Stereo Graphic Equaliser / Spectrum Analyser (1985-91)
Input Sensitivity: 1V (8V max)
Output Level: 1V (8V max)
Gain: ± 0dB
Frequency response: 10Hz to 50kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: 113dB
Total harmonic distortion: 0.003%
Control Range: ± 12dB
Frequency Bands: 25, 40, 63, 100, 160, 250, 500, 1K, 2K, 4K, 8K, 16KHz
Dimensions: 430 x 119 x 272mm
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Reviewed Jul 01st, 2015 by Stimpy
The first and last of the Analogue/Computer Controlled equalizers that was actually any good! Most brands of consumer Graphic Equalizers got pretty bad soon after this point in time, focussing on crazy displays, and worthless karaoke features, alongside sound destroying DSPs which added copious amounts of badly done echo and reverb.
Now onto this Equalizer! Internally, it has a fairly unique hybrid design, as was common between very high-end graphic equalizers of the time, the JVC SEA-M9 being of a similar design approach, where it still relied on analogue Band Pass Filters to create its sound. The BPFs are controlled digitally, so you have most of the control accuracy, but none of the nasty all-digital BPF effects, as well as not having 24 inaccurate variable resistor sliders muddying the sound!
This equalizer has 12 bands (+-12dB per frequency) per channel, and can be controlled on a per-channel or combined channel basis. One you have made your settings, you can save it to one of 8 memories. The unit also comes with 4 in-built EQ presets, which really serve only as a demonstration of what the EQ can do.
The display is fairly standard of the time, and is basically a slightly modified 12 bar version of the same FL display Marantz used on the EQ-551. They also added some red segments by the side of each band, to serve as a visual aid to guide how many dB each band is seeing.
The display has 12 bars, one for each BPF, and a further wider bar used to show an overall sound output level. This bar is the only one that works in a true real-time fashion, as the frequency bars have a slight decay time assigned to them, which unfortunately cannot be adjusted, unlike the Marantz EQ-551, however they react quite quickly, and is very pleasant to watch. The display also has an Auto ranging system, where when the levels get too high, the display will reduce its sensitivity by -10dB, and will also add +10dB to the display if the levels are persistently very low.
This unit has 2 fairly large gold capacitors which will keep your EQ memories alive for about 1 week if the power is disconnected. So be warned that if you go on holiday, and switch off your equipment at the wall, you will probably have to create your custom EQ curves again from scratch! The other side of this coin, is the unit uses a very high 5w when switched off from the front panel, simply to keep it's EQ memories alive. I have not been able to verify this claim, as it seems like a very high amount of wattage for simply being in standby!
This unit can also, like the Marantz EQ-551, make use of an external microphone, and use it's built-in Pink Noise feature to try to calibrate the sound of your system to give a flat frequency response. The Pink Noise button has no effect if the microphone is not plugged in. The Microphone (RP-3800) was only supplied with the unit in some territories, so the chances are that if you find one of these EQ's for sale today, it will not come with the microphone, and will render the room adjustment functions void.
This unit can also accommodate 2 separate cassette decks simultaneously, and offers front panel buttons for dubbing between the two decks in both directions, and also an EQ record button is present.
The EQ is controlled by a large touch Panel, which can be slightly fiddly to use, however once you get used to it, it's actually quite nice to use in this day and age of smartphones! The touch panel is actually designed to be replaceable, and is merely stuck on with glue, so its possible now that these units are getting a little old, that some may have a little bubbling under the plastic, or round the edges - something to look out for when buying.
All in all, this unit is one to look out for. I think this would be only bested by the JVC SEA-M9, and those are very rare, and go for lots of money. Technics also made a version of this without the touch panel, the SH-8055, and used 24 variable resistor sliders. Personally I would not touch that version, unless I really was looking for that retro feel, and wanted as many lights, buttons and controls as humanly possible. I can only see this setup being a detriment to sound quality, but each to their own!