Top producer / engineer, George Shilling, also takes time out to review interesting audio equipmentGeorge Shilling reviews:

Inward Connections Vac Rac TEQ-1

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The Vac Rac was originally reviewed by Dave Foister in the March 1996 edition of Studio Sound. This revisit is to evaluate the new EQ module, but first, a quick recap...

 

The Inward Connections Vac Rac design team is a tight-knit three man unit with a wide range of music industry experience between them. The Vac Rac 4000 comes as a sturdy 3U rack-mounter, with space for four modules and an onboard tube power supply in the section to the right. At nearly double the price there is also a model 6000 with space for six modules with the power supply moved into a separate 2U rackmount unit, along with the mains transformer. The 4000 has an external cased toroidal mains transformer which is extremely heavy, and is connected via a thick 15-way cable. This is optionally rackmountable with half-rack ears. A rackmountable grille is supplied to be fitted above the main unit - a great idea to ensure all those valves don't get too hot. The TEQ-1's lone tube is an authentic American GEC 6072A.

 

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The range of 'Rac modules now comprises the TMP-1 Microphone Pre-Amplifier, the TLM-1 Tube Limiter, the TII-1 Direct Inject module, and now the TEQ-1 Step Equalizer. The whole look of the range is unashamedly very retro: grey 1940s military-spec paintwork, bakelite knobs, and heavyweight metalwork. Even the manual looks like a dossier of Top Secret papers, with "OPERATIONS MANUAL" printed on the cover, and plenty of technical diagrams.

The TEQ-1's control knobs are all stepped: there are three-bands with gain settings of plus or minus 2,4,6,9 and 12 dBs.

 

The low band has frequency settings of 50, 100, 200, 300 and 400Hz, the mid has 400, 800, 1.5k, 3k and 5kHz, and the top has 5k, 7.5k, 10k 12.5k and 15kHz. These all look like sensible choices, and the overlaps are welcome, although one wonders if slightly differing frequencies would not have more useful where overlap occurs. Unfortunately, the stepped knobs are much stiffer than those on the TLM-1, but this is not generally a problem. They click solidly into place, and there is little possibility of confusion when recalling previously noted settings, a definite plus in mixing and mastering situations.

 

The US-style upside-down-operating toggle switches of the earlier modules have been abandoned in favour of tiny plastic green pushbuttons, mainly I think due to reasons of space. These are perhaps less confusing to Europeans. However it is less obvious at a glance which position the button is in, as their travel is shallow, and there are no accompanying indicator lights except an LED for EQ On. There is also a Power On LED, although of course the power switch is on the transformer box. The TEQ-1's switches and LEDs detract from the retro look and feel of the other modules. Like its brethren, the TEQ-1 module is held in the rack with four screws and features a little chrome handle at the bottom of the front panel for removal. On the back there are XLR and jack connections for input and output, and I was surprised how cheap and plasticky the sockets were. Not what you expect on a unit such as this, but they seem serviceable enough.


The buttons operate High- and Low-Pass Filters set at 50Hz and 15kHz respectively, (not 50kHz as stated in the manual and brochure!) and also separately switch the high and low bands between peaking and shelving. The five mid-band frequencies are "reciprocal bell-shaped peaking curves". Bandwidth is unspecified but sounds about average and is well chosen. Frequency response is quoted at a remarkable +0.25dB@5Hz to 100kHz. It is virtually impossible to overload the input, yet the output is astonishingly quiet.

 

As you notch the gain up it seems very subtle: 6dBs of 10kHz shelf added to a vocal or mix does not sound as much as the numbers suggest. This is because the unit works so effortlessly, with seemingly little distortion or unpleasant phase shifting which lesser EQs sometimes suffer. The TEQ-1 is wonderfully smooth and gentle, but nevertheless very powerful. The low frequency shelf just goes down and down. Nothing you do with any of the knobs ever sounds wrong! It is easy to get carried away and make huge boosts and cuts without realising the extent of the changes you have made until you compare the flat signal. Despite the diminutive front panel, this has more clout than many larger units.

 

I found it to be better than units such as the Tubetech PE1C, but quite different in approach, i.e. the module concept and the switched controls, which make it more like the (transistor) API 550. It is best suited to gently shaping a signal rather than dramatic wrangling and manipulation. Because of the modular approach it is difficult to compare prices, as the rack and power supply are the most expensive part.

 

These are not cheap units, and work out somewhere in the same region as the aforementioned Tubetechs. There are few if any really similar units on the market that I know of, and I would certainly recommend them as a 'best buy'.

 

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