USB products are everywhere. macOS-based mastering engineers have been dealing with external disc burners for many years, ever since Apple decided internal units were passé. And it seems everyone has clients who rely on thumb drives and those small portable hard drives. All that moving around can wear out cables and connectors. Before you declare a peripheral to be dead, you might want to test its cable or port. One way to do that is with a USB meter.

There are several inexpensive USB meters to be found, but I like the USB Detector best, because its numeric displays are big, bright, and easy to read, even with the unit’s compact form. Voltage is shown on a red LED panel with three 7-segment digits, while amperage is simultaneously shown on a blue panel. The unit looks like a thumb drive with a short USB tail growing out of it. Plug the tail into the USB Type A port of your computer, hub, battery pack, power brick, or whatever is supplying USB power; and then plug whatever device is receiving power into one of the USB Detector’s two outputs. Output I is a power and data pass-through port, while Output II blocks data but has the necessary resistance between certain terminals to trigger fast-charging on some non-compliant devices (e.g., Samsung Galaxy, Apple iPad). Moreover, Output I correctly handles the Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 protocol (aka Motorola TurboPower), allowing the connected device to draw a maximum current of 3 A with a negotiated voltage of 5, 9, or 12 V, dependent on the revision of the YB26VA circuit board inside the USB Detector. There are at least two revisions currently available for purchase from Amazon under many different brand names (Drok, AboveTEK, Soondar, X-Dragon, Vktech, Lazada, etc.). Revision 1.0 is spec’ed for a maximum of 10 V, and Revision 1.3 for 15 V. Revision 1.3 also includes a pushbutton that accesses additional readings (W, mAh, etc.).

Given its price, I wouldn’t rely on the USB Detector for scientific or detailed measurement work, but its accuracy is close enough for cricket; and it is great for peace of mind to know if a cable, port, or device is acting up. And since these issues only happen when clients are present, having a way to quash the problem is a stress reducer.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More