The Patch Bay Question


Apr 7, 2020
7 miles west of the Middle Of Nowhere
Gear owned
2488's, DP-32 & -008(ex)
As if there IS a question?!?

I've been reading/researching this for months, in the hopes of finding a way to simplify my routing (I have a lot of signals/sources) and enable simpler/more versatile usage of my (limited) outboard gear. matter how much of stuff like this I read/ matter how simple-straightforward...I find myself endlessly confused and overwhelmed with the design and cost/budget aspects of this.

So - I've done NOTHING....o_O

When you're a musician, being stewpyd is a serious obstacle...:oops:
Perhaps the easiest way to envision a patch-bay is by using a "non-normaled" straight through configuration.

For example, using a DP-24/32/SD portastudio and a four row (top to bottom) patch-bay (see pic at bottom of post):

The first row of the patch bay jack, rear connects to the portastudio Effect Send #1 output jack, so the corresponding first row patch bay jack, front, effectively becomes Effect Send #1.

The second row down of the patch-bay jack, rear, connects to the input jack of a reverb unit, so the corresponding second row down patch-bay jack, front, effectively becomes Reverb In.

A jumper cable inserted into both patch-bay jacks, front, routes the Effect Send #1 signal to the Reverb unit.

The third row down of the patch-bay jack, rear, connects to the the output jack of the Reverb unit, so the corresponding third row down jack, front, effectively becomes Reverb Out.

The fourth row down of the patch-bay jack, rear, connects to the line Input A jack of the portastudio, so the corresponding fourth row down jack of the patch-bay, front, effectively becomes portastudio line Input A.

So a jumper cable between the row 1 and row 2 patch-bay jacks, front, route the audio signal to the reverb; and a jumper cable between row 3 and row 4 patch-bay jacks, front, route the audio signal to Input A.

This replicates connecting portastudio Effect Sent #1 directly to the Reverb unit, and directly connecting the reverb unit to portastudio line Input A.

Repeat the pattern for however many FX units you want using rows #2 and #3; and for the eight portastudio line Inputs using row #4.

You then have the ability using jumper cables to route Effect Send #1 to any FX unit, and return the selected FX unit to any of the 8 portastudio line Inputs.

That's the most simple way to envision basic use of a patch-bay, IMO.

[edited to add picture]


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That's the most simple way to envision use of a patch-bay, IMO.
THNX @Mark Richards !!!
I realize admitting this designates me the resident Village Idiot...but I actually printed this out to study. I'll go over it with the boys in the band :LOL:.

Except your description of "third" and "fourth" rows down of jacks...most of the units I've seen have two rows, front and back. Like this one, which I've considered.

Annnnyway...maaaabye it'll enable me to make a first stab at this...I have an OG DP-32, so we're in the right neighborhood. I just haven't bought a p/bay yet, 'cuz without the faintest freekin' idea of what to DO with it - it'd just be a paperweight, taking up space in my already-crammed "studio"...another piece of gear I WISH I knew what they hay to do with!!!

EDIT really suks to be stewpyd...
I've been staring at the bit you wrote above for an hour, and - no kidding - I can't even visualize what it means, let alone how I'd apply it to my gear.
I DO have a basic understanding of routing and signal flow - I even use the DP's block diagram, aided by @Phil Tipping 's great videos - but I'll be doggone'd if I can make any sense whatsoever of the description you made.
And the boyz in the band weren't much help either...:rolleyes:

I guess I'll get back to analyzing which way the pointy end of the guitar goes...

After poring over this more, and trying to visualize what it describes and how I’d apply it…I’m STILL stumped as to how it’ll help me and why I’d do it and whether it’d enable the flexibility I seek.

GAWD it sux to be stewpyd!!!
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This SoS article is worth the read, IMO.
This looks like a very good resource. Will tag it and give it a good studying. Thanks @Mark Richards !
One thing that I have come to understand: that I DO want "normalling" I understand it (which clearly isn't very well!), normall'ing creates flexibility in how you connect with/insert into external devices, rather than simply creating a "central" patching location for the devices, which it appears to me is what 4-row bay you referenced does.

BUT...I'm still examining the original description you made - I'm even drawing block diagrams trying to figure out if that piece of gear would enable the arrangement/connections I want.

PART of my problem is that I'm kind of a minimalist/simplicity-freak...despite a fairly well-equipped studio, I tend to want to keep it as simple as humanly possible...not surprisingly, my body of recording work is very much limited by my reluctance to expand into the technologies that enable advanced recording techniques. Just as an example: I am 100% hardware-based/purpose-built gear devotee, and completely avoid computer/DAW/software-based equipment and technologies. Robert Johnson and I woulda got along great...:rolleyes:
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"Normaling" in my basic example simply means the patch cables stay in place: row 1 patched to row 2; row 3 patched to row 4. Translated: Effects Send 1 always goes to the Reverb unit; and the Reverb unit always returns to DP-xx line Input A; unless the patch cables are rearranged to send Effects Send 1 somewhere else; or to send the Reverb return somewhere else.
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As Mark says, in my simplest conception, a patch bay provides u the ability to put a tap on any line wherever you want in your studio, and patch stuff in or out to that point in the chain. So if u put your effects send outs of your mixer into the top row of the patch bay and you put your cables going to your effects devices on the bottom row, and the rows are ‘normalled,’ it’s as if they are directly connected.

‘Normalling’ is often the default of a patchbay, but not always.

You can ‘non-normal’ or ‘parallel’ them so that a cable in the front row or bottom row of the patchbay will interrupt the signal going out the bottom row to the effects device, or you can ‘half-normal’ them, so that when you patch from the patchbay’s front top row to other jacks in the front bottom row you will provide audio to both devices.

Super useful! I don’t use an analog patch bay as I have a few kinds of digital patching in my mixing and recording setup these days - including on the DM-4800 and DM-24 - but I have used them tons in the past.
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Thnx, @Mark Richards and @mixerizer - the feedback/opinions/advice make this seemingly obscure concept of patch-bay'ing a little easier to grasp. I'm juuuust starting to get a grip on what MR was explaining...
And I still think I need some sort of normalizing, so that I have that flexibility of routing "whatever" source through "whatever" device, to "whatever" destination. Seems like that's the point...
I think the big challenge I'm facing is in the conceptualization/design aspect. I think that's the part that's tripping me up...once I have a solid grasp on precisely what I want/need to accomplish; and then design a layout that will realize it - then the execution will be the easy part.

"And if frogs could fly, they wouldn't bump their @$$ hopping"...:LOL:
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Some examples might help - Have you read examples of the scribbling and/or labeling of patchbays ?

I bet there are a ton on the Web… try Googling “patchbay labeled images” or the like to browse how folks use em!
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Yup - that's part of my 'research'/investigation of how they work...I've checked out a bunch, from the super-complex mega-studio designs to the simplest, 8-port pieces...
On one hand - it can be very revealing, & provide ideas.
On the other, it can be pretty confusing! As I've mentioned, I prefer to keep things as simple as possible, in deference to my boundless stewpydity...:oops:

EDIT: if to make my point about why I disdain the reliance on computers for music production:
I regularly back up my DP's SD card to my MacBookAir...AND keep an archive of "completed" projects that are no long on the DP (in case I ever want to 'revisit'/remaster/re-do any of them...which I do - see my Soundclick site)...
Yesterday I was online, doing the same stuff I do every day...and was hacked/infected with virus/malware/ system went haywire and melted down. Was forced to wipe it clean, re-install, and attempt restoration from backups of THAT computer - which failed.
I've lost at least 25% of my back catalog of recording projects, going back almost 20 years.

Relying on computers (especially for music production) is like relying on a Coke machine to feed your family.:evil::mad:
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The proper balance between capability, flexibility, complexity and simplicity = elegance :D

good luck, I am sure you will feel out how u wanna use patchbays if at all to match the way your musical recording ideas direct you!
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@shredd, I think the best use of patchbays is also the most common use: Half Normalled. In the linked SOS-article, check out the pictures about this form. It means you have a fixed connection - through the patch bay - of your recorder outputs (aux sends) to the most used effect units.

So in this way, the top row of the patch bay has let's say Aux Out 1 2 3 4, on the first four connections at the back. Then for example on the second row you have a hardware reverb L/R on 1 and 2 and a hardware chorus on 3 and 4 - also connected at the back. Now on your recorder you send audio to Aux 1 and 2. This immediately feeds the audio to the reverb inputs. Same thing for the chorus unit on Aux 3 and 4.

Now on connections 5, 6, 7, and 8 on the top row you connect as follows: Reverb Out L/R to 5 and 6 (on the back) and Chorus Out L/R to 7 and 8 (also on the back). The lower row connections on the back, 5 - 8, would then have connections to 4 mixer channels for your effects return. Now anything you send through Aux 1 and 2 will go to your reverb and the reverb output comes into, say, mixer channels 7/8 and Aux 3 and 4 to mixer channels 9/10 (because that's where the snakes from lower back patch bay connections 5, 6, 7 and 8 are going to). WITHOUT patching anything, because this is why half-normalled is useful:

On the top row (I'm talking about the Front connections now!) you can now take the signal from connections 1 and 2 and send your Aux 1 and 2 audio to another device - while still sending to the reverb as well (See the SOS pictures). OR - you connect the points 1 and 2 top row to the lower row 3 and 4, and guess what: Now your Aux 1/2 audio goes to the chorus and not Aux 3/4, while still also going to the reverb! That's how flexible half-normalled patch bays are. In my case, it also makes all these connections accessible without crawling under my desk.

I hope this helps, and I'll try to include a picture from my setup..
EDIT: didn't work...
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I'm inclined to agree with @Arjan P and in my experience, I have never worked in a studio that didn't use a normalled patchby where some cables had to be inserted "permanently" so to speak. Truth is, (and I've wired more patchbays than I care to admit!) if after installation, if the customer finds that they are leaving several cables in place because they prefer that signal path, I'll go back and normal that path so they can take the cables out. In the old days we used to have the double-hole style straight from the telephone company days, lol. At least the wiring harnesses broke out onto Christmas trees and were pretty easy to solder.
MANY thanks to @mixerizer , @Mark Richards , @-mjk- , and @Arjan P for detailing possible setups. It really helps to muddle through the aims/intentions and design issues that are so confusing to me!

Sadly - I had to sit with a printout of Arjan's concept for almost an hour, thinking about it and drawing little pictures to try to get it to make sense, and figure out how it would serve my equipment and my intentions.
When you're a musician, being Stewpyd is SUCH a drag!!!
And I am deeply envious of MJ, for his long experience designing/wiring p/bay setups. I would LOVE to be where he is, instead endlessly trying to wrap my head around the countless variations, setups, and results of various implementations.
Remember, I'm "that guy" - who has to remember which way the pointy end of the guitar goes every time I sit down to play!!!:oops:

BUT: through such discussions as these, I'm starting to get a grip on it. I think one of the things that's tripping me up is the idea that I should have the entire setup visualized and designed before I buy a single patch cable...or suffer the fate of having to re-do it over and over until it's something like what I intend/want/need. I ain't made of that kinda money, and I sure as hail don't have that kind of patience.

SO: if any of you guys from 'round the world wanna swing by my place in the wastelands of the western US and help me draw it up, drop on by. There'll be Nestle' Quik and nachos for everyone, and it'll be a grand time.:p
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And I am deeply envious of MJ, for his long experience designing/wiring p/bay setups. I would LOVE to be where he is, instead endlessly trying to wrap my head around the countless variations, setups, and results of various implementations.

Oh yeah. It was so glamourous @shredd. Hours on the bench, with multi-bundles of cables, hand tied and hand numbered, going all over the place, while using a ring-light magnifying lamp and soldering the stranded wires (that I had to hand strip and pre-solder) onto the jack terminals (good thing I went to actual soldering school in 1988).

Not to mention being upside down under the console furniture and also wearing kneepads so I can crawl around on the floor to dress the cable bundles, drilling countless holes for the tie points (sawdust always gets under safety glasses, btw). Also, having to go into the basement and route the cables underneath the control room flooring from point-to-point while avoiding running along anything that might cause interference, on a ladder because the room is 10' high.

The patchbay is only 1/2 the job though. After routing the cables properly, one still has to connect the ends of the wires to the outboard equipment. Wiring a studio can take a couple of weeks or more, depending.

Then there is the testing! Every single point in the patchbay needs to be tested, verified and levels calibrated (where applicable).

Patchbays can also be a major cause of issues. In particular normals can become corroded. That is why tools like this exist. I've probably ripped out as many patchbays as I've installed over the years. Things change. What was needed in a radio studio in 1980 probably isn't relevant now.

In my own studio I'm about to install a 32 channel Dante audio converter that uses Sub-D connectors in the Tascam format. Do you think I am going to make my own cables? H. E. Double-Hockey-Sticks no! I am going to buy the cables already soldered onto the Sub-Ds and I'm going to specify the terminals I want on the opposite ends, based on the outboard gear. I'm finally at the point where I can pay other people to do all that work!

Edit: Patchbays at transmitter sites where no one has been for decades are the worst thing in the world!
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BUT: through such discussions as these, I'm starting to get a grip on it. I think one of the things that's tripping me up is the idea that I should have the entire setup visualized and designed before I buy a single patch cable...or suffer the fate of having to re-do it over and over until it's something like what I intend/want/need. I ain't made of that kinda money, and I sure as hail don't have that kind of patience.

You gotta make it work on paper first. Sheets of paper are cheap and you can make as many revisions as you want almost for free. I bought an e-ink tablet, btw (Onyx Books Note Air 3 C) and it has changed my life, especially in the studio. Once you have done the design drawings you have to make sure that while building, you identify every cable and connector so you can quickly reference it in your your studio documentation library and find out where the heck that cable goes to and what it does (supposedly, lol).

@shredd, I bet you're happy you have a Digital Portastudio with 8 inputs about now :D
I identify deeply with all of the adoring analog anguish mjk expressed… so many studio wiring memories and trauma :D but agree w all, especially the use of visualizing your setup on paper. I have stacks of sketches and diagrams I have drawn up as my studios have changed over the years, most recently my x-48/Dm-4800 setup, but I have begun using ‘Paper’ on the iPad and a nice stylus and texture overlay called Rock Paper Pencil. My studio notebook of drawings from the last three months or so is at 58 pages :D

enjoy the process, embrace the effervescence of your needs, your studio is in a way like a city - while it persists and functions in an architected form, it is always changing at the scale of human life and creativity.
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Hehee...thanks to @-mjk- for the incredibly vivid description of the process...before, I was just having night-sweats and bad dreams, trying to figure out my patchbay it's happening when I'm awake, too!!!:eek:

Seriously tho: I really appreciate you guys sharing your experiences with this...especially how YOUR long experience jives with what I already know: that there needs to be a thorough visualization of the intents of the setup, and plenty of pre-planning, to get it right - and HOPEfully only have to do it once, with no (or as few as possible) "rebuilds"/modifications after.

I also find it riveting that you tech-weenie types are able to use these digital devices to plan it out. I'm sure it enables easier modifications and such...but I'm having flashbacks to when people used to spend years learning CAD so they could draw up a new backyard playset for the kids.
Despite my little studio being about a 13-out-of-100 on the complexity scale, I guess I understand that a good patch-bay setup will enable/enhance ease-of-use and versatility...but it's also a pretty intimidating prospect - and has me thinking that the occasional behind-the-gear cable-swapping crawl is way easier!!!o_O Like MJ said - I already have pretty good capabilities: my DP has 8 inputs, and I have a mixer that organizes/routes my inputs and outboard gear pretty well - just not as well (and with as much versatility) as a well-designed p/bay setup would.
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I also find it riveting that you tech-weenie types are able to use these digital devices to plan it out. I'm sure it enables easier modifications and such..
Well spoken @mixerizer.

The thing is, @shredd, you can't beat yourself up if you do a design and it needs tweaking. That's just how it goes. So, I say never let the fear of failure stop you from trying. It's just a patchbay and nobody is going to die if you get something not quite right, lol.

FWIW, this is the e-ink tablet I got. It has changed my life in and out of the studio. It seems that I should do a video about how I use it to document sessions, but I use it for brainstorming and everything else. I had no idea that an e-ink device could make hand written notes searchable but it really can!
Hehe thanks mjk - and I can’t take credit for tech-weenie, that’s all shredd :D
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