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An Audiophile EDC

An Audiophile EDC

Every Day Carry, or EDC, is fast becoming a popular pastime among some sections of the online community. It’s an excuse for men to categorise everything and photograph their lives in minute detail, without the inherent egotism of endless selfies. Basically, EDC is an exposé of what you carry on your person at all times; watch, phone, wallet, note-pad, pen, torch, and – in places where such things are legal – knives and even guns. It’s a kind of low-impact urban hipster spin-off from the prepper community, without the emergency rations and iodine tablets.

Because of the inherently static nature of our hobby, the need to carry the basic tool kit needed for a good system installation or tune-up is not something that requires constant ‘pocket time’. However, those of us who spend a significant amount of time building up, setting up, and striking down audio systems (whether as professional installers for the domestic market, those on the endless merry-go-round of the worldwide audio show circuit, or those involved in the evaluation of equipment) have all created a small tool kit that goes with us everywhere. This is mine.

Note that this is not my full tool-kit, neither is it designed with specialist installation in mind (turntable set-up for example, or network infrastructure). This kit is designed to work with a number of test discs for basic – but thorough – installations. This one is also designed specifically for the UK, where relatively stiff knife laws limit the options for the knife and multitool in this pack.

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organiser: This deceptively capacious zip pack can hold a surprising amount of equipment, yet is small enough to carry in your hand or in a cargo pants pocket. It includes MOLLE webbing straps for military wannabes.

Tape measure: OK, in most cases, I’d pack a larger steel tape measure, but for maximum portability, a 5’ tailor’s tape measure is a good alternative. You need a tape measure for accurate placement of loudspeakers and listener. 

Masking tape: While you are measuring up your room, lay down some low-tack masking tape on the floor for fine-tuning. If you have to move speakers for any reason, masking tape guidelines help you reinstall them.

Fisher Space Pen: Yes, they are terrible to write with on a daily basis, but they are robust and can write both underwater and in microgravity. Perhaps more importantly, they are small and write on things like masking tape. The alternative is to use a pencil, but they break and whittling them sharp again with a penknife means you need sticking plasters.

Sticking plasters: Because of penknives and pencils. Because of skinned knuckles from trying to tighten bolts. Because of puncture wounds from badly twisted staples. Because of scratches from hard-edged audio components. Because of nasty swipes from the family cat. Because no system is enhanced through bloodstains.

Spirit level: It sounds trivial, but making sure your electronics and loudspeakers are level is crucial, and not simply for aesthetics. Getting the tweeters at the same level and angle (which does not always mean having the loudspeakers completely level, just that their angles match) makes a huge difference to performance.

Small adjustable spanner/Monkey Wrench: Once your loudspeakers are in the right position, in most cases, a small adjustable spanner comes in extremely handy for locking down your loudspeaker spikes.

Allen keys: Ikea taught us well! The cases of many products are held together with Allen keys, and a small set of metric and Imperial keys can help gain access to an amplifier’s inner workings, to replace that dying valve. They are also often used in loudspeaker stand and spike construction. If you know what you are doing, the occasional tightening of loudspeaker mounting bolts can help improve the performance of older loudspeakers for free; just remember not to overtighten, strip threads, or slip and rip through a drive unit!

 

Multi-tool: Combining pliers, wire cutters, small scissors, file, saw, and a range of drivers, this gets less use than you might think, but a multi-tool is still important. Tough UK knife laws mean a locking blade can be problematic to carry, so the Gerber MP600 Bladeless is a great and entirely legal option. At the time of photography, I also carried a Gerber Shard, supposedly as a pry-bar, but it proved to be of limited use.

Swiss Army Knife: I have given my life to boxing. And unboxing. Ask anyone who spends their life cutting through adhesive tape what they use most and it’s a damn good, damn sharp knife. As such, (and remaining mindful of UK knife carry laws), I always have a Victorinox Spartan penknife on hand. This effectively replaces a whole host of tools, and has a combination pry-bar, wire-stripper, and bottle opener that gets used a lot… for bottle opening.

Small screwdriver: Despite the Swiss Army Knife and Multi-Tool having more than enough screwdrivers on hand to open most things (I am, admittedly, light on Torx drivers), there is always need for a small combination screwdriver. The little Stanley pen-sized screwdriver has interchangeable flat and Philips heads at both ends. It’s surprisingly useful, although its construction precludes using it where real torque is required.

Torch/inspection mirror: I’m something of a torch nut, and that started with Maglites. There are brighter torches today, but the two AA-battery LED Mini-Maglite is perfect for lighting up the dark and hidden rear panels of most audio system. I also have an old cassette head inspection mirror made by TDK for the same inspection purposes.

Cable ties: Useful for keeping power and signal cables apart (try attaching power cords to one leg of the equipment support, and signal cables to another). Also used to prevent your victims escaping during hour two of mansplaining your way through the history of the ECC83 valve.

Note pad: Although probably the least used part of the kit still in rotation, it’s useful to help take notes, remember passwords, draw schematics, and plot evil schemes for world domination. I use a Field Notes 48-page notebook. 

Lots of different kinds of tape: Alongside the masking tape, I tend to carry two different colour sets of electrical tape, and a length of duct-tape wrapped round an old gift card. The electrical tape comes in handy for marking up left and right-hand interconnects and speaker cables (my scheme is to wrap the red cable around both ends of the right hand cable, and the blue round both cables at the start of the direction of signal flow, for example the amplifier end of loudspeaker cables). That way, you don’t end up wiring left to right and you avoid an amplifier short (I’ve done both). Duct tape is always handy.

Paperclips: Because MacGyver! Actually, a paperclip is handy for pressing recalcitrant reset buttons, fiddling with DIP switches, and defusing nuclear weapons.

Next time: What tracks are used to help set up a system. 

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