Your audio connections are the most important connections in your career, after your personal connections with your peers and business associates. Good audio connections can keep your studio humming along, producing a quality product, and bad audio connections can well, keep you running around your studio troubleshooting! Today we’ll talk about how to make sure you’ve got good audio connections throughout your room and how to keep them that way.
There’s a heap of audio connections at your patchbay, a bunch more behind your I/O’s and more still behind your console and outboard gear. If you bought all premade cables to wire up your studio, you can be reasonably sure that all of those connections are solid. However, sometimes even the most professionally made cable can fail due to improper installation or misuse. Aside from visually inspecting all of your studio’s audio connections and making sure they are all reliable, there are a few other things you can do to make sure they stay that way. First, always make sure that there is no unnecessary stress on your cables. Always see to it that there is a decent amount of service loop where the cables land so that the pins and equipment connectors themselves are not stressed. A good rule to follow is ‘no guitar strings’. You never want a cable to be pulled tight from the connector, as this will almost certainly cause a failure of some sort over time, aside from making the connection hard to service. Next, you should always make sure that you don’t have a heavy road case or equipment rack parked on top of any cables. Most pro cables are tough and can take a rack rolling over it now and then but that doesn’t mean you should allow it. The fewer times this happens, the longer your cables will last. Another thing to look out for is knotting and tangling. Knots and tangled wires are not good for RF interference problems and can surely make tracing down a problem cable even more of a headache. This is almost the single most neglected part of a studio- the wiring and keeping it neat. Studios get added on to bit by bit as time goes by and eventually they become messy, that’s just the way it is. But if you are careful and lay in new cabling on top of the existing, taking care to tie them in with Velcro instead of tie wraps, you can keep your studio’s wiring neat as time passes.
If you’re made your own cables and you maintain your own cables, there are some basic rules to follow. Always heat the work (the actual audio pin you’re soldering to) and not the solder. The trick to a good audio connection on an XLR or other solder type connection is to heat up the wire and the pin you’re trying to solder to and let the heated connection melt the solder. If you heat up the solder and allow it to simply stick to the connection you may end up with a cold solder joint, which may or may not pass audio. To ensure that your audio connections are ALWAYS good, follow the preceding instructions and you should never have a problem.
So we covered a few things to look out for in your studio to keep all of your audio connections solid. There’s always something to do in the studio so if you’re handy with a soldering iron and you’ve got a bit of downtime to dedicate to studio maintenance, you can keep your studio’s wiring neat and your audio connections in good working order.