How To Connect a Patchbay

A patchbay, also called a patch panel, is a rack-mounted setup that contains cable connections. The main purpose of a patchbay is to allow the user to connect multiple devices, without necessarily having to plug and unplug each device from the setup all the time. It can be compared to an old-fashioned switchboard for telephone systems.

Modern setups might already use switchers to do the same purpose. Switchers take out the need for multiple bays and devices, and will work simply by turning switches. However, the cost of a switcher can be prohibitive. While a simple patchbay can be built or setup for a little more than a hundred dollars using off-the-rack equipment or parts from an electronics store, a switcher that has the same purpose will usually cost $2,000 to $4,000.

Connecting a patchbay will depend on your requirements. However, in a usual studio recording setup, you will usually need  to connect your multi-track recording device, mixing console, pre-amplifiers or compressors, and individual input sources. Using a patchbay will let you connect these without the need to access the rear of the console. You can simply plug in your devices to the sockets in front of the patchbay.

This setup will involve connecting a multi-track recorder and a live recording to a mixer, to record a performance.

  • Use a snake connection to output from the multi-track recording device, connecting each of the recording channels to the mixer inputs. For convenience, start the first mixer channel going successively until you use up all outputs.
  • Connect the inputs from the recording area into the succeeding set of inputs on the mixer. You can use a stagebox or a wall-mounted XLR connector.
  • For each channel, connect the direct output onto the patchbay’s inputs, which can be located at the rear. Start with the leftmost input going onto the succeeding input channels.
  • Connect the outputs at the rear of the patchbay to the inputs on your multitrack device.
  • Each subgroup at the rear of the mixing console should then be connected to the inputs at the rear of the patchbay. The channels should be in a parallel configuration.

For best results, use the shortest possible snake and cable connections. This will minimize unwanted noise and interference in your recording setup. Budget permitting, you should also choose cables that are high quality and that are gauged appropriately for your application, with quality tips and connectors.

This wiring method should be the same when wiring an outboard effect unit, such as those for pre-processing or pre-amplifying instrument sounds, such as guitar distortions and the like.

Connecting an audio setup using a patchbay is an effective way to keep your setup clean and efficient. This ensures that you can do your recording sessions without a hitch, and without the need to redo the setup every time. The same setup can be done on a more sophisticated switcher, but, again, if cost is an issue, then a patchbay will do the job just the same.


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