Swapping Ribbon Cables in a Palette Case

Hi there.

I just got a Palette case last week to try to minimize my setup (coming from a 7U). For the past week, I’ve been trying to figure out which modules I want to have in it and I’ve found myself opening it up and unscrewing the top 1U bar to access the power headers on almost a daily basis.

I know the manual says to install some extra ribbon cables to avoid this, but I’m a little worried about swapping ribbon cables between modules.

I’ve looked online, but I can’t find a definitive answer.

Nowadays, are ribbon cables for eurorack all the same? Can I swap cables between my Intellijel, MI, Make Noise, and other modules without damaging them?

Thanks a bunch in advance!

All Intellijel modules use the same type of ribbon cable for power, and I think MI and MN do as well. I’ve noticed some 4MS modules use a ribbon cable with more pins, but it’s pretty obvious when you see it because it’s a much bigger chunk of plastic so I think the risk of mixing them up is minimal.

1 Like

Aside from expanders that draw power from other modules rather than the main power bus, I’ve only ever encountered one eurorack module that didn’t use one of the two standard ribbon cable connections.

So basically, there are two sizes commonly used on the module side. All are the same on the bus side. I used to worry about disconnecting the ribbon from the module side, instead always keeping the ribbon attached to the module and disconnecting from the bus. But about a year ago, after using a couple of the Intellijel 7u cases for awhile, I realized that it was infinitely easier to do it the other way around. Leave the ribbon attached in the case, and swap the modules out.

Just two things to be careful about:

  1. Make sure you allow for both types of cables. You will inevitably run into situations where you’ll have to do the work of swapping a little cable for a big one or vice versa, but it shouldn’t be too often.
  2. Pay close attention to which direction the red strip has to go! Red stripe on the cable must align with -12v. Most important rule in eurorack.
3 Likes

+1

@Dasein1980 I do exactly what you’re considering doing with my Palette (and another case), I like to reconfigure often enough that it makes sense for me to leave the ribbon cables plugged into the bus board, and then unplug and rearrange modules, and plug them into other cables as needed.

Just be 100% certain—as @chronomod pointed out—that pin1 (red stripe) on one side goes to pin1 on the other side. If you find a ribbon cable where it is ‘twisted’ and the red stripe does not match the same pin on both sides, best to just chuck in the bin and replace it with a proper cable.

I have two modules—I believe a TipTop and a Klavis, both digital—that use 16-to-16 pin ribbon cables. Aside from those, everything is 10-10 pin.

I may be upgrading to the premium cables that Modular Addict has: — Hinton makes some, too. Anyone tried these?

1 Like

Also, as an alternate approach Control sells dual chain and quad chain ribbon cables. Same principle as a flying bus board cable, but applied to female power cables. I wonder if it introduces any of the issues w/ noise that some have cited w/ flying cables—though, it looks like a great way to distribute the cable pileup within a skiff.

2 Likes

Indeed those are quite handy. Essentially one ribbon cable that connects directly to 3 modules and then to the busboard. Definitely helps avoid the ridiculous ribbon bramble patch that can live just below the surface in a case. I didn’t notice any problems with noise with them, but I’ve always used them with TPS80W boards in the 7u cases, which have always been rock solid.

One thing I’ll say about those cables though - they look like they give you plenty of slack between the connectors, but it’s crazy how much length is lost simply by having to twist the cable to align the connector with the pins. Dont count on using it to connect modules that are bigger than maybe 8 - 10 hp unless their pins are situated just right on their respective pcbs.

[EDIT] My mistake - I thought you were referring to these: https://www.perfectcircuit.com/4ms-multi-power-cable-10-pin.html

I’ve never tried those quad cables for 2hp modules. That is definitely intriguing. Of course, I would have to break my rule against putting 2hp modules directly next to other 2hp modules in order to use these. And in practice, having 4 2hp units connected at the hip like that would probably be a nightmare. You would have to disconnect so many things to be able to swap out any one of them, and don’t get me started on the knob situation. I’d be willing to give the dual cable a shot though, particularly with mults, unity mixers, OR combiners and other knobless utilities.

1 Like

Oh and to add a bit more insight into the original question - the larger 16pin ribbon cable connectors that you will sometimes see tend to primarily appear on VCOs, VCFs,
sequencers, and some digital modules. They will sometimes appear on other modules, but are most common on those.

And why is that? Because those additional lines are used to transport the volt-per-octave and gate signals that are part of the official Doepfer Eurorack standard, which allows for a synth voice’s control signals to be passed between modules via the busboard, allowing for a “semi-modular” normaling between seemingly independent modules, with no patch cables involved. It’s no coincidence that many, if not most, Doepfer modules use 16 pin connections. Personally I don’t ever use this feature though, as it can send signals to unwanted destinations in a densely loaded case.

Tiptop Audio also has a unity mixer that sends audio along that busboard CV signal path, but even they describe it as “noisy”.

Oh and two of the additional pins are for +5v power in the official standard, hence the 16 pin connector may sometimes be seen on digital modules that may not have any use for the busboard control path.

1 Like