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Cool tools for your audio toolbox


By John Mills for Worship Musician Magazine

This month we are going to take a look at a few items that every audio tech should have.  OK maybe not all of them, but there should be a few in here that peak your interest. All of the items are easily searchable on Google, but the ones that are a little more specialty items, I went ahead and listed a website link.  The prices noted are rough Street prices in US Dollars.


 Find Bad Mic Cables or Mic Wiring.


Rat Sound Sniffer/Sender ~$46

Designed by Rat Sound to deal with the “real world” of pro audio, the Rat Sniffer cable tester is a amazingly simple and reliable tester with many unique features. Testing snake lines and cables with the ends located at a distance from each other is now simple and easy. Every possible short, open or cross wire in XLR cabling is indicated, but in a nutshell if the tester reads “green” the cable will work! This is especially useful if you are trying to determine if the cable or the mic is having a problem.



MiTee Cables – MI-CT1 All-In-One Cable Tester ~$38

There are tons of “cable checkers you could buy.  But the amazing thing about this is there really isn’t a type of connector we use in the audio world that’s not included.


Behringer CT100 ~$30

This little guy accepts every type of cable you might use in a recording or live performance situation: XLR, mono and TRS phone (1/4″, 1/8″, TT), RCA and even MIDI. Choose from three modes: cable test mode, installed CABLE TESTER mode and TONE mode. The CT100 can check for continuity, intermittent, phantom power presence and grounded shields. One thing to not on this guy is that it uses a logic circuit to test for intermittent shorts.  Meaning, you can plug in a cord, and then shake the heck out of the cable… if it sees a short, even for a split second, it will indicate the failure.  That’s what separates this from all the others and I never recommend Behringer except for this product.  I’ve had one for 3 years and it’s still going.


Find bad electrical outlets.

3 light circuit tester ~$5

If you don’t have one of these run out to Home Depot and pick one up.  This will tell you if the outlet your gear is plugged into has a faulty ground… if so, call the electrician, have him fix it, and watch your ground fault buzzes disappear.  Plus if you find out an outlet doesn’t have a ground, it is dangerous and could produce an electric shock.  Simply plug in and view the light pattern on the tester for wiring condition.

Bad Batteries in your guitar or pedal?


Keith McMillen Batt-O-Meter ~$35

This goes in the “how did he figure that out” category.  Keith has figured out how to read battery life through the ¼” audio plug on a guitar pedal or guitar (if it has active pickups).  Sure this is more of a musician tool… but if you are looking for a way to score points with your guitar player to “talk about his volume issues” how cool would he find you if you showed up with this little guy.


** Must have **
Seriously, every audio person should have one of these !

Whirlwind Qbox ~$175

This is the swiss army knife of audio signal tracing… It has a little amp, noise generator and cable checker all in one.  I’ve even used it as a cheap one way intercom before. Plug in a mic that you suspect is bad and listen to it through the built in speaker.  No instrument plugged into a line you need to verify… no problem… use this box to send a tone to your mixer to verify the line is good. This is one piece you don’t know you’ll miss until you don’t have it near by.


Noise Generators and Line Checkers.

Gold-Line GLPN ~$50

The Goldline GLPN Pink Noise Generator provides continuous pink noise whenever the GLPN is connected to a system with Phantom Power.  The LED on the back will light when unit energizes via phantom power. If it does not light then phantom power is not present or not working.

Gold Line GL14 ~$50

The Goldline GL14 is a 14-function sine wave generator with a Phantom Power Indicator. Its multiple functions will help you with the analysis and calibration of sound systems and will facilitate troubleshooting. The internal amplifier in the GL14 utilizes phantom power from your XLR audio mic lines to generate the 14 different test tones.


Ground, Hum, Buzz Solvers

ProCo PRX ~ $30

The Pro Co PRX is an in-line Polarity Reverser helpful for preventing out-of-phase cancellation.The input is XLR (female) with an XLR (male) output with pins 2 and 3 being cross-wired while Pin 1 is carried through.

ProCo GLX ~ $30

The Pro Co GLX helps eliminate PA/recording system hum and buzz. Pins 2 and 3 are carried through, Pin 1 is not. The input is XLR (female) with an XLR (male) output.

ProCo ITX ~ $48

The Pro Co ITX is a compact custom-made audio isolation transformer providing a floating XLR-type output from an unbalanced source.  Use this when you have a mic line buzzing or think a line is causing another to buzz.   This is one I have found invaluable and works when nothing else seems to fix the issue.

Hope this helps and if nothing else maybe you can give this list you’re your friends and say, “Pick me something nice for Christmas.”



Phonic PAA2 ~$300

The PAA2 is a highly accurate handheld audio analyzer that gives professional sound engineers a rich array of tools, including 31-band real time spectrum analysis, SPL and Line meter, internal noise generator, EQ setting program, microphone calibration and the ability to check speaker phase. All functions and menus can be accessed through a central jog dial, meaning you only need one hand to operate it. The New PAA2 connects instantly to any desktop or laptop computer for easy upload and download of information and settings. This audio assistant comes loaded with handy features like a real-time spectrum analyzer, phase test, cable test, a noise generator, a jog dial, and visible backlight to help you see your progress in dark environments. The PAA2 is a must-have tool for every serious sound engineer.

Galaxy Cricket Polarity Test Set Features:

Checks continuity and polarity
1/4″ TRS and XLR in/out
Tests speakers, mics, cables and wireless systems
Tests mixers and signal processors for polarity inversions
Internal speaker for testing mic polarity
Internal mic for testing speakers
High-level output for testing miles of cable
Battery test on
receive module saves troubleshooting time
Convenient operation charts located on the under side of each unit


Combining versatility with extreme ruggedness, the TS-1A testset from Music Supply Company is a favorite tool of field installers for diagnosing problems on the run in situations where they may not have immediate access to an electronic scope or analyzer. The product enables the technician to detect problems in various devices by listening to the characteristic sounds they produce across the output.

Taking the form of a telephone handset with clip/leads, the unit may be used to check amplifier and phonograph cartridge outputs and mic/line inputs; quickly trace signals through a system; and check closed-circuit camera outputs, computer data lines, and power supplies by their sound. The test leads may be connected across a 600VDC power supply to detect ripple or placed across a 120VAC, 220VAC, or 440VAC power supply or a 500W amplifier.

The TS-1A can be dropped from the top of a 20ft. scaffold without breaking, and it is internally protected from electrical overload by solid-state limiting devices. Simplicity and reliability are the keys to this tool. It may be clipped right on the belt and carried for all these uses and more.



In the realm of electronic Swiss Army knives for AV, the Extron VTG-300 and VTG-300R run among the leaders of the pack. Anyone who frequently responds to trouble calls involving sound systems and data projectors should have one of these handy. It is a ton easier and quicker than hauling a laptop computer around and hooking it up in a bunch of classrooms. Smaller than a cigarette carton, the handheld, battery-operated VTG-300 offers quick setup and storage of customized parameters and fast step-through of all available video patterns and audio tests. The small LCD screen provides the name and type of the parameter currently set and the level applied to the output.

Among the 10 video patterns available are H pattern; color bars including SMPTE, EBU, and eight-color split; 16-level split grayscale; crosshatch 32×24 and 32×18 for linearity measurements; white field for checking display uniformity; and multiburst and alternating pixels for resolution checks. A versatile selection of output rates includes RGBHV, component, composite and S-Video, and PAL and NTSC, as well as 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio formats. On the audio side there is pink noise, white noise, sine wave from 20Hz to 20kHz in 1/3-octave steps, swept sine wave, and audio cable polarity test waveform.

Handle-protected video connections include 15-pin HD, four-pin mini-DIN, and BNC, while a recessed panel on the bottom of the unit protects the XLR C3M, 1/8in. female mini, and RCA audio connectors.

The VTG-300 runs on four disposable AAs while the R version uses rechargeable batteries. Forget to turn it off? When running on batteries, the unit can be programmed to power down automatically after a selected time. An AC power adapter may also be used. Large rubber buttons and LEDs enable the user to quickly step through all the menus and output selections, and these are remembered after power-down. A rubber boot encases the back half of the chassis for protection. The MSRP is $995.


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