When I record multitrack drums I often misplace or mix up the left and right XLR cables from my overhead microphones in the jumble of cables scattered across the studio floor from all the other spot and room microphones positions around the kit.
No matter how hard I try to keep my cables runs tidy I still will get a bit confused from time to time because all my XLR cables are black in colour which makes it difficult for me to visually determine which cable is for what.
I have a couple of XLR looms running down the side of my studio from my mic pre rack to my drum kit, these are labelled and colour coded accordingly so I know exactly what pre I’m plugging into but when I have multiple cable runs I often lose track of which cable is plugged into what microphone, mostly I lose track of which way round the stereo image is when I’m looking down at the cables, is it drummer’s perspective or engineers? If I do forget I have no quick way to visually work this out without running my hand down the length of cable from the mic to the end of the XLR.
I’ve recently found a super simple solution to help me from visually losing track of which way round my stereo overheads are, so simple in fact that I’m kicking myself for not thinking of this sooner!
I browsed the web for some coloured XLR cables, one in white and one in red. This simple idea came to me one day when I was using the Townsend Sphere L22 microphone breakout cable…
The Townsend breakout cable has two male XLRs to power the clever Townsend 3D microphone system, however this mic can also record in stereo, know as 180 from the mic. These two male XLRs from the breakout are coloured and labeled (Red) Rear and (White) Front, similar to phono cables, but using the Sphere in stereo recording applications the red is for right and white is for left.
I’m sure some of you will be thinking this tip is very basic but for me I find that the simplest of studio tricks are often the ones which help me the most in my daily work.
A free way to achieve a similar result would be to label a set of XLRs with stickers or coloured isolating tape, but for me this only address half of the problem as I would only be able to establish a cable’s feed at the XLR end, unless of course we wrap some colour tape at intervals along the cable itself.
When I’m experimenting with drum mic placement I often unplug XLRs, move microphones around, explore different mic pres for different kit pieces, etc… which can quickly turn into organised chaos. In this chaos though I must still be able to quickly establish the orientation of the stereo drum overheads, which capture the main image of the drums, otherwise the results will sound all over the place at playback. Having a coloured XLRs showing me throughout a tracking process the orientation of a set of microphones for stereo recordings is super simple and super helpful. Worth having a set of cables like this in your studio if, like me, you track a lot of stereo instruments.