Patch Cords

Patch cords are the links that keep the electrons in your studio flowing. The conversation today will be centered on some patch cord technicals and what your priority should be when you buying new patch cords.

Patch Cords Patchcords Patch-cords

On Electrons

At a very basic level, the most basic level, electrons have to knock into each other continuously through the stranded wire or solid conductors (including the screws, solder points and wire in the circuit) in order to transfer electrical power through the wire. As long as there is a good electrical connection through the wire, resistance is low, the power can flow and you’ll get audio.  No special colors or shielding necessary.  (Good quality drain wires and adequate shielding will always improve the quality of your audio, as will many other factors.)  Ensuring that those electrons don’t run into too much resistance is the key. When a wire is frayed the signal can be intermittent and totally drop out if not enough of a connection is present for the electrons to transfer the signal through the wire. A patch cord without adequate strain relief may become compromised before one with more solid construction. So there’s a qualified answer to why you want to buy patch cables with heavy-duty strain relief. Do it for the electrons!

On copper VS. steel

Another factor is the type of metal used in your patch cables. Copper is a better conductor of electricity so if you have the choice between copper and steel go with the copper. Yes the patchbay jacks are made of steel as are the contacts inside but the idea, in general, is to keep electrons moving as freely as possible and that happens with better conductors. Let’s say you have copper wire in your studio: If we look deep into most studio equipment we’ll find that there are many instances where your signal jumps from your copper cable to a steel contact inside the gear and back out again. We want to limit the resistance anywhere we can so as long as those contacts are secure, making a good physical connection and a good electrical connection, your signal path will operate just fine. 

Patch Cord Shielding

Shielding is very important in the recording studio. Your patch cords should be shielded at least as good as your audio cable as to not pick up any outside radio frequency interference or other noise able to cross over into your audio path. 

Patch Cord Features 

Don’t get caught up in the sales pitch on the package or from a salesman. A good warranty is a feature worth considering though. If a manufacturer or reseller will replace a broken cable after years of use, that represents value as the new cable won’t cost you again. Not to mention a telling statement from the manufacturer that they stand behind their products. We’ve established that patch cables with good strain relief, quality audio conductors and adequate shielding are best.  These are all the features that make an appreciable difference. An electron able to freely zip down its signal path with little resistance is key.


Jack Field
Jack Field