Sniffing out trouble on the gig with SoundTools by Rat Sound
In planning for the Qbox Alternative community project, and taking on the suggestions that came in to add a cable tester of some sort to the project, I decided to do some research. As someone who stopped carrying a cable tester as a part of my everyday kit some years ago, I wanted to take another look at why I stopped carrying one, and if I was to start again, what features would be the most valuable.
It came down to the struggle that I have with many tools I carry if I’m being honest, the ability to have it on-hand at the moment you need it. In a real world scenario, if a cable is bad, I’m going to just replace it. Traditional cable testers are great for the workbench, in the work box or back at the shop to further investigate and carry out a repair, but they’re often not very helpful in diagnosing or finding issues in real setups. The units that do offer the ability to help diagnose issues like the DBX CT3 , are so large and require multiple 9V batteries, that it’s unlikely you’ll have it in your pocket up on stage when something goes wrong.
Enter the XLR Sniffer/Sender from SoundTools by Rat Sound. A simple little two part stick that fits into the pocket, has a cheap battery that lasts forever, can operate on Phantom Power and actually helps find and identify faults quickly, using the same diagnostic processes we are already used to doing.
I decided to pick one up to try out and carry around for a few days, not at all intending to do a review of the tester itself, but to simply see if I would actually find a use for it after working for so long without carrying a tester. What I didn’t expect, is how well the sniffer end of the unit fits into my everyday workflow. Having a simple tester that plugs into things (this is an important distinction, as a typical cable tester uses panel mount jacks, requiring the use of an additional XLR cable when testing other panel mount connections like snake boxes) is an absolute game changer.
I have enjoyed using the sniffer so much, that I honestly think that a tool like this with a speaker or headphone output integrated, would be far more usable in everyday work than a Qbox type device. That ability to plug directly into outputs and test without the need for an additional patch cable is just crucial.
Armed with this newfound appreciation for cable testing, I’m thinking to approach the Qbox project from a different angle now, and will have some new drawings and ideas of the direction I’d like to go posted on the Forum very soon. Funny enough, Big Clive from the UK just posted a really interesting video on the idea of using a PIC12 micro to create a sniffer / sender type DMX tester which can be seen here: BIG CLIVE TESTER . He said he will be posting the code on his website and the circuit is dead simple otherwise, so this could be a very interesting jumping off point for a sniffer/Qbox prototype.
Who knows… maybe we’ll get lucky and the folks at SoundTools will whip up a proper one for us when were done…
Here’s Dave Rat’s original Sniffer Sender introduction video… be sure to check out the rest of his channel!