New Toys

Sound Tools Cable Testers

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Sound Tools Cable Testers

Dave Rat, President of Rat Sound Systems, has a new company called Sound Tools with an expanded line of problem solvers for the itinerant audio recording engineer, FOH/live sound engineer or audio technician.

I received three of the most useful in the Sound Tools line: the XLR Cable tester, the 1/4-inch TRS/TS cable checker, and the NL4 loudspeaker cable test system for cables using Neutrik's Speakon NL4 connectors.

All of three of these cable checkers test the entire length of a cable without having to remove or unbundled it from its installed position or from within a multi-cable snake. Especially good for installed sound systems, recording studio wiring, and troubleshooting complex live sound setups, the Sound Tools system is a two-piece system: the battery powered Sender unit and the Receiver or 'Sniffer' unit.

Like all the Sound Tools testers, the XLR Sniffer/Sender pair are both made of lightweight aluminum with the XLR Sender, looking like a barrel connector with a standard female XLR connector, attaches to the male end of a suspected microphone or line XLR cable--even hundreds of feet long. The Sender is powered by an internal 12-volt battery the same one used in most key chain car alarm remotes--it's readily available. There is a lighted push button on the sender for testing a cable. It latches on and stays lit in case you drop it into the dark nether reaches.

The Sniffer is connected to the other end of the cable and instantly reads its condition using combinations of three LEDs labeled A, B, and C. A small, stick-on decoder card comes with the Sniffer to show any of the nine possible problems with any XLR cable as displayed by the three LEDs. The simple readout will indicate shorted and open wires, crossed pairs and whether phantom power is present. Three green LEDs means the cable is fine. I stuck this decoder card on the side of the Sniffer half for all my Sound Tools Cable testers.

A great feature is the ability to use phantom powering to check microphone lines in the studio or within a snake. Mic lines, especially in a wired studio, are installed in the walls and not accessible at either the wall plate or the patch bay back in the control room. By turning on phantom power (at the console) on a suspect mic line and, by substituting the Sniffer for the mic, I could tell whether the mic itself is bad, the mic's cable is bad or the mic line to the console is bad.

Sound Tools XLR Sniffer/Sender Cable Tester sells for $45. A very handy device you'll want if you've ever 'rooted' around (like I have) filthy recording studio floors or live stages looking for bad XLR cables. Contact Rat Sound Systems at 888-545-8271 or visit

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