Tools are bulky and heavy. When you work a gig and you have to transport your tools, it is important to know what you will really need so that you can carry as little as possible. There is no sense in carrying an impact drill unless you really need it. A torque wrench is great to have, but not always crucial. Some tools are “must haves” we all know about: a Leatherman or a Gerber, a flashlight, a headlight, dikes, a knife, gloves, a Sharpie. There are other tools that are just as critical but not as common—three items, in particular, that have lived in my backpack for the last 10 years, and I never do a gig without them. These three tools are so small that I don’t even notice that I am carrying them and I can slip them in my pocket on a gig and carry them around all day without feeling weighted down. As far as I am concerned these are three of the most essential tools you can have in your toolkit. The first is the Noise Plug by GTC Industries, the second is the SoundPlug by Vizear, and the third is the Tone Plug, also from GTC Industries.
There’s a moment at every gig where something doesn’t work. You load-in all morning and setup 20 microphones for the band, some wireless mics, and you go to do a scratch test, and inevitably, the first thing you have someone scratch doesn’t work. This is a perfect time to pull out the Noise Plug, a pink noise generator built into an XLR connector. It has a red LED on the top, and it runs on phantom power so you do not need a battery. You can use it to check you lines. Plug in the Noise Plug, and turn on phantom power, and you will see a red light indicating the line is good. If the line is bad, you can trace back through your signal flow until you find the problem. You can also use the Noise Plug’s pink noise generator to test your system if you are using a desk that does not have a built-in pink noise generator.
Now that your inputs are working, it is time to deal with your outputs. This is where the SoundPlug comes into play. If you send noise down a line and hear nothing, then pull out the SoundPlug. The SoundPlug is a Piezo speaker built into an XLR connector. The top has a soft rubber opening that fits nicely into your ear. You can plug the SoundPlug into the output line, stick it in your ear, and listen for your signal. It does not require batteries and comes in very handy when someone shows up at the last minute and wants an audio feed for a camera and insists it is not getting a signal. Just plug the SoundPlug in, and if you hear the signal, then the problem is on his end.
After checking your inputs and outputs, it is time to do some basic system testing, which means it is time for the Tone Plug, which looks just like the Noise Plug except it has a small button that selects between 11 functions. It has five sine wave test tones at frequencies of 100, 250, 400, 1K, and 10 KHz. It also includes a 40 -2,400Hz signal and a short multi-frequency pulse for adjusting speaker time delays, reverbs, and echo units. There is also an amplitude sweep function that helps you adjust compressors and limiters. The Tone Plug is truly an amazing sound system multi-tool.
Throw these three plugs in your bag, and take them with you everywhere. You will never regret it.