It was at this point that I discovered my only (and albeit minor) dislike. There is no legend printed or engraved on the body of the sniffers that can tell you what the lights mean.
However, a legend (on paper) is included with each unit, so I made a copy of the original and taped it around the body of the sniffer so I’d know what the light combinations meant.
When I mentioned this to the folks at Rat Sound, they noted that a legend used to be provided in sticker form so that it could be attached to the body. The great thing is that they’re going to start providing the stickers again. Problem solved!
The next few hours were spent going over every one of my snakes, and after all channels received a clean bill of health, I moved on to using the other tools.
The 1/4” and NL-4 Sniffer/Senders were just as easy to use, and I went through another pile of cables on the bench in no time. With the mixer set up, I also discovered that the XLR Sniffer/Sender can also be used to check for phantom power. This is really one handy tester!
Focus then turned to the Mic Swapper. I placed a small mixer on the bench and set up two microphones. By turning the switch, mic “a” went from channel 1 into channel 2 and mic “b” went from channel 2 into channel 1. This would be great for swapping out the lead vocalist mic to a spare during a show.
Two views of the SoundTools Mic Swapper. (click to enlarge)
The Mic Swapper also works well as a mic tester, allowing me to switch between a pair of mics to compare their sound.
Proving Their Worth
I took the units to a corporate event where I normally place two podium mics (one serves as the spare). Instead of using two separate channels, I ran both mics through the Mic Swapper and then to a single channel on the console. The switch was easy to use with one hand, and will even fit into a mic clip so it can be positioned at the ready.
The next gig was a larger corporate general session, but this time I was free-lancing as an audio stagehand for another company. While setting up the audio system, we realized that one of the feeds to video world was not working. I traced the problem to a suspect cable, and then pulled the compact XLR Sniffer/Sender out of my pocket and found that pin 2 on the cable was open.
Another guy on the crew saw the units and wanted to check them out, and by day’s end, every stagehand had seen and played with the three sniffer/sender units. They all remarked that they wanted at least one, if not all three, for their own toolbox.
The final gig was a small corporate meeting, where this time I utilized the Swapper with a pair of wireless mics, making the second wireless a spare for the main presenter.
Overall, the Rat SoundTools are winners, and I’m adding them to my kit. With a few of these and a handful of turnarounds and adapters, they facilitate remote (and very quick) testing of any cable encountered at a show.
Prices direct from www.soundtools.com include $45 for the XLR and 1/4” Sniffer/Senders and $99 for the NL-4 Sniffer/Sender and Mic Swapper.
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and ProSoundWeb, and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.