Side by Side: Handheld Testers

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When setting up a remote, in-house performance, or any other event where you need to run cables, there's often little time to waste on a bad connection. But rather than run all the leads and try a trial-by-fire test, take a few minutes and check the cables before they are packed and loaded. And to really simplify those tests, get a handheld and very portable tester.

The ability of testers range from very basic continuity tests with a few connectors, to impedance measurements, signal generation, and even more advanced functions. Consider the options you will really use to select the right one for your tool kit.

We found several models that offer a variety of test functions to help troubleshoot cables and installations without breaking the bank. Most of these testers go far beyond XLR connectors for mic cables. USB, Ethernet and many other connector options are common -- and so are the assorted tests that can be made. Various types of test signals at varying levels are often available as well. They all operate on batteries, so use in the field is no problem. And the current draw is so small, a set of batteries will last a very long time.

The operation of many testers is usually very simple, so even non-technical staff can diagnose a problem when needed, perhaps saving an engineer some frustration.

Ebtech 6-in1 Cable Tester

Ebtech 6-in-1 Cable Tester
With a comprehensive connection set that includes XLR, 1/4", RCA, 1/8", TT and MIDI connectors, this tester clearly shows continuity, opens and shorts, and intermittent shorts. It also features a test-tone generator (1kHz or 440Hz at +10dBu, -10dBv or mic level), phantom power detector (5V or more on pins 2 or 3) and grounded XLR shield detect. The intermittent function holds the display until the unit is reset. Housed in a steel chassis, it operates on two AA batteries.

Hosa CBT-500

Hosa Technology CBT-500
The compact, handheld unit tests XLR (3-pin and 5-pin), balanced and unbalanced 1/4", RCA, Speakon (2-, 4- and 8-pole), DIN, RJ-45 and USB (Type A to Type B). The front-panel rotary knob selects the function, and two rows of eight LEDs provide visual feedback on the cable status. There are also a pair of removable leads for testing additional connectors and jacks. It is housed in a metal chassis and runs on a 9V battery.

NTI Minirator MR-Pro

NTI Minirator MR-Pro
This analog audio generator provides a range of analog test signals, including sine waveforms, sweep signals, white noise and pink noise. A set of WAV files is stored in the internal flash memory, and additional files can be added. It features a rotary settings wheel, fast access function keys, a backlit LCD, illuminated mute button, safety hand strap, jack for external dc power supply and a USB interface for firmware updates. Measurement functions include continuous monitoring of impedance, signal balance and phantom power. It also functions as a cable analyzer.


This tester has an audio oscillator, level meter and speaker. The 700Hz oscillator section features a balanced XLR (mic or line level) and unbalanced output. The audio metering circuit features two inputs, an LED meter and a monitor speaker. The balanced input is front-panel switch selectable for mic or line input. The unbalanced input operates at -10dBV. Either input may be used to feed the metering circuit. It operates from two internal 9V batteries or from an external 12Vdc to 30Vdc supply. Test leads and bench top support bracket are included.

SM Pro Audio CT-3

SM Pro Audio CT-3
The CT3 tests cables with MIDI (five-pin DIN) BNC, 3.5mm, XLR, DMX, Speakon, 1/4" TRS/TS, RCA, RJ-45 and RJ-11 connectors. There are also banana jacks to test continuity. The tester separates into two parts so installed cables can be tested in place. Each half is housed in a metal chassis. Each section uses one 9V battery.

Whirlwind MCT-7

Whirlwind MCT-7
This diagnostic cable tester has connectors for analyzing almost any type of cable combination. The convenient rotary switch allows testing of each conductor within the cable and can determine the internal wiring configuration. Tests cables with four-pole Speakon, five-pin DIN, BNC, XLR, TRS, RCA and 3.5 mm connectors. LEDs provide the signal test status. A rotary knob selects which signal wire of a cable is being tested. It operates on a 9V battery.

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