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Neutrik 48-Way Jack Patchbay

Low‑cost jack patchbays are available from a number of sources, but most tend to use the same type of budget jack socket to keep the price down. This is OK for a while, but in applications involving normalising, such as insert points, cheap jacks very quickly start to become intermittent, leaving you cursing as your signal comes and goes without warning.

Neutrik are manufacturers of high‑quality connectors, so it's not surprising that the jack sockets used in this patchbay are far more elaborate, and somewhat more costly, than you'd find in a budget unit. Aside from having gold‑plated contacts, the contacts themselves are largely enclosed by the plastic moulding, so there's less chance of dirt physically settling on them.

Whereas most jack bays seen in home studios are little deeper than the sockets they contain, this one is built into a fairly deep plated‑steel chassis, the rear edge of which serves as a tie‑down point to anchor cables. All the jacks are TRS stereo and terminate at the rear in spring‑contact barrier strips, designed to accept bare wires without soldering. All you do is push back the little white lever above the appropriate orifice, poke in the wire and let go of the lever, and the wire is held fast. Similarly, the normalisation options are handled by small plastic 'jumpers' which plug into pairs of pin connectors on the main fibreglass motherboard. A separate link determines whether or not the socket grounds are connected to the chassis ground.

On the front of the patchbay, the sockets are surrounded by push‑on plastic cosmetic trims; though black is pretty fashionable in studios, you can replace them with coloured trims if it helps you navigate. Furthermore, along the centre of the panel are two strips of card covered by clear acrylic strips for labelling the sockets.

This certainly isn't a cheap way to build a patchbay, and the cost comes to around three or four times what you'd pay for a budget model, but in critical applications, such as normalised insert points, I think that the peace of mind could well be worth the extra expense, especially if you own a serious project studio. It's also worth remembering that what you spend on the patchbay, you're going to save on not having to buy 48 jack plugs to go into the back end. You also save time by not having to solder, and, rather than having to buy a tie bar as an optional extra, you get one built into the basic product. Compared with a top‑end studio bay, this one still works out relatively inexpensive,though it's a shame that there's nothing between the truly budget models and the cheapest high‑quality units such as this one. But if you've already fallen foul of intermittent patchbay connections, you probably don't need me to persuade you of the advantages of a pedigree product. Paul White