The holidays are a great time to unwind, but it’s also a good time to get organized. A few years ago, I took the time to document my studio configuration since I was having a hard time remembering what was connected to what, where, and why. Even in home studios (like mine), it doesn’t take long for the array of cable and wiring to become overwhelmingly complex. Plus, we’re talking about multiple mediums including digital and analog audio, MIDI, digital sync, USB, and power distribution to name a few. Keeping it tidy is one thing, but keeping this detail in your head is nearly impossible; and you feel the pain when you “open the bonnet” to make any changes.
So my feeling is, bite the bullet once, spend incremental time maintaining it, and save loads of time in the long run as your environment continues to evolve. There is, of course, a separate and independent need to apply conventional “asset management” such as maintaining an up-to-date inventory of your gear, but this tends to serve financial purposes more so than operational ones. Things tend to break mostly when we introduce a change into our environment, and maintaining an accurate configuration, from several perspectives, will help you make changes faster and with far fewer headaches.
The diagram above, a topology map, is one of several diagrams that now comprise my studio documentation. It provides a high-level view of key components and connectivity from several perspectives. I use different diagrams to drill into things such as audio signal path, both analog and digital, MIDI routes, and TCP/IP networking. And of course, I maintain separate diagrams for machine configurations as well as a mapping of significant software and sound libraries. This is by no means an end-to-end inventory, but provides enough information to get me started in most situations. For example, if I have my eye on a new sound library, and let’s face it they aren’t getting any smaller these days, I have several choices as to where to place it.
I’ve found it equally important to be mindful of power distribution. Even with multiple dedicated circuits, a must have in my opinion, it is easy (and dangerous) to create an overload if you ignore basic load balancing. I also use uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) that fan current to several intermediate power conditioners which allow me to power up and down the studio in an orderly fashion. But not everything gets the benefit of UPS current as there isn’t much value in providing this to things like my studio monitors. Basically, anything that I’d hate to lose when a creative moment coincides with a power outage gets the benefit of both uninterrupted and conditioned juice.
I’m sharing my diagrams with the hopes that this may be of help to others. Hopefully they can provide you with a useful reference or starting point. I used Microsoft Visio to produce these because it’s a simple tool with lots of stencils (especially for diagramming rack mounted gear), and then saved them into a PDF to make for easy viewing.