Stocking Stuffers for AV Professionals
Dec 22, 2010 2:43 PM, By George Petersen
Coming up with the right gift for the contractor in your life can be a challenge. Sure, by now you’ve got half your closet filled with Jerry Garcia ties, and you have enough Swiss Army knives and Maglites to fill the trunk of your 1958 Edsel Ranger. You could up the ante with a twist, like RapcoHorizon’s PFLBLOX phantom-powered flashlight, which puts light within reach of any XLR cable attached to a 48VDC source; as a plus, it also doubles as a phantom power tester. And to keep you in the spirits, there’s always a fifth of some strong eggnog, but what all contractors need is something to make their jobs easier.
A perennial classic that’s familiar to old-timers is the original Sling-A-Line span caster from Labor Saving Devices. The perfect accessory for running cables over dropped ceilings while avoiding the need to remove multiple ceiling tiles and ladder movements, it combines a slingshot, a fishing reel, and a lead weight. Climb up, pop a tile out, and shoot the weight across the ceiling span. Simply attach the wire you need to run to the weighted end, reel the cable back, and you’re set. Check out the company’s catalog, which has dozens of other clever install tools, such as the hole-cutter drill attachment that cuts holes up to 12in. in diameter (ceiling speakers, anyone?). An attached clear dust tray cuts clean-up time and keeps the debris out of your face&emdashsomething you’ll really appreciate when cutting drywall.
On the most basic level, one item I can’t live without is a simple AC outlet tester with three LEDs that glow to indicate correct wiring, open ground, open neutral, open hot, hot-ground reversal, and hot-neutral reversal fault conditions. It’s a nice way to avoid those nasty 110VAC shocks when you step up to the mic. Tripp Lite’s is model CT120, but generic versions are plentiful and available from lots of vendors.
Sticking with the basics, you can’t miss with Platinum Tools’ EZ Crimp Tool , which crimps and cuts the wires of the EZ-RJ45, EZ-RJ12/11, and EZ-RJ45 Cat-6+ connectors (as well as most other RJ-11, RJ-12, and RJ-45 plugs) in one operation for reliable consistent terminations.
The handheld Fluke MicroScanner2 quickly verifies voice/data/video cables and services, showing wiremap, pair lengths, distance-to-fault, cable ID, and far-end devices in one screen interface. Built-in RJ-11, RJ-45, and coax connectors simplify testing telephone or Ethernet jacks and CATV outlets. Its IntelliTone digital and analog toning precisely locates virtually any cable or wire pair, with a digital mode for verifying high-grade data cabling (Cat-5e/6/6a) and an analog mode for voice-grade cabling (Cat-3 and below), as well as coax, security/alarm, and speaker wiring.
Given the number of useful iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch apps on the market&emdashespecially audio-related programs&emdashone of these Apple gizmos might be a nice addition to your toolset, even if you never go online or call anyone. One great suggestion here is Studio Six Digital’s AudioTools, which puts thousands of dollars worth of audio test and acoustical analysis applications into your palm for a fraction of the cost of the hardware versions.
Got any other great&emdashand hopefully useful&emdashgift ideas? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions and I’ll share them with the world. Until then, have a safe and fun holiday season.
Author George Petersen would like to thank Keith Holmund for his assistance with this article.
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