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The Joy Of Patch Bays


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Patch bays. To the soft-studio generation patch bays are obsolete. Yet as you accumulate studio gear their need is just as vital to a studio as they ever were. They are the hub that is in the middle of a well organized studio.

 

They provide a central location for connecting together your gear, but they also protect your gear. Patch bay connectors take the wear and tear, saving the connectors on your expensive piece of kit. They also save you looking about the back of gear to connect your equipment, improving your work flow.

 

Patch bays come in several forms in a studio:

 

  • Unbalanced Jack
  • Balanced Jack
  • XLR (Balanced)
  • Phono
  • Midi

 

There can even be network or other patch bays.

 

With Jack patch bays, there tend to be two rows, A and B. There’s a default connection type between Corresponding A and B connectors:

 

  • Normal
  • Semi-Normal
  • Open or Through
  • Parallel

 

These connector types dictate the way each top row connector relates to it’s corresponding bottom row connector. This includes what happens when a Jack is inserted into A or B

 

My memory of setting up patch bays in pro studios was dominated by a lot of soldering, as the rear of the panel was wires being attached in configurations that set up the connection types above. Flexibility was key. It was fairly easy for studio owners to have cheap, custom patch bays…. With the investment of a little effort. Because of that effort setting up a patch bay generally took some planning.

 

While convenience (after set up) and protection of connectors were key benefits of patch bays, they also mean investing in more cables. A single non-patch bay connection takes a single cable. With a patch bay a connection requires 2 or 3 cables. That’s a lot of cables to trail about!

 

As a result, studios often make use of multi-core wiring looms to reduce the mess. Like patch bays, wiring looms come in unbalanced and balanced varieties.

 

So, why this post?

 

Well, I just finished rewiring my studio. I already had an unbalanced Jack patch bay, but I added a balanced Jack patch bay. I have a feeling an XLR patch bay is in my near future. The back of my rack is a jumble of wires, made a bit more manageable with 7 or 8 8 way looms. That means going through every connection in the patch bay and configuring it correctly. For me most are normalled or semi-normalled, alongside perhaps 10 open/thru connections.

 

And so…. Breathe. Today, connect two devices by midi, and that’s it. Time to tidy away unused cables etc. and the studio should be ready. Basic audio connections are tested, so my test project will be used to test all connections, including connections to and from a PC I use for live streams.

 

I also need to go through my checklist for optimising a Windows 10 system for music:

 

34 Tips To Optimize Your Windows 10 PC For Making Music

 

Then experimenting with updated DAW features begins in earnest!

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