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Patchbay newb...

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Patchbay newb...

Postby siderealxxx » Wed May 14, 2014 6:45 pm

Although a seasoned production veteran (!), I am new to patchbays and for all the usual reasons I now need to get one. But I've read quite a bit around the subject and it looks like it's more complicated than I realised! What I need is a real world example to get my head round it. If I could outline my main intention with it and if anyone cares to provide any pointers I'd be grateful!

My interface is a Fireface 800 and I no longer have a mixer, but I do have various bits of outboard gear I still wish to utilise: dual channel mic pre-amp, stereo/dual compressor, stereo effects unit and a few synths.

What would be helpful is if I could think about a couple of typical scenarios and what kind of Patchbay I would need (I don't understand the practical uses of normalised/half etc) and how they would be set up. For example:

1/ I'm recording vocals and I wish to patch the pre-amp into the compressor whilst tracking.
2/ I wish to send an output from Logic to the outboard effect unit and record the signal back in.
3/ I'd like 2 synth outputs to be wired to the FF800 inputs 7-8 (via patchbay) indefinitely but without the need for physically patching (in case I need the input).

These might seem like simple scenarios but I essentially only have 8 line inputs/ouputs on the FF800 and wish to be able to have everything on tap and ready to go. At the moment I keep having to rewire and it's highly impractical.

On this basis what kind of patchbay would I want and how should it be configured.

Any thoughts appreciated - thanks in advance!
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed May 14, 2014 7:20 pm

What you describe is pretty straight forward. Have a read of these articles for a good primer:

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/dec99/a ... tchbay.htm

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/mar98/a ... hbays.html

I'd suggest a decent balanced TRS patch bay will do. I like the Neutrik ones, but others rate the Samson with switchable normalling options. A typical unit will provide more than enough sockets for what you describe.

You might want to invest in some SOS pseudo-balanced cables from the shop to connect your unbalanced synths into the patch at to avoid ground loop problems.
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby The Elf » Wed May 14, 2014 7:37 pm

siderealxxx wrote:My interface is a Fireface 800 and I no longer have a mixer

Welcome to the club! :D

I wouldn't want to work in a studio without a patchbay. Essentially you wire all of your inputs and outputs to your patchbay such that you can now patch them together simply and conveniently without having to crawl around the back of your racks. The usual way of wiring is to connect outputs to the top row of the bay and inputs to the bottom.

'Normalising' simply means that a socket on the bay's top row is connected to a socket on the bottom when no patch cable is plugged into the front of the bay. This is useful, since you don't want to have to use patch cables to work in a 'normal' way.

siderealxxx wrote:1/ I'm recording vocals and I wish to patch the pre-amp into the compressor whilst tracking.

The line output of your pre-amp would be available somewhere on the top row of your patchbay. The line input to your compressor would be available somewhere on the bottom row of your bay. The line inputs to your Fireface would be available somewhere on the bottom row of your bay. So... You would connect a patch cable between the pre-amp output (top row) and the compressor input (bottom row). You would then connect a patch cable between the compressor's line output (top row) and the Fireface's line input (bottom row). Job done.

siderealxxx wrote:2/ I wish to send an output from Logic to the outboard effect unit and record the signal back in.

Connect a Fireface line output (top row) to the effect unit line input (bottom row). Connect the effect unit line output (top row) to a Fireface line input (bottom row). Of course, you also need to set up your DAW to use the correct in/outs for external effects, but I'm not a Logic user, so I can't help there. Most DAWs can do it.

siderealxxx wrote:3/ I'd like 2 synth outputs to be wired to the FF800 inputs 7-8 (via patchbay) indefinitely but without the need for physically patching (in case I need the input).

The synth outputs would be on the bay's top row. Directly beneath these you would connect the Fireface's 7/8 line inputs. You would half-normalise these upper/lower sockets so that without a patch cable in the front of the bay the synths would be connected at all times. If, say, you suddenly felt the need for these synths to go to the Fireface's inputs 5/6 you would simply connect a pair of patch cables from the synth outputs on the top row to the Fireface 5/6 line inputs on the bottom row.

Having gone through this it should now be becoming obvious that a little careful thought goes a long way when setting up a patchbay. Get it right and it pays back in spades of flexibilty, creativity and speed.

SOS have covered this in detail several times, so try a search or three. Here are a few for starters:

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/dec99/a ... tchbay.htm
http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/feb03/a ... on0203.asp
http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/mar98/a ... hbays.html

Oops! Hugh beat me to it! I am one who very much rates the Samson S-Patch. They are definitely one of my better purchases.
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby siderealxxx » Wed May 14, 2014 8:39 pm

Ok thanks guys, that's really helpful… I have read those articles but some of it hasn't quite sunk in.

So to clarify a couple of things, the compressor, effects and pre-amp (for example) would be set up as non-normalised because you're just extending the ins/outs effectively, but the synth in this case would be set as half-normal because it will largely be left in place (and would have to be wired directly above the FF800 inputs), unless you manually break the path? This is the main thing I'm trying to understand, I hope I have that right!

But then this depends on having a patchbay that allows multiple/switchable configurations at the same time and as far as I can see the Samson is the only one that allows this. Also it refers to a 'Through Mode' and the Neutrik refers to 'Isolated'… is this just different terminology for non-normalised? Or something else?

I think I'm getting there now, and I like the look of the Samson anyway.

Muchos thankos.
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby The Elf » Wed May 14, 2014 8:58 pm

siderealxxx wrote:So to clarify a couple of things, the compressor, effects and pre-amp (for example) would be set up as non-normalised because you're just extending the ins/outs effectively, but the synth in this case would be set as half-normal because it will largely be left in place (and would have to be wired directly above the FF800 inputs), unless you manually break the path? This is the main thing I'm trying to understand, I hope I have that right!

Yes, that's about it. There's the concept of full versus half-normalisation to grasp, but leave that for later. For what you are describing I suggest you use half-normalised.

siderealxxx wrote:But then this depends on having a patchbay that allows multiple/switchable configurations at the same time and as far as I can see the Samson is the only one that allows this.

No. Most patchbays allow it on a (pair of) socket-by-socket basis, but the beauty of the Samson is that it allows you to change it from the front panel. Some of the Behringer models, for example, have a row of switches on the top of the bay, which is useless once it's racked in! Other manufacturers let you change it by unscrewing and swiveling each jack module around, or by dabbing solder across some targets on the bay's circuit board. Once I discovered the Samsons there was no way I was going back to any of that kind of nonsense! :D :headbang:

To be fair, once you have your patching system in place it is rare you will want to change normalisation settings, but I still find the front panel switches comforting. More importantly I have found the Samsons to be mechanically solid and reliable - not something I can say about most patchbays I've used in the past.
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby siderealxxx » Wed May 14, 2014 9:09 pm

Ok great - thanks.

Maybe it's useful to clarify full/half normalised whilst we're at it… even if it's not relevent yet?

Actually I need to clarify what Hugh mentioned about the synths, unbalanced kit and ground loops problems. So should I be using mono/unbalanced or stereo/balanced cables for connecting and patching? I think the pre-amp, compressor and possibly effects unit are balanced but the synths aren't.

How to manage this?

THANKS
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed May 14, 2014 9:56 pm

Please read the articles. They all explain the various normalling schemes. The differences are to do with what happens to the signal path when you insert one or two plugs and in which sockets.

If most of the equipment connected to the patchbay -- and especially the interface inputs -- are balanced, use a balanced patch bay and balanced patch cords.

The SOS pseudo-balanced cables make an unbalanced source look a bit like a balanced one for patching to balanced inputs.

H
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby The Elf » Wed May 14, 2014 10:04 pm

Use balanced cable wherever you can.
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby siderealxxx » Wed May 14, 2014 10:04 pm

Cheers - from what I can see though the cables you mention in the SOS shop aren't there… I guess I can find something comparable.
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Re: Patchbay newb...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu May 15, 2014 9:47 am

If you can't find them in the SOS shop your search skills aren't up to finding them anywhere else! ;) These cables are actually unique -- I'm not aware of anyone else making them commercially... which is why we decided to make them.

http://www.soundonsound.com/shop/Dept.php?DeptID=45

H

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