Studio cable management sounds like such a boring topic until you realize what a difference it makes in your studio. Think about all of the nicest studios you’ve ever seen – do you think of the gear and the space or the mess of cables?
Proper studio cable management takes them out of the picture. Good cable management means always having the cable you need readily available at a moments notice without any clutter messing with the vibe of your space. Often, studio cable management is an unsung hero of taking a space from amateur to professional.
Let’s take a look at a few simple things you can do to take your cable management from wherever you are today to the professional level you deserve.
Cable Routing Basics
Chances are the least organized cables in your studio are behind your desk right now. Take a look. Am I right?
If your desk is open in the back, you know what a big issue this is already. Your feet can easily get snagged on those cables and if you’ve got a power strip back there – you run the risk of accidentally switching it off.
For those with a closed-back desk, the issue is less obvious than with open setups. It’s kind of like having a junk drawer in the house or a pile of random junk in the closet – out of sight, out of mind.
Many engineers fix this issue with simple cable routing throughout their desk. Using metal racks, Velcro, zip ties, or even masking tape, they’re able to group cables together and run them along the edges of the desk and down the leg to the floor. This routing doesn’t have to be expensive – even a single pack of zip ties can turn a cluttered mess of cables into a single manageable strand.
As a general rule of thumb, you should try to keep your power cables grouped separately from your audio cables. This prevents unwanted noise from making it into your signal path – especially if you’ve got unbalanced audio cables in your setup. This isn’t as big of an issue in the studio as it is live, but if you’ve got a noisy signal, it’s a likely cause.
Another big reason the best studios have such great cable management is that they use what they need. Often, high end studios will go as far as to make their own cables – allowing them to cut the run at the exact length they need for each application.
Unless you’re handy with a soldering iron and plan on keeping your setup for quite some time, that might be a step too far though. For home studios, buying some high-quality cables that are close to your needed length is completely fine. The goal is to eliminate coils of cables just sitting on the floor. If you only need to go 3 feet from your preamp to your interface, a 20 ft. XLR is not the right cable for the job.
Sure – use it in a pinch, but plan on picking up the right fit for a few extra dollars to keep your setup looking top notch.
The other place where studios can make a massive cable management jump is with their multi-room/multi-mic setups. If you’re not able to install a wall panel to keep your cabling hidden, consider picking up a snake.
Snakes help consolidate your cables from potentially dozens of long cable runs to a single group of cables – just like the zip ties behind the desk. If you’re recording drums or in any other situation where you need to run a dozen or more cables from one room to another, a snake can be a huge upgrade (and save you from wrapping tons of cables after each session too).
Organizing Your Cables
As I said at the start, having a selection of cables readily available is another aspect of great studio cable management. This is equal parts organization and planning ahead. Keeping a couple of extra XLR and TRS cables (as well as some options that cross between the two) can help keep your sessions moving no matter the obstacle.
If you walk into any major studio with a piece of gear – they’re going to have a way to connect it. Whether that means using a more customized cable or patching together an adapter or two, there’s always a way. That’s the same goal you should have for your studio.
Of course, that level of variety also demands some highly functional organization. Whatever your storage solution for cables – storage bins, cable racks, or hangers – having a system to keep them easily accessible and organized with pay off big time when the creative juices are flowing and you don’t want to break that flow to find a backup.
Virtual Signal Chain Organization
Just like poor cable management can slow down your session, so can poor routing in your session. Keeping your tracks labeled and color coordinated is a start, but organizing your inserts and having a standard workflow is the next step.
For more information, check out our eBook, Virtual Signal Chain Secrets.