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Why would soft patching give up a physical socket? Setting channel 25 to get it’s audio from socket 17 doesn’t mean you cant still use socket 25 to feed a different channel.

Input sockets, input channels, and fader strips are completely independent, separate things.

Any channel can be fed from any input socket, and you can put that on as few (none) or as many (all of them) fader strips as you want to.

Select a channel, go to the preamp section, and tell it which socket you want it to gets it’s signal from. More than one channel can be set to receive audio from the same input socket.