Do you have a growing home studio setup with many cables and wires that need connections?
Maybe, you got tired of pulling and inserting inputs and outputs from time to time at the back of your setup.
In fact, we do too!
In this article, we will learn the patchbay setup and how it works.
After reading this, you will surely have the flexibility, convenience, and organized setup you will always love.
- Patch bay allows you to have a custom routing setup that will ease your workflow.
- A patch bay only works through top-bottom dynamics, which means you insert the outputs on the top rear jack and the input through the corresponding bottom rear jack.
- You can have your patch bay connections in through normal mode, half-normal mode, and thru mode.
- There are four patch bay types you can choose from – XLR, RCA, 1/4″ TRS, and TT patch bays. These have varying patch bay panel ports from 8-port, 24-port, 48-port, and 96-port.
What is a Patchbay?
A patch bay enables you to create a signal flow from a custom routing setup for your studio connections.
Imagine having all your input and outputs in one unit; that is a patch bay!
With a patch bay, you can easily maneuver and change the default into a routing setup that is convenient for you and fits your work needs.
A patch bay can have analog patching and digital patching.
The former works by manually plugging in cables and connections, while the latter is in a digital format with simulations of a traditional patch bay.
There are three most used types of patch bays
- XLR patch bays (Easy-to-use alternative)
- 1/4″ TRS patch bay (More affordable than others)
- Tiny telephone (TT) patch bay (More elaborate, especially for larger/expanding home studios)
The patch bay setup includes front and rear panel connections. These panels have top and bottom jacks that vary in numbers depending on your patch bay.
There are 8-port, 24-port, 48-port, and 96-port patch bays. All of these differ in length and width, too.
Moreover, patch bay layouts are usually unique from each other.
However, in general, it has a rugged metal housing, designation strips, and the following patch cables and plugs:
For the front panel:
- Normal mode button/jacks
- Half normal mode button/jacks
- Top jack
- Bottom jack
For the rear panel:
- Mic inputs
- Aux sends and returns
- Signal processing unit inputs and outputs
- Multiple duplicate signals
- Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) cables
- Universal Serial Bus (USB) cables
- External Line Return (XLR) cable connector
- RJ45 inputs
- Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) cables
- Tip-Sleeve (TS) cables
- Radio Corporation of America (RCA) cables
With these technical parts, another question arises: how do you properly set up a patch bay?
How to Set Up a Patchbay in 5 Steps
For a patch bay to carry out its functions properly, it is an essential factor to consider and actualize.
A default routing setup includes placing the input and output signals. Apart from that, you can also do custom signal routing in your preferred patch bay setup.
1.) Prepare Outboard Gear and Other Equipment
Preparing your outboard gears and equipment is the best starting point for any connections through the patch bay.
If you do this, it quickly makes sense to plug line-level outputs or line-level inputs.
In the same way, make sure that you use color-coded or labeled wires to easily identify which wire you will connect and match to the front or rear bottom jack and top jack.
2.) Plan Desired Patch Cable Connections & Signal Flow
Before going into the intricacies of normal mode, half normal mode, and thru mode connections, plan out your signal’s flow first.
You can do this by making a layout of the wiring diagram in blank templates.
With this, you can also double-check the following:
- How the overall patch bay works
- The needed patch cords and cables
- The mic pre-amps requirement (e.g., phantom power)
REMEMBER: A phantom power included in your list needs to be planned out primarily to avoid voltage problems in the wiring and patchbay.
3.) Placing Output Signals
To make things work, you must insert the sound-producing device on the output jack in the top row of the rear panel.
The device connected can be microphones, audio interface, DBX channel strip, and more.
For this, the audio signal coming will pass through at the top front jacks, linear to where you inserted at the top rear jacks.
4.) Placing Input Signals
The next thing in mind will always be the input end of the signal flows.
You will connect this from the bottom front jack to the bottom rear jacks and into another outboard gear or an audio interface.
It works contrary to the outputs wherein it starts from the top row rear to the top row front. The inputs come from the bottom row front to the bottom row rear.
5.) Place Patch Cables from Top to Bottom
Remember that connections happen if you patch cables from the top row to their corresponding input jack at the bottom row.
Other connections that are different from the top-bottom dynamic may cause the audio to stop and not send signals to the connected patch cables.
Patchbay Types and Connections
In setting up a patch bay, you will be aware that it has different types and connections.
These varying types and cable relationships dictate if you will have soldered connections, limited connections, or a wide array of connections.
We have expounded on this topic below to know more specifically about the patch bays types and connections.
Patch Bay Types
These patch bays differ in handling balanced and unbalanced audio, contact area, and connection points, among others.
Here are the standard patch bay types:
XLR Patch Bays
This type has a patch bay setup of a female front panel and male rear panel connections.
Also, the XLR patch is easy to use, and the signal is manageable in routing. Also, a balanced direct signal flow is used in this setup.
RCA Patch Bays
If you use a mic preamp, a patch bay set with RCA connectors is not a good deal because it leans more into handling an unbalanced audio signal.
Moreover, connections and configurations tend to be limited with this kind of patch bay setup.
1/4-Inch TRS Patch Bays
The 1/4″ TRS patch bay is well-known for individuals with home studios as it gives an increased contact area, is affordable, and does not need any soldering.
It is also known for BALANCED route signals in mixers, recorders, and mic preamps because of how its front and rear connections were designed.
Tiny Telephone Connections
TT, as it is fondly called, or Bantam is a patch bay that is acknowledged for its many links and connectors. It has roughly 96 in number.
This makes it a PROFESSIONAL studio staple.
Yet, the price and performance may be too much for home studios and may not be needed in that setup.
Patch Bay Connections
Aside from having different types, a patch bay can also be maneuvered using various modes.
The modes direct the signal path as your chosen mode will modify the line inputs and line output routes, as well as the patch cables.
Here are three of the familiar modes:
You will insert a patch cable in the top rear jacks in the normal mode, and the audio signal will flow into the corresponding input jack below it.
Yet, interrupting this flow is a connection in the top front jacks from an outboard gear.
Another patch cable will make its way through the bottom front jack to complete the signal routing.
Half Normal Mode
Half normal mode still follows the top rear jacks and bottom rear jack connection.
However, it cannot be broken by a patch cable connection through the top-row front panel jack.
This sequence can produce a Y-split, where the signal can also be transmitted to a DAW interface like Pro Tools.
Instead, a patch cable will disrupt the half-normal mode upon insertion in the bottom front panel.
The patch bay will only receive the signal from that patch cable.
If you are into ORGANIZING your work desk, area, and cables, the thru mode works just like it.
You can connect your lines and signals through the inputs or outputs at the back of the patch bay.
After that, if you need something from those effects units or any other studio gear, you will only use a single cable that you will connect to the front panel (top and bottom jacks).
Normalled vs. Half-Normalled Patchbays
There are differences in connection types in sending an output signal or an input signal to another gear connected through the patch bay; normalled input and half-normalled input.
Both normalled and half-normalled patch bays are plugged with a patch cable on the rear panel (bottom or top rear jack); their difference lies in what DISRUPTS the signal path.
- For the normalled patch bay, it is disrupted if a connection in the front panel is made, specifically the top row jacks.
- On the other hand, in a half-normalled patch bay, a connection in the bottom row of front jacks will be the cause of interference.
So, you can have two links since it will not be disrupted when a connection is inserted in the top row.
Should I Use a Patchbay?
Yes, you should use a patch bay if you need an efficient way to improve your setup, turning it into an ORGANIZED workflow.
However, it will still depend on the permanency of your home setup, wirings, cables, and interface changes, and if you only need a single line every time, you need a piece of gear connected.
Use a patch bay if you find yourself in one or more of these scenarios:
- If you have a permanent setup that needs to connect a piece of gear from one input to another output signal and vice versa
- If you are an organizer individual who likes to keep things in tab and order
- If you are a professional or a beginner in recording and audio setup whose workflow includes time-consuming activities
- If you want to customize your routing setup to fit your multitasking needs and work output preference
Moreover, a patch bay is needed in your work life as it helps PRESERVE your hardware, turning your gears into cost-efficient equipment!
For sure, there will be the usual wear and tear in patch cables, bottom jacks, and top jacks, but that will not cost you a fortune compared to broken hardware.
What Should I Connect to a Patchbay?
There are a lot of things and gears that you can connect to your patch bay of choice.
Yet, if you are really that particular, below is a list of equipment you can connect to a patch bay and another gear of your choice.
Here are the gears for your reference:
- Audio interface inputs and output
- Mic preamps
- Studio mic lines
- Mic input
- Patching gear
- Digital Audio Workstations like Pro Tools
- Effects units
- Monitor controllers
- Outboard compressor
- Outboard saturator
In every undertaking concerning your profession in recording and audio, you will have questions in mind.
Do not worry, though, because we got you! In this section, we will answer some of your frequently asked questions.
How Do I Organize My Patchbay?
Organize your patchbay according to the needs of your work. By this, you can have an efficient workflow.
Nevertheless, these are some tips:
- Label your patchbay
- Label the cables
- Label your top jack and bottom jack
- Color-code and note what each is for
- Use cable holders and ties to keep your wirings in place
What is a Bantam Patchbay?
As previously mentioned, a Bantam patchbay is also known as a TT patchbay.
These have many output and input connectors, which makes work more manageable and efficient.
However, this patchbay comes with a high price that is more likely suited for professional studio setups.
How Do You Use a Patchbay Mixer?
A patchbay mixer can be attached to the bottom jack of the rear panel.
Patch bays, in this sense, can be used in normal mode when you use it with a keyboard (inserted at the top rear jack).
You can also use this by thru mode when you need a single line output for regular changes in connections.
How Do I Install Patchbay Audio?
You can install an audio interface by having a patch bay and adequately placing the cables and wires.
Remember that the top rear panel connections are for the output, while the bottom rear panel connections are for the inputs.
If you connect through the top rear, the audio will come from the top front. For the inputs, the bottom front is linear to the bottom rear jacks.
A patch bay setup may be confusing at first for beginners and pros alike. However, you only need to be wary of three things:
- The top part is for the output signal
- The bottom part is for inputs
- The connection for the patch bay will only happen in a top-to-bottom manner
Nevertheless, if you have been acquainted with how a patch bay works, you and your gear’s hardware will surely benefit. It is an essential partner in having the following:
- Efficient workflow
- Organized setup
- Easy single-line access when changing cables
If you already have a patch bay, what is left for you to do is set it up using the steps above.
But, if you still do not have a patch bay, this is your sign to get one now!