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Gig Savers

An in-depth primer covering key interconnect and test tools (and more!) that make it all work, no matter what

By Craig Leerman April 5, 2016

Going Further
Even with a workbox full of adapters and turnarounds there still may be connection issues, so here’s a roster of test equipment to help troubleshoot and find the problems.

Cable Tester. They can be dedicated to testing a single type of connector, or multi-units that can not only test different types of connectors, but cables with different connectors at each end. I use a CBT-500 multi-unit from Hosa Technology and an HCT-BD testers from RapcoHorizon.

“Fox and Hound” (a.k.a., Send and Receive) Cable Testers. These have two parts with one half (the fox) sending out a signal and the other half (the hound) sniffing out the signal. They’re great for checking out cables that have already been run at a gig, or cables that have been installed in buildings.

I carry Rat Sound Tools models for XLR, NL4 and 1/4-inch. The Rat Sound XLR receiver unit can also be used to test for phantom power.

Qbox. Made by Whirlwind, this is a nifty mic and line audio test unit. It includes a microphone, a loudspeaker, a test tone generator, outputs for headphones, a 1/4-inch jack for line-in and XLR ins and outs. It can be used to generate a tone to test an input, check dynamic mics and cables, and listen to a signal to verify that it’s working.

More Than Audio
Faulty audio cables aren’t the only culprits at gigs. Power issues are also responsible for a lot of headaches, and as a result, I carry some power related test units to help determine and address these problems.

A representative sample of a variety of different box-type adapters.

Battery Testers. A dead battery can be a show stopper so carry a unit that can check AA, AAA and 9-volt batteries.

Outlet Testers. Sometimes called “cube” or “3 light” testers, these compact units plug into a wall outlet or extension cable and can tell you if it’s working, has a ground, and is wired correctly. However, they can’t identify a “bootleg ground” unsafe outlet. (For a great deal more information, see Shocking Situations by Mike Sokol.)

Non-Contact Voltage Testers. Also called Tic Trace Testers, they sense voltage when in close proximity to an outlet or cable. By using one in conjunction with a Cube tester, you can verify an outlet and ground are wired correctly. I carry one made by Greenlee so I can quickly check if an outlet or power cord is working.

Breaker Finders. They work on the Fox and Hound principle: plug the sender unit into an outlet and move the probe tip of the receiver unit over the breakers in the breaker box. The receiver will identify what breaker that outlet is connected to. I use a unit from Sperry because the sender can also double as a Cube tester.

The author also carries these meters and test devices to gigs.

AC Multi-Meters. The previously noted power meters can only tell you if an outlet or cable has power. An AC meter is needed to read what voltage that power is, especially when using generator power. A generator set at the wrong voltage can destroy gear. I prefer Fluke “clamp style” multi-meters because they can also tell me how many amps I’m pulling on each feeder leg of a distro.

Utility Mixers. While not an adapter or tester, I wanted to sneak this one in because it’s important. I carry at least one small mixer to every gig to serve as a multipurpose problem-solver.

It can be used to convert signal from mic to line level, line level to mic level, as well as pad, split, combine and meter signal. And it can also serve as a invaluable backup if the main console goes down. (Find out many more applications in my article MVP: Utility Mixers.)

It’s not just audio gear that have interconnect/power issues, so I also carry an assortment of non-audio adapters, including XLR 3-pin to XLR 5-pin for lighting DMX, Edison to stage pin power, video adapters and barrels for VGA, HDMI and Composite or SDI (BNC and RCA connectors). Being able to solve almost virtually any problem along these lines insures that the show happens, my clients are happy, and I get their repeat business.

Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.

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About Craig

Craig Leerman
Craig Leerman

Senior Contributing Editor, ProSoundWeb & Live Sound International
Craig has worked in a wide range of roles in professional audio for more than 30 years in a dynamic career that encompasses touring, theater, live televised broadcast events and even concerts at the White House. Currently he owns and operates Tech Works, a regional production company that focuses on corporate events based in Reno.


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