In the first of this pair of articles, I covered the studio clean-up operation and the physical relocation of my studio toys getting ready for the addition of the Flock Audio Patch into my studio workflow. In this article I’m going to cover setting up, routing and managing the Patch as well as some of the choices I had to make early on in the process and how Patch has changed my recording, mixing and mastering world.
What Is Patch?
The Flock Audio Patch is a 64 point, 32 channel fully analogue with digital control and storage patch bay and routing system. Imagine at the single click of a mouse being able to route 32 different pieces of single channel audio hardware. Click on another of your presets and that routing has been totally reconfigured. Move from tracking to mixing workflows with one button push. The Patch really does give you easy access to all your studio hardware. It’s fast, its very tidy and it’s smart. What’s not to love?
What Do I Want In The Patch?
Potentially I could eat up all 32 channels of Patch just hooking it up to my console, which seems a bit pointless as the console is a big routing system, but I do of course want to be able to hook my analogue gear to the console. What’s the point in having it otherwise? But having said that, not all my studio outboard needs to go through the Patch. I can run things like my Avid Eleven Rack, my Bricasti M7 and my Alesis Wedge directly to the console’s patch bay and hard patch these with good old fashioned bantam cables. Likewise there is no need for me to route any of the I/O from my interfaces to the Patch as this is all handled by the console.
After much head scratching and deliberation I decided on the following routing: I would leave myself 8 channels in the patch to run to and from the patch bay in the console. This would be my connections to and from the desk into my hardware. 8 channels might not sound like a great deal but remember, these 8 can be instantly recalled to any number of pieces of hardware within the Patch system so I don’t think I am limiting myself.
|Patch Channel||Studio Hardware|
|1||Send & Return From Console 1|
|2||Send & Return From Console 2|
|3||Send & Return From Console 3|
|4||Send & Return From Console 4|
|5||Send & Return From Console 5|
|6||Send & Return From Console 6|
|7||Send & Return From Console 7|
|8||Send & Return From Console 8|
|9||Warm Audio WA-76 Top I/O|
|10||Warm Audio WA-76 Bottom I/O|
|11||Warm Audio Tube EQ Top I/O|
|12||Warm Audio Tube EQ Top I/O|
|13||Teknosign Gain Chnl 1 I/O|
|14||Teknosign Gain Chnl 2 I/O|
|17||Universal Audio 6176 Pre I/O|
|18||Universal Audio 6176 Comp I/O|
|19||DBX 160A 1 I/O|
|20||DBX 160A 2 I/O|
|21||DBX 160A 3 I/O|
|22||DBX 160A 4 I/O|
|23||Warm Audio WA-2A I/O|
|24||Klark Technik KT-2A I/O|
|25||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 1 I/O|
|26||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 2 I/O|
|27||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 3 I/O|
|28||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 4 I/O|
|29||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 5 I/O|
|30||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 6 I/O|
|31||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 7 I/O|
|32||Radial 500 Series Rack Slot 8 I/O|
The Patch App
With the hardware connected and everything nice and tidy around the back of the racks, it’s time to configure the Patch App.
The first place to start is the Hardware Setup Menu of the Patch App. This is accessed by clicking the Hardware Setup cog in the bottom left of the app. This is where we turn that very dull routing table into the actual inputs and outputs on the Patch. There are 2 main types of connection, linked and unlinked. You can see that the first 8 inputs and outputs are unlinked. This is because these are the sends and returns to and from the console patch bay. Most of the hardware you use inside of Patch is a single unit direct routed in, through the process and out again. The connection to your audio interface or, in my case the desk are the input and output points of each path, so these need to be unlinked. Once you start to use Patch and the Patch App it all starts to make sense pretty quickly.
The Patch App main window is divided into two main sections. We have the hardware finder down the left hand side. This is where all the hardware units are found. Light blue means these are available, dark blue means they are allocated somewhere in a Path.
The Path is the route your audio is taking through your Patch and can contain up to 10 units or processors. At the moment I am only using 8 paths as I only have 8 ways in and out of the Patch. Signal flow runs top to bottom so you can see in most cases I have a ‘From Console’ at the top and a ‘To Console’ at the bottom. Paths do not need to be full as empty slots pass audio quite happily. To populate a slot all you have to do is drag the processor from the Hardware list into an empty slot in the required Path. In my case Path 6 is an input from the Neve 1073LB in 500 Series slot 3. The 1073 is being used as a Bass DI and has its own 1/4 inch instrument input so I do not need the input from the console. Path 5 is actually the processing chain for the bass track so I am using the WA-2A and one of the Tube EQs to process the bass from the DAW. I could put these two processors in Path 6 to commit the Bass processing to tape if I want to in the future to save on one of my 8 channels to and from the console.
500 Series Routing
Many 500 Series chassis just have connections to route into and out of the modules. However there are some, like my Radial Workhorse, that allow you to route from one slot to another or route in pairs or use one slot as an insert for another. This is all great but it is normally all addressed from the rear panel which kind of defeats the point of racking your kit up. The Patch allows me to route any of my 500 series models to any other as if they were standalone hardware units.
I’d love to say I worked this all out for myself but that’s not quite true. I have to give a big shout out to Producer and Recording Engineer Greg Wurth. Greg helped me with a number of different ideas and explained how he is using his Patch. It has to be said that Greg does not use a console in his own studio but when working at the Harmony Hut with Guitarist Steve Vai they do have a custom made Tree Audio desk so Greg fully understands the workflow I will be using. Greg has also allowed me to share some of his Patch settings…
“This is something I’ve been hoping would exist for many years. It’s a dream to finally have it in my hands. PATCH has exceeded my expectations and beyond. It’s not fair to compare it to other patchbays or even call it a patchbay because it does & has so many more complex features.”
This is Greg’s mixing rig. He uses a Lynx Aurora but none of the inputs are connected. He is however using a Burl B2 ADC which is connected and gives him two inputs for recording or printing mixes.
For monitoring Greg uses a Benchmark DAC connected digitally to the Lynx Aurora. This in turn is hard patched to a monitor controller. There is no need to have this in the Patch I/O.
“What I considered doing was hard patching the Lynx OUT into the IN of my summing mixer which would free up quite a bit of I/O, but the way I have it now allows me to patch outboard between my Lynx output and my summing mixer if needs be.
I save my Patch routings per song so if I have different gear patched, I don’t have to think about or keep notes.”
How Does Patch Sound?
The honest answer is that to my ears the Flock Audio Patch is not changing the tone or quality of any of the units in my rig any more or less than a high quality cable patch bay. It does not have a sound which is a very very good thing.
How Is Patch In Use?
To keep with the bird theme, I have taken to this thing like a duck to water. It’s so easy, it’s so quick and it means I’m using the using my gear a great deal more. No more “Oh I really can’t be bothered to find the cables and plug them in”. With Patch I’m using all the gear in my racks and being more creative with it.
One of my favourite features of Patch is the pair of extra I/O on the front panel. Very handy if you are testing lots of outboard goodies that are not staying in the racks long term.
The Patch App software is simple to use and totally stable. There are lots more features within the Patch hardware and Patch App that I have not covered but I’m up and running and enjoying the new way of working with my outboard gear. It’s all there, it’s all powered up and connected and it’s just a click away.
Positive Side Effects
One real bonus of using the Patch Hardware is that my console patch bay is a much less cluttered place. In fact there are over 40 fewer cables in the patch than there were before.
Thanks so much to Darren at Flock Audio and to Greg Wurth for all their help in getting my Patch system set up and routed in a sensible yet flexible way.
The Fock Audio Patch is available now priced around £2299 including VAT and Taxes. Check out a dealer near you for local pricing. You can find out more about the Flock Audio Patch at their website.