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Audio Cable Tester

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Shad Hall:
hi,

so i just repaired my first mic cable (we've always just replaced them in the past) by clipping off about 6-inches of either end and soldering/installing higher quality connectors. i'll stop by the church tomorrow and test it out. in the mean time, i did some brief research on audio cable testers and found the price range to be very wide.

is this an item i should consider having in the booth or merely a surplus of fresh cables ready to go? if i should have one, what characteristics should i look for when purchasing one?

thanks

Arnold B. Krueger:
Shad Hall wrote on Thu, 06 January 2011 05:30


so i just repaired my first mic cable (we've always just replaced them in the past) by clipping off about 6-inches of either end and soldering/installing higher quality connectors. i'll stop by the church tomorrow and test it out. in the mean time, i did some brief research on audio cable testers and found the price range to be very wide.

is this an item i should consider having in the booth or merely a surplus of fresh cables ready to go? if i should have one, what characteristics should i look for when purchasing one?



IME spare cables get you through the rehearsal or service during which you discover the bad cable(s).

The cable tester and other tools like pliers, wire strippers, wire holders, wire cutters and soldering iron are for rebuilding your inventory of spare cables.

The alternative to tools + skill is to simply buy more cables. If you don't have a lot of cable failures and a skill for rebuilding them, simply buying more cables is probably a better use of God's time and money.

Cable testers are great tools if you go that route. I own several, some that apply to different sistuations like testing CAT-5 cables in-situ.

If you have to repair network or Speakon cables, then owning a cable tester is manditory. They are about imposiible to probe with a voltmeter.

Ordinary banana plugs, 1/4", and XLRs can be effectively tested using a standard ohm meter. I sometimes use a DVM that I picked up some years back at Harbor Freight for < $3.00. Great for batteries, too. I've got far better meters elesehere, but the low cost meters have built in disappearance insurance.

Frank DeWitt:
I find the Ebteth 6 in one cable tester http://www.ebtechaudio.com/swizzdes.html or the identical Behringer CT100 copy to be invaluable.  It quickly tests the cable and it will detect a intermittent open or short. (plug the cable in and wiggle the last 6 or so inches and a light will come on and stay on.)  I carry it on Sunday morning because it is faster for troubleshooting then substituting a known good cable.

Example, Nothing out of the keyboard. Go down front with your tester.  Unplug the mic cable from the DI and plug it into your tester.  set the tester for tone, and mic level. Tone in the house, good cable.  Now put that back and take the plug out of the keyboard and plug it into the tester, set the level to line.  Tone in the house speakers, You have a bad keyboard.

It also tests for a grounded shell on XLRs  Always a bad thing.

Frank

Dick Rees:
I have a cable tester.  I use it on occasion.  If I really want to check my cables (which I do periodically as scheduled maintenance) I plug in a condenser mic, put on the headphones and listen to the quality of the signal being passed.  Cables will often exhibit audible signal degradation prior to failure and you'll want to replace them at that point to keep your sound quality high.

I have several hundred mic cables in inventory as well as a couple hundred channels of snakes.  They all get checked a minimum of twice a year.....by ear.  The cable tester is to spot check and for the initial test after fabrication or repair.

Once the shield starts to go in the cable......chuck it out and save the connectors.

And you can never have too many spares.

Tom Young:
My first thought is that I would avoid buying a cheap (under $100.00) tester. In time it will give false readings because the connectors make poor contact, the switches are no longer good, the solder joints have flexed and are intermittent, etc. Like any and everything else .... you get what you pay for.

Almost all cable testers as used in pro audio do only one thing: check continuity. They will show "good", crossed wires or failed continuity. They should not be used (or relied on) for network cables which may have/show continuity but may not work due to anomalies (reflections) from the twisted pairs being compromised, either at the plugs or where someone bent the cable. Testers which show what a network cable is really doing cost thousands of dollars. Maybe a little less now.

You can track down (google or here on PSW) the cable tester circuit first published in Sound System Engineering by Davis & Davis which is very useful and also has a remote "dummy" plug which allows measurements to be made with buried cable where the ends are far apart. Building this allows you to utilize whatever connectors you would like plus it provides the satisfaction of having done it yourself.

I use an NTI Minirator Pro which measures the resistance of each conductor, has a remote plug and for which I have made adaptors so I can measure speaker cables, TRS patch cables, etc (not just XLR's). However, it's primary purpose is as a signal generator and it costs over $500.00

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