For some time, Speck Electronics has maintained a reputation for making really excellent-sounding and flexible equalizers in what most consider to be a reasonable price range. I had an opportunity a few years ago to use one of Speck's multi-channel rackmount equalizers and found it to be an interesting and versatile piece of equipment, so I was enthusiastic about getting a pair of the new ASC-V equalizers to review.
An interesting and unique thing about the ASC-V's form factor is that the unit includes the necessary edge connector for mounting in an API-style rack, but it also has 1/4" TRS jacks for I/O as well as a power connector for standalone operation. Speck sells an ASC-V mounting base kit that holds the equalizers vertically on a tabletop stand and includes an external power supply that plugs into one ASC-V and a daisy-chain cable for a second unit.
The ASC-V is parametric with a wide array of frequency choices in four bands, which feature continuously-variable frequency selection and 15 dB cut/boost knobs with center detents. The 20-150 Hz low band and the 4-25 kHz high band both feature bell/shelf switches. The 400 Hz-10 kHz high-mid band features a continuously-variable bandwidth knob. The low-mid band is somewhat reminiscent of the Amek equalizers in that it features a range of 40-800 Hz but also includes an x10 switch that changes it to 400 Hz-8 kHz, providing a gigantic range with which to work; it also features a continuously-variable bandwidth knob. There is a bypass switch as well, which makes a very quiet pop when engaged. All the other switches are silent.
One side of the ASC-V is labeled with all the rear-panel connections and jumper settings for switching between active and transformer-balanced outputs, and it's useful to note this. On the rear panel, the outputs are near the top of the unit, while the inputs are below, which seemed counterintuitive to me at first. As one side of the unit is labeled while the other side and back are not, I was initially perplexed as to why I wasn't getting any signal with the inputs plugged into the top 1/4" jacks. Seeing the screen printing on the right-hand side cleared things up, and I was off to do some equalization.
The ASC-V is an extremely flexible equalizer with a fairly neutral character, but with a bit of heft that appears in the low frequencies, possibly due to the output transformers. All the bands are useful and nice-sounding in that they don't take anything away from the audio. The bottom end is solid and full, the midrange is smooth, and the top end is pleasant without being harsh or noisy. While I couldn't find any specs on the actual bandwidth (I was not supplied with a manual-just a one-sheet on the original ASC), the range seemed to go from plenty wide to fairly tight, so it's easy enough to make broad, shaping adjustments or really minor tweaks in the right spots. Making a really narrow Q adjustment, boosting a frequency, and sweeping through its range seemed to give me an accurate picture of the musical frequencies, not some kind of complex harmonic material or mechanical-sounding junk.
While the ASC-V sounds perfectly nice mounted on the base kit, I couldn't help but install them in my OSA 500-series rack for comparison. I found the sound in the OSA rack to be a bit larger and more open-sounding-especially noticeable in the top-end clarity. The ASC-V is fitted with captive screws to mount it securely into 500-series racks, and the screws are also handy for pulling it out of the racks.
I found the ASC-V to be a very useful equalizer for making necessary boosts or cuts without mangling the original source sound or putting a huge sonic stamp all over the signal. I found myself reaching for it when I really liked the sound coming from the mic, but just wanted to reduce a little room resonance or sculpt the bottom end a little bit. I'm not usually one to do massive EQ tweaks, but the ASC-V seemed like it could handle brutal equalization curves with ease. In fact, this seems like it might be an ideal equalizer for use in a console, especially if there were a couple of odd or unique-sounding outboard equalizers available in the rack. And with its 500-series compatibility, this makes perfect sense. Now if Speck would just get around to making that affordable API-format console.
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.