It’s said that in springtime, a young man’s thoughts turn to…upcoming summer concert season. Well, that isn’t actually what the cliché says, but it is a reminder that with live sound season approaching rapidly, it’s good to be prepared for whatever a gig throws at you. In that spirit, we’ve selected five products under $50 that could save a gig, simplify your life, or maybe even prevent you from catching a cold.
Don’t Cut the Cable—Test It!
Sure, there are lots of cable testers on the market. But the Elite Core Audio OSP CT-04C Premium Cable Tester gets the nod for being “essential” because it checks connection and continuity for both audio and data cables—XLR mic cables, TRS instrument cables, Speaker cables, Speakon (2, 4, and 8 pole) cables, MIDI cables, 1/8″ TRS (3.5mm), RJ-45 CAT5e, USB, DIN, 3 -in DMX, and 5-Pin DMX. It also checks each connection of the cable, so you can tell if maybe it’s the hot wire that came loose from the XLR plug rather than the cold wire. What’s more, the heavy-duty, metal construction makes the CT-04C live sound-friendly as well as handy for more sheltered applications like recording, rehearsing, and Houses of Worship.
When time is money, it’s a good idea to check a cable first and know for sure whether it’s the source of a problem (and if it’s not, that something else is setting you up for a sonic disaster). A tester like the OSP CT-04C is a no-brainer addition to any gig bag—especially for $38.99.
But What If the Problem Isn’t the Cable?
To check your mic preamp, control settings, signal flow, and more, you need a multi-function test tone generator. So you reach into your pocket, and find that…there isn’t one. But there could be, if you had a GTC Industries Tone Plug. This packs an 11-function test generator into an XLR male connector and generates five selectable (or automatically stepped) sine waves at 100 Hz, 250 Hz, 400 Hz, 1 kHz, and 10 kHz. It also offers a VLF 40/2400Hz combo tone for testing subwoofers and crossovers, an amplitude sweep function for adjusting dynamics processors and setting levels, a short duration/multifrequency “pop” pulse for adjusting speaker time delays (as well as delay processors like echo or reverb), and a sweep tone for tracing wiring in racks and buildings. It also checks mic cables, and has an LED to show that phantom power is present (which is also what powers the Tone Plug). Using it is easy: push a button to step through the five main sine tones, or push and hold to enter the world of alternative functions. For $46.28, this could be the best investment you ever make when you need to set up a system, or trace down a problem, as quickly and easily as possible.
Practice Safe Mic
You don’t have to be a germophobe to realize what happens to a mic’s pop screen when a lot of singers share a mic, or the same mic gets used week after week in rehearsals, church services, and the like. (And we won’t even discuss karaoke…okay?) The main issue in sanitizing mics is that they’re delicate and expensive, so you don’t want to be spraying something into them. Although you could unscrew the top, clean it with alcohol, dry it off, and screw it back on again, that’s a hassle when the clock is counting down on the next act starting its set. Microphome mic cleaner is different: it’s a foam that you apply to the mic’s screen. The foam doesn’t get past the screen, so it doesn’t touch the mic element itself. Instead, the foam sits on the screen, disinfects it, and then dissipates in about two minutes, leaving nothing behind other than a hint of cherry vanilla scent. The 50 ml bottle is good for about 100 applications.
If the lead singer for Kill All Zombies was using the mic you’re about to sing into as soon as you climb onstage, it might be a good idea to disinfect the mic—and $8.95 is a lot less expensive than health insurance.
Solve the Pre-Show/Break/Post-Show Music Problem
Uh-oh…a storm is coming, and the band is going to have to get offstage for a bit. Or they’re late and you need pre-show music to sooth the restless crowd. Or you want to play something to accompany people as they walk out of the venue…maybe even something annoying so they’ll clear out sooner, and you can go home. But nothing has a CD player anymore! No problem: Plug the Alto Bluetooth Total ($49) into an XLR input (mixer, powered speaker, preamp, etc.), dial up some music from your phone or tablet, and you’re covered. The Bluetooth Total has a rechargeable battery, or you can AC-power it from the included (yes, we said included) power adapter.
To Protect and to Serve
Rack drawers are wonderful. They’re great for adapters, cables, accessories, and even manuals so you can remember how to reset your mixer (hint: during power-up, hold down three different buttons that are impossible to reach with one hand, while spinning around in a counterclockwise direction and invoking the name of Maximus, the Roman god of loud concerts). But sometimes you need to place some delicate items in the drawer, like voltmeters, cameras, phones, etc.—and you don’t want them bouncing around the drawer while being transported from one venue to the next, or damaged when you open and close the drawer. So take a cue from the photographers whose cases protect their cameras, and protect your gear with Middle Atlantic’s FI-2 customizable foam insert for 2-space drawers. $38.25 brings you protection that will keep your delicate gear in place. If you have a 3-rack drawer, you’re still covered for under $50: try Middle Atlantic’s FI-3 for $42.75.