i recently got burgled and all my gear was stolen which means now im buying new stuff with insurance (yay) and as im a bit older i am being more specific with all the stuff i want. my old studio was quite all over the place...
i just bought a fireface ufx+ which is great (12in 12out). 6 of its outputs are used for speakers and headphone outs so their is only another 6 outputs for outboard gear which is only 3 stereo outboard units i can run at once.
i was thinking of buying another 8in 8out adat pre to hook up my other gear that i cant patch in right now due to lack of outputs from the UFX.. but then i thought a patch bay might be easier and cheaper.. ive had a read about how they work. they seem good for routing lots of gear into each other but dont really help with expanding the amount of outboard gear i can use at once... or am i missing something?
as far as i can understand, a patch bay is good for chaining various things together before they hit my sound card.. is that correct? so i could have all my outboard gear patched in and i just choose which piece of kit i patch in at a time... right?
i feel like i already know the answer but their could be something im missing...
I'm just trying to finish my own patch bay install.
The jump to a patch bay can cost much more than you think. But the rewards of creative freedom can be worth it.
Like you stated, your already using up half your outs for monitor control.
The most common good patch bays today are 96 point TT to DB25.
Redco (PCB's), audio accessories (Point to point), or Ghielmetti (The best) are the right brands depending on what you want to spend. Expect to spend about $3,000 in cables for each 96 point patch.
The largest advantage of patch bays are the half normal setup (Go look up half normal). If you set up your patch IO right, you will have no cables in the patch bay for default use.
If you are ever going to incorporate outboard gear like mixers, summers, compressors, EQs, etc, then the patch bay are nice to have set up.
Also back to your current setup, a monitor controller could be the right next step instead of a patch bay. Dangerous and Grace and little labs have some good ones, many on the market. I went for the Dangerous ST.
Another way to can avoid or delay getting into a TT setup is to handle the mic/preamp XLR end first. Network sound/MAMBA make great PCB XLR patch bays and have very cost effective 5' DB25/25 cables.
Lets say your going to all out patch bay things. In the long run there is a huge choice to make. Any XLR patching or not. Many like to keep mic level signals on XLR patching then the outputs of the preamps are on the TT patch. but what do you do if you want to use a preamp from a converter?
Patching recording and mixing chains together is where a TT really pays off. Especially if you have outboard compressors and EQ.
Some will argue everything TT is the way to go. I went for both XLR and TT patching.
With the size setup you have, just get a monitor controller and perhaps XLR input patch bay. TT would be too much unless you have huge expansion plans.
They are a handy tool. I've used them in my studio for 20+ years and they can make your life a whole lot easier. If course buying the extra cords and or snakes can cost a pretty penny too. In my case my main DAW still has PCI cards with connection dongals so I didn't have much choice but use a patch bay to connect everything.
The way I use mine is I run all my mics in the back then use the direct outs to my interface cards on the back. With nothing plugged into the front of the patch bay its a straight through connection so All my mics and gear for recording an entire band is all connected. When I want to multitrack or do solo recordings I can plug into the front of the patch bay and the switched connectors and bypasses the studio mics and connects whatever I have plugged in the front. This saves allot of wear and tear on all those cables and its highly organized.
I have extra connections left over to connect several hardware units like preamps, comps and reverbs I can use too. If I wanted to put a comp on a drum mic for example, I can use both connectors on the front of the patch bay channel and insert a comp for that one mic.
As far as choosing one, I found that most of your new patch bays use the same connectors. I originally had a used Tascam patch bay and was having issues with bad connections. I made the mistake of trying to clean the connectors and they wound up cracking into little pieces. They use a softer PCB type plastic and it doesn't react well to an alcohol based cleaner and they simply fell apart. Moral of the story - don't try and clean plastic patch bay connectors. (The older ones with metal jacks are super durable and can be cleaned).
After I had some go bad I being a tech though it would be thrifty and simply buy some connectors and repair the thing. That's when I found out most patch bays used the same ganged connectors. It wasn't economical to repair either. One set of 4 cost as much as a new patch bay so that's what I bought.
I picked up a Behringer for $30 and saw it was built just as well as the Tascam I had been using and its been working problem free for 10 years now. They may be a little more expensive now, you'd have to check. They make a slightly more expensive model that has dim switches that change the plug configurations. Both are good builds.
Something to keep in mind because its what can wind up costing you allot of money. If all you have are 1/4" unbalances cables to connect you're fine. If you want to run balanced then you either need a patch bay with XLR connectors which are very expensive or you need to get XLR to TRS adaptors. Some patch bays use stereo jacks (TRS) for connecting balanced cords. You could also change out your XLT to TRS but that's kind of dumb. The adaptors work fine and your cords remain good.
The adaptors themselves are fairly fat however. You have a hard time plugging two of these connectors in together side by side without stressing the connectors in the patch bay and possibly damaging them. You cant fit 3 side by side either. If you use the adaptors you'll need to use them in every other jack with normal cords in between. Don't use anything with a right angle plug either. Real estate on a 48 plug normal rack space patch bay is limited so straight plugs are best.
Learning how to connect thing up can be fairly confusing too. connectors can be straight through or act as Y jacks depending on which ones you use. Google up the manual on whatever you plan on buying and make sure the unit will do what you want.