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Snarled? Use Cable Harnesses In Your Home Studio

6:00 am Home Recording

tips on home recording photoBack in my Wonder Years (actually more like the mid-70s) I worked as an electronics engineer for a government systems contractor. (You didn’t think I made a living playing music, did you?) The projects I worked on involved racks of equipment, mostly “homebrew,” with all kinds of lights and knobs on the front panel and a lot of wiring between units on the backside.

While we were developing and trouble-shooting a system, the various wires and cables in the back could go any which way, but when we prepared a final prototype all of the wiring was grouped into “harnesses,” sets of cables with a cable tie around them every 6 to 12 inches that could be neatly routed around the backplane as a single unit. A similar idea pertains to the wiring in your car, wherein harnessed sets of mystery cables can be seen wending their way hither and yon.

The overlap between my old systems projects and a home recording studio is obvious. After all, a home studio also consists of a set of equipment with lights and knobs on the front and interconnecting cables on the back. So would a similar approach to cabling be appropriate?

Back In the Harness Again

In the excitement of setting up a studio, or adding new components to it, the temptation is to make all the interconnections quickly and directly, tossing each cable back behind the desk, with an eye toward “organizing them all later.” The problem is that once everything works, you turn to the actual making of music and then that’s it. There is no real incentive to go back and do that cable organizing. Why bother? Everything works!

Of course, when you need to trace a particular cable through the resulting rats’ nest of wires back there, you might wish you had organized things a bit. So do your future self a favor. Mark all of your cables at each end with a label telling where the other end is hooked up, then organize them logically into harnesses wrapped with Velcro strips.

With harnesses, the tracing of cables can be done much more easily. Also, you can quickly set up a custom (i.e. weird) configuration and then return the cables to their harnesses, all through the miracle of Velcro. And, everything looks so neat! This is a big plus if your wiring is going to “show” or cross a walkway, like in my home studio!

Picture Perfect

Here is a photo of my studio, showing the main floor harness with its colorful red Velcro strips at every point where cables leave or enter the harness:

home recording tips graphic 1

On the right side, you can see where the main harness splits into three smaller ones: up to the microphone and bass amp, rightwards to the keyboard and the guitar amps, and forward to the electronic drums. Here is a closeup of the split point:

home recording tips graphic 2

Note that the forward harness (to the drums) uses more permanent cable ties instead of Velcro. This is because this cabling is unlikely to change.

Finally, here is the back of my effects unit mini-rack, which has many connections to the mixer and recorder around the corner to the left:

home recording tips graphic 3

Again, I simply gathered the cables together and whipped out the Velcro. (You can just see the strip, black this time, around the harness at the left.) Looks good, handy to set up, handy to change. I sure wish we had had that stuff when I was working on those old systems projects!

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