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Recording Studio Basics 101: Setting up a Patch Bay

The patch bay is a critical part of the recording studio and is a central point that connects and reroutes all of the input and output signals. In addition, the patch bay also helps to split signals. They come in different shapes and sizes depending on the size of the studio.

Having a patch bay gives a studio more efficiency and helps to lower costs. Although setting up a patch bay might seem daunting, we’ve got some tips to relieve your anxiety.

What is a Patch Bay?

First and foremost, patch bays are usually console units that have 24 channels. These come with inputs and outputs for each channel, which totals 48 “points” or connections. There are two rows, which brings the total to 96.

Different Kinds of Connections

Most modern units have bantam connectors on the front, referred to as “TT” or tiny telephone connectors. In the back, there are DB-25 connectors. These d-subminiature electrical connectors allow for asynchronous communication of data.

Signal Flow

Next, an audio engineer must understand the signal flow of the patch bay. The signal flow breaks down into six groups. These groups pick up the sound from vocalists and instruments. Then, the signal is sent through the patch bay console into your digital audio workstation. Finally, the signal flows back out through the speakers.

These six groups are as follows:
  1. Studio mic lines: this represents the output from the microphones in the recording room.
  2. Channel mic inputs: these are for the input levels of the microphones.
  3. Direct and group outputs: the line level outputs for the different channels and groups.
  4. Multi-track sends/Inputs: inputs from line level tape machines or digital audio converters
  5. Multi-track returns/Outputs: outputs from line level tape machines or digital audio converters
  6. Channel line/monitor outputs: the outputs that monitor line level consoles

Patch Bay Normalling

The next thing to consider with setting up a patch bay is “normalling.” Normalling refers to the connections on your patch bays that are semi-permanent and don’t need a cable patched into them. It sends the signals into the back of the patch bay from the input to the output unless a cable is plugged in.

Half-normalling occurs only when a cable plug is inserted into the lower jack on the front. Under these conditions, It’s not advised to have any outboard gear attached to this connection because to do so would cause a loop of feedback on everything during a session.

Every Patch Bay is Different

Bear in mind that every patch bay can be set up differently to account for all of the other pieces of equipment in the studio. A company that builds patch bay consoles usually provides a guide to help engineers. It’s a good idea to have different cables and connectors color-coded to help make things easier.

Normalling as many connections as possible also helps with putting a patch bay together. Having those connections allows for less time lost than it would take to patch cables to make the connections needed for every recording project.

It’s also important that an audio engineer ties the patch bay to a common ground in the studio to have solid signal integrity. This is done by doing what’s called “ground bussing”. Ground bussing connects a cable from from a post on the back of the patch bay to one on the console. Most patch bays are manufactured with configurations that enables this to take place once they’re set up without other cables.

Want to Learn More?

Having a patch bay is an important part of any recording studio, and learning how to set one up is just as important.  If this kind of technical knowledge appeals to you & you’re curious enough to learn more, take a moment to check out IPR Audio Production and Engineering Program and the training that they provide on-site about the tools needed in that area.

Contact us today to learn more about the audio production engineering program and how you can get started on your way towards a rewarding career in the music industry.