Strother Bullins on Dacs Limited Test Lab

3/05/2017 3:02 PM Eastern Last updated at 7/05/2017 3:13 PM


COMPANY: DACS Limited/Independent Audio (US Distributor)


PROS: Built like a tank; comprehensive pro I/O testing; bright lights for dark environments.

CONS: No consumer (1/8-inch) I/O

PRICE (STREET): $549 street


DIMENSIONS: 54 x 43 x 14 cm

NOISE FLOOR: < -90dBu (110 dBu below peak output)


FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5 Hz - 40 kHz (+/- 0.5 dB)

SLEW RATE: Greater than that required for 40 kHz


On stages, behind sanctuaries and elsewhere inside theaters, houses-of-worship and various performance venues throughout the country, there is almost always a lack of sufficient test tools available to the resident audio pro. Most needed is the cable tester, in which signal flow troubles can be sussed out between any input and output; ideally, a combination of XLR, quarter-inch jack (whether TS or TRS), RCA phono jack, and Speakon-type I/O is available in such a product. Add attractive features such as comprehensive metering, variable level test tones, IEC live input testing capabilities, a variety of working lights, and a thoughtfully intuitive design to comprise what DACS Limited calls its Test Lab, a rugged and useful black steel box available for $549 street.

Features of the Test Lab include testing capabilities for signal paths, connections and wirings both locally and remote for phono, TRS, XLR and Speakon (with 26 dB on input); tests for correct pin wiring with connection auto-cycling to determine any reversals, shorts or open contacts; a 10 LED multipurpose meter array; three frequency (70 Hz, 1 kHz, 4.5 kHz) tone/pink noise generator with variable levels to external components such as speakers; IEC mains input that doubles as a mains tester; red and white working lights; and a front “torch,” or flashlight, for dark space operation.

Dual 9V batteries power Test Lab; one battery powers the test circuitry while the other illuminates the LEDs and front torch. Recognizing that battery failure happens at the most inopportune times, DACS Limited has incorporated a number of battery conservation features into the operation of Test Lab; for example, certain LEDs will illuminate at lower levels as batteries expire, and 10 minutes of non-use will autoswitch on the unit’s Sleep Mode.

I brought Test Lab to a variety of venues—houses of worship, a theater, a medium-sized music venue, and a school—for consideration. Though attractive for all those environments, both the engineers at the music venue and the theater loved it, especially raving about its built-in lighting features, as low light problem solving is the rule rather than the exception in such settings. It’s just one example of the deep understanding DACS Limited has of the logistics behind live problem solving in pro audio.

For independent audio engineers, Test Lab is almost a necessity. Even if he or she has these tools separately, this box is a rugged nobrainer for road or “house” sound, as it’s a hefty Swiss Army knife of a test tool, built to last for decades.

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