-tie it to one end of the cable. Then the closure stays with the cable.

I love zip-ties far more than duct tape, though some view this as sacrilege.
posted by flaterik at 2:02 PM on January 8, 2007

you could punch a small hole through your custom sized piece of tomato tape in order to zip-tie it to one end of the cable.

The stuff I have is pseudo-tearable.. If you get a cut started, it loses some of it's strength, and if you pull hard enough it just fractures at the spot with the cut. So, punching a hole might be a problem (certainly worth a try though).

And, some people don't like that it is green :)
posted by Chuckles at 3:25 PM on January 8, 2007

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