Poor Man’s QBox – Community Maker Project
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For years now, the Whirlwind Qbox has been the standard test box that we as audio technicians are expected to have on hand when working in the field. Although there are other options for similar boxes, the name Qbox is something of a household name in the business, often being used to refer to any simple audio test box. So why reinvent the wheel? Well, there are a few reasons why this has been on my mind recently, but first an foremost is the price, and what I would otherwise consider to be an outdated product design.
I completely appreciate Whirlwind’s need to charge what they do for the QBox ($220 apx. Retail) – but for what I typically use it for, it is completely over the top. As this is the cheapest priced box of it’s type on the market (with other similar designs going for hundreds more) it would be nice to have a useable alternative option. Other points against the Q-box include it’s clunky case size, which is annoying at best when worn on the belt clip for more than a few minutes at a time. Along with it’s requiring a 9V battery, which are expensive and less common these days in production environments.
Nine times out of ten, when I reach for a Qbox it is to perform one of two very basic tasks. I’m usually either looking to plug in an XLR input to verify a signal that is being sent somewhere, or I’m looking to connect it to an outbound XLR in order to send a test tone to a destination for a quick test or calibration. I’m sure there are folks who use every single feature of their Qbox every single day and wouldn’t part with it in a million years, and that’s fine, those people should buy a Qbox. For the rest of us, I think we can have some fun here trying to roll our own.
So my list of marks against the Qbox is short – but relavant.
- 9V Battery
- Large case dimensions / Outdated feel
So what features do I think should be included? (these are just features I want, the idea here is that you can build one specifically to fit your needs)
- Lower price – I don’t want to worry about it being stolen or lost on a job if loaned out.
- Rechargeable battery – I want to be able to charge it with USB power & have a USB-A output to use it to charge other devices if needed.
- Smaller case – I would like to be able to comfortably keep it on my belt during setup, allowing me to have a test box, and a power supply to charge my phone while working.
- Simple i/O w/ calibrated meters – I need to input and output signals on XLR & see a clear visual reference in the dark as to what level that signal is coming or going at for calibrating equipment interconnects. (Ex. Sending a test tone to a press mult at a specific level to help calibrate camera feeds)
- Option to switch between speaker output and headphone output that silences the speaker when in use.
I’m also considering the idea of just modding an existing speaker like this one from Cambridge SoundWorks. It certainly would be easier to modify the input and possibly add a tone generator, and the finished product would look tons better then anything I can hack together. More to come on this for sure…
As I continue to move this project forward I am also sorting out for the first time how to organize and layout all of the resources, details and updates to the project along the way. I think a separate page for each project should serve the purpose well, but I hope that you’ll be understanding as I’m sure I’ll make a bit of a mess of it at first. I am also working on moving away from my hand drawn notes, I’m learning how to use Adobe Illustrator & going forward I’ll try to create more useful and detailed drawings of these projects, which will be available on the project page for download.