Keith McMillen Instruments has hit the nail on the head with a very simple, yet oh-so-handy gadget that measures the voltage and remaining life of batteries. The Batt-O-Meter can test any 1.5 V battery but is optimized for checking 9 V batteries that are nestled inside effect boxes, instruments with active electronics, and other gear that can be time-consuming to open and inspect. The key is a custom-designed power probe that plugs into the standard 1/4' output jack of any battery-powered effects pedal or instrument. Hit a few buttons on the Batt-O-Meter, and you're quickly told what kind of battery is inside (alkaline, carbon zinc, rechargeable), how many volts the battery is delivering (in my tests, I was somewhat surprised that hardly any 9 V batteries put out exactly 9 V), and the number of hours of power the battery has left. It accomplishes this last feat by actually placing a load on the device being tested to simulate the amount of work the battery would have to do for that particular device. Very accurate and quite ingenius.
If you're a performer or studio owner with a large collection of stompboxes, this little tool can save you tons of time and potential frustration. Personally, I'm always a little bummed when I have to break out the screwdriver to open up an MXR or Hammond-style box that doesn't have an LED, just to see if a battery is even inside -dead or alive. Semi-ironically, the Batt-O-Meter itself requires a 9 V battery to work, but is self-testable. So as long as you have a spare 9 V or two on hand, you can be sure of no false readings. Moreover, if you find yourself in desperate need of a 9 V battery for one of your stompboxes, you can self-test the one in the Batt-O-Meter and then pull it out to put into your stompbox. ($30 street; www.batt-o-meter.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.