Cable Hell

The physical placement of gear and furniture is complete and I’m now starting to wire everything up. This is where my studio ceases to be a lovely catalog photo and becomes the cable equivalent of the paperwork monster from Brazil that swallows Robert De Niro whole.

It would probably be easier if I didn’t have this neat-freak-anal-retentive-OCD desire to keep everything looking nice and neat. Worse, I’m not able to do everything at once this time around. The new layout is going to require additional cable purchases, different power distribution, more line level shifting from -10 to +4, a couple of long midi runs, and tying together two different sections of the room so everything lands in the computer.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with music gear, most of what’s in my studio has the following things to connect and route:

  • Audio (anywhere from two to 16+ cables)
  • MIDI (typically two cables)
  • Power (one cable)

On the surface, not so bad, but multiply that by 40 or 50, then add in wiring patch bays so that things can be routed to different places and the computer interfaces and it starts getting a little overwhelming. The cherry on top is that it’s really best to keep all of the power cables physically separated from the others. That might not be so bad if power was always in the same place on each piece of gear, but of course it is not.

It’s kind of like playing Tetris with cooked spaghetti.

Today, I’ve been learning that some of my gear that I thought had unbalanced outputs actually is balanced. Ordinarily, that would be great, but it screws up the patch plan I had already worked out in Excel. To make it worse, some of the units don’t have anything definitive in their specs, so I’m relying on Internet knowledge for some of my decisions.

I’m kind of at the point where I’m saying, “screw it,” and just hooking a couple of things up. My goal for today is to have the master keyboard and left side of the composition station hooked up, the computer running, and sound coming out the mains. I’m going to try working without a subwoofer for a few weeks and see if that helps with mix translation.

One additional thing I’ve decided to do is start creating pages on my site for key pieces of gear. This will mostly be my personal reference area where I put all of the links and documents I’ve found useful, but if it helps others, great! I’m considering using the pages as homes for my “isolated gear” music experiments, where I focus on only writing and recording with a single synth. As I’ve written before, I want to get to know my equipment much better than I do now, partly to stave off gear acquisition syndrome, and partly because I think that may help with my instrumental work.