Patch bay questions

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th0mas
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Patch bay questions

Post by th0mas » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:18 pm

HI

I'm looking to dive into a patch bay. I have a bunch of pedals, some rack FX, a space echo, etc.. and I want to be able to patch a signal path on the fly and then send it to my octatrack or machinedrum to sample, or send to my interface to record.

I just have a few questions.

- Do you just end up spending hundreds of dollars on more 1/4" cables and patch cables? Are there like "patch bay starter kits" I am not seeing?
- Should this also be the point where I start moving my studio to balanced TRS cables instead of all 1/4" mono cables? Can I run half TRS and half mono?
- Any suggestions on brands to avoid or good quality starter 48 point patchbays please send 'em my way

(tried search for a few minutes, didn't find this thread already)

Thanks!

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Michael O. » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:24 pm

1. Unfortunately, there’s no real workaround or alternative and the outlay will be in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars, depending on scale and quality.

2. If you’re going to go the distance and get a patchbay, it’s best to do it right- in other words, I’d go trs/balanced, and I wouldn’t use 1/4” at all, but rather Tiny Telephone/bantam. TT is a good bit smaller (i.e. greater functional density per square inch) and more robust than 1/4” jacks and plugs.

3. I’d say the standard is probably ADC, they have a bajillion different variations and are of a very high quality.

So, that all may sound a little disheartening, but there are things you can do to minimize the cost. Specifically, wiring the patchbay (whether solder, punchblock, or whatever) yourself is a huge money saver, as is building the cables yourself. Those two things may sound like a lot I’d you haven’t much experience with soldering, but in practice it could not be easier, and the enduring benefits of the money saved and abilities gained far outweigh the initial monetary cost of a solder station and the opportunity cost of learning the ropes.

It’s a major undertaking, but don’t be discouraged: it will cost a lot in terms of time and money, but time is money in a very real sense, and having a well thought out and installed patchbay enables one to ultimately save an immense amount of time and headache compared to crawling behind a rack and manually rerouting everything every single time you want to alter a signal chain.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by dubonaire » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:58 pm

For a different perspective, I have a Samson S-patch plus 48 point 1/4" balanced patchbay. http://www.samsontech.com/samson/produc ... atch-plus/

A good feature of the Samson is you can configure the normaling from the front with 3-way mode switches.

I bought 24 1/4" TRS patch cables and the Samson from Amazon (I need to buy everything online where I live). $120 for the patchbay and $50 for the cables. But you are unlikely to ever need all of the 24 cables at once anyway.

Maybe I have bad ears but I can't tell any difference in the signal going through the patchbay or not. It is, after all, just a couple of additional connections in the signal path. As for durability you'll never come close to wearing them out.

A good tip is to make a spreadsheet of the patch connections at the rear. All you really need to remember is everything comes in the top row and goes out the bottom row. Outputs of gear to the top row, inputs to gear from the bottom row. There are plenty of resources on the web about how to use the different normaling options.

I use balanced TRS and XLR cables in the studio. Some will say you don't need them but I have none of the noise problems that seem to plague many people.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by SyndieBot2000XL » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:24 pm

I wouldn’t bother going unbalanced - you’ll introduce a *lot* of noise (really a LOT, impossible to exaggerate this) into your system, and you’ll likely be mismatching impedances all over the place to boot. I set up an unbalanced patchbay about fifteen years ago: it didn’t last very long. So much stray buzzing and noise, it finally just wasn’t worth the headache - I did get pretty damn good at soldering 1/4” tr cables though :hihi:

A couple years ago I decided I wanted to try again and do it right this time - all balanced connections end to end, impedance matchers for the unbalanced stuff - it sounds gloriously clean and I can patch whatever kind of crazy signal chain I need without noticeably degrading the signal. Of course within a couple months of getting this finished I started my way down the eurorack rabbit hole and never recorded anything again ahhahaha :deadbanana: :deadbanana:
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by GuyaGuy » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:37 pm

th0mas wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:18 pm
- Do you just end up spending hundreds of dollars on more 1/4" cables and patch cables? Are there like "patch bay starter kits" I am not seeing?
You can buy TRS cable snakes which can make things easier and cleaner depending on how your rack is set up. I have a combination.
th0mas wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:18 pm
- Should this also be the point where I start moving my studio to balanced TRS cables instead of all 1/4" mono cables? Can I run half TRS and half mono?
You should go balanced whenever possible. Of course not all devices are balanced so you might end up with a combination of devices.
th0mas wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:18 pm
- Any suggestions on brands to avoid or good quality starter 48 point patchbays please send 'em my way
The Samson S-patch plus 48 that dubonaire suggested. Definitely. With others you have to take out the module and flip it to switch it to normalled for example. The switch makes it so much easier to set up and change if you need.

Also: Invest in a label maker to label your patchbay. Also useful for labeling the cables in the back.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by dubonaire » Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:45 pm

GuyaGuy wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:37 pm
th0mas wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:18 pm
- Do you just end up spending hundreds of dollars on more 1/4" cables and patch cables? Are there like "patch bay starter kits" I am not seeing?
You can buy TRS cable snakes which can make things easier and cleaner depending on how your rack is set up. I have a combination.
Yes agree I use snakes as much as possible.

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th0mas
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by th0mas » Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:54 am

Thanks everyone!

My buddy is giving me 4 patchbays for a beer and the condition I take all of them, so I'll start there. I need to assess how much of the gear going into the patchbay is even balanced at all, but will start to move to TRS where it will be a complete circuit to my interface.

I'm already dealing with guitar pedal impedance issues, so I am only planning on patching up the pedals that are decent at it, like the eventide space.

Thanks!

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Tun » Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:42 am


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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by 3hands » Fri Feb 21, 2020 6:39 pm

th0mas wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:54 am
Thanks everyone!

My buddy is giving me 4 patchbays for a beer and the condition I take all of them, so I'll start there. I need to assess how much of the gear going into the patchbay is even balanced at all, but will start to move to TRS where it will be a complete circuit to my interface.

I'm already dealing with guitar pedal impedance issues, so I am only planning on patching up the pedals that are decent at it, like the eventide space.

Thanks!
I have a couple of neutrik patch bays that I use with my system. When are you getting yours? I can bring one of mine by if you want to just see what it’s all about. Let me know!
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by naos » Mon Feb 24, 2020 4:56 am

All you need is to buy some jack sockets, make your own design and heat the soldering iron.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Red Electric Rainbow » Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:02 pm

+1 for Samson S-Patch Plus. Super clean and the 3-way toggle provides you so much flexibility.

Alternatively if your on a budget, Behringer makes the PX3000(?). It has a 3-way toggle but sadly its placed on the top of the rack. Not the end of the world but just something to consider.
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Sinamsis » Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:30 pm

I recently ran everything in my studio into 2 very big patchbays (96 each). I have a lot of shit haha. My first patchbay was a Switchcraft, the second was a Redco. I was hesitant to try the Redco at first, but I would say it sounds fine and is half the price. I really like having the TT patchbay with DB25 connectors. It's a lot more expensive than other options, for sure. But the DB25 connections make life so much easier (especially since my audio interface is mostly DB25). The TT cables aren't cheap, I will warn you that. And the DB25 cable snakes are not cheap either, though you can get a decent cable for $30 to $40 and that's 8 connections. For me this form factor is the least amount of spaghetti, and the most compact (to me this was important given the sheer number of connections I wanted). Were I to do it again, I might do two Redco units, though having the normalization control on the front of Switchcraft is very convenient. Having a patchbay has made life so much easier for me. I'm much creative with my use of effects and I no longer have to deal with latency. This is the beginning of my exploration of using outboard gear for sound processing. I just started a 500 series rack as well. Im very excited to be more organized, and I feel that it has made me more creative and improved the over all quality of my recordings.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by StillNotWorking » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:45 am

I had some 50 pcs bantam patch cables from a studio clean up laying around. Sold them to financed 3 pcs S-patch+ with 6.3mm TRS which makes interconnection with synths and effect pedals easier and much cheaper.

The Samson S-Patch is popular due to the useful normaling switches in front. I've not had any problem with any of those I've purchased, but it's not actually a particular high quality product. A professional bantam setup will last much longer if you can afford it and bother to hassle with adapter cables.

I like the Planet Waves Modular Snake system course I can have the snake in place and only change the break-out connection or use the D-Sub directly when needed. https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/pl ... ular-snake
If you want better quality I believe you have to have them made to order from someone spesialisering in cables. All the ready made cables I've found sub €150 seems to stem from the same sourche.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by vav » Sun Mar 08, 2020 11:17 am

Nice timing, I just did this exact thing. I was using a Soundcraft Signature 22MTK as my mixer & interface but it didn’t have enough Aux’s, so I had to rethink it.

I ended up buying a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 and a pal sent me his old patchbay. 8 synths are half normalled to 8 inputs on the Scarlett, other synths are patched Open elsewhere to bring into the Scarlett whenever I need. 8 outputs of the Scarlett are patched Open on the other side, as are several open connection points used for fx ( SE50, Gristleizer, various other guitar pedals & the inputs of the Nord Modular.) At some point I’ll also add all the other synth’s external signal inputs as more destinations from the bay, but cables are indeed expensive if you’re not making them :)

The end result is that 80% of what I’m doing hasn’t changed from the previous setup other than it’s faster access & better sound quality, and the other 20% is no longer a fussy headache and is also better sound quality.
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by miles_macquarrie » Sun Mar 08, 2020 9:57 pm



I thought this was a simple explanation. I'm also going to take the patch bay plunge soon. Good luck!
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Illwiggle » Mon Mar 09, 2020 6:00 am

I Can vouch for the Samson. The switches are just awesome & no gripes about build quality/signal quality. Used ones can be found pretty cheap, I got one for $50... depending on your gear.... I mean the outlay for cabling isnt that bad unless you got a serious studio with mad rack gear & a 32 track console etc...otherwise maybe just a few snakes’ll be needed...

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by StillNotWorking » Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:00 am

Illwiggle wrote:
Mon Mar 09, 2020 6:00 am
the outlay for cabling isnt that bad unless ...
Tell you I got dismayed when I learned SSL X-desk, you know that little 8 channel thing need 3 x 48 port patchbays to utilize and open up all its functionality.
Not all ports are in use on the last bay though. One could get away with two units if willing to break the upper>out/lower<in rule.

No wonder the SSL sales representative didn't want to go into patching tips. But rather have you think of the mixer itself as the patchpanel which it doesn't really have enough channels to function as.
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by gloamtrotter » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:20 am

Sinamsis wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:30 pm
I recently ran everything in my studio into 2 very big patchbays (96 each). I have a lot of shit haha. My first patchbay was a Switchcraft, the second was a Redco. I was hesitant to try the Redco at first, but I would say it sounds fine and is half the price. I really like having the TT patchbay with DB25 connectors. It's a lot more expensive than other options, for sure. But the DB25 connections make life so much easier (especially since my audio interface is mostly DB25). The TT cables aren't cheap, I will warn you that. And the DB25 cable snakes are not cheap either, though you can get a decent cable for $30 to $40 and that's 8 connections. For me this form factor is the least amount of spaghetti, and the most compact (to me this was important given the sheer number of connections I wanted). Were I to do it again, I might do two Redco units, though having the normalization control on the front of Switchcraft is very convenient. Having a patchbay has made life so much easier for me. I'm much creative with my use of effects and I no longer have to deal with latency. This is the beginning of my exploration of using outboard gear for sound processing. I just started a 500 series rack as well. Im very excited to be more organized, and I feel that it has made me more creative and improved the over all quality of my recordings.


IMG_8434.jpg
This is pretty much right where i'm about to be with my setup i think. I have a bunch of fx pedals, synths, drum machines, etc that I'm looking to have the most connectivity possible. My interface has some DB25 connections available so I'm thinking DB25 for the patchbay, specifically the Switchcraft 9625, but the thing I don't entirely understand is how to go about connecting all of these unbalanced 1/4" sources into the DB25 patchbay. Breakout cables with female 1/4" connections? Breakout cables with male 1/4" and 1/4" extensions to reach my gear around the room? 1/4" to bantam or something? I've watched a bunch of videos looking for this specific info but everyone seems to focus on patching the front panel. Would you mind telling me a little about how you have everything connected?

Also do you have a recommendation for brand of TT cables? I'm hard pressed to spend the extra $ on Mogami but will if it's necessary I suppose.

If you have the time I would appreciate the help. If not, no worries!

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Sinamsis » Tue Aug 18, 2020 6:51 am

gloamtrotter wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:20 am
Sinamsis wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:30 pm
I recently ran everything in my studio into 2 very big patchbays (96 each). I have a lot of shit haha. My first patchbay was a Switchcraft, the second was a Redco. I was hesitant to try the Redco at first, but I would say it sounds fine and is half the price. I really like having the TT patchbay with DB25 connectors. It's a lot more expensive than other options, for sure. But the DB25 connections make life so much easier (especially since my audio interface is mostly DB25). The TT cables aren't cheap, I will warn you that. And the DB25 cable snakes are not cheap either, though you can get a decent cable for $30 to $40 and that's 8 connections. For me this form factor is the least amount of spaghetti, and the most compact (to me this was important given the sheer number of connections I wanted). Were I to do it again, I might do two Redco units, though having the normalization control on the front of Switchcraft is very convenient. Having a patchbay has made life so much easier for me. I'm much creative with my use of effects and I no longer have to deal with latency. This is the beginning of my exploration of using outboard gear for sound processing. I just started a 500 series rack as well. Im very excited to be more organized, and I feel that it has made me more creative and improved the over all quality of my recordings.


IMG_8434.jpg
This is pretty much right where i'm about to be with my setup i think. I have a bunch of fx pedals, synths, drum machines, etc that I'm looking to have the most connectivity possible. My interface has some DB25 connections available so I'm thinking DB25 for the patchbay, specifically the Switchcraft 9625, but the thing I don't entirely understand is how to go about connecting all of these unbalanced 1/4" sources into the DB25 patchbay. Breakout cables with female 1/4" connections? Breakout cables with male 1/4" and 1/4" extensions to reach my gear around the room? 1/4" to bantam or something? I've watched a bunch of videos looking for this specific info but everyone seems to focus on patching the front panel. Would you mind telling me a little about how you have everything connected?

Also do you have a recommendation for brand of TT cables? I'm hard pressed to spend the extra $ on Mogami but will if it's necessary I suppose.

If you have the time I would appreciate the help. If not, no worries!
Ha that is the challenge with Db25 snakes. You have to take a little time to get organized. So I Use DB25 to 1/4 snakes. A lot of time you can cut the outer casing of the snake to expose more of the individual cables, allowing you to spread them further apart. There are a few ways I use the patchbay. I usually look at top and bottom rows as pairs. So I have 8 synths or 4 stereo synths going into the top row of the patch bay. The corresponding 8 patch points below (a single db25 connector) will be going to my audio interface. That way I can disrupt the connection at any time to run it through processing. Otherwise a top and bottom pair of db25s can be used for effects. Let’s say I have 4 stereo effects. The top row will be going to the 8 inputs and bottom will be receiving the outputs of the effects. Now I can, from the front of the patch bay, take incoming signal from a synth, patch it to a compressor or a delay or whatever, and then send it back to the interface. I also have 8 outputs from my interface and the 8 inputs to my interface as a DB25 pair. This way I can send stuff from the DAW anywhere for processing and bring it back, or I have dedicated TT jacks that I can patch stuff into using 1/4 to TT cables (for instance if I want to take the individual outs of drum machine). Now this parts a little weird but works for me. For particularly challenging spots, I also have two smaller Switchcraft patchbays. I forget what they’re called but they’re like 16 points of that bigger patch bay. On that I similarly have 8 ins and outs to the interface on the db25 side. And then the TT side I’m connecting things like modular voices and sending stuff out to modular systems for processing. For patching the patch bay I just use Hosa cables. They’re fine and the cheapest you’ll get, though they are far from cheap. Hope that makes sense. It took me a decade to wrap my head around the utility of a patchbay even when you have a ton of IO on your interface.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by bengarland » Tue Aug 18, 2020 8:21 am

I have a Behringer PX3000, it sounds fine to me and from what I read before buying it, most people agree it's not the usual Behringer junk, despite the low price. Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1) Unless your studio is absolutely massive and your total cable length from an output device, to the patch bay, and back out to an input device (e.g. from a synth output to a sampler input) is more than 25 feet, unbalanced is likely to be no problem. Trust your ears. Either you'll hear an obvious awful amount of noise or you won't. Putting a DI box on every connection just so you can say it's "balanced" seems kinda crazy to me if we're talking about a home studio. The best thing to do is just turn on only the gear that you're actively using at any one time, and if you hear noise, try to figure out why you have noise, and eliminate the source (sometimes it can be the lights in your studio! I turn almost all the lights off when I record, even though I can't hear any noise, because I can see the noise on my oscilloscope when the lights are on. Yes it's OCD...).

2) Almost all music making gear is unbalanced, with very few exceptions (I think Jupiter 8 is one rare case). Generally only mixers and computer audio interfaces are balanced. So if you use a TRS cable to connect an unbalanced synthesizer (with TS jack) to a balanced mixer (with TRS jack), you will probably get something like a 6db drop in sound (there are some exceptions, where the jack is internally shorting the ring to ground -- Behringer Model D does this). To get around it you need to make a "pseudo balanced" cable.

Here's how:

The patch bay / mixer end of the cable should be wired like a normal TRS.

The output device end (e.g. synth) of the cable should be wired with the Ring WIRE and Ground WIRE *both* soldered to the Ground LUG on the plug. The Tip WIRE goes to the Tip LUG like usual. The Ring LUG on the plug isn't connected to anything (since when you insert it into an unbalanced synth, there's no connection to ring anyway).

If that doesn't make sense, let me know and I'll draw a diagram.

You may see some advice to follow the wiring guide in the "Rane Note 110" -- don't do it, their wiring diagram (#14) for connecting unbalanced to balanced is bullshit.

3) You'll likely have a disproportionate amount of inputs vs outputs on the patch bay. This is where the ability to change each jack's function comes into play. Normally (literally: the "Normal" setting) each input is hardwired to the output below it. But you can put it into "Thru" mode and they're not connected. This way you can use top row jacks and bottom row jacks for completely different things that are not related (e.g. make both rows be outputs), and do the patching from the front panel (such as sending to effects) instead of having it hardwired as inputs to outputs.

4) If you have any MIDI devices, don't forget MIDI is only 3 wires so you can put a TRS jack on one end of a MIDI cable and run it thru the patchbay too. I have 2 patchbays and my second one is almost all MIDI, it's such a time saver when I want to route my master keyboard to a different rack synth / sampler / modular / etc. Just don't ever connect a MIDI device to an audio device. And MIDI should probably always be in "Thru" mode to be safe there as well.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Stice » Tue Aug 18, 2020 1:43 pm

Ha, I went through the same process @Sinamsis - I bought a Switchcraft, then added a Redco. Both seem fine - in fact the Switchcraft jacks are really stiff, so I might even prefer the Redco although the Switchcraft normalization is great.

You can save a lot of money if you make the DB25s yourself, but it's really fucking tedious and takes forever. I did this recently for my entire studio, but decided it's not worth my time and will just have Redco build cables for me in the future.

There's a lot of conflicting information of the best way to wire a balanced DB25 to unbalanced TS. In the end I simply left the 3rd conductor unsoldered on both ends of the cable, and haven't had any issues with that. YMMV...

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Sinamsis » Tue Aug 18, 2020 6:35 pm

Maybe I’m an idiot but in most synths that have unbalanced outputs I’ve used trs cables without issue.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by bengarland » Tue Aug 18, 2020 9:22 pm

You can definitely use regular TRS cables with TS jacks, but if one end is expecting it to be balanced you will most likely have a significant drop in audio signal. Do a comparison with a TS cable and you’ll hear the difference. It’s better to either use a TS cable or wire the TRS cable to be pseudo balanced on the unbalanced end.

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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by Flounderguts » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:08 pm

+1 on studio cleanups for trs cables! I bought both my patchbays from a studio that bought new bays, and they threw 200+ cables in with the deal. I bought a bunch of short balanced cables for routing from bay to bay or close stuff in my rack...but other than that, no problem!

I use unbalanced cables to patch from jack to jack on the front of the bays, but I run trs to all my instruments, even if they're unbalanced. For some reason my line mixer is really sensitive to that...
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Re: Patch bay questions

Post by bengarland » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:16 pm

If you have balanced gear running into your patch bay with TRS but you're using TS cables for patching, you're unbalancing the balanced signals before they get to your balanced mixer or audio interface.

Also, there's no reason to use standard TRS cables with unbalanced instrument outputs. It's still unbalanced going into the patch bay or mixer. As I said previously, there's a big chance that you're actually degrading the signal by using TRS cables plugged into unbalanced TS jacks -- if the other end (patch bay / mixer) is sensing that you plugged in a TRS cable it's expecting an electrically balanced signal that isn't present.

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