Sunday, April 3, 2022



Recording studios are notorious places for having A LOT of connecting cables back behind the gear. The patchbay network of wires on my recording console is nuts and difficult to trouble-shoot because there are so many cables coming together in such a compact area. 

Back in my Design and Installation days I used expensive cable labeling machines to print out custom labels for tagging wires at roughly 25-cents per label (material cost, $25/100). Today the last thing I need is another expensive device sitting around and besides, this article is called "Cheap". Don't fret out, the cheap solution is here.

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I found these manilla string tags on the internet. Each unit has a little card with a reinforced hole and an attached string. You use the string to tie it to what you're labeling. 


I have a bunch of tube guitar amp heads in my Control Room and an even bigger bunch of speakers in my isolation room. A dozen 12-gauge speaker cables interconnect the speakers and amplifier outputs. Tube amps are very sensitive to speaker impedance so it's extremely important to make sure you're connecting them correctly. 

To make matters worse I'm constantly switching and changing the guitar amp heads between Fender, Boogie, EVH and Marshall models. After many labeling attempts manilla string tags came to my rescue. Now I've got a bunch of tagged cables hanging behind the amplifier head rack. With the cables boldly labeled it's easy to choose a speaker and pair it with one of the five amp heads currently in the amp rack. Problem solved.

Celestion G12M speaker @ 16Ω, note green color code label

Here is an example tag. I made the printed labels using a vintage Brother label maker, added them to the tag and then cut the whole thing down to minimum size. 

Color coded speaker cabinet

Just in case I have more than one speaker like this one I put a little piece of colored tape on the tag and the speaker cabinet, in an easy to see location. This helps me link them together and avoid wrong connections.


My Neve 1073 preamps are in a rack which lives under my midi keyboard controller, it's just where I had space to mount them. The outputs from the 1073's are on cables that hang in front of my patchbay, this makes it super easy to stab a preamp output into any of the 32 DAW inputs. Before I started using tags it was always a mess of wires, now it's easy to make the right connection.


Vintage Brother label maker

I've used these Brother label makers for years and I have several hanging around from the late 1990's. I've learned to ONLY use genuine Brother brand label material in them to avoid jams and problems. There are clone label cartridges available but these have gummed up more than one of my label makers. 

They no longer sell the model shown in stores but there is a similar "home and hobby" version which sells for under $25 online. I like my vintage model because it is simple to use (no annoying date/time function). If I did not own six of the vintage units I'd order one of the new models. 

Current model "Home and Hobby" Brother label maker, (currently $22.89) 

My advice for choosing a label maker is to buy one that you can easily buy refill label material when needed, also look for blank label rolls that are not too expensive. Using these vintage label makers my cost per label is down to around 6-cents each. A label maker makes it so simple to make labels that are easily read in dim lighting.


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You can make labeling complex or simple. Here is a hand written label, the ease of creating and attaching the label tag makes it simple to have clear information about the cable in your hand.


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While preparing for this article I found an alternate source of tiny string tags, my GF calls these "Jewelery Store" tags. These are only 4-cents each at online stores, they come 100 in a package. The string is already attached to each tag. They are not reinforced and are thinner cardboard but they are cheap to purchase, simple to use and easy to buy.

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It's easy to write on the tiny white labels or you can use a label maker, whatever you like. They can also be cut down in size to reduce their footprint in congested installations.


The important thing is the ease of use and cheap price of these little string tags. They make it easy to attach (and remove) labels from your installed cables. No more guesswork keeping track of important cable characteristics. No more leftover adhesive on your cables either, string tags cut away cleanly and easily.

HINT: Keep small piles of these tags conveniently located around your studio for impulse use. Get in the habit of labeling things and you'll stop wasting time trying to figure out what's what. 

Thanks for reading High on Technology, Good Music to You!

©April 2022 by Mark King. It's not ok to copy or quote without written permission.

PS: After writing this article we did a little research and found old copies of my "vintage" label maker being offered online for $170 each and up. This is clearly someone who has some old inventory. I would buy the new version and a bunch of label cartridges before I'd pay extortion money for an out of production unit. 

High on Technology receives no benefit from our endorsement of the Brother label maker. The product is mentioned because it has a proven track record with over 30 years of direct use.

As always, we recommend you do your homework and research your purchases, then buy them wherever you want.