Field Test: TC Electronic EQ Station

Jul 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Mark Frink

PROCESSING POWERHOUSE FOR LIVE SOUND

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When it comes to working in a live sound environment, an engineer often uses a different sound system each night. Up until now, the idea of carrying your own EQ for numerous monitor mixes may have seemed a luxury, but now this luxury is both an option and affordable with the new TC Electronic EQ Station.

The EQ Station packs eight channels of 24/48k digital DSP in a two-space chassis, which is a foot deep and weighs 12 pounds. The front panel features a very bright Quarter VGA (320×240 pixel) color LCD. Two large rotary encoders for channel selection and adjustment are located in the center with a four-way navigation pad between them, and a trio of smaller EQ filter knobs on the right.

Each channel of DSP is divided into four pages of control: a main page with delay (to 600 ms) and a brickwall limiter; a graphic page with 29 standard filters from 31 to 20k Hz (and highpass to 600 Hz); a 6-band parametric page; and a page for two types of dynamic EQ. Each section can be turned on and off, or edited independently using columns of four on/off buttons and four edit screen buttons on either side of the display.

It's widely known that manufacturers implement graphic filters with different kinds of response. The EQ Station provides four popular graphic EQ types, with up to 12 dB of cut or boost — a design feature based on the BSS 960, the Klark Teknik 27 and TC Electronic's 1128. I prefer the 960's narrow-Q filters for monitor EQ as they provide minimal interaction with adjacent filters. The ability to see the actual curve created on the display is very helpful.

VERSATILE, POWERFUL INTERFACE
The EQ Station's simple yet powerful functions include the ability to define a group (on the EQ Station via the MotoFader remote or in the Virtual EQ software) so that a number of each channel's graphic sections can be easily controlled. The All function allows users to grab a frequency on every graph globally at one time.

In the 6-band parametric section, the highest and lowest filters can be independently set as shelving, and all six provide ±24 dB of cut or boost. In the dynamic EQ section, the filters can be set for mastering applications as 3-band, crossed-over full-range or for proximity effect/de-essing as 2-band parametric to isolate specific frequencies. Gain scaling allows the maximum signal level to be set in 3dB increments from +15 to +24 dB to match analog equipment. Digital AES I/O is available via an optional card with a 25-pin D-type connector.

In addition to eight pairs of XLRs on the back for analog I/O, a pair of Ethernet jacks connect multiple EQ Stations in a peer-to-peer network so that no matter which EQ one unit contains, you can control any channel from any EQ Station in the network. Virtual EQ Station PC software duplicates front panel display functions, and because EQ Stations run on an Ethernet network, running them wirelessly is as simple as plugging them into a 802.11 router and using a WiFi-equipped laptop or tablet.

The MotoFader remote head's 29 motorized 60mm faders can operate up to eight EQ Stations' graphic EQ sections for a total of 64 channels. It handles 64 channels as four banks of 16, so a 16-channel system is ideal. The best use of this four-rackspace fader head is to mount it either in the top four spaces or to set it on top of the monitor drive rack, putting graphic controls for every EQ at eye level. Its A/B control allows quick comparison between a saved preset and its current edit.

DAY-TO-DAY WORK
I carried the EQ Station on tour for many weeks. Although the singer I worked with often had the same pair of wedges, each night, the sound company du jour provided me with a different make of matched single-12 wedges for the band. After giving them hearing screenings, I was able to put tweaks for their individual listening preferences into the parametric section and stored these as presets. Each day, I'd flatten the new wedges' response using SIA Smart, mowing the tops off of the “mountains.” On frantic days, I'd just shoot one wedge and copy that setting to the other mixes. The EQ Station's copy and paste functionalities are built into two buttons over the three filter controls.

With 250 user memories available, the EQ Station can store presets for every speaker model — or every speaker — in your inventory, leaving the graphic filters to be used by mix or system engineers. I saved a preset for each type of passive or self-powered wedge, knowing that I could rely on them to quickly get what I wanted in the future. Also, 127 scene presets allow for snapshots of the entire unit or network of units to be stored.

ELATION WITH THE STATION
The EQ Station's versatile and powerful interface made setting and recalling my EQ settings a breeze. It is upgradable via Ethernet, and there have been several updates in the past year. Version 2 adds, among other things, a lock with the option of using the graphic and/or recall of presets.

Conveniently, I put a TC Reverb 4000 in the same rack and beat the restrictive 50-pound weight allowance for domestic U.S. airlines. The unit runs on international voltages from 100 to 240. The EQ Station is the single best upgrade for the “A” monitor rig and is sure to be added to many tech riders this year. Systems start at $5,245.

TC Electronic, 818/665-4900, www.tcelectronic.com.


Mark Frink is Mix's sound reinforcement editor and k.d. lang's monitor engineer.






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