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Introduction to audio wiring

Introduction to cables and connectors as used in live sound and the recording studio.

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When the cable-free studio is invented, as one day it must be, we shall be free of one of the greatest sources of annoyance to the studio owner or musician.

Until that day arrives (don't hold your breath) we must find ways to minimise the problems that a multiplicity of cables can bring.

In case you haven't had the pleasure of getting tangled up in cables yet, here are some of the difficulties that can crop up:

  • Unreliable connections
  • Incorrect routing between equipment
  • Interference
  • Loss of high frequencies
  • Knotted or tangled cables
  • Cables underfoot

Some of these seem trivial in the clear light of day. But when you can't figure out what is plugged into what halfway through an all-night session, then the gnashing of teeth and tearing out of hair have to be taken as symptoms of a blood pressure raised to unhealthily high levels.

It's not good for the music either.

There are several levels of sophistication in studio cabling ranging from no cabling system at all - just a bag full of leads - to a full patchbay system with cabling in trunking or conduit.

Elsewhere, I’ll be describing sensible systems, but for now, I’ll stick to the cables themselves. How they are constructed, and what the advantages and disadvantages of each type are.

By David Mellor Tuesday February 1, 2000
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