An option to multipin snakes is fan-to-box snakes. These plug into each line individually, so the snake jacks coincide with the floor box jacks. This approach is more time consuming but much safer. All in all, either approach saves time and cleans up the stage.
All right, let’s say we’ve got all of these items plugged in at the stage, at various floor box/wall panel locations. For example, drums are on channels 9-15, vocals on 74-82, lead guitar on 4 and bass on 63. We’re using a 32-input mixing console posted at front of house. Wait a minute – our math doesn’t add up. More inputs on stage than at the console!
This is where we encounter patch bays, which allow the sound tech to simply take any input on stage and assign it to any channel on the console via a short patch cable. Think of an old-time telephone switchboard in terms of look and function.
Patch bays can be our best friend, but they can also present problems. First, a quality patch bay can cost $1,000 or more. And even at that rather lofty price point, reliability can be an issue.
The biggest way to avoid patch bay problems is proper installation, and as a result, I recommend a qualified contractor to do this. It’s a detailed, labor intensive process, which adds even more to the cost, but without proper installation you’re just setting up a disaster.
Patch bays can be helpful in addressing some stage interconnect issues
Another option is the “poor man’s patch bay” - a snake box, linked via its snake to the house console. The box, meanwhile, is usually mounted at a backstage location, ready to accept inputs running from the stage. You then simply take stage inputs and plug them into the box as needed – easy and flexible switching of inputs.
Also keep in mind that while a 32-input console may be in use now, there may come a day when it makes sense to expand to a 48-input board. Therefore, use a snake big enough to accommodate this growth in inputs, simply covering the extra inputs until they might be needed.
One note is to be cautious – don’t allow anyone the opportunity to plug into channel 32 on the snake box if console channel 32 is being used for a CD player.
Some of this may seem pretty basic, but the issues covered here come up with every project, time and again.
For example, you may be using a 24-input console now but may soon want/need to upgrade to a 32-input (or even 48-input) model. Run a snake big enough for growth and place a box with more inputs than you currently need. Simply cover up the extra inputs and indicate they are not to be used.
Also, don’t forget about those wireless mics, CD players and other items that may occupy channels on the board. Don’t provide someone the opportunity to plug into channel 32 on the snake box if channel 32 on the board is the CD player.
Again, some of this might seem simple, but it’s taken many people (myself included) three or more times of doing things wrong to get them.
While a qualified AV contractor should be able to accomplish these techniques, it’s important to understand the concepts and to be able to raise questions and propose approaches that work best for your situation – now, and in the future.
Related articles on PSW Church Sound:
Checklist For Planning A Church Sound System
Testing Cables On A Regular Basis Is Essential To Solid Church Sound System Performance
The Checklist: Solutions For Fixing Church Sound System Problems