First Look: Petrol PS617 Deca Lightweight Audio Bag

I was recently afforded the opportunity to field test a demo unit of Petrol’s newest audio bag, the PS617. It is based on their existing PS614 Deca Lightweight Audio Bag and specifically designed to accommodate the newly released Sound Devices 664 Production Field Mixer and CL-6 Input Expander. In my seventeen years as a production sound mixer based outside of Washington, DC, I have owned mixer bags by PortaBrace, Kata and CamRade. In 2005 I bought my first Petrol bag, the PEGZ-1, and became an instant fan. Three of my rigs are built in Petrol bags, and although I haven’t used the PS614, which this bag is based on, I am thoroughly familiar with their attention to detail, quality construction, and thoughtful design in their products. With all that being said, you will get my honest and objective thoughts of the PS617. I am an end-user, and not affiliated with Petrol in any way.


The Petrol PS617 is designed to hold the Sound Devices 664, CL-6, and multiple wireless receivers, transmitters and accessories. The bag was shipped with a shoulder strap, clear removable rain / dust cover for the main compartment, and a small zippered pouch. The main padded compartment has Velcro straps to secure the 664 in the bag and a divider panel cut to clear an attached CL-6. The openings on the sides of the bag allow full access to all input and output connections as well as the CF and SD cards regardless of whether the mixer is positioned in the rear or front of the padded main compartment. Underneath the bag are four doors to allow access to the 664’s Word Clock and Com connectors.

The rear battery compartment can be accessed by unzipping the two sides at the rear of the bag and folding down, or through either side of the battery compartment through two way zippers. The large front compartment holds a detachable frame that has elastic for up to eight wireless receivers. The frame attaches securely to the bag with both hook and loop material and a strap. This compartment has four zippers and fully unzips down both sides allowing easy access. In the front of that is a full length front pocket with an internal organizer. In addition there are two removable snap-on pouches that attach on the left and right side cable boot. There are two pairs of attachment points for a strap or harness on the top of the main mixer compartment as well as two rings underneath. Lastly, there is a permanently attached clear sleeve designed to fit a Besco TCD-1 Time Code Display. There is access to route cables between devices through all three large compartments.

I had a couple of shoot days lined up that involved both off the shoulder and cart based work and was anxious to get the bag built and out in the field. I already had a basic idea of how I wanted it configured and with the bag fully unzipped, was quickly able to route all cables and assemble my rig. With this bag setup I am running a Sound Devices 664, three Lectrosonics 411’s, two Audio Limited Envoy transmitters, a Comtek M216 powered by a Remote Audio BDSv2 with two NP1’s. I prefer to have my receivers and BDS in the space where the CL-6 would go so I have unobstructed and immediate access. The front wall of the main padded compartment also had four elastic straps, similar to the detachable receiver frame. They securely hold my three receivers to the front wall as well as the BDS. I then used the included divider panel to separate them from the mixer and used one of the two included long pillows underneath my receivers to cushion the XLR connectors and keep them level with the top of the mixer. Everything feels secure and well protected.

I choose to use the front compartment with the detachable frame to hold my transmitters, pouch with microphones and my Comtek transmitter (not shown). With the frame attached and the strap securing it, everything is upright and snug. Should I need to add a receiver or two, I can easily pull my transmitters out and slide in additional receivers to the awaiting power cables from the BDS and quickly route the XLRs through the access area on the wall of the main compartment. Also in there are my time code BNC cables, and a 5 pin XLR lead from a stereo microphone cable that is plugged into the inputs. In the front zippered compartment I have some pens, batteries, moleskin and a small penlight. The two external snap on pouches hold my camera link transmitters and my jumper cable to my boom.

In the Field

My first shoot day involved a live remote at the Baltimore Ravens’ training facility and I would be working off a cart. The bag sits nicely on the four raised feet which are on each of the four underside access doors with magnetic closures. A quick roll onto its back and I was able to open the one access door to plug in a TA3 cable into the com port for an IFB transmitter. The cable boots have two way zippers on the top and bottom of the area where the snap on pouch is located and also a drawstring around the ends for additional weather protection. I had very easy access to the output and input connections even without unzipping the cable boots and could easily get to the SD and CF cards. Access to my transmitters in the front compartment is a breeze as fully unzipped, the front just lies down and I have clear access to everything.

One thing I did notice was that the rear Velcro strip (seen in the above picture) sticks up and sometimes folds or falls forward slightly restricting direct access to the mixers trim and high pass filter controls, as well as the slate/tone and return monitoring switches. The quick fix I found for that was to unzip the rear battery compartment from the main bag, fold the strip over with the hook and loop facing the back of the mixer, and then zipping up the rear battery section.

The following day I had some off the shoulder work and knew I would finally get a real feel for the bag. Everything changes once you’re wearing it. First thing I noticed is that this bag is big. And by big I mean length and depth. However, it’s the Sound Devices 664 that dictates the size and the PS617 is sized precisely to fit this mixer and not any larger than it needs to be.

Battery access is excellent with the two side access zippers on the rear compartment. This is not something I have on my PEGZ-1, PWMB 552 or PSDMB-302 bags and is a feature I know I will continue to appreciate. I can easily get to my two NP-1’s from each side even when wearing the bag by slightly leaning forward to bring it away from my body. I also prefer this rear compartment feature on my bags because it helps hold the mixer off my body just enough to keep it unobstructed by a loose shirt or blousy jacket.

I have no use for the small clear window above the front most pocket for a time code display and would like to see it completely removable. However, it does have two small hook and loop tabs so that it can roll up and secure. I would also like to have seen two way zippers on the front most pouch in case I wanted to hang some transmitters or tuck a cable in from the left side.

One last observation while wearing the bag is in my current configuration it will crowd in a bit and the attachment rings will noticeably pull up on the sides. With the larger organizer style bags such as my PEGZ-1 and the 601, 602 and 603 which have a much more rigid frame, you don’t experience this. On my PWMB and PSDMB you do. I’m only running the mixer and three wires; I’m curious what it would look like with the CL-6 and eight or more receivers. I have never had a failure, and have the utmost confidence that Petrol has designed the attachment points to fully support the weight capacities of their bags. I would have liked to see some type of rigid support along the top two sides at the attachment rings, even if only for peace of mind as it appears the bag is too heavy for the mounting points. However, knowing Petrol and their quality construction and design, I’d be willing to bet my mixer and wires that it will not fail.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the new PS617 bag designed for the Sound Devices 664. The bag is thoughtfully designed to securely hold the mixer and/or CL-6 and multiple wireless units and it certainly can be used with any other combination of mixers and/or recorders. I appreciate how its design does not force you into one configuration and Petrol clearly did that on purpose. For instance, the 664 has connections for Word Clock and Com on the bottom of the mixer (or back depending on how you interpret that). They didn’t just include two well thought out access doors, but four. Thus allowing you to position the mixer in the forward or rear position in the main padded compartment, regardless of whether or not you utilize a CL-6. They added four elastic straps on the front wall of the main compartment knowing full well some of us will utilize that space differently and without a CL-6.

It has excellent access to all input and output connections as well as the CF and SD cards. Battery storage and access is great as well as cable routing between components. The materials and construction quality is top notch as has been my past experience with all their products and exactly what I expected. I don’t mix every day, but when I do, you can bet there will be a Petrol audio bag hanging from my shoulders or on my cart.


Tom Craca is a professional sound mixer.

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