20 Making Connections: Audio Wiring for the Studio
One part of the pre-planning stage for the studio build involved thinking about convenient connectivity. Ideally I wanted all connections to be within easy reach, near the appropriate equipment, while also being out of the way. The last thing I wanted was unsightly cables and looms running across the studio floor, otherwise what was the point of it all!
In my various prior temporary set-ups, I would inevitably find myself rummaging around the back of equipment looking for that XLR input, or down on the floor finding that spare USB slot. Even some pro studios I've worked in have had their wall boxes in awkward positions, which doesn't make for the smooth, headache free sessions one dreams of.
I considered having a connection panel in my rack that would take in the inputs to my system, unfortunately, this wouldn't work too well for my synths that would be located near the side walls, and can be a tad inconvenient when cables begin trailing over other outboard gear situated in the rack. Ruling this option out meant I would conveniently have more space in my rack to fill with tasty new toys! I decided the best location for the I/O panels were half way up the side walls, close enough to the synths for short cables, accessible enough for plugging in microphones, and conveniently providing a hidden cable run behind the walls - keeping the studio looking nice and tidy.
Mounting the panels themselves was a very easy job, I just built a simple wooden frame for the panel to be screwed into, which can then be easily removed if I needed to make any changes.
Next, I began threading the cables through the walls, with connections terminating at a patchbay for further flexibility - which I'll talk about in a later blog. As I only needed 4 XLR and 4 TRS channels on each side of the studio, I used an 8 way loom for ease of managing channels and cable runs. I opted for Mogami 2932 cables, although on the slightly pricier side, these are fantastic cables with great shielding, and I didn't want to cheap out on the cables when everything else had been thoroughly thought through. I would also save money by wiring all the connectors myself, rather than buying pre-built.
I would end up with only two 8-way looms visible on the floor, and, as you can see below, the two XLR cables used for the flush mounted speakers. The looms can now just patiently wait until the patchbay is in situ to get fully connected.
Then it came to wire up the connectors. Again, not skimping on quality, all connectors I used were Neutrik as they are the gold standard for cable and terminal ends. As mentioned before, I planned for four XLR inputs and four TRS inputs on each side of the studio, for microphone and line signals respectively. But on the right hand side, I also included four USB-3 terminals, as on the right hand side of the studio I have USB midi devices needing to be connected - again, streamlining the connections in the studio. These are obviously connected directly to my studio computer (a hackintosh, which I'll talk more about in a later blog), meaning I can plug USB sticks/hard drives/accessories straight into the wall, rather than fumbling around on the floor to find a spare port.
Lastly, you can see four blank panels at the bottom (eight on the left hand panel). These are just sitting, waiting, unused for now, and they may never be used, but it is always best to plan for expansion. It's the same reason why I bought an audio interface with expandability options, for now, 8in/8out is perfect, but if at some point I do want to expand I don't have to change my entire set-up. And in the case of studio design, it saves a vast amount of work for the sake of a few blank panels if that time ever comes.
So, not an especially exciting part of the build progress, and in no way as important as the acoustic design, but still a crucial step to consider to be fully satisfied with the end result. Everyone's uses and preferences in their studio setup will vary, but as long as the design works for you, your equipment, and any future equipment on that wishlist of yours, you will have smoother, uninterrupted, music making sessions. Which ultimately is what it's all about... the music! And the less technical faff getting in the way, the better!
Until next time, where we'll look at finishing the walls. Keep creating.
Frank Leonard Walker
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