Someone, Somewhere, Is Still Installing Knobs and Patch Plates

knob 1

It’s like looking at the bones of an extinct beast in the museum of natural history.


When I first took an interest in AV installs, I was working for A&B Sound, a small Canadian regional chain, and they had begun to take tentative steps into offering custom installs.

Being a nerd, and being very gear focused, I mistakenly believed that the core differentiator that would set us apart as a serious install shop was to stock, recommend, and use a mind-boggling array of wall plates.

I thought that wall plates were cool.

I was pretty keen about on-wall volume control knobs too.

Now, of course, I know better.

knob 2

Two knobs are better than one. Oh wait, no they aren’t!

A volume control knob on the wall and a plethora of patch plates scattered around the house hasn’t been cutting edge since sometime in the 1990s.

However, that doesn’t stop Home Depot and Amazon from keeping them on the shelves and, there are still an appalling number of installs being done that way.

knob 3

See? It says it’s PREMIUM!

It’s bad enough that DIYers are doing them, but actual install companies do too!

Seriously people, in-wall volume control knobs in-line with the speaker wire are as innovative as stone circles in the middle of a field.

It’s great that distributed audio systems are showing up in low-priced starter homes.

But I can’t think of a single budget priced multi-zone system from entry-level brands like Russound that, in this decade, don’t have in-wall control keypads running off of Cat5.

No matter how budget conscious the home owner, hooking up a zone amplifier to volume control knobs is lazy.

And then there’s patch plates…

Remember how I said that I once thought that patch plates were the bee’s knees of custom design?

Well, they aren’t.

That doesn’t stop there being a plethora of choices on the shelves for hapless wire monkeys to choose from.

5-way binding posts for speakers, HDMI, and even now, believe it or not A/V RCA jacks, Component Video AND S-video.

I’m not making this up. I saw an S-video plate on someone’s wall not that long ago.

I’ll grant you that an array of well-installed patch plates looks clean and impressive.

Or not.

Or not.

And, in the case of analog audio and video, painfully dated five years later.

The only real use for source patch plates is to interface with visiting equipment. Such as in boardroom installs to patch a laptop into the AV.

I can’t think of any reasonably likely scenario to need that in a residential project.

Not every home project can be a six-figure job. But oh my paws and whiskers, that doesn’t mean sinking to the level of a well-meaning trunk slammer and selling them on volume control knobs!

knob 4

At least this one goes up to eleven.