I’m a long‑time subscriber and big fan of SOS – thanks for all you guys do! Like many folks, I expect, I’ve upgraded equipment in my home project studio over the years from pretty basic stuff to better units (eg. Warm Audio, Dangerous Music, RME, Mogami cables etc). I have an inexpensive ART P16 XLR patchbay that I’d like to reintroduce and I’m wondering whether this will degrade the quality when I’m tracking, mixing and mastering — it would potentially be the weakest link in my signal chain. It’s not the world’s biggest hassle to crawl under my units and switch cables, and I’d rather do that than degrade my signal quality, especially after spending more than a few bucks on this gear. I would very much appreciate your advice.
SOS Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: First, I’ve always been very impressed with ART gear. I’ve used lots of it over the years and it has always been reliable, effective, and very good value for money, with far higher‑quality than might be expected from the price. So assuming the connectors haven’t corroded or tarnished badly while it’s been in storage, then I wouldn’t be concerned about reinstalling it at all.
Obviously, additional signal path connections are always potential failure points, and tarnished connector contacts can generate low level distortions in some cases, but this is pretty rare with XLR connectors which are well designed. I’d be more concerned about a TRS patchbay, to be honest. But professional studios routinely route signals through multiple patchbay sockets without problems, and you’d be extremely unlucky to find a couple of XLR connections causing problems!
So if your studio would benefit from the greater convenience and flexibility of patching using the XLR panel, go for it! Obviously, have a careful listen when it’s installed, but if you can’t hear any issues then it’s all good – and, for what it’s worth, I’ve used XLR patchbays in my own studio for decades, for mic and line‑level analogue signals and AES3 digital signals, and I have never had any problems with them at all. That said, I always use Neutrik connectors. Cannon and Switchcraft are OK too (although not as quick and easy to wire up!), but I’ve found many of the budget Chinese brands have tolerance issues and may be unreliable, so I’d recommend avoiding them.