The Evaton Link is one of the best solutions for using a single cable to exchange multiple signals between Eurorack modular systems.
Most modular musicians start out planning to get just one case. They believe that will be a large enough sandbox for them to play in for a while.
But almost inevitably, they start looking for ways to get a bigger sandbox…or a second sandbox…or maybe a third sandbox that they can also take to a friend’s place to play. Indeed, some musicians use multiple smaller cases—often with dedicated functions—to make it easier to scale up, scale down, and move their modular system as needed for recording or for a gig.
Defining the Problem
Once you’ve made that jump to a large case or multiple cases, the next challenge is how to patch between modules that may live a few feet away from each other. You can certainly get long patch cables—but once you start running several of them more than a few feet, you run the risk of getting caught in a web of wires that are even worse than a typical modular patch. Anything that can simplify live performance setup is always welcome.
Therefore, several manufacturers have come up with simple, bundled-together ways to run a group of patch cables over a longer distance. Some “tunnel” behind the front panel of a large system. Others join two cases together using commonly available multi-signal cables such as ribbon, DB25, Ethernet, or HDMI.
All have a pair of module panels—one for each end of the bundled connection—with a number of jacks that are duplicated on both ends. A signal plugged into one panel will then appear at the same jack on the other panel. These modules are usually passive, in that they use no power and do not have any buffering or “repeater” circuitry; they’re just a more convenient way to run a number of long cables.
Problem Solved: Evaton Link
One cost-effective solution is Link from Evaton Technologies. Each Link contains 14 separate 3.5mm jacks—ten mono and four stereo—as well as an HDMI connector in a slender 4hp panel. Russ Hoffman of Evaton chose HDMI to connect Link panels because it carries a lot of connections (18 signals, a dedicated ground pin, and a metal sheath connected to the cable’s outer shield) in a reasonably thin, flexible, inexpensive, and easy-to-buy cable.
Link’s inclusion of stereo jacks is also useful. Some more recent Eurorack modules support stereo audio connections. Other companies also use stereo 3.5mm connections to carry DIN Sync and MIDI, which are common to interface to a modular system. And if you need more mono connections instead, stereo to mono splitter cables are available from companies such as Hosa.
All of these bundled-cable systems run the risk of crosstalk between connections, in which a signal running down one wire is faintly imprinted upon the signal running in an adjacent wire. In addition, long cable runs can cause issues with the slewing of transients, resulting either in glitchy data, clocks, and triggers, or in reduced high-frequency response. The cable’s construction has a big impact on both of these issues; some cables will simply perform better than others.
HDMI cables are designed to carry high-frequency signals, so that gives them an immediate advantage. With each pair of Link panels, Evaton includes a 4-foot, high-quality HDMI cable that has been verified to not exhibit any negative issues on any of the channels. With a good-quality cable (Russ suggested looking for 28 AWG or heavier wire for the internal connections), 10-foot runs or even longer should be no problem.
Should you have problems with the particular cable you’ve bought, some individual wires inside an HDMI cable have better fidelity than others. Russ is updating Link’s manual to indicate which of its jacks are connected to these “preferred status” wires inside the HDMI cable, as those should perform the best.
If you like to play in sandboxes with different-format modules, Evaton is planning to release a 5U version of Link to facilitate connecting 5U format modular systems with Eurorack systems. The Synthesizers.com 5U format—which several manufacturers support—uses similar signal levels as most Eurorack systems, which will help make it much easier to interconnect these two formats.