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Twist and Shout

Flexible, durable optical cables empower recording professionals

In a previous blog, I explained how Corning’s optical USB and Thunderbolt cables enable long-cable runs, which in turn enables noisy computer equipment to be located in a remote machine room away from the recording and mixing environment. Although longer runs are indeed the biggest reason audio recording pros are turning to optical cables, length is just part of the attraction.

Studio 610’s Optical Thunderbolt Solution
During the design and construction of professional audio recording hardware and software developer Universal Audio’s (UA) Studio 610 recording studio and test lab, a key goal was to eliminate all fan and machine noise in its two control rooms. Since isolation boxes were too large and bulky to store in the control room, the UA team opted to locate its equipment in a remote machine room. The challenge was connecting the company’s prized Thunderbolt interfaces, located in the control room, with computers and drives far away.

Corning optical cables solved the length issue—Optical Thunderbolt cables can run up to 60 meters (about 197 feet). Given that there is no other way to extend Thunderbolt beyond 3 meters (9 feet, 10 inches), that alone was reason enough to go with optical. But the cables also had to be run through the wall with no worries about kinks and threaded around tight corners. Furthermore, the UA team didn’t want to have to worry about whether the cables might have to be snaked out and redone.

Here again, Corning optical cables were the answer. They’re 50 % thinner and 80 % lighter than copper, and they can be bent, twisted, and even knotted without failure. That flexibility means you can run them in places where it would be difficult or impossible to run copper cable.

“We also take [these] optical cables on the road for trade shows and public demos,” Perrey said, “and those get stepped on, routed through channels, and kinked.” Analog audio cables can easily fail under such conditions. Don’t even think about stepping on or knotting copper Thunderbolt or USB cables. They won’t hold up. In contrast, insists, Perrey, “the Corning optical cables have never failed.”

Recording with Optical USB in the City of Music
Georg Burdicek is a respected recording engineer and owner of Tonzauber Studio, located in the legendary Konzerthaus in Vienna, Austria, often called the City of Music. Tonzauber specializes in recording the finest acoustic classical and jazz music, as well as sound for video, film, and television. Burdicek records small ensembles in the studio and captures large ensembles, such as full orchestras, on location in various concert halls. In both applications, he relies on Corning optical USB cables to connect his recording control room to a remote machine room—a professionally designed machine room at Tonzauber and an improvised room on location.

The fact that optical USB cables enable much longer cable runs than conventional copper USB cables is a major attraction. “The 30-meter USB cable reaches our machine room with no problem,” Burdicek said. But it’s not just about length.  “Reliability is crucial with recording,”  he ​said. “I tried using CAT5 extenders to connect the computer to the control room but the extenders were unreliable. After a couple of weeks, they just stopped working. Corning optical cables, on the other hand, have been entirely reliable, and compared to other solutions, they’re affordable.”

Optical USB Cable On Location
When recording on location, Burdicek sets up an improvised control room with his audio interface in a side room outside of the main hall and employs a second room as a machine room for the computer and drives. As in the studio, he employs a lengthy USB cable run to connect his interface to the remote computer. But on location, he can’t permanently install cables. This is where thin, lightweight, flexible optical cable really shines. “We don’t have to think a lot about how we lay out the cable,” Burdicek said. “We can band it around narrow corners, it can go straight under doors, and it is sturdy enough that if somebody steps on it, the cable is not harmed.”

On location, you have to set up, capture the performance, pack up, and get out quickly. For this reason, concludes Burdicek, “It’s important that the system is very straightforward. Corning optical USB cables are just plug-and-play, and they work. They make my mobile recording easier, more comfortable, and more quiet.”

For more information on optical cables by Corning see here.

See also: There’s a technology solving some of the most vexing electrical and acoustic isolation issues facing audio professionals
Quiet! We’re Recording! Find out what technology audio recording professionals are considering to combat noise

Bio: A long-time professional touring and session musician, sound designer, and occasional front-of-house engineer, Steve Oppenheimer is probably best known for his accomplishments as editor in chief of Electronic Musician, Remix, Onstage, Music Education Technology, AudioInsider, and other music-technology magazines and Web sites. An editor and corporate manager for more than 20 years, he served for six years as public relations manager at PreSonus Audio Electronics before founding the public relations firm White Dog Communications in January 2015.