As its name implies, this is a modular multi-channel wiring system. It utilizes an 8-channel "core" cable, available in 5, 10, and 25 ft lengths, with DB25 terminations on both ends, plus various DB25-equipped breakouts to individual 1/4" TRS, XLR analog, XLR AES/EBU, and Bantam (TT) connectors. When a box of these first arrived at the studio, I thought, "Cool idea but I have no real use for these." So I sent them off to our Gear Geek, Andy Hong. They sat in Boston for a bit while Andy finished up some other reviews. Then I got hired to assemble an ocean-side home studio in Northern California to record Devendra Banhart's next album. A house was rented for three months, and we trucked in a 1" 8-track MCI tape machine, an RCA BK6 tube mixer, and Dev's 8-channel Pro Tools HD rig. Realizing that PT HD's 192 I/O was all DB25, I called Andy and asked him to send the Modular Snakes back to me.
As we set up the studio, it became apparent that the Modular Snake System was the perfect tool for the job. Right off the bat, we hooked up a TRS fan-out to one end of a core cable and XLR-M to the other to go from the eight mults of our test tone generator to the tape machine inputs so we could align the machine. Then we swapped out the XLR-M breakout on that snake to XLR-F and used that to patch the tape machine into the TRS line-inputs of a 16-channel Allen & Heath MixWizard console for monitoring. We configured a second Modular Snake to route the outputs of the 192 I/O into the MixWizard as well. Our workflow was to record to tape until we filled eight tracks, and then fly the tracks into Pro Tools. The Modular Snake System made this super easy. Each time we transferred into Pro Tools, all we had do was disconnect the TRS fan-out from the snake feeding the MixWizard and attach the snake directly to the 192 I/O. Or if we wanted to record a signal live into Pro Tools that was already routed into the tape machine, we could leave it configured this way, allowing us to utilize the transformers of the MCI (or even a tape just free-recording on it) as a front end to Pro Tools. But, knowing that we occasionally needed to go straight into Pro Tools with preamps that weren't patched into the tape machine, I purchased a $3 DB25 gender changer at my local electronics store that allowed me to patch one of the XLR-F breakouts directly to the 192 I/O while still leaving the rest of my setup patched in.
The Modular Snake System not only solved a lot of our cabling needs in a non-redundant fashion, but it actually eased our workflow significantly. This may not be something that every recordist needs, but if you're working in live or ever-changing situations, this system could be a real lifesaver.
Andy also pointed out that this system could be useful in permanent studio installations as well. Having DB25-terminated runs in your wiring troughs would allow you to change at-gear connectors with the Modular Snake breakouts without having to rewire your patchbay or pulling new cable. There are also lots of commercial patchbays available that have DB25 connectors on the back. Plus, if you need lengths greater than 25 ft, Planet Waves sells DB25 couplers for chaining multiple core cables together. Or if you prefer, you can use the Modular Snake breakouts with your own DIY or custom-made DB25 snakes. The core cables come with both metric and SAE-threaded lockdowns that you can swap out as needed. With an impedance of 110 Ohms, the cables are compatible with both digital and analog applications. ($29.99-$199.99 MSRP; www.planetwaves.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.