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Patch Bay

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

The patch bay is essentially the traffic control centre for external processing outside of the console itself. Outboard gear such as synthesizers and effects modules can be patched in via the patch bay, as well as the re-routing of microphone inputs and the summing/dividing of signals for processing and recording purposes.

Patch bays come in various capacities and types. You may link as many of them together as needed, based upon the size of a console and desired processing techniques.

The patch bay offers a simplistic look at the flow of signal through a console while simultaneously offering the ability to re-direct signal to benefit the production process.

Looking at a basic signal flow setup for a recording studio;

- Microphone pre-amplifier – channel input section

- Console channel strip – EQ, dynamics

- Insert send/return – outboard gear

- DAW input/output – digital processing

- Tape return to console – analog recording

Between each connection listed above, the patch bay allows you to either fully break or semi-break the connection to re-route signal elsewhere. The term ‘full normalled’ refers to a patch bay that fully breaks the internal connection. The term ‘half normalled’ refers to a patch bay that only breaks once a connection is made on the bottom row, the input. A half normalled patch bay allows you to retain the internal flow of signal when a connection is made to the top row, the output. To rephrase that statement, you are able to take the output (top row) and split the signal elsewhere but only one signal can be fed or routed back to the input (bottom row).

Some bays can be customized to fit a combination of full, half and even non normalled internal connections.

Considering the above signal flow, there are some recommendations, rules and also unpopular methods of how a patch bay should be normalled – fully, half, or non.

FROM MIC

CONSOLE MIC INPUT

- Full normal

LINE SOURCE

CONSOLE LINE IN

- Half normal

CHANNEL INSERT SEND

CHANNEL INSERT RETURN

- Half normal

CHANNEL OUTPUT

DAW INPUT

- Half normal

DAW OUTPUT

CONSOLE INPUT

- Half normal

Patch bays designed for processing a signal amongst themselves before ultimately returning to the console such as popular effects chains, amplifiers or other processing modules, can be normalled however the studio engineer sees fit. This is based upon a variety of factors including studio ergonomics and layout, popular techniques or techniques dedicated to a common genre amongst engineers within a studio.

On the other side of processing you have the mix and monitor signal flow to consider. This is where recording engineers face the other half of their battle in a studio. A mix used when recording a live performance can drastically vary from the monitor mix that the artists are listening to in their headphones on the studio floor.

A secondary rack of patch bays usually takes care of the inputs and outputs involved with recording, mixing and monitoring.

These connections can be setup for tape machines, digital recorders, headphones to the artists, speakers to the engineers and producers as well as any other auxiliary ins and outs.

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