If you’re like me, you end up in situations where you need to trouble-shoot, verify or calibrate your audio stuff. If you have access to a tech shop with expensive scopes and waveform generators — life is great. If not, your most cost effective solution may be something portable. Here’s a list of portable test equipment that costs under $1,000.
If you are aware of any other tools that should be added, please let me know.
Portable Audio Tone Generators
For Under $1k
Portable Tone Generator
Creates two tones (1k Hz & 10k Hz) via balanced or unbalanced output and has selectable line levels (+8dBu, +4dBu, -10dBV, +5dBV, -50dBu/V). Low battery indicator. 9 VDC.
List: $189, Retail: $155
Video Sync Generator with Tone
Multiple output (BNC) video sync generator that also produces a 1k Hz tone at 0dBu via unbalanced RCA output.
Retail: $325 – 440
NTI Audio Minirator MR2
Analog Audio Signal Generator
Offers a full range of analog test signals for calibration, maintenance and repair of professional audio equipment. The signals include sine, pink noise, white noise, polarity, sweeps, chirps and delay.
Retail: $320 – 520
Videoquip Research Limited DSG-1
Digital/Analog Audio Signal Generator
Provides both digital and balanced analog output signals. Output connectors are digital coaxial (RCA), digital optical, and AES3 on XLR. The XLR connector doubles as a balanced analog output when analog mode is selected. All outputs are simultaneously active. Front panel controls permit selection of Format (AES3, S/PDIF, or Analog), Sample Rate (32, 44.1, 48, or 96 kHz), Frequency, (100Hz, 400 Hz, 1 kHz, or full bandwidth sweep), and Level (-12, 16, -18, -20 for digital, +8, +4, 0, -10 for analog).
Oscillator & Audio Test Set
I’ve had personal experience with this unit. The controls are analog. I’ve found it difficult to get precise settings, especially the output level.
Retail: $480 – 530
For Under $1k
NTI Audio Minilyzer ML1
Palm Sized Audio Analyzer
Level (in volts, dBu or dBV and the signal frequency), THD+N, Frequency Sweep, Polarity, Time Sweep, Scope, 1/3 Octave, vu/PPM, Induction Loop Measurements AFILS
Retail: $540 – 630
Audio Spectrum Analyzer
Hand Held Calibrated 10 Band Single Octave Analyzer
1/3 Octave Audio Spectrum Analyzer
ISO 1/3 octave between 25Hz-20kHz. Reads in IEC A, C and Flat weighting. Mic input is XLR, 12Vdc phantom power. Line input is balanced 1.4″ jack, 10k ohm impedance.
Retail: $760 – 830
You may also consider using a laptop, tablet or handheld with an analyzer app, such as the Android RTA Pro Analyzer.
Portable Audio Testers
For Under $1k
AES/EBU Audio Line Tester
Generate into or monitor from AES digital. Also doubles for A/D and D/A conversion and impedance transformer. Analog does not appear to be calibrated.
Retail: $460 – 480
Audio Line Tester
The Qbox includes a microphone, a speaker, a test tone generator, outputs for standard headphones, a 1/4″ jack for line-in or a 2k Ohm (telephone) earpiece out. 9 volt battery. “The Qbox 440Hz tone oscillator is intended to be used in pass/fail situations and is not designed to be used as a precise calibration tool.”
Equipment on this page has been pinned to my Audio Test Equipment board.
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UPDATES Feb 2nd:
I was contacted by @chrisrouffer about a cost effective calibration he recently performed…
“I just set up a PA system, including EQ to meet the x-curve using tools that cost me less than $100. Sound is phenominal. The tools?
1) Behringer ECM8000 measurement mic – $60 – It is the same mic as other $700 measurement mics
2) True RTA Software – I bought the 31 band version for $35
I hooked the mic up to my laptop via my 2 channel USB interface and started measuring the room. I then tweaked the EQs for each of the mains (left, right, and center) so each one matched the large room x-curve (True RTA includes tone and pink noise generators). Once I had all three channels EQ’d I measured all three together and made a few final tweaks.”
I also heard from Davide Favargiotti. He wanted everyone to know about Syncheck, a great tool for time aligning picture and sound (film sound, game audio, ADR, etc.) List price: $495.