Resources for the Recording Musician
September 1, 2014

Y cables for Input Switching

Looking for an audio solution - I have a DAW (laptop) that is using a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 as the soundcard, connected via a USB hub. I also have a Roland RD64 as a controller which has its own onboard sounds, and I'm listening to everything through a pair of old (but great) Tapco S5s. My problem is thus: sometimes I like to just turn on the RD64 and play the onboard sounds without connecting up my laptop and turning everything on. However, as I don't have a mixer, the RD64 is routed through the two ins of my Focusrite. As this draws power via USB, then I get no signal without the DAW running. A powered USB hub doesn't do the job, as it appears as though the Focusrite won't run unless the drivers are running. So, the way I see it I have two options: replace the Focusrite for an interface that doesn't just run on USB (such as Roland's UA-22), or use a pair of mono Y splitters to send both my piano and the outs of the Focusrite direct to my monitors. My question, therefore, is two-fold: are there any other options open to me that I'm missing, and if not, will using a Y splitter cable (mono male to 2x mono female) to run the RD64 and the Focusrite to my monitors cause any problems? Thanks! -- Dan

Although it's perfectly fine on most modern gear to use a Y-Cable to split one line-level output to two line-level inputs (basically same as using the mult feature of a patchbay), the reverse is NOT true. You can be in for a world of hurt if you try to use a Y-Cable to merge two outputs into one input.

In your case, I would not suggest setting up with a Y Cable as you suggested.

One possible solution I would suggest would be some sort of simple input switcher/selector. For example, you could buy 2 of these:

Although, at $120 each, for a stereo pair, you are getting into simple monitor controller price range. I didn't do a big search, so you could probably find a couple of 2-way switches for even cheaper if you spend more time searching. More searching at Sweetwater also shows these for $79 each, which can be used in reverse for your needs:

Or, you could go with a full monitor controller that gives you volume control and allows you to easily switch between several sources. Something like this for around $300 would give you lots more flexibility:

There are cheaper as well as more expensive monitor management solutions, which you can browse through here:

If you are happy with your USB interface, and are not ready to upgrade to an interface that has some built-in monitor management capabilities (and doesn't require being connected to a computer to operate), then I think going with a monitor controller type thing is the way to go.  You get a handy volume knob and multiple input and output selectors, making it much easier to incorporate other equipment into your studio without having to do lots of cable swapping or jury rigged Y cables and switches.

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