For me, Patch Bays is one of the most frequently used piece of equipment, that I have personally ever used. It is not necessary for every studio to be equipped with Patch Bay, because the utility is completely dependent on how many interconnections are to be made in the studio. People with a lot of studio gear may use the conventional way of routing things to one another, in which case, the Patch Bays really help to make things easier and efficient for the user.
There are different kinds of Patch Bays and every type has its own pros and cons. Like I said, Patch Bay is really important for ease of interconnections between different hardware.
The above picture shows what a typical Patch Bay looks like and how it is interconnected. But first, we need to understand the different interconnections and the need for a Patch Bay.
Need for Interconnections
For a lot of people who have bedroom studios, they don’t have much of a complicated signal routing that is going on with their audio hardware. A simple audio interface would be enough for a bedroom studio, provided there is hardware like Teletronix LA-2A, Neve 1073, API 550A, Dangerous Music 2Bus+, etc.
The need for Interconnection arises when you have different audio hardware. That doesn’t necessarily mean many audio Inputs/Outputs. For that, a different piece of hardware is required. You can go for either digital/analogue mixer console or you can also go for Danté. These are used to route multiple inputs from different microphones and instruments, both line and mic inputs, and record the signals properly by routing the signal to the different channels of the mixer consoles.
Now, imagine doing the same thing for rest of the elements. As we already know the output and the input of any hardware support balanced audio and hence the Interconnections make it difficult for us to route the signal. This is where Patch Bays are used.
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation, where you have the LA-2A compressor, an API 550A EQ and a Dangerous Music 2Bus+ Summing amp, and an Orion interface to have multiple inputs and outputs coming from and going to the workstation simultaneously. Let’s say 8 tracks in a session are loaded, we need to start compressing the vocals, add some grit to the drums by using API 550A EQ and finally sum all of the stems to dangerous music 2bus+.
The way you are going to do this is very simple, you are going to take the output from Orion Interface for vocals track, which could be output number 1, and route the same output at the input of LA-2A compressor. The output from the LA-2A compressor has to be taken and then given back to another input of Orion Audio Interface so that the new compressed vocals from the LA-2A compressor can be recorded back again.
As you can see in the given picture, the interconnections from Various inputs and outputs from different hardware gears and audio interfaces are connected here. All the outputs from the Orion Audio Interface can be connected to the inputs of the Patch Bay, so that the signals are readily available at the front side of the Patch Bay to route it to any hardware gear we want to which is obviously at your disposal.
Routing of Patch Bay
The best part of using the Patch Bay is, that you can not only connect the audio interface’s outputs but you can also connect the inputs for compressors and different hardware gears. This is majorly the reason why people have been using the top part of the Patch Bay and the outputs coming out from the audio interface and the bottom part of the Patch Bay is used to interconnect different audio hardware.
Once you understand how the routing works, it becomes really convenient, because now, you can simply patch the input and output of the hardware and the audio interface using a patch cable.
Patch cables are of 3.5mm or 6.5mm of TRS cable so that they support balanced audio. Routing of the studio equipment is completely subjective and made for the convenience of the audio engineer.
So, if you look at the picture above, the top part depicts the backside of the Patch Bay, where all the outputs are connected. The lower part of the picture depicts the front side of the Patch Bay. You can see there are numbers marked from 1-24, in both the sides of the Patch Bay. These numbers are used to denote port number for the ease of access and convenience. You may connect from the audio interface outputs to port 1-15 in the Patch Bay, and route port 15-24 to different audio hardware.
Now, if the vocals are available at port number 1, at the front side of the Patch Bay, you can connect the upper port number 1 to the lower port number 15, at the input of the LA-2A compressor. And now, you can connect the upper port number 15 to the lower port number 1, so that the vocals could easily be recorded back.
The next time you walk into any professional studio, which you are going to be using either for recording or for any other purpose, make sure to ask the routing sheet from the engineer or the concerned person from the studio. This will not only help you to know how the routing is done in the studio, but will also help you to know how the studio can be utilized to its fullest potential.
If you have your own bedroom studio which you are planning to rent out to make some bucks on the side, it is better to keep a routing sheet ready, no matter how simple your routing is done in the studio. Also, make sure that the client understand the routing sheet prior a day of recording.
There is a myriad of different applications of the Patch Bays in big studios and also, a myriad of types of Patch Bays, but the best thing to look out for right now, is the most widely used application of the Patch Bay which is for routing the signal and making the interconnections more convenient.
This is all you need to know about the Patch Bays, I hope that you have understood Patch Bays and patching. I’ll see you in another blog, thanks for reading this one.