FilmAbbey Road's Technical Engineer, Ian Taylor, takes us through the central nervous system of each of our studios' control and live rooms, and the latest patching underway for Room Seven's TG Transfer Console.
OverviewPatchbays or jackfields are the maps to many music recording, production and post production environments . You could also say it’s the room’s heart, pumping electric signals to and from it, through all of its copper veins. It may come as no surprise to find that Abbey Road has many patchbays throughout the facility and chief amongst these is the bantam audio type. Broadly speaking these allow 96 (in 2 rows of 48) interconnect access points within a 1.75” x 19” panel and a collection of these help determine the order in which the signal will get from a microphone or mix machine through the recording console to the monitors say. In Studio One alone we utilise 35 bantam patchbays.
Patchbays therefore are used to make sure the room is flexible enough to facilitate the job at hand and, with some careful cross-patching and often many bantam patch leads later, ensures each channel or path of audio can receive the correct treatment before recording, mixing or mastering. If your patchbays are kept up to date with the equipment and requirements of their respective environments then no need for those trailing cables around the room and across the floor. Yes, well, we live in hope.
How the signal flows through the patchbays is determined by the jack’s internal wiring or normalling. The three main configurations are; Full-Normal, Half-Normal and No-Normal.
Full-Normal, with no patch leads inserted, (traditionally) connects the output signal at the top row bantam socket to the one directly beneath it (which will inevitably be an input into something else). Inserting a patch lead in either bantam socket breaks the fully normalled signal path.
Half-Normal is similar to the above however inserting a patch lead in the top bantam socket will tap off the output signal and not break the normalling. Inserting a patch lead in the lower socket will break the normalling and gives the option of injecting a signal to the aforementioned input.
No-Normal has no internal linking connections and the top and lower sockets are largely independent of each other.
Nowadays it is possible to get off the shelf patchbays, that are highly customisable regarding the normalling configuration, so it is now rare to see a fully hand-wired patchbay.
Patching for TG Transfer ConsoleIn the new iterations of TG transfer Consoles we have essentially modularised the original TG modules (back in the day you’d have to go through every module, i.e. no hard bypass). This also allows contemporary equipment to be placed between the TG modules for example as well as giving the mastering engineer the option to selectively bypass and monitor any effect in the chain, before and after processing.
This ability to select, or effectively interrupt the signal flow to make it available for the extensive monitoring, means that conventional normalling would unable to provide our mastering engineers with the flexibility they require. Which is why, just like in the old days, we still find ourselves wiring these patchbays by hand, and use normalling in the most intriguing ways possible.