For our studio, this was like one of those (smacks forehead) "why didn't someone think of this sooner" inventions. After all, our console has a built-in scribble strip for dry-erase or grease pencils. Why shouldn't our rack gear? The Rack Writer (patent pending) is a high-quality 19" white panel designed for audio, video, or computer racks. We had been writing on tape and sticking it on the gear or on the blank panels. That's all fine and well, but the cost of high-quality removable tape can add up over time; cheaper tape leaves residue; and you have to use more every time you mess up, change a setting, or alter a configuration. For example, we have quite a few rackmount preamps. Remembering which preamp is doing what in a drum session is nearly impossible. Having the Rack Writer has made our lives easier.
Each kit includes the following: a single or double-spaced plate, a high-quality dry-erase marker (complete with little sponge/eraser on the back end), four plastic mounting screws, and instructions. One of the most fascinating things I learned from the instructions is you can use permanent marker on the Rack Writer. All you need to do to erase it is write over the permanent marker with the dry-erase marker, and you simply wipe it off. [GH, have you never had an office job? -AH] This is a nice plus for that time someone grabs a Sharpie and accidentally writes on a Rack Writer. (Of course, every Sharpie I ever buy disappears within 48 hours of entering the studio.) Users are advised to avoid over-tightening screws during installation. This could crack the Rack Writer, so extra care is suggested.
After having them for a short while, we found many uses for our Rack Writers. In addition to preamps, we've found live racks, Ethernet switches (if you have a rackmounted one in your machine room), and even keyboard mixers can benefit from the added scribble space. Of course, depending on the relative maturity of your staff, a Rack Writer can also be used to write silly, obnoxious, or "other" messages for the next engineer using the control room! Other than that, everyone here has been very pleased ever since we installed them. They really take some of the confusion out of a session setup. Highly recommended.
(1RU $8.95 plus shipping, 2RU $11.95; www.rackwriter.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.