The modern recording studio is a place full of connections. Be they digital or analogue, there is nothing we can do to get away from the fact that sometimes we need to plug a thing into another thing. But sometimes the connection types don’t match, maybe they are a different size or connector type. In this article, we list our top 5 connectors and converters you should have in your studio, and maybe you should have at least two of them. What with stereo and all.
Bodge It Block Or Quality Connections
Let’s just get this straight. Most of these adaptors or connectors are not designed to be used as part of the permanent installation of your studio. Some are what you would call a “get out of jail free card”. They save the day when you don’t have the proper cable to hand. They are also much easier to carry when you are out and about on a live stage, set or location recording gig. Check out Audrey’s Gig bag article…
However, wherever possible in the studio with a fixed installation, we recommend you use a single or multi-core cable with the correct ends or terminations for the equipment you are using. In addition, when you use a connector block or converter there could be some be signal loss. It might not be much but there will be some. Also every connection adds the chance of a failure or dirty connection.
1/4 Inch (6.35mm) To 1/8 Inch (3.5mm) Converter
Short of maybe hard currency this little converter could be the most valuable item in your studio. Often called the Big to Little converter (or it is around here) this is the thing that is going to mean your headphones can be plugged into your desk or interface one minute then into your iPad the next. Most headphone manufacturers use the smaller 1/8th inch size plug on their headphone cables and supply you with a converter. Often these days this is a screw on type with means it is harder to lose the little thing but a word of warning. Never ever lend these to anyone as that will be the last you’ll see of it.
Neutrik Ethercon Connector
Network cables are no longer just for your internet connection. More and more of us are using AoIP solutions in our studios and where there is a cable type there need to be a way to easily extend it. A basic RJ-45 connector block is fine but the modern professional connection type is the Neutrik Ethercon. It’s like an XLR but it has the RJ-45 style connection. This connector also works as a converter for non Ethercon cables as you can if you with just plug in a normal RJ-45 (network) plug and it will lock into place.
1/4 Inch TRS To 1/4 Inch TRS Connector
If you have ever had to extend your headphone lines in your studio then you have probably wished you had one of these. This is a locking 1/4 inch TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) connector. Plug your headphones in one side and your TRS or balanced 1/4 jack cable in the other side and hook this into your interface or headphone port. You could save about £3 and buy the 50p black non locking version but who would you do that? Once plugged into the locking version the only way to get the plugs out is to pull back the little red tab before you remove the plug. Tripping over them or catching them around your feet will not cause a loss of signal right in the middle of the perfect take.
XLR Gender Changers
Most of the time our cables are formatted correctly Male to Female etc. But then there are the times when we break the rules and we want to link equipment together that maybe was not intended to be linked together in that way. This is where the all important XLR gender changers come into play. These are older Switchcraft models but there are new ones available from Switchcraft and Neutrik.
1/4 Inch TRS Jack To Male XLR Connectors
One of the most common uses for this style of connector is when your desk or interface does not have enough Line inputs. Pop one of these into the mic input and stick the jack cable in the top. The all silver version on the right also has a high to low impedance matching transformer in to smooth the way for high impedance line level signals to go into low impedance mic preamps.
25 Pin D-Sub Gender Changers
If you have any studio gear with 25pin D-Sub connections these can be very handy little adaptors allowing you to join cables together securely or connect 2 cables together to give you different terminations. 25pin D-Subs are not designed to be regularly connected and disconnected as you might in a live environment but to get around a cabling problem, once in a while, these are a handy fix and when screwed together they are totally stable.
Most modern computer monitors as well as modern cameras and camcorders use HDMI. However, long HDMI cables can be expensive. These little connectors can really save the day in live use or when you change your monitor position. Just make sure you use plenty of PVC tape to help the connection stay stable.
Mono 1/4 Inch Jack To Phono Connector
These days not so much professional recording kit comes with Phono cables, but plenty of DJ equipment still outputs on Phono connections as does some more vintage kit. At least a pair of these always come with me on live events and gigs as you just never know when you are going to be presented with gear that only has Phono outs. And If it is possible to get away from using those dreadful thin nasty black and red twin phono cables better still.
There are many hundreds of other handy little converters and connectors out there, these are just the ones we think the most useful. If there are any you feel we have missed please do add them in the comments section below and tell us how you use them.