With software control, silent switching and a choice of input cards, this clever box is way more than a patchbay substitute.
To mangle a familiar saying, you wait years for a new digitally controlled analogue routing matrix and then two come along at once... Regular readers will probably remember that when I evaluated Flock Audio’s Patch in SOS April 2021 (https://sosm.ag/flock-patch) as a convenient, software‑controlled replacement for the traditional passive analogue patchbay, I found plenty in it to admire, and most notably the convenience of having software recall of the analogue routing in my studio. But in that review I also mentioned the availability of CB Electronics’ UK‑made XPatch‑32 as a potential alternative. Since then, I’ve spent a few months putting that device through its paces.
Before I explore the XPatch‑32’s functionality and performance in detail, though, it’s worth me pointing out that this is an evolving design. Indeed, over the review period, several improvements were made to the XPatch Mac/Windows control app, both to improve the software itself and to unlock new features in the hardware. At the time of writing, the latest version is v3.1, build 59, a fairly mature public beta that will soon be the officially supported version. But there will almost certainly be further significant updates by the time you read this: you can keep abreast of developments on designer Colin Broad’s blog, on the CB Electronics website.
Like Flock’s Patch, the CB Electronics XPatch‑32 is a 1U rackmountable 32x32 channel analogue routing matrix that allows you to patch any input to any output (or to multiple outputs, in fact) using a dedicated app. Outwardly, the build quality is good, with a sturdy metal chassis, and despite the profusion of electronics inside it never seemed to get overly hot.
The hardware communicates with the XPatch app over a USB connection, but since I received the review unit the company have added an RJ45 port as standard; this fulfils the same role as the USB connection but allows longer cable runs and, via a router, wireless connection to your computer. There’s also a MIDI DIN input, and communication over all these physical connections is via MIDI so, as well as using the app, you have the opportunity of controlling everything using third‑party hardware or smartphone apps; CB recommend Touch OSC for Android, but I didn’t have the opportunity to test that in depth.
The XPatch‑32 is joined in CB’s range by two larger (2U) models. While the names of the XPatch‑64 and the recently announced XPatch‑96 make it obvious how many I/O they provide, less obvious is that only the XPatch‑32 offers all of its facilities on every channel; some are available only on the first 32 channels of the larger devices due to power‑supply design and heat‑management considerations. Up to four XPatches (you can combine different models) can be accessed by the XPatch app, so you could conceivably build a vast patchbay system, dedicating a handful of...